20 Things To Do In Manchester NH

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Perched on the Merrimac River in southern central New Hampshire, Manchester, often nicknamed the Queen City or “Manch Vegas” for the historical gambling, is the most populous city in New Hampshire and Northern New England.

It’s a wonderfully central location in New Hampshire and New England in general, as you can easily travel to the sea coast, Vermont, or Boston within an hour and the White Mountains or Portland, Maine, in less than two hours.

In the 19th century, it was a hub of textile manufacturing with the world’s largest cotton mill in 1846, thanks to the efforts of industrialist and financier Samuel Blodgett, who created a canal and lock system almost forty years earlier to open river travel to Boston. He envisioned the area as a great industrial complex dubbed the “Manchester of America”, referencing Manchester, England.

Recent revitalization efforts, beginning in the 80s, have brought a new spark to the historic mill district that forms the backbone of the city’s bustling downtown today on the Merrimac River, providing world-class arts, culture, shopping, and dining experiences to the former mill town.

A variety of famous individuals hail from the Queen City, including NASA Astronaut Lee M. E. Morin, inventor of the Segway and founder of the FIRST Robotics Competition Dean Kamen, and the McDonald brothers who would found the McDonald’s fast food restaurant in California, and multiple household names in arts and entertainment including Seth Meyers, Adam Sandler, and Sarah Silverman from the comedy world.

I have lived in Manchester for over five years and am still finding interesting, fun things to do and visit, whether new developments or lesser-known facts about the area. Below are 20 of the best things to do if you are visiting Manchester, the Queen City of New Hampshire.

Manchester, New Hampshire

20 Things To Do In Manchester

free things to do in manchester nh
Looking for things to do in Manchester NH? Here are 20 of the best. Picture of the highway running on one side of there Merrimack River and the city on the other side.

1- Experience World Class Art At the Currier Museum of Art

Featuring American and European art from the Renaissance period to the contemporary, including paintings, but also sculptures, photographs, and decorative arts.

They’ve recently redone their permanent exhibition with a focus on two themes, “A 19th-Century Collection” and “Nature and Nostalgia” but also feature special exhibits.

While there is a fee to visit the museum unless you are a member or under 13, check their website to find out if you qualify for their reciprocal memberships and other exceptions.

Admission is free on Thursday nights 5 pm to 8 pm for their Art After Work event which also includes live music and a special menu including cocktails.

The Currier Museum of Art is at 150 Ash Street, Manchester, 03104.

2- Explore Frank Lloyd Wright’s Zimmerman and Kalil Houses

things to do in manchester nh zimmerman house
One of the things to do in Manchester NH is to pay a visit to Zimmerman House.

The Currier is the only museum in the world with two Frank Lloyd Wright homes, the only Wright homes open to the public in New England.

Featuring Usonian architectural principles, the Zimmerman House was designed for Isadore and Lucille Zimmerman in 1949, featuring narrow passages and wide open spaces.

Acquired by the Currier in 2019, the Kalil House is one of seven Usonian Automatics built for Toufic and Mildred Kalil in 1955.

Tours start at the Currier Museum of Art at 150 Ash Street, Manchester, 03104, and you are taken over the houses via Currier vans.

3- Explore the History of Manchester at the Millyard Museum

things to do in manchester nh
Visiting the historic Amoskeag Mill buildings is one of the things to do in Manchester, New Hampshire, today.

Located in the historic mill district in Mill No. 3, the Millyard Museum tells the story of people’s connection to the land, from the first Native American settlers fishing in the Falls to the bustling mill and manufacturing business of the nineteenth century.

In addition to their permanent exhibit, Woven In Time: 11,000 Years at Amoskeag Falls, they also feature rotating special exhibits on various topics related to their mission.

There is a $10 entry fee for adults, with discounts for seniors, students, and children over 12, while those under 12 are free.

They offer reciprocal membership with the SEE Science Center and even a dual pass for visiting both on the same day.

The Millyard Museum is at 200 Bedford Street, Manchester, 03101.

4- Experience Science-Based Fun At The SEE Science Center

In the same building as Millyard Museum, the SEE Science Center is full of hands-on interactive experiences to explore the world of science.

