DISTANCE FROM BOSTON: 126 miles
WEBSITES: www.hanovernh.org, hanoverchamber.org
ODD FACT: The Dresden School District has students from both Vermont and New Hampshire, and was the first bistate school district in the country.
The storied Connecticut River runs by it, but the legendary Appalachian Trail runs right through Hanover. New Hampshire is full of appealing small towns with traditional architecture, cultural offerings, and good restaurants. But Hanover is the only one with an Ivy League college - Dartmouth - and one of the best hospitals in the country, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. When you combine this with the area's healthy job market, strong schools, and low crime rate, it is no surprise that CNN and Money magazine put it near the top in their ranking of the best places to live in the United States. It is officially mud season now, but this town offers plenty to make it bearable. You can navigate rather easily without a car, and residents say that to get here, you can't beat the Dartmouth Coach from South Station: kids under age 15 ride free, and movies are shown and snacks served on board. (800-637-0123, dartmouthcoach.com, $45 round-trip).
If you're looking for indoor entertainment, Dartmouth's Hopkins Center for the Arts
(2 East Wheelock St., 603-646-2422, hop.dartmouth.edu
, exhibitions and many events free, live performances $12-$50, films $7) provides one-stop shopping with a variety of live performances: gospel, glee club, jazz, classical, opera, world music, theater, and dance plus movies, talks, exhibitions, and more. Many events also include a chance to speak with artists and performers about their work. The Nugget Theater
(57 South Main St., 603-643-2769, nug get-theaters.com
, $6-$8) serves butter on its popcorn and mixes commercial fare with plenty of foreign and independent films. You can see world-class art with neither high prices nor large crowds at Dartmouth's Hood Museum of Art
(Wheelock Street on the Dartmouth Green, 603-646-2808, hood museum.dartmouth.edu
, free). Its permanent collection has more than 65,000 works from around the world, and from the ancient to the contemporary: 800 B.C. Assyrian reliefs, 7th-century Tang Dynasty Chinese sculptures, 15th-century Italian altarpieces, French Impressionist paintings, and new work by Native American artists, to name just a handful. One of the Hood's best-known works is the 3,200-square-foot mural painted in the 1930s by Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco.
Breakfast at Lou's Restaurant & Bakery
(30 South Main St., 603-643-3321, most entrees $6-$10) is a Hanover tradition. Lou's has been here since 1947. You can get breakfast all day, and they make their own corned beef hash and crullers. If you went to college here and dream of Lou's apple pie, you're in luck: They now ship many bakery items. The front door of the Dirt Cowboy Cafe
(7 South Main St., 603-643-1323, dirtcowboycafe.com
) opens and closes constantly, with people stopping in for coffee. And it's no wonder: They roast their own and brew each cup individually. Coffee may be their raison d'être, but they also get high marks for their croissants, from sweet almond to savory spinach. Hanover is full of bakery-cafe-type spots, but it's worth mentioning the new Umpleby's Bakery
(3 South St., 603-643-3030, umplebys.com
, individual savory pies $4.50), which opened around Thanksgiving after seven years in nearby Bridgewater, Vt. Savory pies are one of their specialties, from chicken, leek, and mushroom to individual shepherd's pies. Molly's Restaurant and Bar
(43 South Main St., 603-643-2570, mollysrestaurant.com
, lunches $7-$15, dinners $8-$20) is home to the $2 anytime margarita, pizzas made in a wood-fired brick oven, lots of burger choices, friendly hubbub, and crayons and paper on the tables for doodling. Looking for local ingredients cooked to order, an upscale American bistro menu, and an old North Woods lodge atmosphere? Try the Canoe Club
(27 South Main St, 603-643-9660, canoeclub.us
, lunches, $6-$10, dinners $10-$30).
The Canoe Club
(27 South Main St., 603-643-9660, canoeclub.us
, no cover) has live music six nights a week starting around 7. On Mondays the club offers magic at your table with Marko the Magician. The weekend starts early in many spots. Murphy's on the Green
(11 South Main St., 603-643-4075, murphysonthegreen .com/menu.htm, no cover), with the feel of a British tavern, has live guitar music Thursday evenings. Other nights you can catch sports on several TVs, or quaff one of 14 beers on tap. Thursdays call for dancing shoes at Fuel Rocket Club
(Collis Center on campus, corner of North Main and West Wheelock streets, 603-646-2100, lessons 8:30-9:30 p.m., no cover), where you can learn salsa, merengue, and bachata then dance till nearly midnight. India Queen
restaurant (44 South Main St., 603-643-6900, no cover) has live music every Thursday, karaoke Fridays, and belly dancing frequently on Saturday nights.
