No — local realtors are not paying me for this post. 🙂 Ever read Country Living or Martha Stewart’s Living magazines and dream of getting away from it all? Lots of people do. That’s why half of Vermont is owned by New Yorkers (they drive right up I-91) and has some absolutely picture-perfect little vacation towns in between the trailers and the shacks. Here in New Hampshire, things are a little more real — a little less perfect throughout and a lot more lived in.
I like that reality. The cost of living is cheap (no state income tax, no sales tax), there is room to spread out, tons of big mountains (by East Coast standards), luminous lakes, fabulous farms, proximity to Boston and to the coast. If you know which towns to look in, there are great public schools. And if you LOVE old houses, there are a bunch — many with land — for less than you would pay for a studio apartment in more cosmopolitan areas.
If you’re interested — or just interested in day-dreaming about a life in New Hampshire — this post is for you! First I’ll take you through my favorite town, and then we’ll explore the awesome houses currently up for grabs. Let’s go!
The Best Little Town in America (IMO) — Hopkinton, NH
I am not a world traveler. I have many friends that are, and by their standards, my experience is small. That being said, I have lived in some awesome places over the last 20 years, including the Colorado Rockies, London, San Francisco, Manhattan, and Nashville.
While I miss having a thousand good restaurants out my door, New Hampshire has captured my heart. All told, I’ve now spent 10 years here and have been around the state quite a bit. I think the town that we’ve chosen has some special attributes that are incredibly hard to duplicate. In fact, I know 2 highly traveled families who settled on Hopkinton when they were able to choose from the entire East Coast for their residences. Here are 3 reasons why:
1. It’s Historic, Quaint, and Family Friendly with Tons to Do
Want your kids to grow up swimming in clear-water ponds, ice skating on the lake, running in corn mazes, marching in 4th of July parades, cross-country skiing through apple orchards, picking berries/apples/peaches/pumpkins for themselves, running trails with their high school friends, and downhill skiing after school? Move to Hopkinton! (Also, we could use a slightly bigger tax base.) The Recreation Dept. is also super active and organizes tons of family and kid activities. Just a few snapshots from around my village.
The Civil War Soldier…and sign for the cow plop football fundraiser.
The Hopkinton Historical Society, where you can look up all the people who owned your house over the previous 200 years.
Gould Hill Farm, one of USA Today’s Top 10 Most Beautiful Orchards, with views clear to the Presidential Range. In the fall, you will find me here, leaping like a gazelle amidst the apple trees. Sure, they do the usual cider donuts, but the apple crisp is to die for. Horse-drawn carriage rides around the orchard on the weekends, and if your kid is lucky, he/she will get to drive. Go before 1:00 if you want to steer clear of the Boston day-trippers! Groomed x-country ski trails in the winter.
We start them young at the Blackwater Nordic Ski Club!
The Ski Team at Pat’s Peak in Henniker (town next door) starts at age 7. Tons of cameraderie, cookouts on the porch (yes, even in the freezing cold), and serious skills. Adult ski race league is every evening under the lights. Local families go for the day, and the parents hang out in the pub after lunch while the kids go back to ski with their buddies. Rarely a line before 2 PM on the weekends, never during the week. Photo Concord Monitor.
This is where I want to be buried, beneath the maple trees. The boys and I run around here finding the oldest headstones. Everyone who owned our house before WWII is buried here.
Handsome Husband and Thing 1 in perfect paddling harmony on Kimball Lake.
Beech Hill Farm, a “Best of New England” winner from Boston Magazine and New England Travel. 9th Generation owned. Ice cream, lots of animals, a rhododendron hike, corn mazes, and the biggest sand pile for kids that isn’t a commercial enterprise. The kids will be filthy but inordinately happy. Even Hillary Clinton had a good time when she came. Photo by Trip Advisor.
The bandstand for Saturday music at the farmers market and Sunday summer concerts.
Skating on the lake by the historic Kimball Cabins. Locals keep it cleared each winter.
With conservation land and a trail network encircling the village, you can do an 8-mile trail run without getting in your car.
We have the most adorable 4th of July parade. Photo Concord Monitor.
2. The School System
Hopkinton is a town of about 5,000 right next to Concord, the state capital. That may seem small to you (the capital is only 40K), but we’re just big enough to have our own (rather than a regional) school system, which was ranked best in the state last year (over Dartmouth’s hometown, Hanover, haha!).
I walk my kids to school through the fields behind our house.
In all kinds of weather.
As much as I love decorating, I’ve never cared a hoot for my garb. That’s me in rubber boots and running clothes, all hand-me-ups and rejects from my younger sisters.
3. We Are ONE Hour from Everywhere Even Cooler
You name it, we’re one hour away. That includes:
- Boston (There is a commuter bus with Wi-Fi)
- York, Maine (Sooooo cute with lovely beaches. I’ve been going there every summer since I was 14)
- The Lakes Region (The clearest lakes anywhere. Our favorite is Squam.)
- The Presidential Mountain Range
- BIG skiing (Again, by East Coast standards.)
Drumroll … The Antique Houses YOU Could Live In!
Have I whet your appetite for New Hampshire living yet? On to the houses!
Ever since I was about 5 years old watching “This Old House” on Thursday evenings with my dad and the irreplaceable Norm Abram, I have been obsessed with old houses. My insatiable curiosity for peeking into every nearby beautiful house that goes on the market has led me to masquerading at open houses, scoping out the online tax maps to determine property lines and acreage, and utilizing Google satellite images to determine traffic flow and potential nearby eyesores hidden from view.
Even now, being perfectly content in our “forever house” (barring catastrophe and the unknown), I still eagerly await spring when anyone who’s thinking of downsizing or transferring puts his house on the market. We looked for 2 years for our house. There is SOOOOOO much more available now. It seems that lots of folks who have been in their houses 20-30 years are ready to downsize, and I want some more awesome, old house loving neighbors! Most of these range from $350K-$500K.
Stunner with an amazing kitchen.
Totally renovated and has a pool!
Our 200+ year old general store. Great meat counter, cookies, and muffins.
Don’t let the not-so-hot realty photo fool you, this place is 5,000 sf and the 19th century vacation “cottage” of a wealthy Bostonian. Stunning woodwork. Lots of political fundraisers have happened here. If you want a potential showplace but not a lot of yard to take care of, this is for you.
I am so in love with this house — a hip roofed, single chimney stunner on the pond in need of some love. The head of preservation for the State of NH has told me that there is *original 18th c. French scenic wallpaper* for this house in storage. I’ve heard the owner might be interested in selling to a preservationist minded buyer.
So, come to the “Live Free or Die” state for the good life and a beautiful house! When you do, I’ll tell you all the best things to do in the summer and even help you decorate. You can munch blueberries and stay cool in the country while your friends sizzle in the city.
Any Qs? Any thoughts? ‘Til next week!