Check out the Guinness World Record holder for the largest permanent LEGO® installation at mini figure scale in the world depicting Manchester’s own historic mill yard.

Explore DNA, cells, and all of the little things in unique ways and interactive elements.

Get shocked while exploring electricity and magnetism, fun for the whole family!

There is a $10 admission fee for visitors over three, but they offer several reciprocal programs for discounted or even free admission so check ahead on their website to see if you qualify.

The SEE Science Center is at 200 Bedford Street, Manchester, 03101.

5- Catch A Stream At Amoskeag Fishways

If you visit during the summer, learn about the local fish and waterways with live animals, exhibits, and environmental programs for the whole family.

The Merrimac River was crucial to powering the textile mills of 19th century Manchester that fueled New England economics, but later, the Amoskeag Fishways was created as a ladder to help fish safely pass through the dam.

You can even use their underwater viewing windows from May through early June to watch fish migrating upstream.

While there is no fee to enter, donations of $2 per person or $5 for a family are encouraged to help this institution continue its work.

The Amoskeag Fishways Learning and Visitors Center is at 4 Fletcher Street, Manchester, NH 03102.

6- Explore French-American Culture

The Franco-American Centre promotes the French language, culture, and heritage through educational programs, cultural activities, and social events.

Their biggest event is the annual NH PoutineFest in October, where local restaurants showcase their twist on this French-Canadian staple.

Located on the St Anselm campus, they host a variety of artistic and historical exhibitions as well as Language classes and meet-ups locally and around the state.

Many of their events and other offerings are free, but check their website for details.

The Franco-American Centre is at 100 St Anselm Drive #1798, Manchester, 03102.

7- Go Tax-Free Shopping In The Mall of New Hampshire

While you can receive the no sales-tax benefit at any retail location in New Hampshire, the Mall of New Hampshire provides a perfect opportunity to scratch that itch.

It has over 115 specialty stores ranging from your typical big department store brands to the Manchester Craft Market featuring handmade gifts by local artists.

Being on the South Willow strip also provides easy access to other stores and restaurants in various strip malls.

The Mall of New Hampshire is located at 1500 S Willow Street, Manchester, 03103.

8- Catch a Baseball Game at the Delta Dental Stadium

Watch the Minor League New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the only professional sports team in New Hampshire, run the bases while eating a hot dog and sipping on a cold drink.

The three-time Eastern League champions will certainly give you a game worth watching and in a prime location.

Since the field is within walking distance of Downtown, it allows you to enjoy the best of Manchester before and after a game.

Delta Dental Stadium is at 1 Line Drive, Manchester, 03101.

9- See A Show At The Palace Theater

Built and designed in 1914 to mimic New York City’s Flagship Palace Theatre, this historic theatre continues to bring culture to downtown Manchester today as the sole survivor of the former cultural district of Manchester dubbed the “Great White Way”.

This performance venue, listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, provides performances to the public across various genres, including ballets, musicals, live bands, and comedy.

In 2018, they opened a youth theatre nearby called Forever Emma Studios and opened the Spotlight Theater next door to the Palace as an alternative, intimate venue for events, parties, and performances.

In 2019, the Palace added a fourth location, the Rex Theatre, for concerts, comedy, community events, and theatre for up to 300 guests a block behind the Palace.

The Palace Theatre is at 80 Hanover Street, Manchester, 03101.

10- Catch A Concert, Game, or Show at SNHU Arena

The Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) Arena is the largest indoor venue in the city, seating over 10,000 people.

It’s a popular location for concerts, sports games like hockey and basketball, and other events so check their website when planning a trip to Manchester in case you can catch something of interest.

It’s located in downtown Manchester, making it easy to explore restaurants, bars, and stores afterwards.

The SNHU Arena is at 555 Elm Street, Manchester, 03101.

11- Find A Good Book And More At The Bookery

The recent revitalization of Manchester has resulted in a bustling downtown full of options day or night, with various shops to get that perfect souvenir or boutique item.

Stop by Manchester’s only independent bookstore, The Bookery, to pick up a good book and enjoy a beverage or snack in their cafe.

Their selection of books is personally curated to help you find the best books on the market; they will even order a book if they don’t have one.

They also feature a fantastic selection of literary-themed gifts for the perfect bookworm in your life (including yourself).