SpendThe League of New Hampshire Craftsmen
(13 Lebanon St., 603-643-5384, NHCrafts.org/hanover
), which started 75 years ago to help craftsmen make a living during the Depression, has seven galleries around the state, including one here. If you've seen one league store, you haven't seen them all: Each gallery's manager chooses its own exhibitors. All the work is juried, which means you can count on high quality from about 350 craftsmen included here. You can find just about any book you want at the Dartmouth Bookstore
, now run by Barnes & Noble (33 South Main St., 603-643-3616, www.dartmouthbooks.bn college.com
). But it's worth climbing the stairs a few doors down to discover secondhand books at the small, charming Left Bank Books
(9 South Main St., 603-643-4479). Caroline Steele, who works at the shoe store Helium
(61 South Main St., 603-643-1313, heliumshoes .com), observes, "Hanover is such a Merrell and North Face kind of place." But if you're in the market for something more like Moroccan leather slippers, Turkish shoes decorated with antique brocade, or handmade shoes from Brazil, France, Italy, Spain, or the United States, this is your spot. Check out JuliAna Boutique
(44 South Main St., 603-643-3350, shopjuliana.com
) for jeans with large price tags and small sizes (nothing bigger than a 31), including the shop's bestseller, J Brand Denim. Another top seller is Bare Escentuals line of makeup, made with crushed minerals. International clothing designer Kenny Fabrikant has long made his home in Hanover. At his boutique Rosey Jekes
(15 Lebanon St., 603-643-3693), the building is also part of the experience. Fabrikant designed the 1887 former grange building to look like an old-fashioned department store with antique stair railings, display cases, and columns. March is sale month at Pompanoosuc Mills
(3 Lebanon St., 800-757-4606, 603-643-1530, pompy.com
) and everything in the store is 10 to 20 percent off. The furniture is all handcrafted 10 miles away, but Dwight Sargent, founder and owner of the company, has strong Hanover ties: He's a graduate of Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. Folk
(6 Allen St., 603-643-5111) is a tiny shop filled with clothing, folk art, CDs, jewelry, and tchotchkes from around the world. Owner Ted Degener orders small quantities from 50-plus different companies, including local clothing maker Salaam, fair-trade certified companies, and well-known brands like Putumayo, American Apparel, and Cut Loose.
For outdoor life, head to the Dartmouth Outing Club
(end of Rope Ferry Road, 603-646-2429 information, 603-643-6534 rental center, dart mouth.edu/~doc
). The imposing DOC house, built in 1929 on Occom Pond, is worth a visit in itself. Depending on the weather and season, you can rent skis, skates, snowshoes, fishing, hiking, and camping equipment - even mittens, if you left yours at home. They also have free maps and other useful information. Head out on your own, join one of the many affiliated groups for an outing, or take a class in anything from rock climbing to white-water kayaking to how to maintain trails. It's a little early for swimming, but once the weather warms up, you can head to Storrs Pond Recreation Area
(Reservoir Road off Route 10, 603-643-2134, storrspond.org
, $6 adults, $5 ages 3-17, under 3 free) for the tennis, playground, picnic tables, barbecue grills, basketball court, volleyball, and more. And if it's still too cold to jump into the pond, you can swim in the heated outdoor pool. Come April, the public is welcome to play a round of golf at the Hanover Country Club
(Rope Ferry Road, 603-646-2000, dartmouth.edu/~hccweb
The only accommodation downtown is the stately Hanover Inn
(2 South Main St., 603-643-4300, hanoverinn.com
, $260-$310). Rooms combine traditional decor with valet parking and free Wi-Fi. Dartmouth alums like to stay in rooms overlooking the green. For an elegant country inn, try the Trumbull House Bed and Breakfast
(40 Etna Road, 603-643-2370, 800-651-5141, trumbullhouse.com
, doubles $145-$275), four miles east of campus. It sits on 16 acres with gardens, hiking trails, a basketball half-court, and a small golf course (clubs, balls, and tees provided). Breakfast includes organic eggs and fresh-baked pastries. Head north a couple of miles up Route 10 along the Connecticut River to the family-friendly, pet-friendly Chieftain Motor Inn
(84 Lyme Road/Route 10, 603-643-2550, chief taininn.com
, $119-$140 includes breakfast). It maintains a 1950s country flavor, with knotty pine walls throughout. Its chief appeal, though, is probably the easy access to trails for skiing or hiking and 1,000 feet of river frontage. The inn provides canoes free of charge to guests. From mid-May to mid-October, Storrs Pond Recreation Area
(Reservoir Road off Route 10, 603-643-2134, storrspond.org
, $25 tent or $30 RV for up to 4 people, $2 for each additional person) offers campsites around a 13-acre pond.
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