Exploring Portsmouth’s Historic South End

It’s nearly impossible to go wrong when wandering around the neighborhoods of Portsmouth. Wherever you turn, you’ll be met with quaint historic homes and charming neighborhoods. One of our favorite neighborhoods to check out is the historic South End district.

portsmouth south end

The proud homeowners of the South End typically deck out their homes with beautiful seasonal decorations, especially during the holidays. Stroll the short distance from Market Square or hop on the complimentary Nickleby Vintage Christmas Trolley presented by Pickwick’s Mercantile, which can bring you right to the South End.

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Don’t forget to explore the Strawbery Banke Museum, an immersive living-history museum that recreates the Puddle Dock neighborhood of times past. While there, peek into Pickwick’s at the Banke for a bit of shopping or stop in the Figtree Kitchen for a delicious treat to fuel your adventures (or perhaps a hot chocolate?).

Candle Light Stroll at Strawbery Banke, Portsmouth, NH Dec. 2010

You’d be hard-pressed to find another place that so magically captures the essence of a classic holiday than Strawbery Banke. Bundle up and bring your family and friends for a Candlelight Stroll through the neighborhood, or sharpen (or rent!) some skates for a day at the Labrie Family Skate on Puddle Dock Pond.

There is so much to see around Portsmouth, especially during the holiday season. We hope you’ll join us for Vintage Christmas!

Hot Chocolate Tour of Portsmouth

Whether you’re warming up inside a cozy café or walking through the snow, nothing beats a steaming cup of hot chocolate on a winter day. In between Vintage Christmas events, you’ll likely be tempted to pop into one of Portsmouth’s many local coffeeshops to warm up with a cup of cocoa. Wondering where to find the best one? Consider this your ultimate guide to hot chocolate scene in Portsmouth.


White Heron Tea and Coffee – Venture outside of the bustling Market Square area to Portsmouth’s up and coming West End neighborhood, where you’ll find White Heron Tea and Coffee. You may be tempted by the large selection of their own teas here or their house-roasted organic coffee, but you’d be remiss not to sample the hot chocolate. Creamy and chocolatey and topped with sweet, light whipped cream, it is the perfect winter treat. You might even catch their special seasonal peppermint hot chocolate, topped with whipped cream and candy cane pieces!


Breaking New Grounds – If you’re lucky enough to grab a table at the signature café’s bustling Market Square location, you’ll probably be tempted to sit for awhile and watch the world go by. Be sure to order a mug of their delicious hot chocolate, which is topped with a generous helping of whipped cream. For a twist on the classic, try their equally tasty white hot chocolate!


Caffe Kilim – This quirky, exotic coffeeshop on the outskirts of downtown will intrigue visitors looking for something out of the ordinary. Sample their fair trade coffee or order a foamy cup of hot cocoa. As you sip, browse the market’s selection of Turkish and Mediterranean goods and specialty foods.


Kaffee Von Solln – This German café offers a delicious hot chocolate that you won’t want to miss. Sit in the European-style coffeeshop with your drink or set out to explore Portsmouth’s historic South End neighborhood, where you’ll see charming homes adorned with festive wreaths and holiday decorations.


Figtree Kitchen at Strawbery Banke – Before strolling through the historic Strawbery Banke lanes for the Candlelight Stroll or after gliding around on the Puddle Dock Pond after the Labrie Family Skate, grab a warm drink from the Figtree Kitchen, located in the Tyco Visitors’ Center. You won’t be able to resists one of their mouthwatering pastries while you’re there!

Still haven’t gotten your hot chocolate fix? Try Portsmouth’s charming French café La Maison Navarre, the sleek Profile Coffee Bar, or the restaurant/bakery Popover’s on the Square.

Shopping Guide to Pickwick’s

Pickwick’s Mercantile is one of Portsmouth’s finest shopping destinations. Each of their three locations offer a unique selection of quality goods and a whimsical character that makes shopping fun. With everything from books to toys to candy to soaps, there’s something for everyone on your Christmas shopping list.

Pickwick’s Mercantile – 64 State Street

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The cozy glow of the original Pickwick’s location beckons shoppers inside to explore shelves stocked with an eclectic selection of goods. You’ll find hand-poured candles, porcelain teapots, notebooks and stationery, lotions, soaps, and a variety of books. There are gifts to delight people of every age — from coloring books for adults to plush stuffed animals for little ones, you’ll be able to check off your holiday gift list. Pickwick’s is a true, immersive shopping experience, with Victorian-era decor and costumed shopkeepers that will have you feeling like you’ve stepped into a bygone era.
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Gift ideas:

  • Choose an adult coloring book, which make a fun activity for creative friends. Add a packet of colored pencils and you’ve got a fun, inexpensive gift.
  • Pick out a pair of handpainted teacups and wrap them up along with a box of teabags.

