'Best of' Family Fun

New Hampshire's Top Family-Friendly Annual Events

Lisa Martineau
May 23. 2014 5:14PM

Quill Writing at the Living History Event in Hillsborough, NH (Courtesy)

We have so many fantastic annual events, fairs and festivals in the Granite State - some are the oldest of their kind in the country, some have become annual traditions - but all of them are fun (and many are free!).  We thought we'd pull together all the best family-friendly events throughout the year so you can plan ahead.

Keene Ice and Snow Festival - February - This event draws hundreds of people to downtown Keene to see some beautifully sculpted ice sculptures, characters like Frosty the Snowman, arts and crafts for the kids, live entertainment, s'mores by the fire, a snowboard rail jam, hot chocolate and more.  This is a great excuse to break out of the house mid-winter and enjoy the season.  http://www.keenechamber.com/iceandsnow.html

Maple Sugar Weekend - Mid-late March - The beginning of spring is marked by the tapping of trees, smoke billowing from sugar shacks and a weekend-long event that offers taste-testing, open houses and an opportunity to see the entire process of maple sugar making. Many sugar houses will be offering free samples of fresh syrup, as well as samples of maple candies and confections, coffee and doughnuts. Some locations have pancake breakfasts, petting farms or horse-drawn rides. Experience the centuries-old craft and taste why pure New Hampshire maple syrup has long been a delicious harbinger of spring. Share in the excitement of the sweetest time of the year. You’ll be happy you did!  http://www.nhmapleproducers.com/maple-producer-events/maple-weekend-and-month/

Discover Wild NH Day - Concord - mid-April - This FREE event is held annually in April at the NH Fish and Game Department Headquarters in Concord.  The event features exhibits from environmental and conservation organizations from around the state.  See live animals, big fish and trained falcons.  Try your hand at archery, casting, fly-tying, and B-B gun shooting.  Explore the latest in environmentally friendly products, hyrbid vehicles, and recycling. http://www.wildnh.com

New Hampshire Renaissance Faire - Kingston - Runs 2 weekends in mid-May - The Annual Renaissance Faire is a gathering of fair maidens, the Shire Queen and her Court, knights, gypsies, wenches, lads, jesters, jousters and other characters of the time period.  New Hampshire Renaissance FaireThe fair is a family friendly, educational, visual, theatrical and fantastical event held in gorgeous, (and central), Kingston, NH. From historical knights to fantastical fairies, NHRF brings together education and fun for the whole family. Our merchants are mainly local artisans with an emphasis on hand made items including costumes, jewelry, pottery, herbals, weaponry, and more. Some will even demonstrate their craft live for your enjoyment. Dance around the Maypole, take a belly dance lesson, watch a jousting competition, bid on a charity Wench and Lad Auction, shop among dozens of vendors, enjoy an ancient firearms show, and more!  There is an admission fee.  http://www.nhrenfaire.com/

Children & the Arts Festival - mid-May - This annual festival celebrates art by, for and with children.  Featuring artsy hands-on workshops, many live dance, music and theatre performances, and more.  The event is highlighted by a giant puppet parade, with huge handmade puppets created by the children.  It's a one-of-a-kind event.  And it's free! http://www.childrenandthearts.org/

Newmarket Heritage Festival - Newmarket May 31, 2014 - The Newmarket Heritage Festival is New Hampshire's favorite international block party!  It's a celebration of the arts, culture, history and community spirit.  Watch artisans at work, visit with dozens of vendors, get entertained with a great line-up of international performers, listen to strolling musicians, and more.  It all happens in the lovely town of Newmarket.  Admission is $5 for adults, $2 (ages 6-12) and free for children under 6.  http://www.heritage-festival.org/

Market Square Day - Portsmouth June 14, 2014 - a long held tradition, Market Square Day is a day that makes downtown Portsmouth come alive with vendors, live performances, aritists, crafters and merchants.  There is also a 10K Road Race.  The roads are closed to vehicular traffic and the streets will see 60,000 to 80,000 pedestrians come through.  There is something here for everyone.  Come spend the day! http://www.proportsmouth.org/MarketSquareDay.cfm

