14. Jackson Falls swimming hole
Honestly, is there anything better than a bracing dip in a swimming hole?Of course not. Jackson Falls, a series of rushing cascades, granite ledges, and rock-bowl pools on the Wildcat River in Jackson, is the platonic ideal of swimming holes. The others just go home and cry.
15. Tom and Tess Mulkern, at the Shannon Door Pub & Restaurant, Jackson
After your swim, you'll need to warm up. Do it over a pint of Harp at the Shannon Door. Tom Mulkern's parents, old Irish stock from South Boston, came north and opened this rustic wood-beamed tavern in 1953. Now it's run by Tom and his wife, Tess, both in their late sixties and charming as all get-out. Daughter Nora tends the bar. Musicians play lively Irish reels on weekends, when the pub fills up with visitors from "down below," as Tess calls all points south of Jackson.
16. Finding the perfect country store
Kazoos, night crawlers, hand-carved cribbage boards, WD-40: New Hampshire country stores have a comical array of stuff for sale. In smaller towns they also function as community center, post office, café, and town museum. Walk into the Plainfield General Store and you'll see notches in the wooden doorframe tracing the growth of local children. Over in Barrington you'll find Calef's Country Store, founded in 1869. But the mother lode is up north, in Tamworth. Here you'll find two idyllic country stores—one called the Tamworth Village Store and the other called, aptly, the Other Store. Besides the usual staples, they offer a $15 for-charity calendar, Women of Tamworth, featuring nude photos of local grandmas, their private parts obscured by a well-placed horse, easel, or woodstove.
17. White Lake State Park
Up the road from Tamworth is my all-time-favorite swimming beach, on the pine-rimmed shores of White Lake. It's as tranquil as state parks come, and small enough to feel utterly private. Try not to chortle like a child as you pad barefoot over a carpet of sand and pitch-pine needles, the sap sticking to your heels, and throw yourself headfirst into lake water.
18. Saturday night at Weirs Beach
Boat culture rules on Lake Winnipesaukee, a vast playground with 280 miles of shoreline, 240 islands, and 2 gazillion water-skiers. Every New Hampshire family seems to have a summerhouse on or near "the lake," or at least knows someone who does. On the eastern shore lies Wolfeboro, with its whitewashed gateposts, coiffed hedges, and English-rules croquet club. At the opposite end, in every sense, is Weirs Beach, which the faithful know simply as "Weeahz." If you've had enough of Baptist meetinghouses and are itching to see a fiberglass volcano with a biplane crashed into it, this classic summer funland is just the thing. Weirs is a small-scale, lakefront Coney Island, only better, since the beach is great for swimming. The town's main drag is a disarming confluence of candy-floss Victorians, mini-golf courses, biker bars, and a water park (hence the volcano).
19. A bike ride from Portsmouth to Odiorne Point
Portsmouth is New Hampshire's most alluring city, with a briny, maritime air that's more Maine than Maine (which is just across the river). The waterfront is a jumble of tugboats and chowder houses. Back in high school, my friends and I came to Portsmouth for our kicks. Its red-brick sidewalks are still lined with outdoor cafés and funky record shops. Foodies from Boston drive the hour north to eat at chic restaurants such as Pesce Blue, whose smoky grilled octopus is reason enough to come here.
Better still is a ride to the outlying coast. Rent a bike at Papa Wheelies in town, and ride to the 130-year-old Wentworth by the Sea resort, another of New Hampshire's classic grand hotels, which reopened last summer after a wholesale restoration. From there, follow the coastal road to Odiorne Point. Suddenly the smell of the sea is pervasive, and lighthouses appear on the horizon. This is the least-developed swath of New Hampshire's 18-mile shoreline; at the water's edge lies Odiorne Point State Park.
20. Sweet corn from Tuttle's Red Barn, Dover
Tuttle's is only five minutes from my boyhood home, and I grew up on their corn and tomatoes. If I hadn't discovered Tuttle's as a kid, I would have spent my adulthood looking for the place, or some approximation of it. This is the ultimate family farm—the oldest in the nation, started by Lucy Tuttle's ancestors in 1632. Back in the day Tuttle's was simply a big red barn, its rustic bins stocked with strawberries and zucchini from the fields outside. It has since grown into a full-scale market. But the clincher, still, is Tuttle's outstanding sweet corn. If you don't have access to a kitchen, buy a few ears, go to a restaurant, and beg the chef to boil them up. Hell, eat them raw if you have to. This is what New Hampshire tastes like.
PETER JON LINDBERG is an editor-at-large for Travel + Leisure.