Lady Pickwick’s – 56 State Street

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Just a couple doors down is Lady Pickwick’s. Nestled in the nooks and drawers of this bright little shop are the perfect gifts for female friends and family. You’re bound to find something that catches your eye among the pretty packages of perfume, candles, lotions, and soaps; sparkly displays of bright jewelry; and closets full of sumptuous silk and cotton robes.

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Gift ideas:

  • A fragrant candle, some soothing bath salts, and a silk robe make a luxurious gift set.
  • Pick out a glitzy pin and a pretty bottle of perfume to pair for a feminine treat.

Pickwick’s at the Banke – 43 Atkinson Street

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While you’re in the Vintage Christmas spirit, head on over to Pickwick’s at the Banke, nestled in between the historic homes of Strawbery Banke Museum. You can enter the shop without purchasing admission to Strawbery Banke (but if you decide to tour the museum, you can buy your tickets right at Pickwick’s.) The Candlelight Stroll, which meanders through the preserved neighborhoods of Strawbery Banke, is a great time to pop into Pickwick’s at the Banke. This charming location occupies a historic home dating from 1790. Here, you’ll find an old time-inspired collection of home goods, lotions, tea pots, candles, and pantry provisions. Cozy New Hampshire-woven blankets pile up in a vintage trunk and local maple syrups and jams stock the antique cedar shelves. Kids will love the upstairs toy nook filled with plush stuffed animals, wooden games, and colorful books that would make perfect gifts for the little ones.

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Gift ideas:

  • Pair a jar of New Hampshire maple syrup with a printed cloth dishtowel for an easy hostess gift.
  • Pick up a colorful puzzle and book to give to the kids on your Christmas shopping list.

Deadwick’s Ethereal Emporium – 19 Sheafe Street

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Don’t miss the fourth Pickwick’s store, Deadwick’s Ethereal Emporium, located at 19 Sheafe Street. Step into the mystical world of Deadwick’s, where you’ll find unique gifts for even the trickiest people on your shopping list. Equal parts spooky and spectacular, this one-of-a-kind shop is filled with quirky gifts and otherworldly finds. You’ll find the shelves stocked with healing crystals and apothecary potions, fragrant incense and dried hanging herbs. Browse the eccentric assortment, make a wish at the shrine, and even get your tarot cards read.

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Gift ideas:

  • For the Halloween enthusiast on your list, pick up a copy of “Haunted Portsmouth,” a book that regales readers with the ghost stories and legends of this historic city.
  • A beautiful Tibetan meditation bowl makes the perfect gift for your yogi friends.

Don’t forget that The Music Hall members receive 10% discount on Pickwick’s merchandise. Happy shopping!

Vintage Christmas 2016: All the Details

The town Christmas Tree and North Church in Market Square, Portsmouth, NH

Mark your calendars – you won’t want to miss this year’s Vintage Christmas celebration. Filled with fun events for the whole family, the month-long event in beautiful Portsmouth, New Hampshire has cemented itself as a beloved holiday tradition for the past 12 years. This season’s highlights include the Ogunquit Playhouse production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast the Broadway musical at The Music Hall’s Historic Theater and the 37th annual Candlelight Stroll at Strawbery Banke. Getting around town to all the holiday fun couldn’t be easier thanks to the free Vintage Christmas trolley, courtesy of the City of Portsmouth.

We invite you to delight in the magic of the holiday season here in Portsmouth. Here’s what’s happening this year:

What: The Ogunquit Playhouse production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast the Broadway musical

Where: The Music Hall’s historic theater

When: November 30–December 18

The Music Hall has once again partnered with the Ogunquit Playhouse to bring a magical holiday show to the historic theater. This year, audiences will be treated to the Broadway production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, on stage November 30–December 18. Don’t miss this classic story with unforgettable characters, stunning sets and costumes straight from London, dazzling production numbers, and Broadway actors – all with a touch of holiday magic.

Tickets and more information here

Candle Light Stroll at Strawbery Banke, Portsmouth, NH Dec. 2010

What: The 37th Annual Candlelight Stroll

Where: Strawbery Banke

When: Friday, December 16th, 5–9p.m.

