The Smithsonian Institute has recently determined, statistically, the best small towns to visit in America. Towns considered had to have a populations of less than 15,000 that have exceptional concentrations of museums, art galleries, orchestras, theaters, historic sites and other cultural blessings. Hanover, NH was named 13th out of the 20 best small towns to visit.
Home to Dartmouth College, Hanover has all the New England college town trappings: bookstores, cafés, galleries and an idyllic setting in the upper valley of the Connecticut River with covered bridges, New Hampshire Lake District vistas, mountains, ski resorts (Killington, Storrs, Ragged Mountain), brilliant fall foliage and maple syrup. The college, founded in 1769, provides such cultural attractions as the Hood Museum of Art, performances at the Hopkins Center, and Baker Library murals by the Mexican painter José Clemente Orozco, while adding a Winter Carnival ice sculpture and some of the Ivy League’s wildest parties (the 1978 cult classic Animal House was inspired by Dartmouth’s Alpha Delta Phi fraternity). Nearby hamlets yield more soulful diversions, like Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner with its miraculously reclaimed Medicine Woods; Enfield Shaker Museum, a small community on the shores of Mascoma Lake where Shaker “simple gifts” endured for over 100 years; Mount Ascutney, a 3,130-foot monadnock across the river in Vermont; Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site preserving the summer home of celebrated American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in the 19th century art colony of Cornish; not to mention the blissful New England country roads that reach them.