Small town Peterborough NH is full of interesting things to do including strolling through a quaint downtown, visiting antique shops, eating at a variety of restaurants, and taking part in outdoor recreation.
Best known as the inspiration behind Thornton Wilder’s classic production, Our Town, Peterborough NH embodies a quaint feel while also being host to a variety of antique stores, restaurants, outdoor recreation, and two museums.
Located in the mid-southwest corner of New Hampshire in Hillsborough county, Peterborough is a little off the beaten path. The nearest highway is about 30 miles away in Manchester and Boston is 72 miles to the southeast. But a stop here – even for a few hours – can be a welcome detour to grab a bite to eat and explore what this red brick, New England town has to offer.
There are plenty of things to do and see in this community depending on your interests. And Peterborough NH is also known to have a variety of seasonal events that showcase the tight-knit feel of this community.
Most of the activity in this small town happens in the town center, which you’ll find near the intersection of Route 202 and 101 along the Contoocook River.
11 things to do in Peterborough NH
There’s something for everyone in this quaint New England village.
Hike or drive up Pack Monadnock
You’ve probably heard of Mount Monadnock, located in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, and one of the most frequently hiked mountains in the world. But did you know it has a smaller cousin, Pack Monadnock?
Located in Miller State Park, Pack Monadnock is perfect for hikers who aren’t quite up for the bigger challenge of Mount Monadnock but still want to tackle a mountain top with spectacular views. And even if you’re not a hiker, cars can drive to the top of Pack Monadnock via a winding 1.3-mile road.
In addition to naturally open vistas at the top, you’ll also find a water tower to climb with views of the White Mountains to the north, Mount Monadnock to the west, and down into Massachusetts to the south. There’s a $4 fee for adults, $2 for children ages 6-11, for hikers. New Hampshire residents age 65 and over are free. (13 Miller State Park Road)
Stroll through Peterborough’s downtown
For such a small community, Peterborough NH has a charming downtown of tightly nestled red brick buildings housing a variety of interesting shops, restaurants, and museums.
Strolling around downtown, you’ll come across a few different antique stores such as Grove Main & Antiques, and Bowerbird and Friends – each of which contain unique gifts, jewelry, and home decor in addition to furniture. Outside of the downtown on Route 123 is Twin Elm Farm, a converted house full of affordable rustic and antique furniture and gifts.
Another fun shop to visit is Steele’s Stationary Store, which dates back to 1860. There’s nothing extraordinary for sale inside – just a few gifts and well, stationary, but the interior feels a bit like a welcome step back in time.
The next few suggestions are also highlights of worthwhile businesses to visit.
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Pick up at book at the Toadstool Bookshop
I always feel like I get a better sense of a community when I walk into the local bookstore and the Toadstool is no different.
Located at the curve of School Street and near the Contoocook River, Toadstool Bookshop contains a variety of books from all genres as well as both new and used copies. The children’s section at the back of the store has a well-curated selection for both young and older children.
And don’t forget to grab a sandwich, pastry, or coffee at Aesop’s Tables while visiting the Toadstool Bookshop. Located just to the right as you enter the store, Aesop’s has tables both inside and outside where customers can enjoy their food and drinks.
Enjoy a meal
Also in downtown Peterborough NH, you’ll find a number of restaurants. While most cater to the lunch crowd, a few are open for dinner.
On the corner of Grove and School Streets, there’s the ever-popular Harlow’s Pub with its fun and funky interior and a good variety of sandwiches, salads, and burgers. Cooper’s Hill Public House on School Street features well-prepared Irish food alongside American dishes for both lunch and dinner. For a slightly more upscale meal, Waterhouse is a good option. And if you’re a fan of old-time diners, be sure to check out Peterborough Diner.
Savor macarons and cupcakes at Sweet Macaron
If after your meal you’re in the mood for a special treat, be sure to stop by Sweet Macron. Inside this cute shop, you’ll find a wide selection of specialty macarons including Hazelnut Latte, Classic Vanilla, and other fun flavors such as Fruity Pebble, Lavender, and Birthday Cake. You’ll also be able to choose from classic mini-cupcakes piled high with icing.
Sweet Macaron is also a great place to pick up a latte, espresso or cappuccino. Seating is available both inside and out. (28 Grove Street)
Visit a museum
Another fun thing to do in Peterborough NH is to learn about both the history of the area and other cultures.
The Monadnock Center for History and Culture showcases Monadnock’s regional history through photographs, documents, and objects. You’ll also find a collection of early American furniture and a room modeled to look like a 1785 Peterborough residential kitchen. The museum is open Wednesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 4 PM, and admission is $5 for adults, children ages 12 and under are free. (19 Grove Street)
Just around the corner, you’ll find the Mariposa Museum of World Cultures. This museum, which also has a location on Martha’s Vineyard, features exhibits that explore the diversity of the world’s cultures and multiculturalism in the United States. The museum is open Wednesday – Saturday from 11 AM – 5 PM and admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and children (ages 3 – 16) are $5. (26 Main Street)
Pick up bagels at The Bagel Mill
It may seem strange to suggest picking up bagels as a thing to do in Peterborough NH, but if you’re a bagel lover you’ll understand why this is on the list.
Located a short distance from downtown, The Bagel Mill features a wide variety of bagels made on-premise as well as breakfast, lunch, and coffee options. You’ll find all the traditional bagels here such as plain, multigrain, everything, and onion, and a few less common flavors like jalapeno cheddar, cinnamon swirl, and apple crunch. (145 Grove Street)
See a play at the Peterborough Players
If you enjoy theater and are visiting in the summer, be sure to stop by the Peterborough Players.
Located in a converted 18th-century barn three miles from downtown, this professional theater began in 1933 and presents a variety of shows by both contemporary playwrights and classics.
Each summer, The Peterborough Players puts on seven main stage shows and two shows for children. During the “off-season”, from October – May, the Players broadcasts The Metropolitan Opera and London’s National Theater. Tickets can be purchased online. (55 Hadley Road)
Explore the Peterborough library
Standing on the corner of Main and Concord Streets is the Peterborough library, the first tax-supported library in the United States.
Although founded in 1833, the library’s building has undergone numerous renovations, the most recent of which was completed in September 2021 creating a modern space with traditional elements left intact. A stop in the library can provide a comfortable and inviting space to relax, spend time, let your kids explore the children’s section on the bottom floor or browse through book suggestions. (2 Concord Street)
See related: What is New Hampshire Known for?
Catch a movie at the Peterborough Community Theater
As the oldest movie theater in New Hampshire, the Peterborough Community Theater is an experience unto itself. While it may not have the reclining seats of modern theaters, it does have the charm of days gone by and – as the website proclaims – organic popcorn with nine different toppings options. Tickets for adults are $10 and $8 for matinees, children 12 and under are $7. The theater is open all days except Mondays and Tuesdays. (6 School Street)
Ride bikes along the Old Railroad Trail
For a little more outdoor recreation, you can ride bikes along the Old Railroad Trail. This converted path is mainly paved, with a few instances where riders travel by road to get to a connecting path.
The trail, which is 8.5 miles in total, begins in the nearby town of Hancock. You can find the trailhead near the Hancock-Greenfield covered bridge on Forest Street. Or, for a shorter ride, you can pick up the trail near the intersection of Route 202/Hancock Road and Scott Mitchell Road and head south into downtown Peterborough. The trail ends (or begins) on Summer Street with a shoulder set aside along the road for bikes. To get to the downtown by bike, it’s necessary to ride for a short distance on the road next to cars.
About Kerry Flatley
Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.