Calling itself the "Gateway City," Nashua is the first glimpse of New Hampshire to motorists trekking up Route 3 North. Since a commercial development boom in the 1980s, the city — New Hampshire’s 2nd largest — has served as a shopping Mecca for those fleeing Massachusetts sales taxes.

In addition to a massive retail center, the city also hosts several major high-tech companies such as Oracle, Fidelity, Compaq, Benchmark Electronics, and BAE, to name a few.

Like everywhere else where malls have spread like wildfire, the city is making an aggressive effort to prevent the downtown from becoming a ghost town. Officials have bold plans to construct a scenic river walkway, and ethnic restaurants and posh specialty gift shops have begun to see some success. Taking a page from the winter holidays decoration book, downtown merchants have solicited community donations to keep trees illuminated all year.