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Are you looking for the best things to do in Keene, NH? We’ve got you covered! Keene is a wonderful hidden gem in New Hampshire’s Monadnock region, and we at New Hampshire Way have long thought Keene deserves more visitors! There are so many cool things to do here.
You have have heard that Keene is a college town — and that’s certainly true. Keene State College is the anchor of the city (and home to some of the loveliest architecture in southwest New Hampshire). When school is in session, about 25% of Keene’s population is college students!
Keene is a city in New Hampshire where almost one-fourth of the population is college students. It’s known for its history, scenic views, and being home to Keene State.
But beyond that, Keene has a wonderfully walkable downtown with restaurants, boutiques, cafes, and more. Check out the historic sites, have a beer or two at the local breweries, or drive around the edges for scenic views.
Keene is also a great place for people who love outdoor activities. There are tons of trails along the lakes, ponds, and mountains in Keene and the surrounding Monadnock region.
Let’s take a look at what makes Keene so great!
Travel to Keene, New Hampshire
Keene makes an excellent day trip, and you can do a lot in Keene with a single day. If you have a few days, the surrounding towns like Peterborough and Jaffrey are worth exploring as well!
Keene is less than a two-hour drive from Boston and there are bus connections to cities throughout New England and New York.
Things to Do in Keene
Ready to make the most of your trip to Keene? We’ve put together this guide for you.
Whether you want to spend your days outside, shopping, visiting breweries and distilleries, or exploring nearby towns.
Enjoy Downtown Keene
Keene is home to one of our favorite downtowns in New Hampshire — along with Littleton and Portsmouth — and it’s one of the best ways to start your visit to Keene. You’ll spot historic buildings like the church in Central Square, an old movie theater, and many brick buildings that are now home to thrift stores, antique shops, candy stores, restaurants, and more.
One of our favorite landmarks in Keene is the Parrish Shoes mural on a brick wall — an homage to the fictitious shoe company in the Jumanji movie starring Robin Williams, which was shot here in Keene. It was removed after filming ended but Keene residents, loving their role in the movie, repainted it. It became a memorial after Williams’ death in 2015.
We also love dropping by Hannah Grimes Marketplace, a gift shop with so many interesting treasures, many made by local artisans. You can find everything from blown glass lamps to cribbage boards shaped like the state of New Hampshire!
Spend some time walking around the main street and downtown Keene, sip on a coffee, grab a bite to eat, window shop, and enjoy the simple pleasures.
Lindy’s Diner is a Keene landmark — one of the best diners in New Hampshire, all tin walls and wildflowers. And they dish up a tasty breakfast! We at New Hampshire Way enjoyed their biscuits and gravy, a southern dish that somehow feels at home in New Hampshire.
Lindy’s Diner was actually manufactured in Haledon, New Jersey, and then transported on a flatbed truck to Keene in 1961. Many Keene residents remember it being dropped on the foundation all those years ago.
But Lindy’s is especially popular when a presidential election rolls around. New Hampshire is home to the nation’s first primary, and that means every candidate swings through the Granite State on and off for months.
They say “the run to the White House runs through Lindy’s Diner,” and presidents from Obama to George H.W. Bush have stopped at Lindy’s for coffee and breakfast.
Visiting Lindy’s Diner is a must while in Keene, and who knows, you may just meet the next president of the United States. The diner serves all-day breakfast and lunch.
Keene Axe House
Ever wanted to spend an afternoon throwing axes? Keene Axe House is the place for you! A relative newcomer to the city, Keene Axe House opened in September 2021, providing a fun way to get your energy out.
Axe throwing is part primal, part skillful, and part athletic. The Axe House has several lanes that you can book out. It works like darts — you throw the axe as hard as you can, trying to hit the target. It takes a few tries before you get it, but once you do, you’ll be hooked! (Prepare to compete HARD against your friends.)
This is a great option for birthdays, bachelorettes, and more — so if you are celebrating a special occasion in Keene, the Axe House is a great place to hit up.
Horatio Colony House Museum
The Horatio Colony House Museum is a little yellow historic home located right on Main St. in downtown Keene. This historic home dates back to 1806 and is preserved with period decor. It’s a lovely place to pop into when exploring the city of Keene.
The museum also puts events on throughout the year, so check their calendar for the latest.