In the spirit of a truly Vintage Christmas, Strawbery Banke Museum welcomes visitors to travel through 300+ years of daily life in the waterfront neighborhood of Puddle Dock. This year’s rendition of the beloved Candlelight Stroll will be “Gift from the Sea.” Along candlelit dirt lanes, visitors will walk through a historic portrayal of winter –and, where historically appropriate, the holidays of Christmas and Hannukah – among the glowing historic homes and costumed role players. The magical experience will be accompanied by a full program of musical performances and theatricals.

Tickets available soon here

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What: The Vintage Christmas 2016 Kickoff Party

Where: Discover Portsmouth, 10 Middle Street

When: Friday, December 2nd, 5–8p.m.

Help celebrate the official start of Vintage Christmas cheer and get the first look at the results of the popular 26th Annual Gingerbread House Contest Exhibit. Created by local business, artists, families, and children, the gingerbread houses will be nestled into a winter wonderland in the first floor gallery. The free exhibition is open from 10a.m.–5p.m. until December 23rd (with extended hours until 8p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays).


What: Kent Stephens’ The Ragpicker’s Dream

Where: The Music Hall Loft

When: Saturday, December 17th & Tuesday, December 20th

This funny, poignant holiday play reading (no sets or costumes) will contain a collection of tales, interspersed with the work of Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows, the poetry of Robert Frost and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and the comedy of David Sedaris.

Tickets and more information here

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What: Family Holiday Pops presented by the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra

Where: The Music Hall’s historic theater

When: Tuesday, December 20th & Wednesday, December 21st

Celebrate the seasons with holiday favorites old and new in this classic production. Special guest artists include Taylor O’Donnell and Chris Klaxton.

Tickets and more information here


What: Juston McKinney’s Last Laugh 2016

Where: The Music Hall’s historic theater

When: Thursday, December 29th

End the year with laughter at this always-a-hit comedy show, where Juston will be dishing on New England life and looking back at the year. Juston has been a guest on The Tonight Show and has performed in two Comedy Central specials, including his own one-hour show. He was recently named Best (Comedian) of NH by New Hampshire Magazine.

Tickets and more information here

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What: Labrie Family Skate

Where: Puddle Dock Pond at Strawbery Banke

When: Every day in December, 9a.m.–9p.m.

Enjoy the delight of a winter skate at Strawbery Banke’s professionally-maintained outdoor ice-skating rink. In the spirit of Portsmouth’s rich performing arts culture, the rink hosts a Currier & Ives-inspired show during each of the December weekends of the Candlelight Stroll. Skate rentals and sharpening services are available.


What: Pickwick’s Holiday Dinners

Where: Strawbery Banke’s William Pitt Tavern

When: December 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, 16th, 17th, and 18th

Step in from the cold and back in time at Pickwick’s acclaimed Holiday Dinners. Experience the historic William Pitt Tavern in all its holiday splendor for a festive colonial four-course meal prepared by acclaimed Chef Evan Mallett of the Black Trumpet. There will also be locally-crafted libations and live music to evoke holiday cheer.

Tickets and more information here

Portsmouth Illuminated Holiday Parand and Tree Lighting Ceremony, Portsmouth, December 7, 2013

What: Portsmouth Christmas Tree Lighting & Illuminated Holiday Parade and Food Drive

Where: Market Square

When: Saturday, December 3rd (Rain date: December 4th) | Tree lighting @ 5:30p.m.; Parade @ 6:00p.m.

Experience this magical event in the heart of downtown Portsmouth. Excitement builds as the community counts down to the lighting of the Portsmouth Christmas tree and the festive fun continues with a dazzling illuminated holiday parade down Islington Street and through Market Square.

Forthcoming information can be found here


What: Holiday Magic Trolley Tours

Where: Nickleby the Vintage Pickwick’s Trolley

When: TBA

Enjoy the sights and stories of the Seacoast from the comfort of the Nickleby Trolley, which hosts 14 passengers for a Holiday Magic Tour in partnership with New England Curiosities.

Forthcoming information can be found here


We hope to see you in Portsmouth!

The Music Hall + Strawbery Banke Museum Present Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth

© David J. Murray Clear Eye Photo

© David J. Murray Clear Eye Photo

The Music Hall + Strawbery Banke Museum Present Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth; The Entire Month of December 2015

This year: White Christmas the Broadway musical, Strawbery Banke skating rink, costumed holiday dining in Pitt Tavern, Figtree Kitchen cafe, The Nutcracker, and more!

“Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Christmas Capital of America” – Travel + Leisure

“One of the ‘Top Ten Things Not to Miss in New England” – Boston Globe

Make plans now for the perfect holiday visit!

