Since the summer of 2017, Keene, NH is my hometown, and it never fails to surprise me. It's been featured, rather hilariously, on John Oliver, was the setting for the original Jumangi, and nearly every day, a handful of protesters populate the town center to renounce war, pollution, and violence. It's a college town, hosting both Keene State and Antioch University, but also a quaint New England experience. I feel lucky to live here.
Boston, Mass: 2 Hours
Hartford, CT: 2 Hours
Stamford, CT: 3 Hours
New York, NY: 4 Hours
Where To Stay
1. Downtown Keene One Bedroom Luxury Condominum
Number of Bedrooms: 1
Number of bathrooms: 2
Is it good for families: Great for smaller families. This is a residential apartment building and it's not a very large space, so a really great space for quieter aged kids or a baby etc. The bathrooms are great - one has a stand alone shower and the other has a beautiful, large soaking tub.
How was the host: Roger is fantastic. He is very quick to reply, very accommodating, and as a local business owner is very knowledgable about the area.
Was it clean: It is literally spotless. It felt like a hotel room!
Did it smell?: Not at all.
Bonus feature: Downstairs in the same building is Nicola's Trattoria, a truly fantastic Italian restaurant, so that's yet another way this Airbnb feels like a hotel. This is a really special Airbnb - if the space works for you, you should book it.
2. Grateful Gait Farm
Number of Bedrooms: 1
Number of bathrooms: 1
Is it good for families: It is really for 2 people so it might not be the best for a family but worth asking the host (Christina) to see what they can accommodate.
How was the host: Christina and her husband Fred are great people. Their property is like a piece of heaven with it's impeccably maintained farm, quaint farm stand, and incredible views of Mt. Monadnock.
Was it clean: I happened to visit when they weren't expecting me so they didn't have time to clean up. Despite that, it was totally spotless.
Did it smell?: Not at all.
Bonus features: This is a very special property as it's a private apartment on one of the most beautiful farms in the area. You will wake up to the incredible sunrise over Mt. Monadnock and watch the beautiful horses and their skilled riders training in the fields. There are also cows, sheep and other livestock. The house is also located right by the Cheshire rail trail, a great option for bike riding, running, and even horseback riding.
Keene is a college town so it has a substantial art scene (and a Domino's pizza and a handful of bars that I'll drive by with my kids on Fridays at 3pm and occasionally feel a twinge of envy as 20 somethings throw darts and eat wings and make all kinds of fun, poor decisions). Here are a few artists, galleries, art stores, and museums I recommend visiting.
Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery: Keene State's own gallery, the Thorne-Sagendorph has been a pivotal figure in the local art scene for over 50 years. To ensure the entire Keene community has the opportunity to enjoy their work, all exhibitions are free.
Tim Campbell: Tim Campbell is a local artist whose love of the area is evident in much of his work. He also has an Etsy shop where you can view more of his work.
Creative Encounters: This is a wonderful store, art gallery, and place to chat with the local shop owners. They have a painting I've had my eye on for a few months, and if the blog goes well, I hope to buy it!
Keene Library: I love the Keene Library, and often on the weekends they have a fun craft activity that is great for smaller kids as well as a story time. They stock the upper floor with toys, books (obviously), and even a fish tank. If weather has you wondering how to keep the kids entertained, a trip to the library is a great idea.
Horatio Colony Museum: Only open from May - October, this museum is essentially a family home that was built in 1806 and hasn't changed much since then.
Chesire Children's Museum: I know this place like the back of my hand! My whole family loves it here (I have a 2 year old and a 4 year old). It's like a giant "make believe" room that has a number of small businesses and play areas set up that are really insightful, fun, and educational. My kids love the veterinarian, pediatrician, and bank areas the most. Other highlights include the fishing boat, the construction area, the coal mine, and even an adorable little travel agency.
Between Keene State College, and The Colonial Theater, Keene has a thriving and interesting music scene. As a special bonus for my blog readers, the team over at Turn it Up!, a nearby chain of independ Music stores, has created a "Keene Playlist", which you can find here.
The Colonial: A revered theater that welcomes acts like Lyle Lovett, Arlo Guthrie, New York Theater Ballet and many other genres of artists and films.
Redfern Arts Center: Keene State's performing arts center which is open to the public.
Urban Exchange: This is a great consignment shop for women's clothing and accessories. They are highly selective about what they accept and the often feature a number of items from J.Crew, Coach, Kate Spade, and Banana Republic.
The Little Boutique: This is a sister shop to Urban Exchange and is for the kids. They sell shoes, toys, clothing and nursery furniture. I LOVE this store and buy a lot of my own kids clothes here (I've had my eye on a Burberry raincoat for a while for my oldest!).
The Simple Nest: This is One of my favorite stores in town. They feature antiques, artwork, repurposed furniture, and much more.
Good Fortune Jewelry: Isn't it strange how so often we buy new fine jewelry but there is so much beautiful and unique pre-owned jewelry out there? Good Fortune Jewelry has stunning jewelry, and their value only increases. It's a Keene institution and one well worth checking out.
Toadstool Bookstore: Remember when you'd spend hours in bookstores, letting the promise of so much knowledge elevate your spirit? That's exactly what Toadstool Bookstore offers, and they have a delicious cafe where you can start your new life as your new self with your new book and a fresh coffee.
Horatio Colony Nature Preserve: Five miles of hiking trails that open to the public daily. You can take a peek inside Horatio Colony's old cabin, a neat place to take a break. This isn't the easiest walk for young kids as it's fairly steep but it is beautiful.
