From the Massachusetts border traveling north on Interstate 93, most of New Hampshire’s truly urban areas line the highway. You may not see much of them, because the interstate is often “greened in” by trees and fields, but from south to the north, they are Salem and Nashua, Manchester, and Concord. Concord is the state capital, a small city with a pleasant historic walking district and the coffee shops and restaurants you’d expect to support a busy state legislature. Manchester is an industrial city at heart, but also has some large shopping malls, and the state’s busy airport. Urban renovation may yet make a visitor-friendly place out of Nashua, but tourists from out-of-state cities are likely to find it a little too much like home to be a real vacation.
This urban strip of New Hampshire has some surprises, though: immediately to the east of Interstate 93 are two terrific state parks, Bear Brook and Pawtuckaway, that you may want to visit for their mountain biking and archery opportunities as well as hiking trails. There are preserved patches of green lands all through the region, too, thanks to many local efforts and often the management of the New Hampshire Audubon Society and the Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests. Each of these two conservation-oriented societies has an interesting headquarters in Concord, worth visiting.
At the northern tip of the region is Canterbury Center, a town that has kept much of its pastoral character despite housing commuters for the cities. Here is a Shaker community, no longer active in membership but preserving the rural skills of this peaceable people as a living museum to visit.
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