This hands-on science museum is great for families with kids, though curious adults will learn here too. See if you can outsmart some tricky brain puzzles or hoist yourself up in a seat attached to a pulley system. Special exhibits come through at times, but the attraction that makes this museum stand out is the Lego Millyard Project. This reproduction of the Amoskeag Millyard circa 1900 is the largest permanent Lego installation at minifigure scale in the world, and it’s definitely worth seeing.
Who knew a quiet residential neighborhood in Manchester would hold the perfect little art museum? The Currier is a manageable size and very well-maintained. The permanent collection boasts pieces by Monet, Sargent, Picasso, Parrish, Hopper, and other renowned American and international artists. Special exhibitions run the gamut from Rembrandt etchings to 1890’s art posters to African textiles. From the museum, you can also tour the nearby Zimmerman House, a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the Usonian style. The museum shop is one of the best places in Manchester to find unique jewelry, accessories, stationery, and other gifts.
This museum shares a mill building with the SEE Science Center and brings Manchester’s rich history to life. The main exhibit, Woven in Time: 11,000 Years at Amoskeag Falls, begins with the story of native fishermen in the area and highlights how the booming textile production industry shaped Manchester in the early 1900’s. The Millyard Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and Adult admission is $8.
Fresh Market will remind you of a less elaborate Whole Foods, with a “fancy” atmosphere, several bulk bins of nuts, fruits, and mixes, and an impressive meat and seafood counter. Visit the chocolate bar display and the cold drink section to treat yourself to a very special afternoon snack. We recommend the Icelandic Noi Sirius dark chocolate and a Victoria’s Kitchen Licorice Mint Almond Water.
This little strip mall store packs in hundreds of bottles of beer and is staffed by some very knowledgeable guys who love to talk beer and make recommendations. An entire section is devoted to New Hampshire brews, but you’ll also find craft beers from around the country and the world. You’ll also have the opportunity to try several flavors of mead from a few different meaderies based in New Hampshire. On Tuesday afternoons Bert’s hosts free tastings, each from a different brewery or with a theme. Everything is priced as either a single bottle or a multi-bottle pack, and they encourage you to build your own sampler of singles.
If you are in need of mall shopping, the Mall of NH does the trick. Anchored by Sears, Macy’s, JC Penney, and Best Buy, the Mall has everything you’d expect from a mall...and no sales tax!
Just a short drive south of Manchester you’ll find the Merrimack Premium Outlets, a new and very large outdoor outlet mall, where you can freshen up your wardrobe and find some amazing deals on clothing, shoes, and kids’ stuff. Lots of options for the sweater-tying prep in all of us (Sperry Top-Sider, Polo Ralph Lauren, Izod), but our favorite finds have come from J. Crew and Banana Republic, where the styles are current, the clothes in-season, and the prices are about half what you’d see in a mall.
Savers is perhaps the largest, cleanest, and most well-organized thrift store we’ve ever seen. They have a great selection of books, including the types of recently published novels that you would find featured at Target or Barnes & Noble. The clothing sections are expansive and orderly, and the furniture area is small but very reasonably-priced. You never know when you’ll find an awesome retro desk or end table for less than $10!
Stick with Market Basket or another big supermarket for produce that isn’t overpriced, but sometimes you need specialty foods (local raw milk or pastured meats, coconut oil, kombucha) that’s where A Market comes in! A Market is a small natural foods store with lots of raw and vegan offerings, supplements, and natural beauty products.
This new, large grocery store is great for the bulk of your typical food shopping needs. It has great prices on meats and produce, a decent selection of natural deli meats like Applegate Farms, local craft beers and Belgian beers, and a wide variety of Asian, Hispanic, and African ingredients. Market Basket is clean and well-stocked. Just don’t plan to avoid crowds by shopping late at night: they close at 9 p.m. every day except Sundays, when they close at 7 p.m.
Set back on a quiet side street off Elm, Strange Brew can get crowded at times, but snag a table outside or in the back room and you won’t be disappointed with their happy hour deals. Specials vary from day to day, but our favorite is Friday’s $3 draft beers (over 100 to choose from) or single-liquor drinks and half-price appetizers from 4 to 7 p.m. Harpoon is always $2.50 a pint. Try the fried pickles, wings, or enormous plate of nachos and enjoy fresh complimentary popcorn with your local beer or mead—you may not need dinner after these hearty appetizers!
You’ll find Murphy’s right across from the Verizon Wireless Arena toward the southern end of downtown. With $2 drafts from 4 to 6 p.m. every day, 120 beers on tap, a full food menu, and ample indoor and outdoor seating, this just might be the best happy hour spot in town.