Hampton Beach Sand Sculpting CompetitionSand Sculpting Competition - Hampton Beach Jun 19-21, 2014 - The Annual Sand Sculpting Competition draws sand sculptors from all over the world to Hampton Beach to compete in an intense but fun 3 days during which they will turn ten tons of sand into a masterpiece.  Each year, there is a theme, and the sculptors have to woo not only the judges but the public!  There is a chance for kids to learn from the pros. Don't miss the fireworks after the awards are handed out. http://www.hamptonbeach.org/sandcastle-competition.cfm   

Somersworth International Children's Festival - Somersworth - June 21, 2014 - This Children's Festival is fun for both the young and the young at heart.  With live entertainment for all ages, tasty foods, activities for children, a world culture tent where kids can get a 'passport' that will give them access to the participating 'countries' and their activities, culture and art.  The night is capped off with a spectacular fireworks display.  http://www.nhfestivals.org/somersworth-international-childrens-festival.html

County Fairs - Stratham, Hopkinton, Rochester, Deerfield - Any one of New Hampshire's Agricultural Fairs is a blast for the whole family - grab some fair food, catch a demolition derby, watch oxen, tractor and horse pulls, visit with the animals, jump on the midway, enjoy live entertainment and more.  Take in the sights, sounds and smells of a county fair.  From the largest fair in the state to the longest running fair, there is something special about each and every one. http://vtnhfairs.com/new-hamsphire-fairs.html

Pittsfield Hot Air Balloon RallyPittsfield Hot Air Balloon Rally - Aug 1-3, 2014 - This event is fun for the whole family.  With balloon launches at dusk and dawn, food vendors, a balloon glow, a full carnival, a craft fair, helicopter balloon rides, live entertainment, tethered balloon rides, fireworks and so much more.  The kids will be in awe.  Admission is free (or by donation) and there are some fees for some activities. http://www.pittsfield-nh.com/publicinfo/balloonfestival/   

Jericho ATV Festival - August 1-4, 2014 - Bring your whole family and get dirty at this fun outdoor festival.  There will be mud runs through a mud pit, an obstacle course, and more than 100 miles of trails to ride through.  There are also demonstrations, the latest models, gear, after market parts, and more.  The City of Berlin also welcomes riders on the streets throughout the festival.  So head to town for dinner or shopping and enjoy this weekend of outdoor fun. http://jerichoatvfestival.com/

New Hampshire Renaissance FaireLeague of NH Craftsmen Fair - Mt. Sunapee, NH - August 2-10, 2014 - The oldest crafts fair in the country is held annually at Mount Sunapee in Newbury.  You may not think this one would be fun for the kids but with all of the displays, demonstrations, arts and crafts activities, workshops and entertainment, there is sure to be something that they will enjoy.  Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors/students, and free for kids 12 and under. https://www.nhcrafts.org/craftsmens-fair-overview.php

Soulfest - Gunstock, Gilford - August 7-9, 2014 - This three-day festival is New England's premiere social justice and Christian Music Festival.  Taking place at Gunstock Resort, the event offers a weekend of camping, speakers, workshops, and music by some of the most outstanding acts in Christian music performing on two stages.  Kids will love this one.  The cost varies. http://www.thesoulfest.com/home.html
Children's Week - August 11-15, 2014 - March to Hampton Beach for a week of children's activities and live entertainment, arts and crafts, and more.  The highlight of the week is the Children's Costume Parade.  Kids dress up and walk from the State Park to the Seashell Stage to get a prize just for being a part of the parade. http://www.hamptonbeach.org/children-only.cfm

Living History Event - Hillsborough Aug 16-17, 2014 - This event is becoming an annual tradition in the quaint town of Hillsborough. 
 Reenactments, demonstrations, artisans, displays and many other activities fill the weekend.  Pan for gold. Press cider.  Make ice cream, learn how to throw a pot on a wheel or talk to costumed actors like Betsy Ross, George Washington, and others.  Watch a Civil War reenactment and hear the cannons roar.  This is not only educational but fun for the whole family.  Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $5 for kids ages 6-17, free for kids 5 and under. http://livinghistoryeventnh.com/

