When Thornton Wilder was looking for a model for the quintessential New England village for his now-classic play Our Town, he looked no farther than Peterborough, an achingly charming old town in the shadow of the mountain. Reinvented as “Grover’s Corners,” or so the story goes, the town still lives up to its image—up to a point. But this is no Hicksville in the middle of nowhere; in the past hundred years, Peterborough has grown to be a cultured and urbane oasis showcasing musical performances and visual art in its many galleries and performance spaces.
There was a reason that Wilder was in Peterborough, after all; he was attending the MacDowell Colony, the country’s oldest artists colony, which still awards much-coveted fellowships for writers to come to the quiet back roads of New Hampshire  to finish their novels, poems, or musical scores. In addition to Wilder, past alumni of the tight-knit artists group include Leonard Bernstein, Willa Cather, Studs Turkel, James Baldwin, and Aaron Copeland. Under the influence of so many artists traveling in and out of town, it was only natural that some of the creative inspiration should rub off on the town itself.
Around Peterborough, other small towns are equally Our Town–ish, with small communities ranged around manicured town greens. Of these, Jaffrey has one of the best greens in the state; its proximity to Monadnock  makes it a good base for exploring the mountain.