Arts & Culture
Northern New Hampshire sparkles with exciting cultural activities and events to attend, art-filled galleries to visit, and many beautiful and historic buildings to explore and enjoy. Year round, but particularly during the summer months, there are so many cultural happenings to choose from that it would be easy to be out every day and night of the week — and still miss some.
The region’s beautiful mountain views and pastoral vistas first drew artists to the White Mountains and the northern reaches of the state in the early years of the 19th century, drawn by a dramatic landscape of towering peaks, rushing rivers and stately forests, and capturing them forever on canvas. These 19th century artists gave rise to both the iconic Hudson River School and White Mountain School styles of painting.
These early artists were instrumental in promoting the region to visitors, with their gorgeous paintings serving much the same purpose as today’s brochures and websites for inspiring people to travel to northern New Hampshire to experience its natural splendors and other attractions.
Architecturally grand buildings, artful offerings, historical sites, and musical and stage performances highlight the many cultural activities to be found today in northern New Hampshire.
Local Works Marketplace at WREN
Located in beautiful downtown Bethlehem, Local Works Marketplace is the place to shop for high-quality, hand-crafted items during your visit to northern New Hampshire. Whether you are shopping for yourself or looking for a unique gift, the friendly and knowledgeable staff can help you find just what you are looking for. Local Works features over 90 regional artisans, working in a variety of mediums including oils, watercolors, acrylics and prints, decorative items for the home, fashion accessories, bath and beauty products, toys, books, gourmet foods, and more.
The Gallery at WREN is a fine art gallery featuring a new exhibit every other month highlighting the work of local and regional artists in a variety of mediums. Gallery shows open the first Friday in the month with an artist reception and refreshments; free, 5-7 p.m.
For more information visit: http://www.wrenworks.org/
Great North Woods Center for the Arts
Indoor and outdoor performance spaces for concerts, plays, art shows, arts and crafts activities and a variety of community gatherings, as well as overnight accommodations for visiting artists and performers.
The Center is also the home to two additional North Country arts groups — the Connecticut River Artisan Group and the Carriage Lane Players.
For more information visit: https://www.gnwca.org/
League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Littleton Fine Craft Gallery Littleton, NH
Situated on the banks of the Ammonoosuc River, the gallery showcases traditional and contemporary fine craft by regional New Hampshire artisans juried in the League of NH Craftsmen. Find a wide selection of jewelry, pottery, hand blown glass, scarves, wooden bowls, photographs, baskets, prints and mixed media pieces. Or sign up for a hands-on workshop in pottery, jewelry making, basketry, painting, and more at the gallery’s Studio School.
For more information visit: https://littleton.nhcrafts.org/
William Rugh Art Gallery
Drop by the William Rugh Gallery in downtown Lancaster to view the abstract expressionist paintings of Ed Widmayer (1923-2010), and award-winning photographs by Olympics photographer Fletcher Manley. The gallery’s new location in the old Lancaster Bank building has allowed it to expand and represent several dozen artists and artisans and features a curated selection of fine art, handcrafted furniture, art photography, fine woodworking, unique fine crafts and granite benches. The gallery also offers custom framing.
For more information visit: http://www.rughgalleries.com/
Fiddleheads, A Great North Woods Shoppe
Located in New Hampshire’s Great North Woods region, Fiddleheads is both an artisan gift shop filled with fine quality handmade craft and an art gallery with rotating displays. The shop represents 125 New Hampshire artisans and an additional 375 New England and national artisans, and includes Fair Trade items and products produced in Canada (the border is just 8 miles away!). The Connecticut River Artisan Group (CRAG), with a membership of over 50 artisans from New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and Canada regularly display their work in the Fiddleheads’ art gallery space.
For more information visit: www.facebook.com/FiddleheadsUSA/
The Frost Place
Poet Robert Frost’s former homestead is now a museum for poets and poetry. The Frost Place generally hosts three summer poetry writing conferences, including poetry readings open to the public. A half-mile nature trail displays plaques featuring poems Frost wrote during his Franconia years.
