Historic New England in Keene, New Hampshire
The National Trust calls Keene "a Currier & Ives landscape come to life," which, if you disregard the skateboard park, is pretty spot-on. Keene's broad, elm-shaded Main Street has cafés, lively bars, and the landmark Colonial Theatre. In the fall, the surrounding countryside is just as big a draw: the Ashuelot River, rimmed by scarlet maples and traversed by rickety covered bridges; fragrant pine forests; and 3,165-foot Mount Monadnock, which has views clear to Boston, Maine, and Vermont.
What to Do
Cast for bass on Goose Pond, north of town (hike in from the trailhead on E. Surry Rd., off Rte. 12A). Then drive Route 12 northwest for 17 miles to Walpole, home to Ken Burns's film studio and Greek Revival architecture. Return to Keene via Route 10, a stretch of road with four covered bridges. In October, join revelers at the Pumpkin Festival (Oct. 20). Besides fireworks and pumpkin pie-eating contests, there are four looming towers of jack-o'-lanterns, each of which rises 40 feet above the town square.
Where to Eat
Lindy's (19 Gilbo Ave.; 603/352-4273; breakfast for two $10) is a 1961 Paramount diner replete with vinyl-covered swivel stools and flannel-shirted regulars enjoying buttery French toast with maple syrup. Larry Burdick is New England's most revered chocolate artisan, and his headquarters, L. A. Burdick (47 Main St., Walpole; 603/756-2882; burdickchocolate.com; dinner for two $80) also houses a bistro that serves Provençal classics.
Where to Stay
Carved out of an 1890 brick building that was once Keene's preeminent department store, the E. F. Lane Hotel (30 Main St.; 603/357-7070; eflane.com; doubles from $164) is the only high-end place to stay in town. It's on the main drag, steps from the gazebo (and, in October, the giant pumpkin towers).
"For a quiet afternoon, I drive twenty miles southeast to Cathedral of the Pines [10 Hale Hill Rd., Rindge; 603/899-3300]," Keene's mayor, Michael Blastos, says. "It's an outdoor chapel that sits on a bluff overlooking Mount Monadnock. There's a beautiful altar made of stones donated from every state in the nation."
—Peter Jon Lindberg