Dartmouth College is the principal resident of attractive little Hanover (pop. 11,260) and the Ivy League influence shows in the local architecture, fashions, and cultural diversions. When school is in session, the cafés hum with undergraduate discourse, the downtown teems with students, and a varsity air envelops the historic campus and its sturdy neighbors. Between terms, however, the town’s metabolism drops toward hibernation levels, which means there’s no line for espresso.
Standing out from all the Georgian-style brick buildings is Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art (603/646-2808, Tues.-Sun., free), on the southeast side of the green. Housed in a modern gallery designed in part by Charles Moore, the Hood is undergoing renovation, but hopes to reopen in 2019.
More contentious art can be experienced at the center of Dartmouth, where, in the Orozco Room of Baker-Berry Library, the walls are covered with a set of politically charged frescoes, The Epic of American Civilization by José Clemente Orozco.
If it’s too nice a day to stay indoors and contemplate society’s ills, rent a bike and ride north to Lyme and back, or rent a canoe or kayak from Dartmouth’s Ledyard Canoe Club (603/643-6709, $10 per hour), located on the river just north of the Route 10A bridge, and play Huck Finn for an afternoon. Or you can take a hike—the Dartmouth Outing Club’s member club Cabin and Trail maintains hundreds of miles of trails, including a part of the Appalachian Trail (AT) that runs right through town. There’s an AT marker embedded in the sidewalk in front of the Hanover Inn, from where the trail runs west across the bridge to Vermont, and east down Main and Lebanon Streets to the town of Etna, before climbing the 2,280-foot peak of Moose Mountain.
Generations of Dartmouth students have survived their college years thanks in part to the generous portions served up at Lou’s (30 S. Main St., 603/643-3321). Hardly changed since it opened in 1947, and famed for its magical strawberry rhubarb and other freshly baked pies, Lou’s does great big breakfasts, lunchtime soups, and burgers. For dinner, head across the street to the popular Canoe Club Bistro (27 S. Main St., 603/643-9660).
For accommodations around Hanover, there’s the stately Dartmouth-run Hanover Inn (603/643-4300, $150 and up) facing the green; for affordable rooms, however, look in nearby West Lebanon or across the river in White River Junction, Vermont.