The Horatio Colony Museum is open mid-May through mid-October, Wednesday through Sunday, 11:00 AM-4:00 PM. Please call for an appointment the rest of the year. Admission is free.
Keene is also home to the Horatio Colony Nature Preserve, which is on the southwestern edge of town. Here you can enjoy five miles of hiking trails through the woods. The preserve is open daily, dawn to dusk.
Climb Mount Monadnock
Mount Monadnock is often cited as the most climbed mountain in the world — and while we personally doubt this claim, this National Natural Landmark definitely one of the most popular climbs in New Hampshire. The most prominent mountain in southern New Hampshire, you can access Mount Monadnock via Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey, a 30-minute drive from Keene.
The 3,165-foot mountain has tons of routes for all levels of hikers, and park rangers recommend first-timers take the White Dot Trail up (two hours) and the White Cross Trail down (two and a half hours).
Visiting the park costs $15 per vehicle; we recommend making a reservation ahead of time, especially on weekends, because parking is limited. Beyond Mount Monadnock, the state park is a fantastic place for hiking and camping as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
Find a New Outfit at Urban Exchange
Urban Exchange is an upscale consignment store right on Main Street in the heart of downtown Keene. This isn’t your usual thrift store — Urban Exchange features a curated collection of high-quality women’s brands. You can find everything you’d need for a brand new outfit, including shoes, jewelry, and accessories.
The racks are separated by color, which makes it aesthetically pleasing, and the store is also broken up into sections so you can easily find what you’re looking for. They even have a cashmere rack!
You can easily find a great signature piece here. Last fall our editor Kate left the Urban Exchange with a brand new purple peacoat.
If you’d rather shop for new clothing, check out Moe Momentum right across Main Street. The women’s clothing here is high-end and pricey — but so stylish!
Explore Keene State College
Keene State College is a public liberal arts college and the beating heart of Keene. The beautiful campus, woven in and out of downtown Keene, is well worth a stroll. Keene State’s buildings are gorgeous.
And one of the best things about being in a small college town is that there are tons of events! If you enjoy sports, consider going to a game and cheering on the Owls, the Keene mascot. Keene State is a Division III school.
Keene is also home to the Redfern Arts Center, putting on a variety of live events for students and the community alike. We took a look at a single week in December and there’s everything from Keene State’s Vocal Consort and Chamber Singers to the Guitar Orchestra and Latin American Ensemble to performances of Fun Home by the theater community.
You can check Keene State’s schedule for games and arts event here.
Thorne Sagendorph Art Gallery
While you visit Keene State College, you can visit the Thorne Sagendorph Art Gallery right on campus. This excellent gallery has been open to the public for more than 50 years.
Exhibits include work from local, national, and international artists in a range of styles and media. It also includes works by Keene State students.
The displays are ever-changing, so we recommend dropping by when the season changes. And it’s free for the public to enjoy.
Prime Roast Coffee Co
If you enjoy high-quality coffee or want something more special than Dunkin, you’ll want to visit Prime Roast Coffee Co in downtown Keene. The small-batch coffee roaster and cafe has been offering fresh coffee since 1993.
You can choose from iced, hot, specialty, and frozen drinks as well as from a rotating collection of baked goods, including muffins, croissants, and cookies.
We at New Hampshire Way are fans of their maple latte — the ultimate New England pick-me-up!
See a Show at the Colonial Theatre
The Colonial Theatre first opened in 1924 as a stage for live performances in Keene. However, in the 1950s, a screen was added to turn it into a movie theater, and the live acts left town.
Not so fast! Today, the Colonial Theatre is thriving yet again. It hosts both performing arts and films for more than 50,000 people annually.
Events include international touring theater productions, live music in all kinds of genres, first-run independent films, and more. Join the local Keene State students for a fun night out!
Cheshire Children’s Museum
If you’ve got kids with you, be sure to hit up the Cheshire Children’s Museum, which has excellent exhibits to help children learn and grow.
This is very much a community-based museum, with lots of exhibits on the Monadnock region and New Hampshire in general. You can also enjoy interactive exhibits and themed playrooms for the whole family to enjoy.
Admission to the museum costs $8 for everyone one year and up.
Stonewall Farm cuts one of the most famous silhouettes in southwest New Hampshire. It’s also the oldest and only working dairy farm in Keene, home to about 30 cows, and one of our favorite things to do in Keene with kids.
