Is there anything to do in Hampton?

People who have never studied Windsor chairmaking at The Institute wonder what it is like here. I have tried to answer those questions in previous postings, and they can be found in the archives. However, I also receive lots of questions about The Institute’s location. Today, I am going to answer those.

Where is Hampton?

Don’t be embarrassed. The place is pretty small. Its year-round population is only about 15,000. Although the town was founded in 1638, nothing of historical significance has ever happened here.
(OK. It is the Windsor chairmaking capitol of the world.)

On a map New Hampshire looks like a tall right triangle. The angle formed by the triangle’s base and hypotenuse (eastern corner) pokes out between Maine and Massachusetts and touches the Atlantic Ocean. That corner creates roughly 18 miles of coastline. Hampton is a seaside community smack in the middle of that short stretch of coast. In fact, as I write this I am four miles from the ocean and 60 feet above sea level.

How do I get there?

While Hampton is quite small, the old New England punch line “You can’t get there from here” does not apply. Getting here is quite easy.

The major north/south highway, U.S. Route 95 and the major east/west highway NH Route 101 intersect in Hampton (about ¼ mile from where I am sitting.) Route 95 is the same highway that runs from the bottom tip of Florida to the top of Maine. If you are driving, it is the logical road to take. From the west, the New York Throughway and Massachusetts Turnpike will take you to Route 95.

If you choose to fly here, Logan Airport in Boston and Manchester Boston Regional Airport (a horrible name for a really nice facility) are both about 45 miles away. Logan is right off Route 95, and MBRA abuts Route 101 in Manchester. Thus, getting to Hampton from either airport is a straight shot. When I have a choice, I always fly into Manchester. It is a smaller city and is easier to get in and out of.

Is there anything for my family to do while I am there?

Hampton is best known for its long stretch of sandy beach known as Hampton Beach. The beach is so pleasant it has been a vacation destination since the mid 1800s. Families return year after year and generation after generation to vacation at the beach. To accommodate those familes, every sort of hotel, motel, cottage, food stand, store, amusement, etc. is on the beach. The place has an active night life with fireworks every Wednesday and concerts at the bandstand every eveningt.

The town of Hampton also has everything necessary to support and provide for the summer influx of tourists. The town’s major industry is hospitality. So, along with the beach, the town has lots of motels and restaurants. Of course, seafood is available everywhere. It is always fresh, as Hampton and neighboring towns have working harbors and active fishing fleets. Every restaurant serves lobster and they all brag they have the best chowder. Seafood is such a large part of the culture the Chamber of Commerce stages a Seafood Festival every September on the beach. The festival draws enormous crowds.

Is there anything else in the area?

The beach is not the only reason Hampton is a vacation destination. The town is centrally located and many New England sites and attractions are within an easy day trip. Boston and all it has to offer, is 45 miles south directly down Route 95. Historic Portsmouth, one of the most beautiful cities in the country is 10 miles north up 95. Exeter, the Revolutionary capitol of New Hampshire is an adjacent town. In both places you can walk streets that haven’t changed in 200 years.

Maine is 14 miles up Route 95. The first town you reach is Kittery, a well known outlet mall Mecca. Freeport, the home of L.L. Bean and lots of other stores, is 90 minutes north. Along the way, you pass through a string of historic coastal towns with great views of the ocean.

NH Route 16 begins at Route 95 in Portsmouth. The highway takes you to the New Hampshire lakes region. Lakes Winnipesaukee and Ossipee are perhaps the best known of the numerous lakes in this vacation area. Beyond the lakes are the White Mountains and Mount Washington Valley. This area is stunningly beautiful. It is perhaps the best fall foliage area in New England. It is a popular ski area in the winter. However, there are all sorts of attractions for summer visitors – hiking, kayaking, a restored railway, outlet malls, etc.

Like so many other woodworkers, my wife loves fabric arts. Is there anything for her?

Someday a PhD candidate will write doctoral thesis examining why it is that woodworkers marry women who practice fabric arts. This pairing is a phenomenon. It is quite common during our classes for a group of wives who have just met, to pile into a car and hit all the quilting, knitting, and spinning shops. Susanna’s mother, sister, sister-in-law, and cousin are all quilters, so we know all the places.

Keepsake Quilters is one of the best known quilt shops in the country. It is in Meredith, NH a quaint town on Lake Winnipesaukee. So, going there pays double dividends. Wives get to visit the shop and see a beautiful region of the state.

My wife’s hobby is the second most common interest for a woodworker’s spouse. Is there any antiquing?

This is New England. People have been making things and leaving them around for 400 years. Hampton and surrounding towns have some nice antiquing, and there are famous antiquing areas all over the state. However, the biggest bang for the buck is Route 4 in Northwood. This road is known as “Antique Alley.” It is not possible in one day to stop at all the antique shops on Antique Alley. I still comb those shops and I’ve pulled some great stuff out of there.

Northwood is just a short hop west on Route 101. Antique Alley is the town’s Main Street, and Guinness lists it as the longest Main Street in the world. (By the way, are you getting the picture that 95 and 101 connect Hampton to the entire world?)

The biggest antique event of the year occurs during our August 4 sack back class. It is called Antiques Week in NH. The highlight of the week is the NHADA show in Manchester starting August 7. This is an important show attended by all the big name dealers. You will see stuff that should be in museums. During that week a host of specialty shows, auctions, flea markets, etc. also take place around the NHADA show.

OK. My wife will be happy. But what if I bring the kids?

If your kids get tired of the beach, there are seashore related attractions and activities all over the NH seacoast (which is only 18 mile long.) Hampton has whale watching, charter fishing, and sight seeing tours. There are also plenty of things to do off the beach. Here is just one example. Water Country in Portsmouth is one of the largest water parks in New England. (Ten minutes up Route 95.)

How do I find all these places?

We have already done that for you. We maintain a list of things to do in the area arranged by category. The list includes addresses and phone numbers. I keep the list on my computer. If you drop me an email at I will send it to you.

If you are getting any resistance to taking a Windsor chairmaking class this summer, show the list to the family. They’ll be much more willing to accommodate your dream if they know you won’t be the only one having fun.

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