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Walpole, N.H.: the Quintessential New England Small Town

  Town green in Walpole, New HampshireWalpole, New Hampshire.

by Eric Hurwitz. Page updated on 11/16/16.
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I have seen the much-heralded picture-perfect, quintessential New England towns -- including Woodstock and Weston Vt., Stockbridge, Mass., and North Conway, N.H. -- but I'll take tiny, friendly Walpole, N.H., any day.

Tucked away and nestled in the southwest New Hampshire countryside, Walpole just might be as " picture-perfect New England" as any town in the six-state region. Upon entering the main district, you'll see fabulous old Colonial and Greek-revival homes leading to a quaint "business section." Here, you'll see a small community grocery store, U.S. Post Office, the Walpole Historical Society Museum and Gift Shop, old-fashioned public library, a beautiful church, a Mayberry RFD-like gas station (no Air Supply music playing at the pump) and one of the most delightful trifectas... a combined French-American restaurant, chocolate shop, and cafe with baked goods!  LA Burdick Chocolate is the name of the business -- famous in many circles as an upscale chocolatier (there's one on Brattle St. in Cambridge, Mass.).  Few know, however, that Walpole is the home of LA Burdick. While the setting could have come across as precious and pretentious, LA Burdick has created a cozy, "hometown" feel that just adds to the warm feeling of Walpole.  LA Burdick is like an unofficial community meeting place -- and a joyous one, at that, with some wonderful "local" conversations amongst the  staff and locals.

To illustrate the friendly, down-to-earth nature of Walpole, I asked the waitress at LA Burdick if they had any sandwiches, as that was my preference. She said, "No, I'm so sorry. But you can buy a sandwich at the grocery store and eat it in our dining room. It's really not a problem at all." Let's face it, you won't always get that response at restaurants in tourist areas!

Feeling a little awkward buying a sandwich to bring over to eat at another business, I settled on the Walpole Village Tavern at 10 Westminster St. (right next to Ruggles and Hunt gift and clothing store). Above the tavern sign, you can see the old "Walpole Village Store" sign, although no evidence of this type of retail store remains. This neighborhood restaurant/bar brought in, on this day, locals wanting to drink at the bar and families and old-timers catching up on the week with each other in the sunny dining room. I had an amazingly large and juicy burger and large, crispy fries. The service was so friendly and unpretentiously "small-town."

Around the corner from the Tavern, you'll find the most amazing town green, long in size and with a gazebo, benches and a spectacular Memorial site dedicated to Veterans. Representing "true New England," you'll find nine old homes, three churches, and the ancient but restored Town Hall surrounding this beautiful parcel of land. Also in the area is the Walpole Inn (297 Main St.), a spectacular 1760s bed and breakfast that fits in quite nicely with the charming look of the town.

With its tree-lined streets, fresh-air feel and leisurely, slower pace of life,  I love Walpole. Although Vermont gets the press for these kind of classic New England small towns, Walpole seems more "Vermont" than many towns in that state. You won't find as many shops and restaurants as in the other picture-perfect New England towns, but there's enough to do... and not to do (simple relaxation and reflection were once the main components of a New England travel getaway). The town has little interest in becoming a destination and has never been the poster child of New England travel guides or television shows promoting the region. That's fine, I believe Walpole likes it that way as the residents (factoid: film maker Ken Burns lives here) seem to enjoy their picture-perfect town while visitors like me enjoy, and deeply appreciate, the special moments of finding the real New England.

Book a room in nearby Peterborough, Jaffrey or Keene

Quaint downtown Walpole, New Hampshire
Quaint downtown Walpole business district.

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