Now in its 11th year, Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth celebrates the winter, the warmth, the light, and our collective memories of holidays past. Presented by cultural anchors The Music Hall and Strawbery Banke Museum in the historic working seaport of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, this month-long city-wide event will once again offer the irresistible Candlelight Stroll that Strawbery Banke Museum has offered for over 30 years, and the Broadway production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at The Music Hall’s landmark 1878 Historic Theater presented in partnership with the Ogunquit Playhouse.

Back by popular demand, the free Vintage Christmas trolley, courtesy of the City of Portsmouth. Cuddle up with a trolley ride through red-bricked Market Square in this elegant and delightful holiday downtown each Saturday and Sunday afternoon and evening for the first three weekends in December.

Background According to Monte Bohanan, Director of Marketing for The Music Hall, “Settled in the early 1600s, Portsmouth is the perfect town for Vintage Christmas since it’s a charming blend of the contemporary and historical. Culture, history, food – it’s an intoxicating mix.” Beyond sponsoring the trolley, The City coordinates the Illuminated Holiday Parade and ceremonial tree lighting on the first Saturday, decorates the Welcome to Portsmouth signs and period streetlights with large wreaths, and collaborates with ProPortsmouth., Inc. to make First Night® Portsmouth (New Year’s Eve) a spectacular evening in the city (ice sculptures, fireworks, live music). Finally, the library and recreation department have holiday programs.

Accolades Portsmouth was recently described by the Chicago Tribune as “one of the nation’s most kid-friendly, walkable, food-centric, historic, livable and romantic cities. On any East Coast car trip, a charming little must.” As a reporter from the venerable Yankee Magazine has said, “If another city does a better job of celebrating Christmas, I have yet to find it.” According to Stephanie Seacord, Director of Marketing at Strawbery Banke Museum, “Portsmouth is an enchanted village. And, the city can now add a new title to its list of many accomplishments thanks to an article published in Travel and Leisure magazine titled, “Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Christmas Capital of America?”

History Seacoast historian J. Dennis Robinson ruminates on the meaning of the celebration, “The purpose of any holiday is ‘stopfulness’ — to stop, look around, and be aware. Out of that momentary awareness comes a healing and spiritual connection. We are ‘in the moment.’ We recognize that we are alive, and that our lives are short. …We compare our history against the history of others. Through the holiday tradition of giving presents, we become charitable. By receiving them, we become thankful. The pause is the gift.”

What’s new for 2015?

At The Music Hall
The Music Hall and the Ogunquit Playhouse have once again partnered to bring a magical holiday show to the historic theater. This year they will be presenting the Broadway production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, the beloved holiday classic that will be on stage December 9-20
About White Christmas
Veterans Bob Wallace and Phil Davis have a successful song-and-dance act after World War II. With romance in mind, these showbiz buddies follow two beautiful singing sisters to their Christmas show at a Vermont lodge, which just happens to be owned by Bob and Phil’s former army commander. The dazzling score features well-known standards including “Sisters”, “Count Your Blessing Instead of Sheep”, “Happy Holidays” and the perennial favorite, “White Christmas.”

At Strawbery Banke
Strawbery Banke Museum welcomes visitors to time travel through 300+ years of daily life in the waterfront neighborhood of Puddle Dock. Candlelight Stroll, one of the museum’s most treasured signature events, depicts December — and where historically appropriate, the holidays of Christmas and Hannukah — through the centuries. Candle lanterns light the dirt lanes, historic houses glow with hand-made decorations and costumed role players of all ages share their winter experiences with guests. A full program of musical performances and theatricals adds to the holiday spirit.

At Pickwicks
Holiday Dinners (Dec 5/6, 12/13, 19/20)– Step in from the cold and back in time. Join the revelry to experience the historic William Pitt Tavern. The wondrous evening includes colonial holiday fair prepared by the Black Trumpet’s Evan Mallet, libations by the Portsmouth Brewery, and live music to evoke the holiday cheer! Some seatings are still available, please reserve tickets at www.strawbery-banke-museum.simpletix.com

Pickwick’s Official Trolley “Nickelby” Arrives!– This December enjoy the latest addition to the Pickwick’s Family, Nickelby. The 19 passenger holiday trolley will be offering transportation to Portsmouth folk during the weekends of December (Sat/Sun). More information forthcoming, visit www.facebook.com/pickwicksmercantile
Open House Weekends (December Weekends Fri-Sun)– Choose a Pickwick’s adventure this holiday season–Lady Pickwick’s, Pickwick’s Mercantile, Pickwick’s at the Banke or Deadwick’s Ethereal Emporium (Nov27). Browse our curious collections, delve back in time, and of course, enjoy our complimentary gift wrapping and food sampling as always. Celebrate the season with the most joyous of all merry-makers…The Pickwickians!