There’s always something happening, including author talks and book signings, weekly storytimes and crafts for the little ones, and book clubs so check their event schedule ahead of time.

The alley next to the store is also a cute, hidden gem of the city dubbed “cat alley” as the walls feature multiple murals of cats from different artists.

The Bookery is at 844 Elm Street, Manchester, 03101.

12- Tackle A Board Game At Boards And Brews

Love board games? Then the board game cafe Boards and Brews in Downton Manchester is your destination.

For $5, you receive unlimited play for the day with their 1600+ board games allowing a fun, unique day to try out some of the best board games on the market.

Food and drinks are available for purchase, including alcohol, though they are still a family-friendly venue.

Boards and Brews is at 941 Elm Street, Manchester, 03101.

13- Downtown Nightlife Eats and Drinks

fun things to do in manchester nh merrimack river
The Manchester skyline and the Merrimack River.

Downtown Manchester has wonderful options for eats and drinks on your nightlife adventures, from casual to fancy.

Explore American comfort food with a sophisticated twist at Cotton, a casual upscale dining experience considered 1 of the 10 best neighbourhood restaurants in the Northeast by Bon Apetit Magazine.

If you’re craving sushi or other Japanese options, Kisaki Japanese Cuisine ranks among the best in the state, particularly for sushi.

Savour a mouthwatering steak at the Hanover Street Chophouse, an award-winning steakhouse.

If you are staying somewhere with a grill, the Chophouse also offers a weekly pop-up butcher shop offering pristine cuts of steak and seafood as well as their wine selection to create your meal at your home away from home.

Downtown Manchester has no shortage of bars and pubs, including the Thirstymoose Taphouse, Bonfire Restaurant and Country Bar, Murphy’s Taproom, Strange Brew Tavern, the speakeasy 815 Cocktails and Provisions, the Wild Rover Pub and Restaurant, the Shaskeen Pub and Restaurant, McGarveys, and more all along Elm and various side streets, making it easy to find an atmosphere that’s right for you.

Cotton is at 75 Arms Street, Manchester, 03101. Kisaki is at 641 Elm Street
Manchester, 03101. The Hanover Street Chophouse is at 149 Hanover Street, Manchester, 03101.

14- Dig In At The Red Arrow

For the past 100 years, the Red Arrow Diner has been serving the best comfort food around, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner served 24 hours a day if you can squeeze in.

In quintessential New England fashion based on the train diners of old, the Red Arrow is a tiny location featuring a few booths and bar seating.

The Red Arrow Diner has been continually rated one of the best diners in the world by various media outlets, drawing celebrities of all kinds, including TV and film stars, comedians, and even politicians, during the NH primary campaign.

Try one of their gigantic burgers if you’re feeling adventurous and hungry or one of their Frappe options, what we in New England call a milkshake.

While they have three other locations in New Hampshire, the Manchester location is the original.

The Red Arrow Diner is at 61 Lowell Street, Manchester, 03101.

15- Eat Chicken Tenders At The Place That Claims To Have Invented Them: The Puritan Backroom

Named for its unusual entrance in the back, the Puritan Backroom’s vast menu features various specialties ranging from typical Greek fare to pizzas and bison burgers.

But its most popular and famous offering is its chicken tenders coming in 4 flavours: regular, spicy, Buffalo, and coconut, and in every way imaginable, including entrees, appetizer platters, wraps, sides, and even toppings for their salads and pizzas both for in-restaurant dining and their popular take-out counter.

While they feature two usual dipping sauces (honey mustard and ranch), their house-made special duck sauce is an unusual treat.

The current owner and NH politician, Chris Pappas, claims they invented chicken tenders in 1974 when they would trim down chicken breasts and decided to use the leftover strips by frying them up.

But, while they are the first national restaurant to use the term, many diners and restaurants around the country had been using variations of these leftover pieces, such as chicken nuggets, chicken strips, and chicken fingers.

Whether or not they invented chicken tenders, it’s a fabulous restaurant with fantastic food and rich history.

The Puritan Backroom is at 245 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 03104. Don’t forget to go around to the back to enter.

16- Explore Wooded Trails at Livingston Park

The Granite State is well-known for its outdoor adventure options and Manchester has some fun options without leaving the city.

