With four miles of white sandy beaches and a boardwalk bursting with entertainment and shopping that stretches just as long, Hampton Beach has been a summer destination for generations. It’s a magical place along the New Hampshire Seacoast where the air smells like fried dough, soft sand lingers between toes, and the taste of saltwater taffy is on everyone’s lips.
Historians say that vacationers most likely began flocking to the area in the 1840s, when hotels opened along the shore, but in 1907 the Hampton Beach Village District was established, setting the groundwork for decades to come. And right out of the gate New Hampshire wanted to dazzle visitors with cutting-edge technology; its electric lights were a big attraction.
Today, Hampton Beach is a mix of tradition (did we mention fried dough?) and the best in dining and family entertainment. More than 80 concerts will be held this summer at the newly-renovated Hampton Beach Seashell, which was part of a $14.5 million renovation project started in 2010.
The Seashell abuts the area’s most popular beach, Center Beach, located between Epping Avenue and Hampton Harbor. Every day, members of the New Hampshire Parks Department meticulously groom the grounds for the day’s visitors, easily earning accolades as one of only four “Superstar Beaches” in the country by the Natural Resources Defense Council four years in a row.
Here are five must-sees:
Monday Night Movies on the Beach
Hampton Beach playground
(south side of the Seashell stage)
July 6 – Aug. 31, starting at dusk
Spend an evening under the stars on a 5-star beach watching a family-friendly movie. Weather permitting, of course. Kids can play, watch, eat and enjoy it all for free. Hampton Beach’s official Facebook page (HamptonNHBeach) will announce movie showings throughout the summer.
Spectacular Fireworks & Concerts
Concerts, nightly 7 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.
Fireworks, Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m.
There are more than 80 concerts planned this summer, including Hampton Beach’s own sensation The Continentals on July 15 & 22 and Wrentham’s American Idol contestant Ayla Brown on July 29. Weather permitting, the sky will light up every Wednesday night. But don’t worry, they have rain dates.
Hampton Beach Children’s Festival
Each day promises to be a blockbuster filled with non-stop activities and entertainment including mini-golf, a Ronald McDonald show, free ice cream, dancing, storytelling, balloons and more. Organizers are also adding a kids’ bumper sticker contest. The weeklong event concludes with its popular Giant Costume Parade on Friday. Imagine hundreds of kids marching the length of the beach in costume. It sounds like quite a show!
Hampton Beach Talent Competition
Aug. 28-30, 7 p.m.
You can watch talented entertainers compete for cash prizes or you can compete (vocalists only) by mailing in an audition tape, photograph, and bio by Aug. 7. Winners will be selected based on vocal ability, stage presence, and entertainment value. For more information, contact Glen French at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blue Ocean Discovery Center
170 Ocean Blvd.
Monday – Friday: Noon to 7 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Free, but donations accepted
More than 20,000 people visit Blue Ocean Discovery Center each year to experience marine life up close via the touch tank and find out more about the wild side of the seacoast. The brand-new discovery center can be found in the North Building next to the Seashell Stage.
Want more Hampton? Head to the Chamber of Commerce’s events calendar at hamptonchamber.com or hamptonbeach.org, which also provides a daily beach report with a live Web cam.
Plan your trip
From Boston: 59 minutes (52 miles)
From Worcester: 1 hour 21 minutes (78 miles)