Henniker, New Hampshire: The Only Henniker on Earth
Hampshire feels like the ultimate hometown.
Hurwitz. Page updated on 11/16/16.
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Driving into Henniker, N.H., it was love at first sight.
Fixated on the "Henniker Pharmacy/Beer, Wine Groceries" sign with the
old-time Coca Cola logo, Henniker immediately felt like a warm safe
place that many other communities abandoned a long time ago in the name
of faceless commercial, residential and industrial development.
Stopping by the St. George Cafe (clearly, a popular breakfast and lunch
spot), the staff and owner greeted us like old friends while a parade
of locals visited for a "warm hello," a cup of coffee, homemade
muffins, some conversation and to read the newspaper. Once the
owner found out we were from the southwest suburbs of Boston, she told
us that she once lived there, too, and grew tired of the traffic, large
public school classroom sizes, and other suburban overgrowth
challenges. The family "made the move" to Henniker (with a
population just over 4,000) and is now "so, so happy" to be in this
small town. She mentioned the neighborly feel, good schools with small
classroom sizes, and not nearly as much traffic as the daily congestion
in and around Boston. "I love it here!" said the owner.
It's easy to understand why Henniker is a special New England travel
destination. Best known as home of Pat's Peak ski area and New England
College, Henniker (just west of the state capital of Concord) somehow
feels more a like a well-established, Mayberry RFD-like community than
just a ski vacation destination or college town. Walking through the
well-defined downtown district, I did not see the presence of
overpriced ski shops, nor trendy local college hangout bars blasting
out loud rock music. Maybe those scenes were somewhere in town,
but my focus was on the Henniker Community Park and Center with a nice
expanse of land and gazebo, the flow of the scenic Contoocook River,
the Edna Dean Proctor stone double-arch bridge above the river, the
well-kept large Colonial homes, and the architectural brick beauty of
the 1903 Tucker Free Library and the Henniker Community School.
Adding further to the town's wonderful New England ambiance: the
historical, old white building combo of the Congregational Church and
Historical Society Museum, as well as the view of a lighted up Pat's
Peak from Main St.
The downtown also features several niche shops (quilts, day spa, as
well as art, boutique and gift shops) and restaurants. We stopped by Daniel's
Restaurant and Pub (30 Main St.), a quaint, appealing dining spot
serving steaks, chicken, seafood, pasta, soups, salads, sandwiches and
homemade desserts. It's one of those made-for-New-Hampshire dining
spots that has a rustic feel while, fortunately, not feeling
"rusty." The "new" old look of the restaurant is quite inviting
with everything up-to-date, but without losing any of the retro rural
feel -- or pieces of the building. The atmosphere is especially
pleasant with gleaming wood floors, wall sconces, hanging lanterns and
plant baskets, an aquarium, wooden windows, candles at each dining
table and a brick wall in the cozy bar area. With a grand view of the
Contoocook River from our table, we feasted on a delicious
oversized Caesar salad; chicken pot pie with a perfectly-formed flaky
crust, the right amount of salt (most chicken pies are oversalted), and
creamed spinach (and carrot fries on the side); and a terrific
rueben with homemade sauerkraut.
After dining, we drove through town and took in the sweet feeling of
the small town night. The air was fresh, the old front-porch homes
looked tailor-made for us, and the lights at Pat's Peak looked like
Emerald City. What a beautiful scene in this jewel of a town!
Henniker bills itself as "The Only Henniker on Earth." While the
slogan refers to the name of the town, it could be said that the catch
phrase implies that Henniker is also a one-of-a-kind community.
Henniker is just that, a town that feels like home and innately
promotes a sense of place and a feeling of well being. We'll certainly
be back soon to explore more of this "real" New England town!
Find a hotel room in nearby Concord
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