Deadwick’s Ethereal Emporium– Will be re-opening November 27 (Black Friday) through Dec 24 with a new theme…stay tuned!

Returning Favorites
At The Music Hall – live shows, films, HD broadcasts, historic tours, and a beloved Broadway musical

Wonderful holiday fare is slated for The Music Hall’s two stages – the landmark Victorian 1878 theater and the contemporary Loft. Ragpickers Dream tells the stories of the holiday season in the intimate setting of the Loft, the Nutcracker makes its return, and the year rounds out with Comedy Central’s Juston McKinney’s Last Laugh 2015. The Ogunquit Playhouse at The Music Hall Series continues to bring Broadway to the historic port, with Irving Berlin’s White Christmas – happening December 9 – 20 in the Historic Theater.

At Strawbery Banke Museum – Skating rink, time travel shop, food + drink at new café and historic tavern
Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond, the museum’s seasonal outdoor ice skating rink at the heart of the 10-acre living history museum site operates daily, 9 am to 9 pm. In the spirit of Portsmouth’s rich performing arts culture, the rink hosts a Currier & Ives-type show during each of the December weekends of Candlelight Stroll. Labrie Family Skate offers 12,500 square feet of professionally maintained ice surface combining an 80’ x 125’ oval and a 60’ diameter circle all surrounded by a post and rail fence. A seasonal pavilion houses ticketing, skate rentals and concessions. The Figtree Kitchen cafe in the adjacent museum Tyco Visitor Center serves food and beverages. The rink schedule includes public skating (including several free sessions each week), pond hockey for children and adults, and skating lessons for all ages. Skate rentals and sharpening services are available
Figtree Kitchen cafe in the Tyco Visitors Center is open throughout Candlelight Stroll, serving a light menu of sandwiches, quiche, sweet and savory scones, specialized pastries and hot and cold beverages.

At Discover Portsmouth– Discover Portsmouth celebrates Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth with the kickoff party Tuesday December 1, 2015 5-7pm when visitors will have the first look at the popular Gingerbread House Contest exhibit running until Christmas Eve in the first floor gallery. Created by local businesses, artists, families and kids, the gingerbread houses can be seen every day from 10am – 5pm with extended hours on Saturdays and Sundays until 8pm, and open for Art Round Town, Friday December 4 from 5-8pm. The exhibit is free and open to the public at Discover Portsmouth 10 Middle Street. Come see these magical creations and find holiday gifts in the Museum Shop!
At Pickwicks- Pickwick’s at the Banke, complementing the museum with a shopping experience reflecting Portsmouth’s colonial maritime heritage. The store is located at 43 Atkinson Street (on the corner of Court and Atkinson) on the museum campus, and is open to the general public. No museum ticket is required to shop at Pickwick’s at the Banke. Described as a ‘magical space’ featuring local art, artisans and products; Pickwick’s at the Banke is designed to be a nostalgic space that’s accessible to a new generation. Pickwick’s management has earned a following by creating “an experience” for their guests. The merchandise, the atmosphere and the hospitality of the staff make shopping more than a pastime. Like Strawbery Banke itself, Pickwick’s at the Banke is about preserving Portsmouth heritage, historical role-playing and participating in a sort of time travel through 300 years in this Puddle Dock neighborhood. Pickwick’s will present a costumed historical dining experience in Strawbery Banke’s Pitt Tavern on the six nights of Candlelight Stroll.

Around town Downtown stores and local malls get into the spirit of the season early by celebrating Small Business Saturday (following Black Friday) on November 29. Then, according to Valerie Rochon, Tourism Director for the Chamber, “The month of December is the perfect time to visit Portsmouth to sample all it has to offer – sales tax-free shopping at independent boutiques, visiting art galleries, dining at the numerous eclectic restaurants in town. And, our Shop Portsmouth retailers make it easy – by rolling out the red carpet, offering stress free shopping and entertainment by the Market Square Carolers. Rekindle the true spirit of the Holidays by shopping locally and enjoying a traditional downtown experience in our historic seaport during Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth!”

Save The Date for Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth December 1- 31, 2015

Save the Date for Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth. Celebrating the winter, the warmth, the light, and our collective memories of holidays past. Created by The Music Hall in a partnership with Strawbery Banke Museum, this month-long city-wide event will once again offer the magic of Broadway as The Music Hall partners with the Ogunquit Playhouse to bring the Irving Berlin’s classic White Christmas to their historic stage and returning for it’s 36 year, the irresistible Candlelight Stroll at the Strawbery Banke Museum.