When we first established roots in Bow, we kept hearing about this far away land known as Hooksett.
Sure, it bordered Bow, which borders Concord, but going beyond those imaginary constraints had always been a bit of a no-no. Look how long it took us to make our way into Bow.
But since we thought of this day trip issue series earlier this year – the first of which brought us to Henniker in February – we’ve had our eye on Hooksett. How could we not want to see what Concord and Bow’s neighbor to the south was all about?
So a few weeks back, maybe a month ago, we sat down and figured out how to proceed with our day trip theme. We had such a great time on the first one, we had to do another.
And Hooksett happened to be the next destination. Maybe we have a thing for towns that begin with the letter ‘H’?
Like with most day trips to a place you’ve never been before, we asked around the office to see what people knew about, and also hit up the internet to get a few ideas. Unfortunately a lot of our Google searches brought up stuff just over the border in Manchester. It’s okay though, we had enough ideas to start – and then we’d just let the day kind of happen.
There are really two good ways to get to Hooksett. We could take the highway (I-93S) or cruise down NH-3A through Bow.
We opted for the more scenic route, which included some scenery that we were familiar with until venturing into the great unknown.
Now, we figured somehow the town would know that we were coming and had planned some big welcome wagon, but surprisingly we just cruised right into town without even a poster. There isn’t even one of those big “Welcome to” signs letting you know that you’re in Hooksett – just one of those skinny green state generated signs on the side of the road.
That’s okay, we didn’t need a big deal to be made of us. That can be saved for after everyone reads this issue.
Now one thing we heard over and over again is that we had to check out this place called Robie’s Country Store.
It’s the place that everyone associates with the town, presidential candidates flock to it, and it’s really old.
Sounds like something we needed to see for ourselves.
Turns out, the Robie family owned and operated the store, which also for some amount of time doubled as the town’s post office, for 110 years.
In 1997, after Lloyd Robie and his wife, Dorothy, retired, a historical corporation was formed to preserve the building and the Robie name.
And it’s a pretty neat little store. It’s got all kinds of historic memorabilia, like photos of the aforementioned presidential candidates, and really old looking knick knacks that are part of someone’s personal collection.
You can buy Hooksett swag, maple syrup, really cheap candy and lots of other stuff. It’s what you’d expect out of a country store.
There was a nice selection of beer, and did we forget to mention it’s home to Roots Cafe, which was putting out some delicious smelling food when we were there.
Robie’s Country Store is so famous and old, that it’s on not only the state Registers of Historic Places, but also the national list.
And just when we thought we had found our way into town without anyone noticing, who do we bump into outside as we’re leaving – an Insider fan. Yep, turns out this nice gentleman recognized us from our pictures in the paper and was going to eat at Roots. Apparently he really likes our work, and we can’t really blame him.
After we got a feel for what it’s like to be Tom Brady with fans coming out of the woodwork to tell you how great you are, we decided to see just how invincible we are by heading over to HK Powersports.
Owner Jim Whaley was nice enough to let us test drive a couple things (as you probably saw in Jon’s story.)
That Polaris Slingshot was pretty sweet. It tops out at 135 miles per hour, and going just shy of 50 felt pretty fast in the open topped, three-wheeled machine.
We also took a Polaris RZR side-by-side for a spin. Now after just cruising around in a five-speed vehicle that goes 0 to 60 in 5 seconds, the get up and go when you step on the gas pedal wasn’t quite the same, but this automatic four-wheeler isn’t about speed. It’s about going through deep mud pits, cruising through small streams and climbing up big hills.
It can be switched into four-wheel drive on the fly and is most certainly a beast when you take it into the woods. We only got to drive it around the HK property, but you could tell this was something an avid outdoorsman would want.
We wouldn’t mind one to bomb around in.
Now if you’re not too familiar with Hooksett, there isn’t what you’d consider your prototypical downtown. There is a Main Street, but that essentially consists of the historical society and a bridge over the Merrimack. Take a right on to South Main Street and you’ll go past the town offices, and a park with sport fields, tennis courts and a playground.
So unfortunately there isn’t a collection of cute shops and ice cream stands to wander around, but there’s plenty to do – as well as lots of shops to pop into and ice cream to be eaten.
As you may or may not know (depending on how much you read the Insider) we like to have fun.
