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Road Trip! Destination: Hampton Beach, N.H.

| Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lisa Martineau
Kids play in the water at Hampton Beach.
Lisa Martineau
The Seacoast Science Center is a popular destination for families and students to learn about coastal environmental history.
Lisa Martineau
The lighthouse and Fort Constitution up in New Castle, a few scenic miles up Route 1A
Lisa Martineau
'The Strip' (Boardwalk) and Casino Ballroom
Lisa Martineau
'The Strip' (Boardwalk) at night
Lisa Martineau
Hampton Beach has a surf community here, even though there is only 18 miles of coastline.
Lisa Martineau
Hampton Beach Village District
Fuller Gardens features a formal rose gardens designed in the Colonial Revival style commissioned during the late 1920s.
Hampton Beach Village District
Every year, Master Sand Sculptors compete at Hampton Beach.
Daniel Gilbey
A platter of lobster, lemon butter, parsley & fresh lemon await. The annual seafood festival in Hampton Beach attracts thousands each year.
Hampton Beach Village District
The annual seafood festival attracts thousands each year.
Hampton Beach Village District
The Hampton Beach Seashell stage has live entertainment weekly.
Hampton Beach Village District
Boats float near a pier at Hampton Beach.

For anyone looking to squeeze the last bit from summer with a trip to the Atlantic Ocean, Hampton Beach, N.H., offers an award-winning, entertainment-filled option.

The town is home to stretches of sand, a slew of boardwalk shops and an upcoming annual festival devoted to the delicious seafood the town is known for.

Hampton, once a major farming community, transformed into a vacation-friendly destination with the formation of the Hampton Beach Village District in 1907.

Examples of efforts to attract tourists include free concerts, fireworks, an annual sand-sculpture contest and more. One of the most popular events, the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival, draws thousands each year.

The efforts haven't gone unnoticed. Among its many honors, CNN recently named Hampton Beach among the country's 22 can't-miss beaches. Budget Travel named Hampton Beach on its list of Most Awesome Boardwalks, and the Weather Channel placed it among the Top 6 Favorite Beaches. The Natural Resource Defense Council named Hampton Beach as one of the country's “superstar beaches” for water cleanliness.

Hampton Beach and the surrounding area offer a wide range of ways to enjoy being outside. Options on the water include whale watching, deep-sea fishing, surfing, Jet Skiing or parasailing.

There are camping sites and golf courses from full 18-holes to mini golf.

For a full list of attractions and events, visit hamptonbeach.org

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

Hampton Beach Casino

It's called a “casino” but has nothing to do with gambling. The Hampton Beach Casino is an expansive stretch of shops offering everything from food to fashion to fun. There are coffee shops, pizza joints, french fries and fried dough. Entertainment options include arcades, a water slide and mini golf.

The stretch also features the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, a seasonal live music and comedy venue open from April to November. Upcoming acts include Billy Currington and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Details: 603-926-4541 or hamptonbeachcasinonh.com

Fuller Gardens

Fuller Gardens, a nonprofit public botanical garden, features a formal rose garden designed in the Colonial Revival style commissioned during the late 1920s by Massachusetts Gov. Alvan T. Fuller at his summer estate.

In addition to the rose gardens, the site features a Japanese garden and English perennial plantings.

The gardens are open daily through mid-October, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Details: 603-964-5414 or fullergardens.org

Seacoast Science Center

The Seacoast Science Center, a few minutes north of Hampton Beach, features exhibits relating to the natural and human history of the local seacoast area. Visitors can learn about tide pool animals in an indoor touch tank, watch deep ocean-fish swim the 1,000-gallon Gulf of Maine tank and learn about nearly four centuries of local history.

Details: 603-436-8043 or seacoastsciencecenter.org.

Seashell Stage

The Hampton Beach Seashell Stage, which resembles its namesake with its uniquely curved roof, features live entertainment weekly.

Upcoming acts include The Reminisants, offering oldies and family fun, on Sept. 6; classic-rock band Soulmate on Sept. 7; and The Continentals, a classic oldies band, on Sept. 8.

Details: hamptonbeach.org/calendar

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse

The Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, a few scenic miles up Route 1A from Hampton Beach, was first established in June 1771, making it the first light station north of Boston in the American colonies. Today's 48-foot tower was built in 1878. Open houses are from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend. Cost to climb the lighthouse is $4, $2 for age 12 and younger.

Visitors also can check out Fort Constitution, one of seven forts built to protect Portsmouth Harbor.

Details: portsmouthharborlighthouse.org

Seafood Festival

This annual festival has become a staple of the region and attracts seafood lovers from around the country. The 24th installment will be Sept. 6 to 8, with more than 60 of the Seacoast's top restaurants serving an abundance of delicacies.

The event also features 80 arts-and-crafts vendors promoting locally made products, hundreds of Ocean Boulevard merchants offering end-of-the-season sidewalk sales, a Kiddie Land with entertainment and games presented by Radio Disney, continuous culinary chef demonstrations and two stages of entertainment with 15 local bands. A lobster-roll eating competition and fireworks display will be Sept. 7. On Sept. 8, spectators can catch a sky-diving extravaganza.

Details: hamptonbeachseafoodfestival.com

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