With historic buildings around nearly every corner, some dating back to the 17th century, Portsmouth has kept its past alive and well.
Landmarks abound, like the Moffatt Ladd House, with its 18th century garden, the sumptuous Wentworth-Gardner House, its interiors decorated by the region's once-renowned figurehead carvers, or the fine 18th century urban Warner House, with its distinguished central staircase and wood paneling work.
One great way to explore them all is with Portsmouth Harbour Trail Map and Guide, available from many businesses in the area and at the Chamber of Commerce's visitors centers just off I-95 and at the Market Square kiosk in the center of town.
Researched by local and national historians, the easy to read Trail Map and Guide leads you along three different routes. Each loop begins and ends in the center of town at Market Square. The commentary is thorough but not overwhelming.
You may choose to explore the narrow streets at your own pace, taking time to read about the events and personalities that made Portsmouth what it is today. You'll marvel at the various architectural styles. You might take time to tour an 18th century mansion, browse in the unique shops or stop for a bite to eat.
If you prefer, guided tours of the trail are available. Jill Silos, a doctorate candidate at the University of New Hampshire, relates facts and anecdotes of the events and people that shaped the city's course.
Along the downtown and waterfront loop of the trail, you'll wind along Ceres and Bow Streets, which offer an intimate look at Portsmouth's early and ongoing relationship with the Piscataqua River.
You'll see St. John's Church, with America's oldest working Brattle organ and a rare copy of the Vinegar Bible. At the Warner House, you may view the earliest known painted murals in America.
In the south end loop, you'll pass the home of Tobias Lear, George Washington's secretary, and the Governor John Langdon Mansion.
Across from Strawbery Banke, where role-players invite you to visit meticulously restored homesteads from every period of Portsmouth's history, you'll come to Prescott Park, where you're likely to find a bed of fragrant flowers, in bloom right through the fall.
The third loop of the trail takes you on a tour of the city's west side. You'll see the Jackson House, the state's oldest residence, along with 18th and 19th century mansions once owned by wealthy merchants. The Rockingham Hotel is on this loop, built by Frank Jones, a well-to-do ale maker.
Once you've done the tour, Portsmouth Harbour Trail tee shirts and caps are available for sale at the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce Information Center and at stores.
For more information on the Harbor Trail, call the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce at 436-1118.