Manchester’s only microbrewery, Milly’s brews their beers onsite at their millyard location. Enjoy espresso stout, pumpkin ale, Manch-Vegas IPA, or even homemade root beer at happy hour—$2 beers and half-price appetizers Monday through Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m.
Real barbecue tucked away on Manchester’s West Side, this large, casual restaurant is great for relaxing with a group. Try the portobello mushroom fries to start, then pick your meats and sides and sample all the sauces at your table. Ribs, brisket, and sausage are all delicious choices. If you’re a table of two, the QQ Pladda will let you try almost everything and bring home enough for tomorrow’s lunch. To drink, try a specialty margarita or a 34 oz. “Bubba size” Pigs’ Ear Brown Ale.
Gauchos is a classic Brazilian steakhouse. Pay a single price for all-you-can-eat, then attempt to try everything at the salad bar without getting too full. Enjoy the sweet plantains and fried yucca brought to your table, and finally let the parade of meat begin. Each diner has a card that is green on one side and red on the other. Leaving the green side up ensures that the wandering meat-bringers will stop at your table to carve you slices of beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and sausage. Step outside your comfort zone and request a skewer of chicken hearts—organ meat is full of nutrients!
A farm-to-table restaurant with a Mediterranean focus, Republic’s food, staff, and decor make it the perfect choice for a comfortable dinner out with friends. The chalkboard by the door lists the local farms from which Republic has sourced all its produce and animal products. They take seasonality seriously, which means often the daily burger, salad, or fish specials will be the freshest and most interesting meal choices. Starters are great too; we recommend the Kefta and Whipped Fresh Spicy Feta. The cocktail list is thoughtful and classic, and if alcohol isn’t up your alley, try a spritzer made with fresh juices and herbs or a spiced iced frappe coffee.
Hooked specializes in seafood of all types, including a fully-stocked raw bar. We think the appetizers are so tasty and generously portioned that we often make a meal out of a few different starters. Calamari, mussels, and tuna tartar are good places to start. Service is friendly and professional.
Mint is the perfect choice if you are planning a nice dinner out with two types of people: those who like sushi, and those who don’t. The sushi selection is fresh and innovative, but unlike at most sushi restaurants, a disliker-of-raw-fish isn’t relegated to a sticky, boring teriyaki bowl. The dinner menu includes starters such as shortrib nachos or truffled parmesan fries, and upscale steakhouse-like entrees. And maybe you love sushi, but don’t love how much it you have to eat to feel full. Now you can pair your sashimi with a pork chop!
Adjoined to a classic Manchester restaurant, you’ll find an ice cream shop where bored teenagers will serve you way-too-big scoops of ice cream for just a few dollars each. Don’t let lousy weather stop you—in New Hampshire, ice cream is a treat for all seasons! Puritan ice cream has been around for almost 100 years, and it’s still made on premises in small batches.
Maybe you overdid the ice cream, or you just want a dessert that’s slightly more elegant. At Dancing Lion, they are chocolate lovers and chocolate experts. You can buy bars, fudge, or bonbons to enjoy later, but the best way to taste their excellent chocolate is in drinkable form. There is nothing like cupping your hands around a ceramic bowl filled with dark chocolate blended with either milk or water until smooth and frothy. It’s hard to believe that chocolate blended with water can be so decadent and intense. Add a shot of espresso to your chocolate or pair it with a fresh croissant made using techniques the owner learned in Paris.
Sunshine Scoops is everything you want from a little neighborhood ice cream shop. It’s owned by a very friendly woman who not only serves ice cream, but her beautiful handmade eclairs, tarts, cakes, and other pastries.
Just up the road in Hooksett, Cinemagic is your best bet in the Manchester area for a night out at the movies. The theater has 15 screens including one IMAX theater, the only one in New Hampshire. Seats are large, clean, and comfy, and the steep stadium seating means you don’t have to worry about a head blocking your view. Play some air hockey in the arcade if you arrive too early.
The Palace Theatre in Downtown Manchester is a non-profit performing arts center where you can watch professional productions, children’s plays, and the occasional concert or ballet. The Palace opened in 1915 and hosted regular vaudeville performances as one of the area’s 22 theatres known as the “Great White Way.” Today it is Manchester’s only surviving venue from the era.
