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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Coast Into the Creative Scene of Portsmouth

The seaside New Hampshire city is America’s third-oldest, but a slew of recently opened locavore restaurants, shops, and boutique hotels have it feeling brand-new.

1. Where to Stay

Stay within the sunnily refurbished rooms of the former Portsmouth Brewing Company at the Ale House Inn.  

Celebrate Portsmouth’s vibrant brewing history at the Ale House Inn (from $129), which opened in 2011 in the 1880s warehouses of the old Portsmouth Brewing Company. Though production ceased at the start of Prohibition, you’ll still see signs of the building’s former life throughout the property, from the foot-thick walls designed to maintain a steady year-round temperature for the thousands of fermenting kegs to shelves in the lobby lined with vintage beer bottles and growlers. The inn’s public spaces subtly nod to the city’s maritime history, with porthole mirrors, oars, buoys, and artful piles of rope, while the ten rooms have an airy loft feel, with linens in pale blues and yellows by Dwell Studios. They’re stocked with bath products by Lather and, in keeping with the hotel’s theme, a free welcome beer from Smuttynose Brewery. Still thirsty? Borrow a bike from the hotel’s fleet of ecofriendly Trek cruisers and ride over to the nearby Portsmouth Brewery and Redhook Ale Brewery.

Luxuriate in the Victorian-meets-modern atmosphere of the 32-room Hotel Portsmouth (from $169), which opened this April in the 1881 mansion of affluent shipping merchant John E. Sise. Built in the Stick Style (a regional sub-genre of Victorian architecture that draws inspiration from Medieval half-timbered construction), the hotel pairs meticulously restored original butternut-wood molding with bright, imported British wallpaper and contemporary guest-rooms with sleek, Scandinavian-inspired furnishings by Jonathan Adler and Sir Terence Conran. In the mornings, stop into the sunny kitchen nook, which features playful yellow parakeet wallpaper, for complimentary continental breakfast and Stumptown coffee.

Get a homier feel for Portsmouth at the Martin Hill Inn (from $135). The cozy bed-and-breakfast is spread over two historic houses, a Greek Revival–style main house built in 1815 and a gable-entry, New Englander–style guest house from 1850. Each of the inn’s seven guest rooms is named for a historic clipper ship, frigate, or merchant vessel and is decorated with original pine-board floors and unique antique furnishings, including mahogany armoires, antique Governor Winthrop secretary desks, and camelback love-seats. Begin your morning with a homemade two-course breakfast courtesy of new innkeepers Meg and Russ, which might include apple-cinnamon oatmeal pancakes, ginger waffles with green mango fool, or spinach-artichoke quiche. Then stroll down the winding path behind the saltbox-style shed to find the inn’s pocket garden, brimming with primroses, bluebells, asters, and dozens of other colorful perennials.

Published on Jul 24, 2014 as a web exclusive.