PORTSMOUTH, NH- For years I have heard people speak glowingly about Portsmouth, New Hampshire (http://www.portsmouthnh.com and www.portsmouthchamber.org), a city of roughly 21,000 people that sits near the mouth of the Piscataqua River, which divides New Hampshire and Maine. Settled in 1623, Portsmouth claims to be the nation’s third-oldest city.

Funky shops, elegant inns, varied restaurants and fun clubs make Portsmouth’s historic brick and cobblestone downtown, one of Northern New England’s most popular tourist destinations. The beaches of Rye, North Hampton and Hampton in New Hampshire and York/Ogunquit in Maine

Take my advice and stay in nearby Dover, a mere 20 minute drive from Portsmouth via Highway 16. We loved the accommodations at the Homewood Suites (www.dovernh.homewoodsuites.com), particularly the full kitchen, terrific drawer space, the morning breakfast and weekday manager’s reception. You can cool off in the indoor pool (leading to an outdoor patio) and relax in the jacuzzi. Parking is free. Just so you know, most hotels in Portsmouth tend to be costly and during peak season rooms are not easy to find.

A trip to Portsmouth during the summer months is certainly not complete without visiting Water Country (www.watercountry.com). This is New England’s largest water park, featuring signature thrill rides for a full day of fun for the entire family. Situated at 2300 Lafayette Road, daily admission is $37 for those 48 inches or taller and $24.99 for those under that height and seniors. Children two years old and under enter free.

Water Country is one of the few amusement parks in the US to allow and encourages its guests to bring picnic lunches into the park. A number of large picnic areas are available for free at various points throughout the park so guests can eat without having to leave. Owned by Palace Entertainment, Water Country tests the limits on Double Geronimo, Thunder Falls or the Screamer and allows one to take a break in the relaxing Adventure River. There are over 26 acres of fun here. We went on a busy Sunday, opting for the preferred parking option ($15). This represented a very short walk to the front entrance. We rented a locker, which had plenty of room for the three of us to store all of our gear. The wait in line for different slides was not exceptionally long. Staff are on the ball and take all safety precautions necessary.

We were fortunate to be in town recently when the musical Chicago was playing at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre (www.seacoastrep.org), located 125 Bow Street. Better known as the Rep, this not-for-profit arts and educational institution has been in business since 1988. The presentation of Chicago was first class, featuring an excellent cast, great sound and terrific use of a small stage space. I loved the cozy layout of this oval theatre. There is truly not a bad seat in the house. Artistic Director Craig Faulkner opened the show with some words of welcome. He even sold snacks at intermission, interacting with the audience. There are clearly many regulars here, but this is also a popular spot for tourists. Chicago had been preceded this season by Ain’t Misbehavin’, Things We Do For Love and The Full Monty. Coming soon will be The Woman in Black (October 5 to 28) and Plaid Tidings (November 30 to December 30). Details can be found on their website. Faulkner announced that A Chorus Line will be part of the 2013 series.

With more than 40 restaurants in downtown alone, Portsmouth is one of the eating capitals of New England. The perfect spot for a pre-show dinner turned out to be the Portsmouth Oar House (www.portsmouthoarhouse.com), located at 55 Ceres Street in the historic Merchant’s Row building at the edge of Portsmouth’s old harbor. This spot serves fine food in a setting filled with mementos of the city’s long and proud maritime heritage and features live music inside on Thursdays through Saturdays. The waterfront deck is open in summer and there is on-site valet parking. This turned out to be a real bonus for us. We were able to leave our car here for the evening and walk a few minutes down the street to the Rep.

We were thrilled to see one of our favorite New England dishes, the Lazy Man’s Lobster Pie, on the menu. The seven ounce Maine lobster, completely cut up, featured sherry butter and seasoned crumbs. Owner Raymond Guerin takes pride in the many appetizing choices available. The Lobster Bisque turned out to be a delicious appetizer as did the Caesar and Caprese salads. As for the homemade desserts, do not leave without trying the key lime pie. You can also sample shrimp, grilled pizza, a variety of seafood options (pan seared salmon, broiled Atlantic Haddock, scallops) as well as meat and poultry dishes.

Mike Cohen’s email address is [email protected]. Follow his travels at www.sandboxworld.com/travel.

Related Posts