Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth is a colorful, festive time filled with holiday spirit, a perfect choice for a couples’ getaway to shop without the whole family in tow. It’s worth traveling to this historic seacoast city to be part of the weeks full of twinkling lights, decorated shops and streets, holiday music, theater and merriment, all of which led Portsmouth to be called the Christmas Capital of North America.
Two centers of activity will lure you, one of them a step back into Christmas in this historic port’s early days, in the open-air museum of Strawberry Banke. An entire neighborhood of carefully restored homes spanning from the 1600s to the 1940s is decorated in greens and dried flowers from the museum’s heirloom gardens. Hear Christmas traditions of the past, shared by costumed interpreters, and absorb the holiday atmosphere amid hundreds of candle lanterns, with strolling musicians, a bonfire and cups of hot cider.
It’s only a few steps from this Colonial Portsmouth to today’s busy Market Street. Lined with independent shops and local businesses, Market Street comes alive with Christmas. Shop fronts are decorated and windows filled with gift ideas. Find quality gifts for the kids at G. Willikers and for food lovers at Attrezzi Fine Kitchen Accessories. Tulips American Handcrafts shows locally made works, and The Wear House is an upscale consignment clothing shop.
Around the corner on Daniels Street, find the independent RiverRun Book Store and Scallops Mineral & Shell, full of polished stones and crystals. Across the street, take a break for coffee and German pastries at Kaffee Vonsolln. Or follow Daniels Street through Market Square for lunch or a croissant at chic La Maison Navarre for a Parisian note.
A short walk from busy Market Street and its holiday-decked shops and boutiques, a convenient place to stay for a pre-Christmas getaway is AC Hotel Portsmouth, an upscale but moderately priced downtown hotel. Its sleek contemporary (and sublimely comfortable) rooms overlook the city. For an unforgettable view, ask for a room overlooking the Piscataqua River as it widens to become Portsmouth Harbor.
Enjoy that same view over dinner at Rooftop at the Envio, a chic restaurant and bar at the top of the building. For an especially romantic evening, reserve a table in one of the cozy Fire+Ice Igloos. These clear geodesic domes enclose comfortable seating for pre-dinner drinks or dinner, with a full view of the night sky and harbor, with lights outlining the dramatic silhouettes of Portsmouth’s bridges.
Just as memorable is the menu, whether you choose to dine inside the glass-walled dining room or in an igloo. The highlight is the grand Maine lobster roll, an astonishing plate full of tender lobster chunks, busting with fresh-from-the-sea flavor in a delicate lemon mayo. Hiding under the mound of lobster is a toasted brioche, but this is a lobster roll too big to pick up and eat out of hand. You won’t have room for the mound of perfect fries beside it.
Korean barbecued short rib is fork-tender and bursting with flavor, and the herb-seared northern salmon is another hearty entrée choice. And if you’re staying at AC Hotel on this frosty New England night, your room is a short, warm, indoor walk away.
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Make Best Western your hotel of choice during spring family travels for a sweet reward. This spring, BWH Hotels offers members of its Best Western Rewards loyalty program the opportunity to earn a free night stay.
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