What is New Hampshire Known for? (21 Things it’s Famous For)

New Hampshire is known for its scenic landscapes, outdoor recreation, an Ivy League college, and its oversized role in presidential politics, among other things.

Map of New Hampshire - what New Hampshire is known for

Nestled in the northern half of New England and sharing a border with Canada, New Hampshire is known for its diverse landscape and scenic beauty, small towns, outdoor recreation, an ivy-league college, and the highest peak in the northeastern United States.

New Hampshire played a significant role in the United States as one of the original thirteen colonies. It supplied troops and supplies during the Revolutionary War and was an important center for shipbuilding and textile production in the 19th century.

As the first to vote in the presidential primary, New Hampshire has also played an oversized role in influencing which candidates will run for president.

Here’s what New Hampshire is known for:

The White Mountains

The White Mountains in New Hampshire

The White Mountains are one of the most iconic images of New Hampshire, with their tall peaks, extensive hiking trails, and the gorgeous array of colors their deciduous trees display in the autumn.

A segment of the Appalachian Mountains, the White Mountains extend for 87 miles across north-central New Hampshire. They consist of the Presidential Range, which includes some of the highest elevations in the northeastern United States, including Mount Washington, the Franconia Mountains, the Carter-Moriah, and Sandwich ranges.

The White Mountains include more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails and campsites, and several mountains host ski slopes.

Mount Washington

Mount Washington in New Hampshire

At 6,288 feet tall, Mount Washington, the crown jewel of the White Mountain range, is the highest peak in the northeastern United States. It’s known for having some of the strongest wind ever recorded on earth and for its unpredictable and harsh weather.

Each year, thousands of tourists visit the iconic mountain. While many visitors hike the mountain, the Mount Washington Auto Road, an 8-mile road, and the Mount Washington Cog Railway are also popular ways to reach the summit.

Lake Winnipesaukee

Lake Winnipesaukee

Another geographical attraction New Hampshire is known for is Lake Winnipesaukee and the Lakes region.

Located just south of the White Mountain range, Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in the state, with a surface area of 69 square miles. Many other smaller lakes surround Winnipesaukee, making the region a popular summer vacation spot as visitors partake in swimming, boating, fishing, and hiking in areas close to the shore.

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Politics

Politics in New Hampshire

New Hampshire becomes the epicenter of American politics every four years because it is the first to vote in the U.S. presidential primary. During this time, presidential candidates fan out throughout the state, giving stump speeches, walking in parades, and chatting with residents at the local diner. They know the outcome of NH’s primary will set the tone for the rest of the primaries throughout the country, thus having a significant impact.

But even beyond this once-every-four-years event, New Hampshire citizens are known to be politically engaged, and it’s not uncommon to see even small, remote towns covered in political banners in non-presidential primary years.

New Hampshire is also known for its active citizen legislature – the second-largest legislative body in the country. And New Hampshire is also considered to be one of eight to twelve “swing” states (leans neither Democratic nor Republican) in the country.

“Live Free or Die”

“Live Free or Die”

As you enter the state of New Hampshire, you’ll soon discover it’s known for the phrase “Live Free or Die”.

Now the state motto, “Live Free or Die”, is attributed to General John Stark, a Revolutionary War veteran from New Hampshire.

The phrase reflects New Hampshire’s independent and self-reliant spirit, individual liberty, and self-governance. It’s also a symbol of the state’s identity and culture and can be found on New Hampshire license plates and road signs.

The Old Man on the Mountain

Old Man on the Mountain
Photo credit: Jeffrey Joseph

The Old Man of the Mountain was a rock formation on Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park that collapsed in 2003. Until that point, the Old Man was a beloved symbol of New Hampshire for decades and, even today, can be found on the state’s road signs and license plates.

The Old Man of the Mountain was formed from granite rock that resembled the profile of an old man’s face when looked upon from a certain angle. It was discovered in the 1820s by a group of hikers and soon became a popular tourist destination.

The collapse of the Old Man is said to have occurred due to natural weathering and erosion as well as freezing and thawing of water in the cracks in the rock.

The Kancamagus Highway

The Kancamagus Highway with fall foliage

Leap peepers know the best views of fall foliage can be seen from the Kancamagus Highway, a 34.5 scenic byway that runs through the White Mountain National Forest.

The drive is so popular that it’s not uncommon to be stuck in prolonged traffic during peak foliage. But even when leaves aren’t showing their colors, the Kancamagus offers stunning views of the White Mountains as it winds through the ridges.

The highway is also adjacent to several popular hiking trails, including the Lincoln Woods Trail, the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River, and the Sabbaday Falls.

Fall foliage

Fall foliage in the White Mountains

New England is known for its beautiful fall foliage, but New Hampshire may win the prize for some of the most spectacular leaf peeping in the United States.

