Portsmouth Neighborhood Guide for Families

This information is thoughtfully provided by our sponsors, realtors Becky Vardell and Valerie Ellmer. Contact them (becky.vardell@verani.com, valerie.ellmer@verani.com) for more about the wonderful town of Portsmouth and see their full contact information and bios at the bottom of this post.

With good reason, Portsmouth is arguably the most popular town on New Hampshire’s Seacoast. Located at the mouth of the swift and beautiful Piscataqua (pronounced, Piss-cat-a-qua) River, with one of the fastest tidal currents in the United States, Portsmouth is a true working port city. Our beloved tugboats guide ships from around the globe right into downtown! There, you can see it all happening from the “docks” sipping your favorite beverage and dining at award-winning local restaurants.

Three bridges connect our city-center to Kittery, Maine: an easy walk, bikeride or (of course) drive across the river. Our City’s history is rich, having played a key role in our Nation’s independence and remaining at the fore-front of national politics ever since.  

Why Moms Love Portsmouth NH

There are too many reasons to list here!  Both Valerie and Becky have lived all around this great country of ours, as well as abroad, and Portsmouth is the town they both decided their families could truly call home.

Portsmouth Neighborhood Guide for Families
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Portsmouth Neighborhood Guide for Families
Portsmouth Neighborhood Guide for Families

Pics, clockwise from top left: Market Square at Halloween by Josephine Anes, View from the River House by Chris Kjellander, Market Street by Brittany Explores and North Church at Christmas by Eva Marino

A wonderful community in which to raise kids, there is so much to see and do. Portsmouth combines the best of small-town nostalgia: complete with parades, fireworks and neighbors who watch out for one another and still stop to talk on the street. Yet, it has all the culture and amenities one would expect from a larger, metropolitan area.

Portsmouth Neighborhood Guide for Families
Commercial alley, Portsmouth. Photo by Katherine Birch, click for details
Portsmouth Neighborhood Guide for Families
Prescott Park Gardens, by Eva Marino, click for details

Playgrounds, Parks & Attractions

Portsmouth is a town made up of neighborhoods – each with their own gathering spots. These playgrounds are where families gather to play, converse, plan playdates and watch their children grow up together — there are so many all over Portsmouth!

In addition to playgrounds, Portsmouth offers many parks and attractions for every age group. Prescott Park (pictured left) is our largest, situated on the Piscataqua River. It is home to wonderful flower gardens as well as the Prescott Park Arts Festival, complete with musicals, movies and a concert series with world-class talent along the banks of the river. It’s a magical place to spend a summer evening!

If you’re looking to learn the rich history of Portsmouth (it was settled in 1623, after all), Becky and Valerie suggest the Discover Portsmouth Center, Strawbery Banke Museum, USS Albacore Museum, and the Black Heritage Trail

For fun around town, check out Market Square/Downtown to shop, eat and walk around. There are festivals like Children’s Day, Market Square Day and First Night put on by Pro Portsmouth that are fun for all. 

For music and arts, The Music Hall features incredible acts, movies and musicals all year round. 

Childcare & Schools

There are several preschools in Portsmouth from which to choose and also a variety of childcare centers!

Portsmouth’s school system is consistently ranked one of the best in the state. There are three local elementary schools, New Franklin, Little Harbour and Dondero that are beloved in the community. All three Portsmouth elementary schools, plus students from New Castle and Newington, feed into Portsmouth Middle School (grades 6-8), whose amazing renovation was completed just a few years ago.

Upon reaching Portsmouth High School, the “Home of the Clippers,” Portsmouth students are joined by those from Greenland, and Rye. This influx of new students, at both the middle and high school levels, offers all students the opportunity to meet new peers and make new friendships.   

Shops & Restaurants

This is a challenging category only because we have too many to list, but some of Becky and Valerie’s favorites are:


Fun night out with friends:

  • Street’s b.Bar: Great cocktails, nice vibe, same menu as Street, easy parking
  • Moxy: small plates, full bar
  • 5 Thai Bistro: Good Thai food downtown
  • Surf: Beautiful views of the Piscataqua, awesome seafood
  • Cafe Mediterraneo: Italian food close to the Music Hall
  • Martingale Wharf: Best deck in Portsmouth to sit outside and watch the tugboats
  • Gas Light Co.: Enjoy the 3rd floor nightclub or live music out on the Deck. 