So when we saw the sign for Legends Golf off Hooksett Road, we had to see what it was all about. It was after all a long winter and golf is a sure sign that spring is here.
It turns out that Legends has 80 tees on its driving range with both real grass and mats to choose from.
There’s an 18-hole miniature golf course called “The Rock,” and we got to play a few holes.
This course doesn’t have any windmills or clown mouths to hit your ball into. Rather it has man-made traps, lots of elevation changes, spots to knock your ball into the water and plenty of strategically placed rocks.
We played five holes on the back nine, and all had their challenges. No gimmie shots on this course. As for who came out on top, well, Jon had a bit of a rough time on the final two holes, so if that’s any indication, you know who came out with the better score.
We just missed out on the opening of the batting cages, but they’re open now so you can go enjoy a few swings for us.
If we were going to go back, we’d definitely take advantage of the Legends Special. You get a round of mini golf, a small bucket of balls (34) with a mat on the range and 2 tokens for the batting cage (30 pitches) for $12.50.
And if you don’t have clubs to hit that bucket of balls with, there are lots of clubs you can borrow.
Keeping with our goal to have as much fun as possible, we made our way over to the Space Entertainment Center, located at 51 Zapora Drive (you can actually see the building from Hooksett Road).
While there are kids birthday parties quite often at the Space Entertainment Center, once we walked through the door, it was quite clear this was pretty much an adult arcade.
It has a 5,000 square foot area designated for laser tag, a big ring where you can put on head gear and hit your friends or coworkers with an oversized boxing glove.
And then there’s the games. The center is all electronic so no need to stop at the bank for a roll of quarters to make for a fun day.
All you have to do is put your hard earned cash or credit card in a machine, pick the amount of money you want on a card and then go play.
We were told that the $100 option is the best, since you get a free $40 in play, but the company wasn’t about to let us expense that kind of fun.
So we opted for $5 each and made the rounds to see what kind of trouble we could get in.
Since we like to compete against each other, we went for the games that would result in a winner.
First up: Sink It, which was basically beer pong without the beer. You got 30 balls to make all 10 cups. Let’s just say Jon made all 10 in 14 shots and Tim didn’t quite get them all.
Next up was Ice Ball, a jazzed up version of skeet ball. With a score of 23,000 to 22,000, Tim took the narrow win in this one.
For fans of air hockey, have we got a game for you to try. Pacman Smash is as close to chaos as you’ll find on an air hockey rink.
It starts out innocent enough. One puck drops down and you battle back and forth to score.
Then, it happens. All these mini pucks slide on to the playing surface and it’s a free-for-all to see who can put the most pucks in that little slot.
There’s no way to look at the goal, block a shot or even see the score. You just keep hitting them. You have to wait until the final buzzer sounds to see who came out on top.
We split the two match-ups, and then it was on to a little basketball shooting action.
You could choose from the Celtics, Knicks, Bulls and Lakers. And with the Celtics and Bulls squaring off in the playoffs, it was only right that we take that match-up. The Bulls, led by Jon and a new high score, took the win 53-41.
With enough for one game remaining on the card, we went back to Sink It – for some redemption. And sure enough, those beer pong skills came back as he hit all 10 in 17 shots, compared to Jon’s 24 attempts.
Now each game gives you tickets on your card. Jon finished with 156, and Tim had 130.
So we took home a windshield sun shade, little toys for our daughters and some candy.
It was actually a pretty nice haul.
After all that fun and intense “exercise,” it was time to grab a beer.
New England’s Tap House Grille doesn’t look like much from the outside. It’s located in a strip mall, and you’d never know that it’s a pretty sweet place to grab a beer – and the food smelled great as well.
This place has 48 tap lines, with as many as 15 rotating brews.
And as a pair who enjoy a good beer (especially on the job), the decision wasn’t easy.
So of course, we narrowed down the selection to a list of New Hampshire made beers. We went for the Stoneface Oated Ella, which was a light Pale Ale dry hopped with Australian Ella hops. At 5.2 percent alcohol by volume, it had a great taste. This one is definitely on the recommendation list if you can find it.
The other was a 603 Granite Stout. For being 9 percent, it was super smooth and one that could be sipped on for the afternoon.