North Country Moose Festival - August 22-24, 2014 - A bluegrass music festival, a giant car show, live entertainment, food and craft vendors and the popular moose calling contest are all part of the fun this weekend.  Bring the whole family to the North Country and see if you can spot a moose too! http://www.chamberofthenorthcountry.com/moose-festival.html

Seafood Festival - Hampton Beach - September 5-7, 2014 - This nationally-known and highly rated festival draws hundreds of thousands of people to Hampton Beach for a weekend of live entertainment, arts and crafts, vendors, a beer tent, sidewalk sales, demonstrations, fireworks, fun for the kids.....oh, and lots of food from the sea and more.  Come get your lobstah, steamers, lobster rolls, and other delectable delights.  This world class event raises money for area chairities and guarantees a full belly, fun with friends and family and a fantastic way to end the summer season.  http://www.hamptonbeachseafoodfestival.com/

Fairy House Tours - Prescott Park, Portsmouth - September 20-21, 2014 - The Fairy House Tours draws visitors to Prescott Park and Peirce Island to take a tour of miniature houses built for fairies, with sticks and stones and other natural features.  The houses are incredible and there are many activities for the kids to enjoy too.  Meet Tracy Kane, author/illustrator of The Fairy House Series of books and videos.  Dress your little girl like a fairy princess, and watch their wonderment and imaginations run wild!  http://www.portsmouthfairyhousetour.com/

Highland Games - Loon Mountain, Lincoln - Sep 19-21, 2014 - One of the most highly anticipated events of the year, the Highland Games features a weekend of Scottish culture - from food, music, athletics - and a giant Gathering of the Scottish Clans.  Come watch and listen to a Scottish Fiddle Championship, enjoy the National Highland Dance Competition, Sheepdog Trials, and Heavyweight Scottish Athletics. This is a must-do! http://www.nhscot.org/

Seacoast Irish Festival - Downtown Dover - September 27, 2014 - Known as the Biggest Little Irish Festival in the World, the event is filled with fabulous live music and dance, storytelling, food, drink and cheer for the whole family! http://www.seacoastirishfestival.org/

Lumberjack Festival and Competition - Northern Forest Heritage Park, Berlin - September 30, 2014 - This event features events such as cross-cut, modified chainsaw, stock chainsaw, women and men’s axe chop, women and men’s axe throwing, standing block chop, 2 person log rolling and more are sure to thrill! There will be a Log Rolling (Burling) contest and metal fishing derby for children, along with other children’s games.  The kids will love it! http://www.northernforestheritage.org/lumberjack.htm

Keene Pumpkin Festival - October 18, 2014 - This famous festival is a world record breaker.  Last year (and several years before) the festival held the world record for the most lit jack-o-lanterns in one location.  With 30,581 jack-o-lanterns in 2013, it's a tough act to follow but it never hurts to try.  Bring a votive candle and a jack-o-lantern (be creative!) and watch as night falls.  There are activities for the kids throughout the day (including pumpkin carving), food, live entertainment for all ages, and a whole lot of magic when the night lights up.  Fireworks are also held at dusk. http://pumpkinfestival2011.org/

Warner Fall Foliage Fest - October 11-12, 2014 - The Town of Warner hosts the Warner Fall Foliage Festival to welcome old and new friends to the community. The Festival is Warner's invitation to share the natural splendor of New Hampshire's vibrant autumn colors while enjoying food, entertainment, carnival rides and fine crafts along the main streets of Warner.  Live entertainment for all ages, arts and crafts, a farmers' market, and many other activities make this a standout event.  http://wfff.org/

Nashua Holiday StrollNashua Holiday Stroll - mid-December - Light a candle, sing Christmas Carols, take a candlelit stroll downtown to see the Christmas Tree lit...enjoy a visit with Santa and the many entertainment opportunities with music offerings in styles from all over the globe, including big band jazz, country, bluegrass and indie rock, large choirs and small a cappella groups. You will also find dance and theater, magic, face painting, ice sculptures, karate demonstrations, stargazing and artists.  Dress warm but make this a part of your holiday traditions.  http://www.downtownnashua.org/event/holiday-stroll/

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