This 120-acre farm has crops, gardens, hiking trails, and animals including chickens, goats, rabbits, and horses. There is also a maple sugar operating area and an education center to teach visitors about regenerative agriculture.
Visitors can tour the farm, see the animals, and enjoy the natural landscape. There are tons of different tours offered including visits to the dairy farm, a hayride tour, farm tour, pasture walks, and more — all great quality time for the family.
Visit Keene’s Breweries
We are huge fans of New Hampshire’s breweries, and some of the best breweries in the Granite State are in and around Keene!
Branch & Blade, on the outskirts of Keene, prides themselves in creating unusual, wacky beers. For example, the Sack Lunch is a sour with flavors of grape jelly and peanut butter. Another interesting sour is Burning Love, with flavors including pineapple, brown sugar, cinnamon, marshmallow, cherry, and more.
If that’s a bit much for you, don’t worry — the tap list also features more conventional IPAs, stouts, and pilsners.
Modestman Brewing, right in downtown Keene, focuses on brewing high-quality traditional beers in a modern atmosphere. Beers include stouts, lagers, IPAs, ales, and sours. Their back patio is a lovely place to spend a warm night.
Elm City Brewing is both a brewery and restaurant centrally located in Keene. (We at New Hampshire Way are a big fan of their Cajun chicken and hot sausage appetizer.) The brewery tap offers IPAs, porters, and sours, among others, and it’s very family-friendly.
Near Keene in Marlborough, New Hampshire, Frogg Brewing is another great place to check out and try some excellent beer. Beers options include IPAS, ales, stouts, and sours.
Also, just outside Keene, Granite Roots Brewing is located in Troy, NH. If you’re visiting during the winter, the brewery offers heated domes for outdoor seating. Year-round, there is tons of outdoor seating, including a greenhouse, cabanas, picnic tables, and more. Available beers include IPAS, porters, sours, and ales.
As always, be sure to have a designated driver or call a taxi.
Explore Otter Brook State Park
Otter Brook State Park is located off Route 9, right on the edge of Keene and Roxbury. If you’re looking to have a beach gathering near Keene, this is where you go!
Otter Brook is home to a large sandy beach, complete with restroom facilities, picnic areas with tables, grills, and wooden shelters you can rent. There is also a boat ramp, and both in-season hunting and fishing are permitted here (the state keeps the lake stocked with brook and rainbow trout).
In the winter, this is a great spot for snowmobiling or cross-country skiing.
Walk or Ride the Rail Trails
New England is home to dozens of serene rail trails, former railroad tracks that have been repurposed into rail trails for walking, biking, and more. They go through several towns throughout New Hampshire and offer scenic views.
The Cheshire Rail Trail is a 42 mile long repurposed railroad trail. It’s great for walking, running, biking, hiking, and even snowmobiling. The trail extends through several towns in New Hampshire, but specifically in Keene, there is a stone arch bridge over the Ashuelot River, and it passes Rockwood Pond, which is a great place to swim.
The Ashuelot Rail Trail is 21 miles long and runs from Keene to Winchester. The trail follows the old Ashuelot Railroad with old granite mile markers along the Ashuelot River. A portion of the trail has a stone surface, a popular area for bikers and walkers.
Ski at Granite Gorge
Granite Gorge is a ski resort on Pinnacle Mountain in the town of Roxbury, just a 15-minute drive from Keene. It was originally known as Pinnacle Peak Ski Area and reopened in 2003 as Granite Gorge.
The mountain has 20 trails and a restaurant and bar for guests to enjoy. Granite Gorge also offers snow tubing and other winter sports (their night tubing is particularly great). In the fall, there is a hayride and haunted house, and in the summer, it’s a children’s camp.
While Granite Gorge closed for a few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they will be reopening for the 2022-2023 season.
Go Bowling at Yankee Lanes
Yankee Lanes is a Keene favorite! Hit the bowling alley with your friends and see if you can get that long-awaited strike.
Yankee Lanes is low-key and a lot of fun. They put on specials for each day of the week, and Friday and Saturday nights from 9:30 PM to midnight are for Galactic Bowling, with music and a light show!
If you want to bowl on a budget, check out their deals from Monday through Wednesday. They’re also a popular spot for Keene birthday parties.
