There’s nothing quite like embarking on a new adventure.
Jumping in the old family sedan and hitting the open road to a place you’ve only heard about, but have never experienced for yourself.
So you can only imagine our excitement when we left the confines of our office (and Concord) for a day trip to the town of Henniker – which if you didn’t know, is the only Henniker on Earth.
It’s about 40 minutes from the ol’ Insider pod to the downtown area, and having never traveled much outside of Concord (at least for work), it was a trip well overdue.
Sandwiched between the two winter storms last week, we lucked out with what we New Englanders refer to as a balmy day.
With sunny skies and temperatures approaching 50 degrees, you couldn’t really ask for a better February day to take in the sights and sounds of our neighbor, two towns removed.
Like most visits to an unknown place, we did a little homework to get a lay of the land and figure out where we should start.
And for a town of just about 5,000 people (according to the 2010 census) it seemed like there was lots to do and see.
Henniker will turn 250 in 2018, so we can only imagine there will be lots of celebrating in the streets. If it’s anything like Concord’s milestone, Henniker will live it up any chance they get.
But we didn’t really plan out our day. We wanted a spontaneous element involved so we got to the downtown area pretty early to see what was around – and open.
We were pleasantly surprised to find ample parking spots available, no meters and that classic New England feel to the area.
First impression: Cute downtown with nice wide sidewalks and plenty of walking to be had. Should have worn a fit bit because this would have been a great day to count the old steps.
But since it was on the early side, we decided to take a little drive around to see if we might find a store to pop in.
We came across Henniker Farm & Country Store, which is right around the corner from Route 202/9.
When we saw bags of apples for sale, mixed in with snow shovels, roof rakes and sleds, we had to go inside. And what we found was that the store is kind of a catch all. They have just about anything for your pets, as well as livestock.
“You name it, we feed it,” said owner Kevin Mock.
They sell eggs recently laid by the young chicks that were bought at the store some time ago. They sold some cool Henniker signs and had a big clothing section.
“We consider it a department store,” Mock said.
That is also where we met Emma, a cute black and white pup who loves to play fetch. Trust us, once we tossed that first ball, it was game on until we left. Who knows, she may have even tried to follow the car as we drove away.
By that time, the downtown shops were starting to open, so we drove back to the blinking light (there were no stop lights that we found) and hung a left on to Main Street, and there was still plenty of parking available in the two-hour area.
Now you don’t come across too many downtown pharmacies these days, so we made that our first stop.
It was like a throwback to yesteryear, as the Henniker Pharmacy had a little bit of everything. You could get your prescription filled, although you probably wouldn’t do that on a day trip, but whatever else you might need on the medical side of things, this store had you covered.
The pharmacy, which was established in 1889, also had some great Henniker swag to commemorate your trip, as well as beer and wine, snack items and probably just about anything else you might need while away from home.
“I like to think of us as the hub of Henniker,” said owner Sarah Chapin. “People even call us for the number for the Chinese food restaurant.”
A pretty cool stone arch bridge is just a short walk away, so we had to go over it, and it led us to the New England College campus, but we’ll get to that later.
We took a stroll down Main Street and came across Sonny’s Main Street Pizza (and it had some great smells coming out of it throughout the day) and Odd Duck Tattoo – which is something we never expected in Henniker, but it is a college town, after all.
Then we met Marion Newton, owner of Pretty Perfect Gifts. She has Red Sox and Patriots stuff, Henniker Brewing Co. things and either place will make you a gift basket or help you create your own. She was also full of fun facts, letting us know that she moved from the bright lights of the Mall of New Hampshire to Henniker, and that the creator of the CAD program is from there.
She also had some sweet sweatshirts and T-shirts with the old school Henniker sign on it.
One thing we greatly miss these days is the places to get penny candy. But The Play Room, below the pharmacy, has baskets and baskets of the stuff, from 2 cent Frooties (the cousin of Tootsie Rolls) to a 25 cent box of Junior Mints.
Having scoped out a good chunk of the shopping scene, we traveled up Western Avenue (on foot) to see what we could find.
That’s where the Tucker Free Library is, along with the Henniker Community School, where they historically hold the annual town meeting.
It’s where the first post office was built and a sign that made us officially feel welcomed – kindness matters. Apparently everyone in the town had read that sign because so many strangers said hello on our travels and everyone was so nice.
Needing a little break from all the walking, we do after all sit at a desk quite a bit, we hopped back in the car to explore some more.
We had heard that Edmunds Ace Hardware was celebrating 75 years in business this year so we stopped in to see what made this place so special. Well, the same family has owned it from the beginning so that’s got to be at the top of the list. And we got to meet Hattie Edmunds, who opened it with her husband all those years ago and actually is still working behind-the-scenes at the age of 95.
