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Queens Chronicle

PRIME TIMES: 60 Plus On the road again: Portsmouth, NH

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Posted: Thursday, July 4, 2019 10:30 am

Located halfway between Boston and Portland and right on both I-95 and US-1 it is somewhat surprising that Portsmouth isn’t a bigger city than it is. The great thing about that, however, is that it has retained its Revolutionary War era small-town charm.

John Paul Jones, the father of the American Navy and a key figure in the United States winning independence from Great Britain, resided here for a short duration and the home in which he rented a room is still standing. The John Paul Jones “home” was also where the delegates from Russia and Japan met in 1905 to hammer out a peace treaty to end the Russo-Japanese War. Many of us learned about Portsmouth for the first time in our junior high school social studies class because of that historical nugget.

You can learn more about the John Paul Jones House, North Church, and many of the other structures that were built in the 18th century, thanks to the Portsmouth Historical Society’s daily walking tours of the city’s downtown. They are highly recommended.

While Portsmouth has strong zoning and construction ordinances designed to protect its Colonial heritage it feels more natural and far less touristy, than say, Williamsburg, Va. The city also has strongly discouraged chain restaurants and stores in its downtown. Independently owned stores such as Inside Out, where you can buy handmade soaps, cocktail accessories and clothing, and Seabags, which sells totes and duffels made from canvas and other materials that you would find in the sails of vessels, are the kind of offbeat boutiques that make shopping fun here.

Speaking of shopping, it should be noted that New Hampshire does not have a sales tax so Portsmouth is a smart place to visit if you want to purchase any high-ticket retail items.

Given Portsmouth’s rich maritime history it’s only fitting to enjoy some time out on the Piscataqua River, which divides New Hampshire from Maine. The Gundalow Company, which uses the piers in the city’s idyllic Prescott Park, has both midday and sunset sails on its schooners.

Although it’s not situated on the Atlantic Ocean, Portsmouth is located very close to some of New England’s best beaches. It is a fifteen-minute car ride away from picturesque York Beach, Maine.

While in York Beach be sure to make a visit to York’s Wild Kingdom, a roadside attraction that is both a zoo and amusement park that dates back to the late 1940s. The zoo brings you up close to a white Bengal tiger, lion, zebras and to a surprisingly extensive collection of monkey species. You can also wander through its petting zoo and butterfly garden.

Although it is a small city, Portsmouth has a strong arts scene.

The Seacoast Repertory Theater uses local actors for well-known Broadway productions and stage recreations of films such as “The Wedding Singer,” which was made famous by New Hampshire native Adam Sandler.

Astoria native Tony Bennett is one of many famous artists who have performed at the Port City Music Hall. Its ornate restrooms are as talked about as its fine acoustics.

The Prescott Park Arts Festival takes place throughout the summer. While there is no charge you are expected to make a donation. You should bring either a blanket or chair. Among the more recognizable names performing concerts this season are Jenny Lewis and Aimee Mann.

Craft breweries are extremely popular in Portsmouth. Beer aficionados will enjoy both the Portsmouth Brewery and Earth Eagle Brewings. You can even purchase equipment and ingredients to create your own still a la Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce character in the classic television show, “M*A*S*H*” at Earth Eagle Brewings. Portsmouth Brewery has an extensive menu that should please even those who don’t imbibe while Earth Eagle Brewings has more informal grub such as sandwiches, sliders and nachos. Another good pub option is Ri Ra, an Irish-themed restaurant located in a former bank building that was erected in 1803.

Breakfast is a treat here as well. The Friendly Toast, with its kitschy Americana interior, is a popular weekend brunch spot for the locals. The Goods is a small café that serves New York-inspired cream cheese and lox on a bagel as well as traditional egg dishes.

The Best Western Plus, located right on US-1, is a five-minute drive from Portsmouth’s downtown historic district The rooms are spacious and it has both an indoor and outdoor pool.

If you don’t want to make the 300-mile drive north on I-95, JetBlue has three daily flights into Portland Jetport from JFK and you can then rent a car to make the 45-minute drive south to Portsmouth. C&J Bus Lines has luxury coach service leaving three times a day from the Port Authority Bus Terminal’s Gate 2.

For more information log onto goportsmouthnh.com or call the Portsmouth Collaborative at (603) 610-5510.

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