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With Memorial Day Weekend, NH gets ready for sun, surf . . . and tourists

A lifeguard chair on the beach on a sunny day
Dan Tuohy
Lifeguards, like this one on Hampton Beach, are getting ready for the summer season. May 24, 2024.

Seasonal businesses across New Hampshire are opening their doors this weekend – unfurling flags, polishing ice cream scoopers, waxing surfboards – as the Memorial Day holiday marks the unofficial kickoff to summer.

From campgrounds to amusement parks to boat rental services, business owners say they’re excited for the tourist season to get underway. The warm weather of the past week gave the holiday weekend a bit of an early boost.

“We started to feel the summer crowd earlier this week: Tuesday, Wednesday,” said Josh Clelan, owner of the Marker 21 restaurant in Wolfeboro. “As soon as the sun came out, we started to see the volume increase.”

Along Lake Winnipesaukee, the sunshine has prompted many people to put their boats in their water and opt for outdoor dining.

On the Seacoast, some local surf shops are already busy. Noah Zwartendijk, with Summer Sessions in Rye, said last weekend was a holiday in Canada, which brought in extra visitors.

“We opened last weekend but didn’t really tell anyone because we just wanted to test the waters to see how busy it would be, and we had a great turnout,” he said.

State officials are predicting 4.8 million visitors to New Hampshire this summer, or 3% more than last year. And they estimate tourists will spend $2.6 billion in New Hampshire this summer. 

All of New England is expected to be busy this weekend: AAA predicts a record number of New Englanders – nearly 2 million – will be traveling over the course of the Memorial Day holiday. That’s up about 4% from last year and higher than it was before the pandemic. Most of those people – 1.8 million – will be traveling by car.

“We've never seen the amount of automobiles that are going to be on the road over the weekend,” said Dan Goodman, who manages public affairs for AAA Northern New England.

He reminded drivers to check things like tire pressure and fluid levels before heading out. He said some trips could take nearly twice as long as normal.

“Pack your patience,” he said.

As the weather warms, local and state safety officials are also warning about the dangers of impairment while driving, boating, swimming and more. Pat Murphy, chief of the New Hampshire State Beach Patrol, said folks who plan to drink should stay away from the ocean waters.

“Last year we had over 9,000 alcohol violations; to start off this year we have already had 1,200,” Murphy said. “Please leave your alcohol at home. The ocean, swimming and alcohol do not mix. It creates a more dangerous situation.”

Murphy said one of their biggest recommendations is for beachgoers to swim when lifeguards are on duty. Starting this Memorial Day weekend, he says lifeguards will be staffed at Hampton Beach, Jenness Beach and Wallis Sands.

Communities around New Hampshire will be marking Memorial Day in lots of different ways.

The Danville American Legion is hosting a Memorial Day Parade Luncheon on Saturday. A Veterans Parade and Picnic is also planned in Newfields on Saturday.

Parades are planned in lots of cities and towns, including Portsmouth, Nashua, Rochester, Londonderry, Lebanon, Concord, Center Harbor and Fremont.

In Dover, the Woodman Museum is also hosting a Memorial Day service in partnership with city officials. This year's event will be dedicated in memory of Captain Jack Casey and Captain Ann Darby Reynolds, both from Dover.

Casey was one of five Marines who died in February when a helicopter they were flying in crashed during a training exercise near San Diego. He was 26 years old.

According to her obituary, Reynolds was one of just four Navy Nurses to receive a Purple Heart during the Vietnam War. She died in February, at age 84.

Paul Cuno-Booth covers health and equity for NHPR. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for The Keene Sentinel, where he wrote about police accountability, local government and a range of other topics. He can be reached at
Dan is a long-time New Hampshire journalist who has written for outlets including Foster's Daily Democrat, The Citizen of Laconia, The Boston Globe, and The Eagle-Tribune. He comes to NHPR from the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he reported on state, local, and national politics.
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