Pickwick's at the Banke, gift shop at Strawbery Banke, downtown Portsmouth, N.H.
Attrezzi, Market St., Portsmouth, N.H.
Prelude and Ganesh, boutiques on Market St., Portsmouth, N.H.
LIT Boutique, Congress St., Portsmouth, N.H.

Music in the Summer Air, Portsmouth N.H.

Summertime in downtown Portsmouth is a shopper's and music lover's sweet spot. Centering your day around the Riverhouse Restaurant Concert Series in Prescott Park is a great way to plan a daytrip or overnight to this historic harborfront city. Each year the Prescott Park Arts Festival includes a concert series with musical groups, duets and soloists at their large outdoor stage smack in the middle of pretty Prescott Park. The park is steps from the restaurants, shops and the living history museum, Strawbery Banke. Concerts begin at 7:00 p.m. with a warm up act or two and (More)

Strawbery Banke, downtown Portsmouth, N.H.

then the main act plays until about 9:30 p.m. Watching the show as the sunlight fades adds to the magical feeling that summer is here and your fellow music lovers and you have figured out that this is the best place you could be right now.


Sitting on chairs and blankets around the stage, the sounds of these new indie bands and well known musicians are a treat for the soul. Listen as the lights of the harbor and Memorial Bridge create a beautiful backdrop for the acts. Feel the harbor breezes and exhale after a long day of shopping, bicycling, swimming, boating, museum going and walking in downtown Portsmouth.


If you are drawn to book and music shops, you can indulge yourself at Bull Moose, Portsmouth Book and Bar, River Run Bookstore, and Sheafe Street Books. Find vinyls, new and used, at Bull Moose as well as previously owned video games, cd's and cassettes. Their collection is large and impressive, and the staff is friendly. River Run is a small bookshop with a well chosen collection of new books and a children's section. Book and Bar is a used book store, cafe and music venue. Scheduled music performances, film screenings and book readings can be enjoyed afternoons and evenings. Sheafe Street Books is a small but compact used book store where you will find an eclectic mix of newer books and classics. G. Willikers has toys and children's books, as well as special events.


Next door to Sheafe Street Books, pop into Deadwick's Ethereal Emporium if you have a taste for the occult and all things dark magic, and wizardry. Deadwick's is a part of the Pickwick shops which also include Pickwick's Mercantile, Lady Pickwick's, Pickwick's at the Banke and Fezziwig's Food & Fountain. You can find HarryPotter accessories in Pickwick's Mercantile as well as candles, jewelry, books, soaps, lotions and gifts. Lady Pickwick's has lingerie and sleepwear. Fezziwig's Food and Fountain is a pretty cafe with indoor and outdoor tables. They serve fountain drinks as well as several lunch items. Pickwick's at Strawbery Banke has candles, jellies, syrup, gifts, colonial inspired dresses and nightgowns, and an upstairs children's section.


If your summer closet is wanting there are many boutiques and clothing stores. Clays carries Fresh Produce and other brands of comfortable clothing for women. They also have hats and accessories. If hats, clutches and handbags are what you need to not miss Puttin' on the Glitz. This small shop is packed with high quality pocket books, umbrellas and beautiful hats, including fascinators.


Other boutiques are Prelude, Ganesh, LIT (also located in Boston on Newbury St. and in the North End), Lizology, Bobbles and Lace (also in Newburyport, Marblehead and Wellesley), Hazel Boutique, Pretty Little Things, Pretty Poppy, Club Boutique, Wear House, Footnotes and lots more.


Kaya Jewelers, Market Square Jewelers and Summerwind Jewelers have unique designs as well as traditional pieces. Village Silversmith specializes in sterling silver as well as jewelry made from stones, fossils and minerals. Celtic imports as well as more jewelry can be found at Ireland on the Square and Celtic Crossing.


Cyclists enjoy going on group rides through Portsmouth at this time of year. Walking around Four Tree and Peirce Islands, or across the Memorial Bridge provides exercise with big river views. There are walking trails, a boat launch and an outdoor pool and playground on Peirce Island. Driving onto Peirce Island you'll pass Geno's Chowder and Sandwich Shop serving lobster rolls, stuffed clams, crab cakes, chowders and stews for lunch (check summer hours).


If you like paddleboarding and kayaking, Esther's Marina and Kayak Rentals downtown offers this experience. Or maybe you just need a beach day at Wallis Sands State Beach or Rye Beach both in the nearby town of Rye.


All types of meal choices can be found in this foodie town. Sandwiches, pizza, Mexican and more can be prepared to go for a picnic at Prescott Park before the concert. Or dine indoors or al fresco seasonally at the River House Restaurant, Popovers, Portsmouth Book and Bar, Fezziwig's Food and Fountain, Geno's Chowder, The Oak House and Martingale Wharf.


The River House Restaurant (sponsor of the concert series -- thank you, River House!) has a seafood menu, deck seating and scenic river views. Popovers has comfort food served with delicious popovers and maple butter, plus an impressive array of baked goods. Moxy does small plates with contemporary American flair plus drink pairings. Agave Mexican Bistro and Dos Amigos provide Mexican dine in or take out meals. Cure offers meat and poultry entrees in a cozy atmosphere. See the restaurant listing on Scenic Shopping's Portsmouth page for lots more meal options.


As for coffee, snacks, ice cream, gelato, smoothies, chocolate and baked goods, the choices are many. These include Breaking Grounds, Ceo's Gelato, Annabelle's Natural Ice Cream, Izzy's Frozen Yogurt and Ice Cream, Ceres Cafe and Bakery, Kilwins, MN La Maison Navarre Pastry and Wine Bar, Profile Coffee Bar, The Juicery, and as mentioned, Fezziwig's Fountain and Popovers.


As for parking in Portsmouth, it is good to plan ahead. On street, 2, 3 and 4 hour parking (free after 8 p.m.) can be found, but if you need longer go to the Hanover Garage accessible from Hanover, High and Fleet Streets. The Bridge Lot off Bridge St. has 4 hour parking, and the Parrott Ave. Lot has 72 hour parking. The City of Portsmouth website has details about parking in town.


Summer in Portsmouth opens up the possibilities of further enjoying this relaxed waterfront city beyond your wintertime experiences. Many outdoor activities plus the outdoor cafes and sidewalk sales add to the pleasures of visiting. But the Prescott Park shows and concerts can increase your enjoyment even more on a hot summer night with a friendly crowd and talented artists and local performers sharing their artistry with the audience as the sunsets and lights twinkle by the Piscataqua River in downtown Portsmouth.


-M.A. Barrett (August 2018)



View of Memorial Bridge and Prescott Park during Prescott Park Concert Series, downtown Portsmouth, N.H.
Sheafe Street Books, Sheafe St., Portsmouth, N.H.
Lizology, boutique on Market St., Portsmouth, N.H.
Memorial Bridge, downtown Portsmouth, connecting to Badger's Island in Kittery, Maine
Footnotes on Market St., Portsmouth, N.H.
Puttin on the Glitz, Market St., Portsmouth, N.H.
Hazel Boutique and Salt Cellar on Commercial Alley, downtown Portsmouth, N.H.
Formal garden at Prescott Park, downtown Portsmouth, N.H.
The Ballroom Thieves performing at the Prescott Park Concert Series, June 2018