Mount Monadnock: About 20 times a day a local Monadnock resident will mention that Mount Monadnock is the most climbed mountain in the world. While it's certainly the most climbed mountain in America, it comes in at a still impressive second for the world. It's a moderately challenging climb and takes a few hours, although legend has it there was a Keene resident who used to climb and descend on his lunch break. So, if you are a hearty New Englander, maybe it's doable in an hour, and for everyone else, I'd budget about 4 hours.
Chesire County Rail Trail: A wonderful, mostly flat, tree lined path that is great for biking, running, and horseback riding. Spanning 32 miles, most locals complete the trail in an hour (JUST KIDDING). It's a great way to burn some calories before noshing your way through town.
Granite Gorge Ski Area (both down hill and cross country): Granite Gorge has something for everyone, including snow tubing, and is also very affordable. They do have a rental shop as well. It makes for a easy day or half day of skiing and is about a 10 minute drive from the center of town, so if the family wants to go in shifts, that's more than doable.
Stonewall Farm: You've made it all the way to New Hampshire, you might as well see some animals! Stonewall Farm operates a certified organic dairy, vegetable, and flower farm. They have a delightful farm store that sells both their goods as well as the goods from other local farmers. They also offer beautiful hiking and biking trails (and you can get there easily from the rail trail I mention above), you can interact with the goats, cows, and horses, and there is a playground/picnic area by a creek. It's one my favorite places to take the kids, and in the summer, they will spend hours in that creek. I also reccomend checking out their website as they often host fun events.
Goose Pond: An easily navigated trail area featuring wetlands, brooks, and old trees that my husband will tell me all about for hours and then quiz me on later. A really nice spot to take in nature without taking on a more challenging hike.
Spofford Lake: A beautiful, 700+ acre lake with one public access beach, Wares Grove, offering a large beach with an extended shallow area (great for the little ones). If you need to break a sweat to work up the courage to actually jump in the water, there's volleyball, basketball, tetherball, playground and a swing set all on site. Naturally, all of this activity will stir up quite the appetite and that's when you can undo all your hard work by hitting up the concession stand. And for all you boaters and paddlers out there, there's also a boat launch. Best of all, as you enjoy wading in the water, take comfort knowing the some George Carlin's ashes were spread here. You're Welcome.
Nicola's Trattoria: The fanciest restaurant in Keene, Nicola's offers traditional, authentic Italian food in an intimate setting. Definitely make a reservation in advance as it's on the small side!
Luca's Cafe: A simple and tasty Italian restaurant.
Fireworks: Fireworks is one of my favorite spots for a solid dinner and a glass of wine. I love their Grilled Chicken sandwich and French fries. My kids love their pizza as well.
Thai Garden: Easily my favorite restaurant in Keene, Thai Garden has fresh, delicious, and inspired Thai Food (and it's extremely affordable). My favorite thing to eat (I could literally eat it every day) is the Changmai Noodle dish featured in my image gallery above. My husband loves the pad Thai and my kids love their chicken and beef satay (a memory I'll cherish forever is my 4 year old holding two empty skewers, announcing to the table that "we have a problem here" and insisting on a third round of the dish).
Local Burger: The Keene outpost of a small northeastern chain offering solid burgers, shakes, and fries. It's not the fastest fast food but they have a little play area with chalk for the kids that keeps them more than occupied. Usually they play great music too, always a plus.
Prime Roast: Most of this blog has been written at Prime Roast, a local coffee shop that's been in business since 1993 (not a typo). They have the best ham and cheese croissant I've ever had as well as delicious coffee. Prime Roast is well known for more than coffee, though, as it has the warmest, happiest, funniest staff around.
Piedra Fina: One of my first dinners out as a new New Hampshire resident was at Peidra Fina, and it was the perfect start to our new life (and a nice reassurance that leaving New York wouldn't mean a life of boring food). Tapas and drinks are served in a setting that's unusual for New Hampshire, right down to the neon lights. If you go, you must try the Duck Wings. Delicious!
The Stage: The Stage is great - especially for breakfast (and they open at 8am Friday - Saturday, which is awesome for those of you with little ones). They serve classic American food at reasonable prices. The French Toast is my favorite, my kids love the Belgian Style waffles, and my husband goes for the Huevos Rancheros.
Why Visit Keene
One of the reasons I was excited to move to New Hampshire is because it's a swing state, and nowhere else are the passions of our political parties more on display than in Keene. Yards proudly display signs declaring "All Are Welcome Here" while pick-up trucks roar by with confederate flags. Despite the politial disparities, the town is peaceful. Growing up in the suburbs of New York, I simply never saw this before, and moving here has opened my eyes to a whole other form of diversity.
In the middle of these opposites is a town dedicated to the individual - they mean it when they say "Live Free or Die". Independently owned shops and restaurants line either side of Main Street, as does a homeless shelter and a center for entrepreneurship. It's a testament to the hearty "New Englander", tackling setbacks head-on and more than willing to learn what it takes to succeed. Many of the shops have been here for more than a decade, no small feat when behemoths like Target, Starbucks, Michaels and Home Depot are just a few miles away. The townspeople genuinely support one another, are compassionate about the vicissitudes of life, and set a pretty good example for the rest of the country.
Keene has the quintessential quaint New England feel that you expect but it also has a bit of an edge. New Hampshire is an unusual state that is full of surprises, like the fact that it has the highest median income in the US yet is also one of the highest for opioid deaths. Keene represents both of those extremes, but, in true New England style, the people have no interest in bragging about its riches or denying its shortcomings. They simply persevere.
I started Weekends Arounds to marry my passion for hospitality and interior design with my love of New England. Because lodging has the greatest impact on a travel experience, I only feature Airbnbs, home rentals, and hotels that I have personally visited (and on my own dime and time - always). I’ll share all my detailed itineraries, photography, and recommendations so that you, too, can experience this beautiful part of the world.