Have you seen the movie Jumanji with the iconic actor, Robin Williams? If you have, then the small city of Keene, New Hampshire might seem familiar to you. That’s because the movie actually takes place in Keene. This quaint town is home to one of the biggest Main Streets in the world, if you can believe it! Before visiting this town, I had no idea that there was such fierce competition for a title like “world’s largest Main Street.” Now, I know that not only do such illustrious Main Streets exist, but that one is located right here in New Hampshire.
The town is an hour away from the capital city of Concord. Its population is around 30,000, but varies throughout the year and drops in the summer time. The culprit is Keene College. In the summer, the town becomes less populated and can seem depressing at times. The weather getting hotter won’t help much either. Having lived here a few weeks, I got to experience some of the local attractions. Despite its small size, there are a few things to visit in Keene and its surroundings.
Horatio Colony Museum:
This house and historical site was established in 1806 and originally home to Horatio Colony II, the head of one of Keene’s most prominent families. Located on the main street, this house features the original period furniture and decorative arts. Even though the house is small in size, it is an interesting and well maintained museum that takes you back in time. It is free to visit, and you will be personally guided by the charming lady who runs it. Her tour takes you through a few different rooms of the house, and it should take about an hour to complete.
Central Square & Main Street:
The longest and the widest main street in the country is located here, with boutiques, restaurants, and coffee shops scattered all over the street. Summers are festive, and the people are nice. The Square is located at the top of the street, and driving can be confusing there. The main street continues on toward the prestigious Keene College and its surroundings.
The college itself is a great place to get away from the city heat. You can get lost amongst the college kids and have a fun experience. There are several tennis courts to play on if your heart so desires. The grounds also feature a creek and large, shady trees to enjoy your afternoon or evening.
A few miles from town, heading towards Vermont, you will find the Stonewall farm. The barn is full of animals: chickens, roosters, pigs, horses, ponies, alpaca, cows, you name it. You get to pet and observe them in their habitat. The boutique is often closed, but if you’re lucky enough to catch it on an open day, you’ll get to see some stuff that you may or may not want to buy. A couple trails emerge from the barn if you are up to hiking. If it rains, I think you are better off skipping this, as it gets pretty muddy (especially if you have kids in a stroller).
Mount Monadnock (the 2nd most climbed mountain in the world):
Mount Monadnock is located 20 minutes from downtown Keene and 5 miles from the city of Jaffrey. Park your car at the base, and go enjoy it. You will be climbing over boulders for 3 hours out and then 3 hours back to the camp area. At the top, you will have a beautiful 360 degree of view of the area including: Canada (yes, I said Canada), Vermont, Massachusetts, and other parts of New Hampshire. Bring plenty of water, and stay close to the path. If you were to get lost, it would be exhausting to find your way out (especially if you are carrying crying babies on your back). Check out the article written about climbing the Mt Monadnock here.
Go for a hike or bike ride:
There are so many hiking trails located just outside the city. These are beautiful, shady paths, and often handicap friendly! We enjoyed the woods and the creek that follows along the way. If you are a biker, you have over 90 miles of riding to do. If you are a hiker, you also have the same distance, but I don’t expect you to tackle the whole thing. You can simply have a great day hiking and enjoying the nature. Along the way, you’ll see people having fun on golf courses, several old fashioned homes, quaint barns, and, of course, some wild life to spice up your hike and make it memorable. There are two major trails.
Cheshire Rail Trail
This 42 mile trail runs from Keene to Winchester and is one of the two longest rail trails in NH. If you have a whole day to kill, and you love adventures, taking on the entirety of the Cheshire Rail Trail would be a perfect way to spend the day. Tips: The surface is gravel, ballast, dirt, and an occasional sandy spot, so use a fairly wide tire on your bikes.
The Ashuelot Rail Trail
If you enjoyed The Bridges of Madison County, you’ll love the covered bridges of the Ashuelot Rail Trail. The Monadnock Region is famous for its beautiful covered bridges of varying types, and the trail is a perfect way to visit the bridges. Tips: A mountain bike is recommended. Fall is a great time to enjoy the trail, and if it rains hard, consider postponing your ride.
Cheshire Children’s Museum:
This is the best children’s museum in town! This will give a smile to not only kids, but parents, too. There is so much to do there. You can educate kids while having a great time. The museum requires an entry free for $6 and is totally worth it. Your kids will be delighted to be there, playing with all kind of toys. If you are in town with kids and it rains, this is a great way to spend the day.
The Colonial Theater is a beautifully restored gem, offering many great performances and films. Go enjoy a movie in this old style. It’s a great setting, and you won’t be disappointed.
Keene is a great place to visit. It is a charming small town, especially including Keene College and the hiking/biking trails. The weather overall is very nice, and fall is spectacular (especially on the trails). Go pay a visit after seeing Jumanji, and enjoy recognizing the sites when you get there.