Keen on Keene
Local fun, local food, local lore
Oct 31, 2019 at 8:00 AM in Things to Do by
Walking down Main Street in Keene, New Hampshire almost gives you the impression of being on a movie set. It looks like hometown America par excellence. Its Victorian architecture, decades-old storefront facades, classic white clapboard church and friendly feel harken back to simpler times. It’s so darn authentic that there’s a hint of nostalgia hanging in the air.
No wonder the 1995 movie, “Jumanji,” starring Robin Williams, was filmed here. Yes, it’s the real deal. There’s not much that’s fake about Keene.
Plus, it’s a super lively town. Keene State College anchors the west end of Main Street, which explains why about a quarter of the population of the town is made up of students. Take a look there to see what the campus of a small, liberal arts college looks like. If you want to have more of a purpose, go to the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery housed within the school. They feature a variety of rotating exhibitions that display the works of national and regional artists. Their permanent collection includes pieces by artists that have been drawn to the Monadnock region since the nineteenth century. Many are landscape paintings that capture the natural beauty of the area, much of which remains unchanged today.
Arts and culture hold a special place in this lovely New England town and nowhere is that more true than at the almost one-hundred-year-old Colonial Theater. It’s worth a visit here just to see its jewel box-like interior. If you’re lucky, you’ll even be able to attend one of the great concerts, shows or films that play here.
Keep the kids entertained at the Cheshire Children’s Museum. (Try saying that three times in a row.) Here the wee ones–and many big ones too–learn mostly through discovery and exploration. They often host cool events such as environmental education programs that include animals. Sometimes crawling critters, too. Kids love that stuff!
If they’re good, take them to either Life is Sweet or Ye Goodie Shoppe. It doesn’t seem fair that a town this size boasts two extraordinary candy stores. Caution:Adults can go crazy here, too. Life is Sweet also sells online.
You know that this is a fun town when you see that they have a costume shop. Yup, Neen’s Costume Emporium and Party Supplies promises a good time all year long. The holidays–especially Halloween–must be extra special in Keene.
Here’s another indication that Keene is a college town:it’s home to two vegan and vegetarian restaurants. The Farm Café ranks high, not only for its food but also because it’s housed within The Toadstool Bookstore, an indie favorite. There’s also a vegan buffet at Country Life at the north end of town just off of Main Street. Thankfully there’s Prime Roast Coffee right around the corner in case you become too zenned out.
Of course you can find more great eats and lots of other good things at The Farmers’ Market of Keene. If you want just a good old-fashioned meal in this good old-fashioned town, go to Lindy’s Diner in downtown Keene, a New Hampshire institution that’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily year-round. It’s a classic:Jersey made and Greek-owned. It’s even more happening during campaign season when politicians often stop in, shake a few hands and sit down and have a Coke with you. And yes, most of the past presidents and presidential candidates in recent history have stopped at Lindy’s.
For a more upscale dining experience, go to Twenty One Bar & Grill or Firework, an Italian restaurant that uses many fresh, local products in its Mediterranean cooking.
For shopping, Hannah Grimes Marketplace deserves all kinds of accolades. Within this unique center for the arts you can see (and buy) works by local artists and artisans in a variety of mediums. Whether it’s grown, sewn, beaded, knit, carved, blown, fired, written, printed, cured, baked or painted, the works at the Hannah Grimes Marketplace are always of quality and as local as Mt. Monadnock. Every town needs such a showplace and promoter of its artists and craftspeople.
Here’s something else that’s super cool and very original in Keene:The Magical History Tour. Artists from around the world recently painted sixteen murals within the city of Keene based on historic and cultural themes relating to the town’s people, products and events. The end result is super creative, colorful and very inspiring. Look at your Discovery Map for a complete listing of these murals and where they are located. Guided tours are also sometimes organized. Or, just keep your eyes open when tooling around Keene. The town is small enough that you can spot a few walking about on your own. Love this small-town U.S.A. with an open-minded, global feel.