It was hard not to try and run the gauntlet to see how many of the 48 beers we could try in one sitting, but this was a work trip so we stuck to just the one.
But if you’re in the 1292 Hooksett Road area and are feeling kind of thirsty, this spot is definitely worth making a pit stop at.
Having felt like we were in the car quite a bit driving around to all these different locations, it was time to get out and stretch the old legs.
We know that people enjoy a good walk or hike when on a day trip, so we went in search of a little trail to get some exercise that didn’t involve flashing lights.
We came across Heads Pond Trail and it looked as good of a place as any to get the blood moving.
We were pleasantly surprised to see how flat it was. Just because we wanted some exercise didn’t necessarily mean we needed a big challenge.
After checking out the map and info board, we traveled down the little access trail to the main trail. To the left, the trail passed under the road through a culvert and only goes for about a quarter mile.
To the right, you walk along the marsh that’s on your left and soon you’re in the deep woods. Now we didn’t hike the whole thing because of time constraints, but we did come across scenic Lakins Pond and learned that a little over a mile into the walk you come to a bench overlooking Heads Pond. And that’s where you get to turn around and come back.
There are surely other spots in Hooksett that will meet all your hiking/woods walking needs, this just happened to be the first trail we came across.
Now that the weather is a little nicer, we all start to think about the fresh fruits and veggies that will soon be available.
And as we started to wind down from a long day on the road, and began heading toward the highway for the trip back to dear old Concord, a little stand on the side of the road caught our eye.
It was Johnson Golden Harvest and it said something about fresh pies, so we had to stop.
The place was filled with fruits and veggies, fresh eggs, raw milk, meat, breads and baked goods.
A lot of the stuff comes from New Hampshire farms, as well as Vermont and Maine. There’s even Doug’s Salsa which is made right in Hooksett. They also sell jam made at Apple Hill Farm and in the fall, are loaded with apples and pumpkins from Carter Hill Orchard.
Now, the reason we were taking the highway back was because we had heard a lot about the new visitor’s center.
But before we did, there was something we wanted to learn about. Something we don’t have in Concord: Toll booths.
The Hooksett toll is the only one on I-93, and as you can imagine it can get quite busy with commuters going from Manchester to Concord and vice versa.
There’s also the weekend traffic with people taking day trips up north, and soon it will be vacation season.
There are six booths on either side of the highway and there’s always one being manned by a human.
For a regular car, it will cost you $1 to pass and as you add trailers or bigger trucks, the price increases.
And according to Matt Blixt, supervisor of Turnpike Operations, the toll booth is not just for paying out money.
It’s a place where people get directions, report accidents or potential drunk drivers, and debris in the road.
So it’s not all just about taking people’s hard earned money to drive on a road.
Once we paid our toll to get on the highway, it was a short drive to the Visitor’s Center.
And if you haven’t seen it, this place is gigantic.
In addition to all the parking and fuel pumps, the actual building houses the important stuff when you’re making a quick pit stop.
There’s the Common Man and Hi-Way Diner for a bite to eat, a general store for drinks and snacks and a League of N.H. Craftsmen outlet.
It is also home to the biggest liquor store that we’ve ever seen.
It’s the place to find out all about New Hampshire from the visitor’s booth, because even if you’re from here, odds are there’s stuff you’ve never even heard of to do.
And that pretty much wraps up our day trip to Hooksett.
As you can clearly see, we got to do, taste and explore quite a bit, but even we know that we only scratched the surface.
There’s lots of options for shopping we didn’t check out, food establishments to try and fun to be had.
Hooksett is home to the Cinemagic and IMAX movie theater, which we’ve been told is one heck of a place to watch a movie.
Cowabunga’s claims to be the largest inflatable playground in New England, and we all know how much kids love bouncing around.
Edgewater Canoe and Kayak Rentals allows you to explore the Merrimack River without having to lug around all your equipment, and for a very reasonable price.
White Birch Brewing was on our list of stuff to do, but their hours just didn’t line up with our trip. But if you’re in the area on Friday or Saturday, the brewery store is open those days.
So there you have it folks, another successful day trip in the books.
It sure was fun checking out Hooksett and some of what it had to offer.
And look for our next day trip issue in June, when we travel to . . .
Well, we guess you’re just going to have to keep an eye out for it and see.