Peterborough is a lovely small town about 30 minutes outside Keene. It has a walkable downtown area with great views of the Contoocook River. The historic town was founded in 1737 and served as inspiration for Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town.
Post & Beam Brewing is one of our favorite breweries in New Hampshire, residing in a historic building from 1837. The building has housed many businesses and organizations until becoming a brewery in 2017. The structure is a landmark for the town, and the brewery welcomes its guests to mingle and enjoy a nice beer.
The Mariposa Museum is located in the historic Baptist Church building and features folk art from around the world — delightful surprise after delightful surprise. The museum is hands-on, and visual and audio aids are provided. Both kids and adults will have a great time here.
If you’re looking for a new book, the Toadstool Bookshop is a great place to find one. This large bookstore has an enormous selection and a cafe on the premises, making it a great place to while away a day.
Located in a striking emerald green 1950s dining car, the Peterborough Diner offers classic American meals. The diner is open seven days a week, serving breakfast and lunch from 7:00 AM until 2:00 PM.
The Peterborough Basket Company sells, you guessed it, baskets. This beloved store is one of the most famous basket shops in the US! You’ll find baskets that can be used for storage, laundry, picnics, and more.
Go Antiquing Near Keene
Calling all antiquers! If you love finding new treasures for your home, you’re in luck. There are tons of great places to go antiquing around Keene, especially in the towns of Peterborough and Fitzwilliam.
Peterborough has several antique shops right downtown and all within walking distance of each other. Bowbird and Friends, Grove and Main, and ReMarkable are all located right downtown. Twin Elm Farm is another great store within driving distance.
Look for Covered Bridges
Covered bridges are a hallmark of New England and especially New Hampshire. You can find them dotted all over the state, and they’re a great example of creative engineering of the 19th century. Many regions may have gotten rid of their covered bridges, but southwest New Hampshire still has plenty!
There are several covered bridges in Winchester and Swanzey, both within a short drive of Keene.
The Ashuelot Covered Bridge is one of the most famous in the state. It was built in 1858 across the Ashuelot River and is located in Winchester. Keep an eye out for covered bridges when you’re traveling around New Hampshire.
Visit Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge
Located in Rindge, New Hampshire, about 30 minutes from Keene, the Cathedral of the Pines is a must-visit. Cathedral of the Pines has burial grounds, historical monuments to honor those who have served the country, and 236 acres of grounds to explore. There is a cathedral on the property and a museum with artifacts from WW1 and WW2.
The sanctuary is a great place to meditate, relax, and even exercise as there are several trails on the property. The national memorial is a beautiful place to explore, complete with panoramic views of Mount Monadnock.
Just keep in mind that this is a somber destination, and you may come across a funeral.
Visit New England Sweetwater Distillery in Winchester
New England Sweetwater Distillery is in Winchester, a small town about 20 minutes from Keene. The tasting room offers you the chance to sample their Granite State spirits, including Kingfish Rum, Clark and Chesterfield Maple Whiskey, and Monadnock Sweet Tea Moonshine!
New England Sweetwater also makes cocktails-in-a-bottle, like pineapple mojitos and lemon drops. Perfect to bring back to your Keene accommodation for a nightcap.
And if you’re really lucky, you’ll end up in an hourlong conversation with Kenny, one of the owners (and a character and a half!).
Visit Madame Sherri Forest
Madame Sherri Forest is set on 513 acres on the slope of Wantastiquet Mountain in Chesterfield, just a short drive from Keene. There are lots of excellent hiking trails here, and it’s a popular place for locals to bring their dogs for a walk.
Most famous here are the ruins of Madame Sherri’s Castle. In the 1920s, Madame Antoinette Sherri built a mansion here in southern New Hampshire and threw lavish parties — until her money ran out and she fled, the house falling into disrepair. Today only a curved stone staircase remains.
This staircase is one of the most popular New Hampshire Instagram spots, but be sure to stay off it. It’s not safe, and part of the staircase collapsed in 2021. But you can take plenty of photos beside it or in front of it!
If you’re up for hiking, Madame Sherri Forest has trails including the Anne Stokes Loop, which has scenic views of Indian Pond and trails that lead to the top of the mountain. The forest is also a part of the Wantastiquet-Monadnock trail, which is 50 miles and goes from Brattleboro to Mt. Monadnock.
