To Plan A Trip

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To get around the Merrimack River Valley, a car is essential; most of the places mentioned are near interstate highways. First get in touch with the Merrimack River Watershed Council, 181 Canal Street, P.O. Box 1377, Lawrence, MA 01842 (978-681-5777; www.merrimack.org ). The friendly volunteers can help you plan routes and may even invite you to join them on visits.

We rented our kayaks in Concord at Hannah’s Paddles, 16 Hannah Dustin Road (603-753-6695). Open from May to October, they charge $35 for a 10-mile stretch just a stone’s throw from the Hannah Dustin statue. We didn’t spend much time in Concord but we would have liked to. The Museum of New Hampshire History at 6 Eagle Square (603-228-6688) gets good reviews, as does the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium (603-271-7827). About 20 minutes north of Concord is Canterbury Shaker Village, 288 Shaker Road (603-783-9511 or 866-783-9511; www.shakers.org ), a wonderful collection of 25 original buildings. In Manchester we switched to canoes, which we rented from Pemi-Baker River Adventures; the company also can provide equipment for kayaking and tubing (877-786-5652 or 603-536-5652; www.pbriveradventures.com ). If traveling from outside the region, consider flying into Manchester Airport, which is becoming a major aviation hub.

In Massachusetts, check out www.essexheritage.org , an excellent one-stop resource of historic sites in and around the Merrimack. Lowell is very visitor-friendly, with a tourist center downtown and lots of free maps. Before you go to the Lowell National Historic Park, you might look at www.idea.uml.edu/nps/#lnhp for a virtual tour or get in touch with the National Park Service Office there for more information. It’s at 246 Market Street, Lowell, MA 01852 (508-970-5000). The DoubleTree Riverfront Hotel (978-452-1200) has a great view of a canal and its lock. Minor-league baseball is an utter delight at Lowell’s new stadium; for information on the Class A Spinners (an affiliate of the Red Sox), call 978-459-2255.

The Lawrence Heritage State Park (www.state.ma.us/dem/parks/lwhp.htm) consists of various sites around the city. The visitors’ center, at a restored boardinghouse on Jackson Street (978-794-1655), will get you started in the right direction. Haverhill and Newburyport also have visitors’ centers, both on streets of the same name. The former is at the Buttonwoods Museum, 240 Water Street (978-374-4626) and the latter at the Custom House Maritime Museum, 25 Water Street (978-462-8681). You can ask there about access to Newburyport’s seventeenth-century houses and nearby beaches.

—C.M. & R.H.