Due to its cold, northern location (a cold winter produces the best leaf colors the following fall), deciduous trees, and varied terrain, spectators can get quite a show driving through the state from late September to early October.

As mentioned earlier, the Kancamagus Highway is one of the most popular destinations to view fall foliage. Other popular locations include Franconia Notch, the Lakes region, and the Monadnock region.

Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College

Situated in the quaint village of Hanover, ivy-league Dartmouth College is one of nine colleges in the country founded before the Revolutionary War.

The college is known for its undergraduate liberal arts education, strong programs in engineering, business, and computer science, and graduate programs in the arts and sciences, business, and medicine.

Skiing

skiing in New Hampshire

As a mountainous state with ample snowfall, New Hampshire is known for its skiing.

The White Mountains region, in particular, is known for skiing (Nordic and Alpine) and snowboarding. Some of the most popular ski areas in the state include Loon Mountain, Cannon Mountain, Bretton Woods, and Wildcat Mountain.

New Hampshire ski resorts offer a variety of terrain, including groomed runs, glades, and steeps, and opportunities for all ski levels from beginner to expert.

No sales or income tax

Someone doing taxes

New Hampshire is one of five states in the U.S. without a general sales tax, nor does it have an income tax.

With a strong tradition of fiscal conservatism, the state’s absence of these taxes is meant to keep government spending in check and provide individuals and businesses freedom in spending their money. While New Hampshire doesn’t tax sales or income, it collects taxes through property and business taxes.

The state’s lack of sales tax is an advantage since residents from surrounding states cross the New Hampshire border to shop and take advantage of its tax-free status.

Small picturesque towns

A picturesque town Portsmouth NH

New England is dotted with small picturesque towns, and that’s especially true in New Hampshire.

The state has a strong tradition of community involvement and civic pride, which has helped maintain the small-town character of many of these communities and led to the preservation of historic buildings.

New Hampshire’s rolling mountains and proximity to the coast add to the picturesque landscape of the towns. Some examples of picturesque towns include Hanover, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Meredith, and Exeter.

Maple syrup

Containers catching maple syrup on trees

While its neighbor to the west, Vermont, is more well-known for maple syrup, New Hampshire is still a major player in the industry and produces 90,000 gallons annually.

The state has a long history of maple sugaring – collecting sap from trees and boiling it down to create a sweet-tasting syrup. Many farmers open their sugar houses to the public during the sugaring season, typically from late February to early April.

Covered bridges

The Flume Covered Bridge in New Hampshire

New Hampshire has over 100 covered bridges. Many were built in the 19th and early 20th centuries to protect the bridge’s road surface from the elements and extend the structure’s life. Today, these bridges are popular tourist destinations and the subject of numerous photographs.

“The Granite State”

A sign in New Hampshire that says "The Granite State"

New Hampshire is known as the “Granite State” because of its abundant deposits of granite, a type of igneous rock used in construction, monuments, and other applications. Granite can be found in many parts of the state and has been quarried in New Hampshire for over 200 years.

Many of the state’s towns, such as Concord, Nashua, and Milford, are home to granite quarries and related industries. The “Granite State” motto can be found on several road signs throughout the state and in promotional materials.

The first free public library

Front facade of the Peterborough library
Photo credit: Kerry Flatley

Perhaps not quite as well-known, but still significant, is that New Hampshire had the first free public library in the United States.

The Peterborough Town Library was founded in 1833 and was supported by public funds to provide free access to all residents.

It was established by a group of local residents, including the prominent philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie, who later became a benefactor for libraries nationwide, helped the town secure funding for the building’s construction and provided financial support for its operation.

Famous People New Hampshire is Known for:

As one of the oldest states in the nation, it’s not surprising that New Hampshire is known for several famous people. Here are five of the most famous people the state is known for:

  • Adam Sandler: a famous comedian, actor, and film producer
  • Franklin Pierce: the 14th president of the United States
  • Sarah Silverman: a famous comedian, actress, and writer
  • Alan Shepard: the first American to travel into space
  • Jodi Picoult: a best-selling author

See related: 16 of the Most Famous People From New Hampshire

Food New Hampshire is Known For:

New Hampshire is known for several different foods. Here are some of the most common foods New Hampshire is known for:

  • Boiled Dinner: a meal that consists of beef brisket, root vegetables, and cabbage
  • Seafood: Lobster, clams, and scallops are popular
  • Apples: the state produces 24.5 million pounds annually
  • Stonyfield yogurt: one of the largest brands of yogurt based in Londonderry
  • Wild game meat: New Hampshire residents enjoy hunting and preparing their own meat

See related: What Food is New Hampshire Known for?

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.

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