For more information visit: https://frostplace.org/
North Country Chamber Players
The North Country Chamber Players & White Mountains Music Festival present six summer weekends of classical and newer musical selections and a variety of community events at venues around the North Country including the Dow Pavilion in Franconia, a charming outdoor gathering spot.
For more information visit: https://northcountrychamberplayers.org/
The Colonial Theatre
The historic Colonial Theatre is one of the oldest continuously operated movie theaters in the country. The May-October season features Grammy Award-winning performing artists, independent feature films, film series and festivals, children’s programs, community events and more. The Colonial, on the New Hampshire Registry of Historic Places, recently underwent a series of renovations and improvements but still retains the charm of a vintage summer theater. Along with the performances don’t miss the fresh-popped popcorn with real butter, along with assorted other goodies!
For more information visit: https://bethlehemcolonial.org
Professional summer theatre in the North Country can trace its roots to 1934, when New York Times music critic Will Chase opened the Chase Barn Playhouse in Whitefield, the predecessor of today’s Weathervane Theatre. The summer playbill includes nine shows, both classic and contemporary, in alternating repertory, from June through early October. Families travelling with kids will enjoy the timeless tales and musical stories staged throughout the season by the Weathervane’s Patchwork Players.
For more information visit: https://www.weathervanenh.org/
Medallion Opera House
The beautifully restored Medallion Opera House (in the same building as the Town Hall) is the heart of the town’s cultural activities, with a year-round schedule of performing arts. Originally known as the Gorham Opera House the venue has a strong theatrical tradition which goes back to the early 1900s when Vaudeville acts would travel by railroad, stop in Gorham to perform their show and then continue on by rail to their next venue. Today’s performers arrive by automobile, van or truck, but their acts continue to draw crowds from across the region.
For more information visit: https://www.gorhamnh.org/medallion-opera-house
St. Kieran’s Community Center for the Arts
The 500-seat St. Kieran Community Center for the Arts is notable for both its architecture and its terrific performing arts series. Located in a former church, St. Kieran’s is on the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places. Built in 1895 in the baroque architectural style, it includes a central portal with a rose window and two elaborate stained glass accents. The Hook and Hastings pipe organ, donated in 1898, remains in excellent condition. The performing arts series takes place throughout the year, featuring local, regional and national acts.
For more information visit: https://www.stkieranarts.org/
The Tillotson Center
Colebrook has embraced a lively arts scene centered on the Tillotson Center for the Arts, which includes a 175-seat performance and movie theatre, a community heritage museum and an art gallery. Formerly the Carriage Barn for The Balsams hotel stagecoach, and subsequently a Grange Hall with a theater and dance floor, the Center is now a magnet for cultural activities in the northernmost region of the state.
For more information visit: https://www.tillotsoncenter.org/
The Rialto Theatre
Lancaster is notable for its independent movie house, the Rialto Theatre, whose distinctive marquee advertises first-run movies, a free summer family film series, and a growing schedule of concerts and other community events. While improvements have been made over the years, the 1930s-era theatre still retains an old-timey feel, with a box office fronted by a brass rail, comfortable seats (with lots of leg room!) and dark red tapestries on the walls.
For more information visit: https://www.lancasterrialto.com/
The Poore Farm Historic Homestead and Museum
The Poore Farm is the last remaining, original 100-acre farm settlement of its kind in northern New Hampshire. The Stewartstown museum portrays one family’s life from the 1830s to the 1980s, including the house, barns and outbuildings, all in authentic condition. Displays include clothing, artifacts, newspapers, magazines, diaries and letters, hand tools, horse drawn wagons, farm implements, and a large collection of everyday items common to the period. The Museum and grounds host a variety of cultural events, demonstrations, field trips, concerts and social gatherings.