Top 11 Best Things to Do in Peterborough New Hampshire

Small town Peterborough NH is full of exciting things to do, including strolling through a quaint downtown, visiting antique shops, eating at various restaurants, and participating in outdoor recreation.

Downtown Peterborough NH
Photo credit: Kerry Flatley

Best known as the inspiration behind Thornton Wilder’s classic production, Our Town, Peterborough, NH embodies a quaint feel while being host to various antique stores, restaurants, outdoor recreation, and two museums.

Located in the mid-southwest corner of New Hampshire in Hillsborough County, Peterborough is 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 offers.

Depending on your interests, there are plenty of things to do and see in this community. And Peterborough NH is also known to have several 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

The view from Pack Monadnock - among the things to do in Peterborough NH
The view from Pack Monadnock, Photo credit: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region/Wikimedia

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 more significant 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)

See related: Pack Monadnock: What You Need to Know Before Visiting

Stroll through Peterborough’s downtown

For such a small community, Peterborough NH has a charming downtown of tightly nestled red brick buildings housing various interesting shops, restaurants, and museums.

Strolling around downtown, you’ll come across a few antique stores, such as Grove Main & Antiques and Bowerbird and Friends – each containing unique gifts, jewelry, home decor, and 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 following few suggestions are also highlights of worthwhile businesses to visit. 

Pick up a book at the Toadstool Bookshop

The front of the Toadstool Bookshop - among the things to do in Peterborough NH
Photo credit: Kerry Flatley

I always 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 and new and used copies. The children’s section at the back of the store has a well-curated selection for 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 several restaurants. While most cater to the lunch crowd, a few are open for dinner.

On the corner of Grove and School Streets is the ever-popular Harlow’s Pub, with its fun and funky interior and a variety of sandwiches, salads, and burgers. Cooper’s Hill Public House on School Street features well-prepared Irish food and American dishes for 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

The front of Sweet Macaron
Photo credit: Kerry Flatley

If you’re in the mood for a special treat after your meal, be sure to stop by Sweet Macron. You’ll find a wide selection of specialty macarons in this cute shop, 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 great for picking 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 the area’s history 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 resemble 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)

You’ll find the Mariposa Museum of World Cultures just around the corner. 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 various bagels made on-premise and breakfast, lunch, and coffee options. You’ll find all the traditional bagels here, such as plain, multigrain, everything, onion, and a few less familiar flavors like jalapeno cheddar, cinnamon swirl, and apple crunch. (145 Grove Street)

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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

The Peterborough NH library
Photo credit: Kerry Flatley

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

The outside of the Peterborough Community Theater - one of the things to do in Peterborough NH
Photo credit: Kerry Flatley

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; tickets for 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.

A photo of Kerry Flatley leaning against a wall

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.

2 Comments

  1. Recheck the prices at Miller State Park; $4 for adults, $2 children 6-11, small children and NH seniors free. No fees for cars and no carload restrictions.

    1. Thank you! I couldn’t remember the price we paid the last time we visited. It seems that the website’s info is outdated.

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