Livingston Park provides a wonderful 1.06 mile (1.7 km) hiking loop around Dorrs Pond in addition to its two playgrounds and swimming pool.

Despite being just off Hooksett Road (close to the Puritan Backroom), the park is nestled with plenty of trees to help you escape the city on a very nice, easy, relaxing walk in nature.

Derryfield Park is a dog-friendly 76-acre (30.8 ha) park on the east side of Manchester with multiple sports fields, a playground, and a couple of short walking trails through the woods.

The main trail is the easy Ski Lift and Observatory Loop, which is 1.2 miles (1.9 km).

Explore a swamp at the Manchester Cedar Swamp, a Nature Conservancy urban preserve covering 640 acres (259 ha) with 1.8 miles (2.9 km) of trails.

The Cedar Swamp All Persons Trail is accessible by assistive and adaptive devices, such as wheelchairs and strollers, though bicycles are prohibited.

Livingston Park is at 156 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 03104. Derryfield Park is at Bridge Street, Manchester, 03104. Manchester Cedar Swamp is at Country Side Boulevard, Manchester, 03102.

17- Climb to the top of Rock Rimmon

Enjoy an easy hike for the whole family up this 150-foot (45.7m) boulder to see great views of southeastern Manchester, including the Uncannonac Mountains and foothills.

Rock Rimmon is part of Rock Rimmon Park which also features a playground, pool, and courts for pickleball and basketball, all against the granite backdrop of Rock Rimmon.

Feel free to pack a picnic, but take all your trash with you.

Rock Rimmon Park is at 264 Mason St, Manchester, 03102.

18- Scout Out Some History At The Lawrence Lee Scouting Museum

Featuring the northeast’s largest display of Scouting memorabilia, the Lee Scouting Museum’s exhibits tell the history of scouting worldwide.

The Max I. Silber library has a variety of scouting-related materials, including Scouting periodicals, yearbooks, fiction and non-fiction series, and a Braille and visually-impaired library of Scout and Cub handbooks.

If you have a scout in your party, they offer badges for purchase and workshops to earn badges, so check ahead to see if they are offering anything of interest or even request one.

The Lawrence Lee Scouting Museum is at 395 Blondin Road, Manchester, 03109.

19- Hit The Slopes At The McIntyre Ski Area

things to do in manchester nh in winter
If you’re looking for things to do in Manchester nh in winter, try skiing.

With 11 trails and two magic carpets, McIntyre Ski Area provides a wonderful opportunity to hit the slopes without leaving Manchester!

It’s a relatively small mountain that provides generous support for beginner skiers but also fun options for experts.

If skiing isn’t for everyone in your party, consider the 8-lane Snowtubing Bonneville Family Thrill Hill to provide some age-appropriate winter fun.

The McIntyre Ski Area is at 50 Chalet Way, Manchester, New Hampshire 03104.

20- Relax And Enjoy The Scenery At Lake Massabesic

things to do in manchester nh this weekend massabesic lake
Enjoying the scenery around Massabesic Lake is one of the tranquil things to do in Manchester NH.

Often cited as one of New England’s most beautiful lakes, Lake Massabesic in Southern Manchester, at about 2,560 acres (1,040 ha), and crossing into Auburn is a sight to behold.

You can’t swim or waterski since it is the source of Manchester’s drinking water, but you can fish, kayak/ canoe and sail.

There are also over 50 miles of trails for running, hiking, and biking around the lake, providing the perfect outdoor escape on a beautiful day.

We hope you enjoyed this breakdown of the 20 best things to do while visiting Manchester, NH.

It’s a wonderful stop in New England, providing a less hectic visit than larger locations like Boston, with plenty of art, culture, food, and nature offerings.

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Sarah Hoffschwelle is an author and freelance writer with a Bachelor’s in English and a Master’s in Museum Studies focusing on science communication and education. Originally from Texas, she moved to South Korea as a child for a couple of years, travelling to China, Thailand, Japan, and Australia during her time there. She has travelled to Germany, England, and Ireland and studied abroad for a summer in Italy. She currently lives in New Hampshire and continues to travel domestically as much as possible and is planning several international trips for the next few years