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I moved to Portsmouth, NH when I was 15 . . . so I have the unique perspective of being both a visitor and a local. Let me share with you some insider tips that will make your visit to this "Top 10 Town" a real delight.
THE BEST BREAKFAST.
Okay, I love this place so much, I almost don't want to share it with you. Almost. The Friendly Toast is a unique place - with its garage sale decor and tattooed wait staff. But don't let it fool you. The food is seriously good. And there's something for everyone - even the vegetarians in your group.
TAKE A WALK.
Head up the street (towards the church, smack dab in the middle of downtown) to Market Square. This is the center of activity with coffee shops, art galleries, bookstores, antique shops, and many original 17th-century buildings.
From here, follow the Portsmouth Harbour Trail, a self-guided walking tour highlighting the town's history and character (pick up the trail guide at the Information Kiosk in front of Breaking New Grounds coffee shop).
HAVE A COLD ONE.
Okay, so you worked up a bit of an appetite (and a thirst) on your walk. Just around the corner from Market Square is the Portsmouth Brewery, this lively brewery serves up great beer and equally tempting lunch items.
STOP AND SMELL THE OCEAN.
Put your nose to the wind and follow the ocean scents and you head towards the water. Prescott Park, about a 5-minute walk from Market Square, is situated on some of the most impressive real estate in Portsmouth, sitting right on the water's edge. Take in the water views, the flower views, or bring a blanket and take a nap under one of the many trees.
YOU CAN BANKE ON IT.
Turn your back to the sea and you'll see Strawbery Banke Museum. This 10-acre outdoor museum traces the history of the town, with costumed interpreters providing demonstrations of trades and insights into earlier Portsmouth times.
MAKE THE KIDS HAPPY.
If you've got energetic children, Strawbery Banke might not be the right place but literally steps away, you'll find the perfect place. A sense of energy and excitement pervades the Children's Museum of Portsmouth, an arts and sciences museum where kids aged 1 - 11 get to put their hands on lots of fun and educational exhibits, from a working telegraph to a space shuttle cockpit.
CROSS ON OVER.
In the mood for a little elegance? How about some eclectic international fare? This is your place. Lindbergh's Crossing is housed in a historical brick colonial row building, with water views. It's casual and welcoming yet with an air of sophistication.
A PRESSING ENGAGEMENT.
This bar is popular with locals because it offers an inviting atmosphere and casual entertainment almost every night (usually upstairs).
TAKE A TRIP BACK IN TIME.
While not in Portsmouth, this is - hands down - this is the best place to stay in the area. Wentworth By The Sea is in New Castle, a little island off Portsmouth. This grand hotel was built in the 1870s, fell into a state of glorious disrepair and closed its doors in 1982, was slated for demolition time and time again (each time locals fought to save the landmark) and was finally purchased and totally redone--and I mean totally--in 2003.
AN EGG-CELENT CHOICE.
Lines out the front door, snaking alongside the building mean one thing - the breakfasts here are delicious. If you stay at Wentworth By The Sea, you'll drive right past on your way in.
TAKE A 3-HOUR TOUR.
Hop on board and see Portsmouth from the water and then sail out to the Isles of Shoals. You don't get off the boat, but you do see several islands, a lighthouse, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and "the Alcatraz of the east," the now defunct navy prison. The views are always wonderful.
OFF THE OCEAN BUT STILL ON THE CURRENT.
Across the street from the Portsmouth Brewery, you'll find a little gem of a restaurant: Currents. You've really got to look for it and, when you find it, the food is fresh and light. Dining outside, if there's a seat, is refreshing. And sipping the champagne sangria is an out-of-body experience.
FREE WINE IS THE BEST.
Head around the corner to Attrezzi, a food, wine and housewares shop for complimentary wine tastings of unusual vintages.
Portsmouth has a range of shopping opportunities, from the not-so-unique (Banana Republic) to the oh-so-unique (Macro Polo, where you'll find the craziest things for your house . . . I promise). Get your credit card ready and hit the streets. Remember, you're trying to work up an appetite for dinner.
GIVE YOURSELF A TREAT.
Just off Market Street is Portsmouth's version of Little Italy. Okay, it's just one restaurant. But - Mama Mia - what a restaurant. At Anthony Alberto's, you'll enjoy authentic Italian offerings. Warning: it's upscale so I hope you left some room on your credit card after an afternoon of shopping.