For a romantic dinner for two:

  • The Black Trumpet: Award-winning, intimate bistro
  • Cava (pictured above): Wine and tapas bar with quaint patio in a beautiful brick alley.

Coffee!  We know behind every successful parent there is a substantial amount of coffee.  


In the summer, take a family sail with The Gundalow Co., visit the Isles of Shoals, take a harbor cruise or swim in the Peirce Island Pool on Four Tree Island

There are also wonderful options for kayaking and paddle boarding in the Harbor Islands. 

Portsmouth also has a great library with tons going on. Right next door is the Connie Bean Center, a hub of activity for the Portsmouth Recreation Department

Overall, Portsmouth is filled with activity, with endless opportunities to connect with other families and build community. 

Portsmouth Neighborhood Guide for Families
Logo Bean Group
Bean Group
1150 Sagamore Avenue
Portsmouth NH 03801
Becky and Valerie joined forces in 2015 and quickly realized their unique strengths complemented one another. They often joke that together they equal one truly amazing Realtor! Working as a team allows them to provide their clients with continuous service. They also both understand the home selling and buying process first hand, each having moved cross-country a number of times. The list of states is long! Here’s a little about them individually:
Becky Vardell
603-828-6009 (cell) 

Becky and her family relocated to Portsmouth 9 years ago from out-of-state when her children were in 1st and 4th grade. After their first day of school in their new town, they went to their neighborhood playground. There they began forming new relationships that have lasted until today.

In her spare time, Becky enjoys getting to know new people.  She also loves working on home projects in her 1800’s house, as well as spending time gardening, hiking, biking and kayaking with her husband, Don, their two children Carson and Eva – and walking their two rescue dogs. Becky is grateful for all Portsmouth has offered their family, especially the kids!

Valerie Ellmer
603-818-9722 (cell)

Valerie has worked as a Realtor throughout the Seacoast, inland NH and Maine for 25 years affording her with a wealth of experience and knowledge. She is proud of her service as a US Navy Veteran.

She lives in Portsmouth with her husband Gary, two dogs and two Maine Coon cats. She has 2 children, Kristy (and son-in-law Matt) and Katy (and son-in-law Adam) who grew up in Portsmouth, were very active during their time in the Portsmouth school system and are now both successful business-women. Valerie is also the proud grandmother of 2-year old Brooklyn.

Gardening and pickling are some her passions. She has 4 gardens and loves to share her harvest with clients and neighbors. Valerie loves outdoor sports and her (very) early mornings at the gym. Boating, fishing, hiking, cooking and treasure hunting are some of her other favorite pastimes.

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Allison’s mission in life is to notice the extraordinary in the ordinary. Her commitment to see beyond what’s in front of her was fostered by her degree in Philosophy and Theology from Boston College. Allison’s a book nerd and credits her parents and inspiring English teachers for her love of reading and writing. She went on to earn her Master in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College and then taught high school for several years, both in New England and San Francisco. After moving from San Francisco to Boston with her engineer husband, she began teaching yoga and working as a social media marketing consultant. Now a Portsmouth resident, she spends most of her days with her three daughters (she does not have enough arms) and does her best to find the bliss amidst the endless snacking, dance parties and tiaras. With all the beautiful chaos in her life, she’s grateful to have her partner-in-crime (husband Charlie) and fellow movie quote enthusiast alongside her. Her passion for writing first drew her to Seacoast Moms as a contributing writer, and her desire to connect moms of the Seacoast with businesses who serve and interest them led her to become SM’s owner. Being able to write about the ordinary grace present in motherhood, while interacting with incredible Seacoast business owners is a dream come true.


  1. Just wanted to mention that the Gundalow Piscataqua you mentioned offers “Kids Sail Free” trips – typically the first trip of the afternoon on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. One kids ticket (0-13 years old) is free with each adult ticket and there’s no minimum age. We’ve got life jackets available in all sizes infant/toddler/kids to borrow. We’ve got live creatures onboard (potentially including lobsters, horseshoe crabs, giant moon sails, hermit crabs, and oysters) for the kids to touch, and the crew will lead the kids through steering the gundalow, setting sail, and learning about our rivers!

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