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The Top 15 Best Towns to Live Throughout New Hampshire [2020]

15 Communities to Call Home

The Granite State is filled with great places to call home. Ranked #2 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of best states to live in the U.S., New Hampshire is known for its excellent quality of life, robust economy and pristine wilderness. Though the state boasts many attributes, finding the best towns and cities to live in can be tough.

While one could argue that finding the best places to live is subjective, there is some data that can help you narrow it down.

The team at Blue Water Mortgage Corporation has reviewed a wide range of information, including housing outlook, employment, quality of the schools, crime rates and the economic health of nearby businesses to come up with an overall desirability index. In no particular order, here are our latest findings on the 15 best towns in New Hampshire to live in.

Portsmouth
Londonderry
Amherst
Exeter
Wolfeboro
Hanover
Dover
Keene
New London
Hampton
Lebanon
Stratham
Windham
Durham
Atkinson

1. Portsmouth

(pop. 21,896) – The first on this list is Portsmouth, a popular vacation spot and seaport. As the creative capital of the New Hampshire Seacoast, Portsmouth is a city often sought after the way some dream of New York. While housing prices are on the higher end, Portsmouth offers beautiful seascapes and easy access to the mountains and large cities. Portsmouth is also a low-crime city with an excellent school system.


Prescott Park Arts Festival – David Murray of Clear Eye Photo

Notable Attractions:
Prescott Park
The Music Hall
Strawbery Banke
Market Square

The Boston Globe has published an article detailing what it’s like to live in Portsmouth, and famed foodie Guy Fieri has come to town to spend some time at the innumerable restaurants and eateries. Portsmouth was even named to the top five Best Small Town Food Scenes in America. And adding even more to the city’s intrigue, Portsmouth was included on a list of the World’s Top 20 Small Towns, according to an article on Thrillist.

2. Londonderry

(pop. 24,129) – Major businesses near the airport and the Coca-Cola plant give this mostly quiet suburb next to Manchester an active boost, earning it a reputation as a haven for economic opportunity. This community also boasts a strong local school system, as well as a low crime rate.

Notable Attractions:
Macks Apples
Stonyfield Farm
Moonlight Meadery

People love living in Londonderry so much, in fact, that some of them have created a website/publication dedicated to community events and activities.

3. Amherst

(pop. 11,329) – The quaint and historic village center holds only 613 residents, but there are amazing housing finds in the surrounding neighborhoods. This small town is steeped in history, as well as endless amounts of outdoor recreational opportunities.

LaBelle WineryLaBelle Winery

Notable Attractions:
LaBelle Winery
Amherst Country Club & Ponemah Green
Amherst Farmers’ Market

The town’s village green remains a focal point of the community and is home to many events, such as the annual Fourth of July celebration. Adding to Amherst’s allure is the 2016 recognition in the world of Academia for having one of the top 50 high schools in the state.

4. Exeter

(pop. 14,306) – Another community in thriving Rockingham County with equal parts historic significance and natural beauty, this downtown area is just the right size, offering equal amounts of dining and retail opportunities. The town also plays host to a strong public and private school system, most notably the world-renowned Phillips Exeter Academy.

4 - Exeter Inn
The Exeter Inn

Notable Attractions:
American Independence Museum
Phillips Exeter Trail
The Exeter Inn
Gilman Park

Home and condo sales in Exeter have appeared strong — meaning people continue to flock to the small town in hopes of finding a place to call home. Exeter has also been lauded for its excellence in education, claiming the #17 spot among the best high schools in New Hampshire, according to U.S. News & World Report.

5. Wolfeboro

(pop. 6,389) – This small village earns its place on the index due to winning marks in family security, robust economy and excellent education. This town also features a strong local tourist industry, thanks to its location beside Lake Winnipesaukee. It’s so well known, in fact, that the town is called the “Jewel of Lake Winnipesaukee.”

5 Lake Winnipesaukee
Lake Winnipesaukee

Notable Attractions:
Cate Waterfront Park
Wright Museum of WWII History
New Hampshire Boat Museum

Wolfeboro lays claim to being “the oldest summer resort in America” and if you love the outdoors and food, as well as dining outdoors, a few well-known Wolfeboro eateries made the list of best outdoor dining restaurants in the NH Lakes Region.

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6. Hanover

(pop. 11,500) – A picturesque river community along the Appalachian Trail that lives up to the popular image of New England, this town routinely makes the “top places to live in America” lists. It offers a small village feel, but also an active community experience thanks to Dartmouth College.

Baker and Rauner Libraries on the Dartmouth College Green
Dartmouth College

Notable Attractions:
Appalachian Trail
Hopkins Center for the Arts
Hood Museum of Art
Memorial Field

BuzzFeed included Hanover on its list of 24 Small New England Towns You Absolutely Need To Visit and Hanover High School made the list of top 10 best high schools in New Hampshire, according to U.S. News & World Report.

7. Dover

(pop. 31,771) – The largest community on the Seacoast boasts a healthy school system and strong local economy, which make Dover a popular place to live. Families also love the fact that The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is located in town.

