A waterfront gem of accessibility in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
If you’re looking to spend a few hours in a lovely outdoor space, consider visiting beautiful Prescott Park in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This ten-acre waterfront park has a variety of attractions; all of them wheel-friendly and accessible for visitors of all abilities. Be sure to check websites for hours and schedules.
The Prescott Park parking lot has sixteen parking spaces, all of them van-accessible. To accommodate visitors to the Prescott Park Arts Festival, from June-September the lot reserves all of the spaces for people who display an HC placard or license plate on weekdays from 5 pm – 11 pm and weekends 10 am – 11 pm. Other times they are available to all. This image shows the one curb-free route from the parking lot into the park. There are also two accessible spaces on Water Street near the Gundalow.
TRAVERSING THE GROUNDS
The park has a variety of walking path surfaces including blacktop, brick, wood, hard-pack gravel, dirt, and grass. The primary connecting paths are blacktop. The surfaces may be rough and uneven, use caution.
WHAT TO SEE
The park runs along the Piscataqua River with two wooden lookout piers overhanging the water. There are built-in benches and good railings. You’ll have a direct view of the action at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, a civilian shipyard specializing in overhauling the Navy’s submarine fleet.
The gardens are a summer highlight. The formal garden on Marcy Street is a favorite. The accessible entry is on the waterside corner nearest the performance stage. Beyond the performance area, the Liberty Gardens, also called the test gardens, are beds of annuals designed and installed by city staff. The bountiful beds of gorgeous blooms peak in August and September. The Marcy Street side of the garden has flush curbing for a step-free entry. The Liberty Pole at the park entrance, topped with a hand-carved eagle, is the oldest in America and a symbol of citizen engagement in times of war and peace, of local initiative, and of the “grassroots” efforts for which Portsmouth is known.
The Hovey Fountain is near the parking lot; toss in a coin for luck. The fountain is named in honor of U.S. Navy Ensign Charles Emerson Hovey, who was killed in action in the Philippines in 1911.
The Portsmouth Love Wall on the waterside of the parking lot is famous for its collection of love locks. Some are utilitarian, some are quite elaborate. The locks are said to symbolize undying love. Tradition says that the keys are tossed into the waters below as a symbol of unbreakable love.
ARTS AND CULTURE
The Prescott Park Arts Festival makes its home in the park, with a season-long musical and weekly music and film offerings. Tables can be reserved and there is plentiful lawn space for chairs and blankets. Visit their website for the show schedule.
The New Hampshire Art Association has a summer show during July and August in the waterfront Sheafe Warehouse. It has a very nice ramp for access (and a knobby but passable threshold).
The Players Ring Theater is in a small brick building in the park, fronting on Marcy Street. They are happy to open their park-side entry to accommodate accessibility needs.
The Arts Festival operates a seasonal snack bar, The Prop. It offers pizza, sandwiches, snacks, and most importantly, a good ice cream flavor lineup. The Prop opens at 5 pm on show days and closes around 9 pm.
ON THE WATER
The Gundalow, Portsmouth’s tall ship, operates sailing excursions out of Prescott Park. It is fully accessible with thoughtful ramping and staff who understand the logistics of wheelchairs.
Located in The Prop building, restrooms are accessible. There is a family-friendly single-user restroom near the men’s room. The restrooms are open all day during the summer Arts Festival season.
JUST A FEW STEPS AWAY
There is a lovely waterfront park under Memorial Bridge. Take the sidewalk from the Prescott Park lot, and follow it under the bridge. Harbor Walk Park is just steps away with tables and seating.
Take a walk/roll across Memorial Bridge. Both sides have pedestrian walkways, the views are spectacular. Plus you can say you walked/rolled to Maine!
Cross the street to the Puddle Dock restaurant. There’s a patio and a ramp to the front entry. The upscale menu is a “modern take on colonial food.” The interior has standard-height tables and an accessible restroom. Both locals and visitors love the historic vibe.