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Downtown Keene, New hampshire - New England My Happy Place Photo of the Day

Why You Should be Keen on Downtown Keene, N.H.

Downtown Keene NH with gazeboDowntown Keene, New Hampshire.

by Eric Hurwitz. Page updated on 2/25/2022.
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Somebody forgot to tell Keene, N.H., that a thriving small town downtown is a thing of the past.

In this world of solely focusing on bringing in superstores and other big box retail attractions, Keene ignored all myopic trends and also focused on improving its already impressive downtown.  Sure, Keene has its share of much-needed chain stores on the outskirts, but the vibrant nature of its downtown shines through with every step of the way -- it's not only for locals but a destination for travelers.  And with a mix of in town Keene State College students and a residential population ranging from young families to conservative old-timers, downtown Keene has something for everyone.

Keene, NH: A lively downtown.A lively downtown.

Eye-catching historical homes and municipal buildings, a lovely city common with gazebo, church with tall white steeple, landscaped tree-lined walkways, an old school diner (Lindy's, 19 Gilbo Ave.) and locally-owned stores with colorful signs competing with each other for your attention... it's really the prototype for what a downtown district should look like.

What's especially impressive is that you'll see very few vacant storefronts -- a real testimony to how a downtown can succeed, even during a down economy. It's also proof that with a little bit of visionary planning, retail chains and locally-owned downtown stores can co-exist in the same community.

Keene, NH: A welcoming city center with a small town vibe.A welcoming city center with a small town feel.

You could literally do all your Christmas shopping in downtown Keene. How many small town or city centers could boast that? What's more, the downtown charm expresses itself wonderfully any time of the year with summer ideal for walking Main Street front to back within its mountain town setting. Fall surrounds the city center with colorful leaves. Winter brings a quaint, cozy, snow-filled Currier and Ives look and spring, the blossoming of myriad flowers throughout the downtown.

Hannah Grimes Marketplace in Keene, NH..Hannah Grimes Marketplace.

Keene possesses so many great places to eat, shop and take in culture too numerous to list here but one standout we'd like to mention is the Hannah Grimes Marketplace (42 Main St #3734). This wonderful shop features more than 250 artisans all producing products made within 150 miles of Keene. It's the epitome of the universal slogan, "Shop local, buy local." It's equally nice to enjoy a cup of coffee or some hot chocolate and a muffin at Brewbakers (97 Main Street). or catching a movie or play at the restored circa-1924 Colonial Theater (95 Main Street).

Downtown Keene also retains a remarkable sense of preservation with, as mentioned, beautiful historic homes and buildings. As a prime example, the United Church of Christ building at Central Square was first constructed in 1786 and then moved and restyled in the 19th century. Its presence stands tall as a landmark in the central district.

United Church of Christ in Keene, NH..United Church of Christ.

As the main commercial center of southwestern New Hampshire, Keene represents this beautiful region quite well. An added benefit is that you're just minutes away from scenic Mt. Monadnock, pristine lakes and ponds and classic small New Hampshire towns like Harrisville, Peterborough and Walpole. It's really the best of both worlds -- a fantastic downtown and surrounding rural New England, at its best.

A stroll through downtown Keene.A wonderfully walkable downtown.

Ultimately, Keene is the the type of downtown we grew up with, so it's heartwarming to see a small city like this show such community pride within the thriving central district. It's also amazing that a town of about 23,000 people can offer a downtown that rivals communities with much higher populations. Be sure to visit this gem of a downtown -- it's one of the best in all of New England!

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