When we got to the school on Western Avenue, there didn’t seem to be much else in sight, but one of those nice residents we met during our travels told us of a great little inn down the way. So now in the car, we took a trip to the Colby Hill Inn and met owners Bruce Barnes and Jeff Brechbühl.
Having owned the 14-room inn for just over a year, they turned the restaurant into a farm-to-table eatery and they even have four goats and an organic garden (just not at this time of year) on the 5-acre property. They also had this really nice mural of Henniker painted in their dining room.
After a slice of pizza (see page 28), we went up to Pats Peak for a little snowbiking action. That’s where we came across Rob Thompson going through some beta testing for his snoyak, which is essentially a kayak for snow that he invented and has built a prototype for.
Let’s just say it’s something we’d be willing to take for a spin.
While all the shops, food and fun are great, there’s something to be said about the history of these small, old New England towns. That’s why we made our way to the Henniker Historical Society, but were met with disappointment as it was closed the day we went. It’s open on Thursdays and Saturdays for limited hours. So what’s the next best thing? Checking out the local thrift shop to see what kind of finds there are, of course.
The New Life Thrift Shop, which supports the missions of Henniker’s Congregational Church, has an eclectic collection of stuff that you probably won’t find anywhere else – and for very reasonable prices. Clothes and books, do dads and gadgets are aplenty.
Speaking of books, Henniker is quite well known for its used book stores. There’s the Henniker Book Farm off Rt. 9 and the Old Number Six Book Depot, a pair of spots that draw book enthusiasts from all over. We didn’t find time to check them out, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.
Now, when you go for a visit you’ll probably hear a lot about a covered bridge. At just about every stop, we were told about this famous covered bridge that we had to see.
So of course, we did. Tucked behind NEC is a classic New England covered bridge. You can’t drive over it, but you can walk it, as it spans the Contoocook River.
There are many spots to find out info about a town, but what better place than a local bed and breakfast. It’s kind of the innkeeper’s job to tell guests what to do and where to go.
So we popped into the Henniker House and chatted with owner Kate Bartlet.
She was full of great info, and the view of the Contoocook out of her back window is incredible.
Turns out she has had two people stay at the inn with direct lines to the town’s namesake, John Henniker. That’s where we learned the town, which was originally allotted township number 6, was named in honor of Gov. John Wentworth’s friend, John Henniker, a wealthy London merchant of leather and furs. Who knew we’d get a little history lesson as well?
That’s where we also came close up with a bear, but don’t worry it wasn’t real.
And you can’t go to Henniker without exploring the college a bit. By this point it was getting dark, so our self-guided tour was by car and not foot, but it’s a little faster that way.
It’s a beautiful campus off Bridge Street, although some of the buildings are on Main Street. We can see why young adults decide to pursue an education there.
But one thing that caught our eye was the basketball doubleheader being played in Bridges Gym.
It was a little hard to find parking, but once we got in, we understood why. The stands were packed and loud for the men’s game with Lyndon State College.
NEC won the first matchup on the road by three and the rematch had all the makings of another classic. It was back and forth the entire first half with 13 lead changes, and NEC clinging to a one-point edge at the half.
In the end though, the Pilgrims couldn’t pull away and fell by eight.
But it was an exciting way to end a fun day. Yet before we let you go, there’s a lot more to see in Henniker than what we did. There’s only so much time in the day and we had to leave something for you to explore on your own.
We didn’t make it over to the White Birch Senior Center or the Henniker Community Center either, although we heard nice things about both.
There were some very tasty looking restaurants that we couldn’t try (see page 28).
From what we were told, Quilted Threads is a quilt shop that brings in customers from all over.
And even though it’s winter, you can still enjoy the outdoors. There’s lots of great trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, as well as snowmobiling.
Those same trails can be used for hiking in the warmer months as well, and you can find loads of great info at henniker.org/general/page/henniker-hiking-and-biking-trail-maps.
If getting on the water is more your speed, bring the kayak along for a trip down the Contoocook River. It flows right through downtown and has some impressive views along the way.
Take a dip in Pleasant Pond, French Pond or the Contoocook – or bring your mountain bike and see what Pats Peak is like in the summer months.
This spring the Rotary Club will update and publish the 9th edition of its popular Outdoor Guide, a must have for any visitor to Henniker.
The Currier & Ives Scenic Byway is always a great way to end the day. The 30-mile drive begins in Henniker and will take you through the downtown area, while passing through surrounding towns, farm land and along rivers. It’s a must do if you’ve never taken the time to experience it.
As you can see, we tried to do and see everything we could, but there’s lots more that Henniker has to offer. And we definitely recommend a trip there sometime, whether it’s this weekend or when the weather starts to warm up.
It’s the only one on Earth and a destination you don’t want to miss out on.