Drive Through Idyllic Jaffrey Center
Jeffrey Center is a small town about 25 minutes from Keene, and visiting feels like going back in time a century or so. It’s picture-perfect with views of Mount Monadnock and a gorgeous meeting house from 1775 right in the center.
You can also fine an old burial ground from the 18th century, a church from the 19th century, and even a small schoolhouse. Drive out further and you’ll see elegant 18th century homes interspersed with rolling farms.
If you’re in the mood for an ice cream, head to Kimball’s Farm in Jaffrey, one of our favorite ice cream spots in New Hampshire. But be warned — their servings are ENORMOUS. We recommend getting the smallest size they have; you’ll be more than satisfied.
Where to Stay in Keene
Where’s the best place to stay in Keene, NH? We love staying right in downtown Keene, but there are only a few properties located there, and they tend to be among the pricier ones.
If you’re looking for a more budget property, you’ll have to stay a bit further out of town. Keep in mind that there are many lovely bed and breakfasts outside the city.
Best High-End Hotel in Keene: Fairfield Inn & Suites Keene Downtown — Right on Main Street in the heart of downtown Keene, this hotel is located in a historic 100-year-old building. This hotel is a luxurious choice with tons of restaurants, cafes, and shopping within reach and relaxing boutique-like guest rooms.
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Keene: Courtyard Keene Downtown — This is an LEED-certified hotel (leadership in energy and environmental design) located just steps from downtown Keene. The hotel has a swimming pool, fitness center, and even a Starbucks, all while within reach of the restaurants and stores that main street offers.
Best Budget Hotel in Keene: Days Inn Wyndham Keene — Dog-friendly, great value, only a mile from downtown Keene, it’s an excellent hotel for the price. Enjoy complimentary breakfast and the convenience of being close to all Keene attractions.
How Much Time to Spend in Keene NH
Are you coming to Keene for a day trip? You’ll have a great time. Keene has enough attractions and interesting spots to keep you occupied for a full day.
Thinking of coming to Keene for the weekend? That works well, too! Use your weekend to explore the surrounding Monadnock region. Use Keene as your base and spend your time exploring lovely towns like Peterborough, Fitzwilliam, Chesterfield, and Jaffrey Center.
And if you come for longer, you could theoretically use Keene as a comfortable base to head west to Brattleboro in Vermont or south to Northampton in Massachusetts.
How to Get to Keene NH
Keene is located pretty close to the geographic center of New England, making it within a 2.5-hour drive from cities including Boston; New Haven, CT; Providence, RI; and Burlington, VT. Portland, ME, is about three hours away.
The two closest airports to Keene are Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, NH, and Bradley Airport in Hartford, CT, about a 75-minute drive away. Logan Airport in Boston is a two-hour drive away but has a much better selection of flights, especially if you’re traveling internationally.
Greyhound buses connect Keene with cities including Manchester, Concord, Boston, New York, Hartford, and White River Junction, VT.
There is an Amtrak train station in Brattleboro, VT, about a 30-minute drive away. Brattleboro is a stop on The Vermonter train from Washington, DC, to St. Albans, VT.
You can get around Keene by public transportation on the City Express, a looped bus route around the city. They call it “the bus for everyone” and rides just cost $1! See a map and schedule here.
Best Time to Visit Keene NH
The best time to visit Keene is in the fall — not very surprising in the state of New Hampshire! The entire state is a showstopper all fall long! But in Keene, it’s so nice when it’s still warm enough to sit at the outside cafes as you watch the leaves turn fiery.
That being said, Keene is a great place to visit all year long. Summer is a great time of year for hiking and winter brings skiing, snowshoeing, and all kinds of winter activities.
Keene puts on some great festivals throughout the year, including the Keene Music Festival in late August (a wonderful event that draws people from all over the country), the Keene Pumpkin Festival in late October (one of the best New Hampshire fall festivals, where they once broke a Guinness world record for the most jack-o’-lanterns in one spot!), and the Keene Ice and Snow Festival in February (one of New Hampshire’s best winter carnivals).
Is Keene Worth It?
Come to Keene with an open mind — and perhaps you’ll leave with a new favorite destination.
We hope you love Keene as much as we do!
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Have you been to Keene? What’s your favorite thing to do there?