7 - Childrens Museum
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire

Notable Attractions:
Woodman Museum
Bellamy Park
Dover Ice Arena

Another popular part of living in Dover is the Jenny Thompson Outdoor Pool, a 50-meter competitive swimming pool named after hometown Olympian Jenny Thompson.

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8. Keene

(pop. 23,056) – Two excellent colleges and some of the best weather in the state are the key factors for this busy community. Keene is the perfect all-season community — featuring lush farmlands in the summer and access to snowy slopes in the winter.

The Top 10 Best Towns to Live Throughout New HampshireStonewall Farm

Notable Attractions:
Colonial Theatre
Stonewall Farm
Central Square
Cheshire Rail Trail

Keene is so quaint that Boston.com recommended it as one of the stops for weekend road trip ideas for families near Boston. If you love the arts, Keene has an annual Art Walk, and if you’re a baseball fan, consider a SwampBats game. Hikers will enjoy the area as Keene arguably one of the best hiking trails in the state.

9. New London

(pop. 4,461) – The tiniest town on this list is centrally located in the state and the landscape makes it definitely worth the higher housing costs. Home to Colby Sawyer College, this community has plenty going on all year long; most notable of which is the outdoor recreation and local retail shopping.

The Top 10 Best Towns to Live Throughout New HampshireMount Sunapee

Notable Attractions:
Lake Sunapee
Mount Sunapee
New London Barn Playhouse
The Inn at Pleasant Lake

If you love live music, be sure to spend some time during the summer at the Mary B. Haddad Memorial Bandstand.

10. Hampton

(pop. 15,564) – This seaside town turns into a vacation hot spot in the summer, but then into a quiet coastal town in the winter. Affordable housing prices and a strong local school system make Hampton, as well as the neighboring town of North Hampton, a popular destination for young families.

10 Smuttynose
Smuttynose Brewing Co.

Notable Attractions:
Hampton Beach State Park
Smuttynose Brewing Co.
Casino Ballroom
Fuller Gardens

Every summer, thousands upon thousands flock to the “Hamptons” of New Hampshire to check out things like the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival and sand sculpting competitions.

11. Lebanon

(pop. 13,602) – Located on the Connecticut River in the middle of New Hampshire’s Upper Valley, this city is home to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and a handful of high-tech companies. From skiing and fishing to hiking and biking, this area offers something for everyone.

Notable Attractions:
Northern Rail Trail of New Hampshire
Lebanon Opera House
Packard Hill Covered Bridge

If you enjoy the arts scene, you can visit the AVA Gallery and Art Center. You can also enjoy the fall foliage along the Enfield Shaker Village Scenic Byway, which starts in Lebanon and ends in Enfield.

12. Stratham

(pop. 7,465) – This quiet town is located a short ride from the New Hampshire Seacoast and close to nearby Portsmouth and Dover.

Notable Attractions:
Stratham Hill Farm Park
Scamman Farm
Stratham Fair

The town is also right near the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, which offers opportunities for hiking, boating, hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. Also, Stratham recently made the list as one of the 20 safest cities in New Hampshire.

13. Windham

(pop. 13,592) – This town boasts a wide variety of community events, including an annual egg hunt, Memorial Day parade, Harvest Fest and tree lighting. You can also get your fill of the water at the town beach at Cobbetts Pond.

Notable Attractions:
Searles Castle
Griffin Park
Johnson’s Highland View Farm

Windham also ranks #7 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best High Schools in New Hampshire.

14. Durham

(pop. 16,574) – This quaint college town is home to the state’s flagship public research institution, The University of New Hampshire, in addition to College Woods — approximately 250 acres of woods, streams and small fields that can be used for outdoor physical activity.

Notable Attractions:
Wagon Hill Farm
Emery Farm
Whittemore Center Arena
Wildcat Stadium

Durham also made the list of New Hampshire’s 20 Safest Cities of 2020 and is also well known for its excellent school system.

15. Atkinson

(pop. 7,015) – This quiet spot, located in Southern Rockingham County on the Massachusetts border, was named the #9 Best Suburb to Live in New Hampshire.

Notable Attractions:
Woodlock Recreation Area
Atkinson Farmers Market
Atkinson Resort & Country Club

The town is also located near America’s Stonehenge, the popular Canobie Lake Park and a variety of hiking, biking and running trails.

Your Next Home

How many of these communities have you visited or even heard about in your preparations for your family’s future? When you find the ideal community, it’s time to start thinking of your next home. Your dream home or an incredible fixer-upper sitting below market value could be waiting for you right now.

Relocating? These are the 10 questions to ask before buying a home.

 

Before you consider moving, now is a good time to schedule a financial planning session, including a full mortgage review to make sure you are in the best financial position going forward. It could be worth your time to discover how the experienced loan officers at Blue Water Mortgage can get the ball rolling with the right financing for your situation. Perhaps you already own a home in one of these top towns and are considering refinancing, Blue Water can help there as well. Contact us today to get moving in the right direction.

 

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