Manchester’s ice hockey team, the Monarchs, has been around since 2001 and is the Los Angeles Kings’ AHL affiliate team (Monarchs, Kings—get it?). Hockey games at the Verizon Wireless Arena, just south of downtown in Manchester, are lively and professional with stellar views from every seat and intermission entertainment like mini hockey games played by adorable 6-year-olds. Ticket prices range from $19 to $31.
Now downtown can boast a true coffee shop, one with plenty of seating, cute decor, and friendly baristas. Cafe la Reine is a great place to work, meet with friends, or grab a drink to go. This cafe is open in the evenings (until 8 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays) so you can get your after-dinner coffee. Try the white chocolate cinnamon latte to achieve that warm and cozy feeling without resorting to the typical pumpkin flavors. Cafe la Reine has sourced a delicious chai concentrate from Third Street Chai. It’s not too sweet and perfectly spiced, with an awesomely short and understandable ingredient list. Smoothies are excellent and packed with fruit. Sandwiches, salads, and pastries are also served.
If you’d rather make your morning cup at home, we highly recommend getting your beans from CQ Coffee Roasters. A small but growing operation out of a Manchester suburb, the quality of this coffee is on par with that of the most well-known west coast roasters. Claudia, the owner, is coffee-obsessed in all the right ways. Her website has some great specifics on making the perfect pour-over cup. We can also testify that CQ coffee is great cold-brewed! Claudia will deliver beans locally to make sure you can use the most freshly-roasted beans. The coffee is also available for purchase at Angela’s Pasta and Cheese Shop in Manchester and The Meat House in Bedford.
Inside one of Manchester’s historic mill buildings, you’ll find the city’s only indoor rock climbing gym, where you can boulder, lead climb, top rope, or scale the routes in the 70-foot elevator shaft. Exercise your mind and body no matter what the weather’s like outside! P.S. They accept payment in Bitcoin!
If you want a regular exercise regimen with friendly, knowledgeable coaches and a new challenging workout every day, we recommend training at Granite State CrossFit. Begin with the Elements program to learn the proper form for Olympic lifts and other complex exercises, then join the regular classes, offered several times a day, to build your strength and endurance with short (usually less than 30 minutes), high-intensity workouts. The community of coaches and members is extremely welcoming and because everything is scaleable, they’ll push you enough to get results, but not so hard that you’ll be scared to come back.
If it’s your rest day or a walk is more your speed, there’s no better setting than the one-mile path around Dorrs Pond in Livingston Park. Friendly to runners, walkers, dogs, and strollers, this mostly-flat path gives you great views of the picturesque pond framed by trees. It’s a great place to observe the changing seasons.
Red Arrow is a small, classic diner with a retro feel, right down to the gruff older waitress. It’s a famous Manchester destination that boasts of the many celebrities and politicians who have dined there. Open 24 hours a day, any breakfast is a solid choice. They also serve homemade pies, whoopie pies, and Dinah Fingers—their version of a Twinkie.
The other 24-hour diner in Manchester, Airport Diner is attached to the Holiday Inn near Manchester Airport, and is much larger than Red Arrow though it’s missing some of the old-school charm. This restaurant is one of 18 in the Common Man New Hampshire chain. Try a grass-fed beef burger or the NH Farm Breakfast, which includes local eggs and bacon.
Located on the West Side of Manchester in a historically French neighborhood, Chez Vachon has a full, and good, breakfast and lunch menu. But this diner is most notable for its poutine, the French-Canadian dish of fries, cheese curds, and gravy.
A cute and cozy breakfast spot filled with kitschy country decor and knick-knacks, Julien’s serves up omelets and other breakfasts with surprisingly high-end ingredients like asparagus and proscuitto or shaved prime rib.
A giant bowl of this Vietnamese soup just might last you two meals—an excellent value for under $10. Start with a rich bone broth and thin rice noodles, choose your meat, then add in bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, lime, and hot sauce for a soup that is at once complex and comforting. You’ll find other noodle dishes, Chinese food, and even pad thai on the menu, but we always stick with an energizing and hearty bowl of pho.
Get your fix of Nepali cuisine with choices like goat curry rice, mushroom curry, spicy mustard leaf soup, and of course momos, the delicate little steamed dumplings filled with meats, veggies, or paneer. The use of fresh vegetables and some unusual meats, usually seasoned with dry rubs rather than heavy sauces, makes this a unique and light choice for lunch.
The common misconception that there is no good, authentic Mexican food in New Hampshire can be proven wrong after just one meal at El Rincon. This taqueria serves authentic, simple street tacos with meat, cilantro, onion, and lime, the best al pastor ever, and delicious homemade chips and horchata. Rumor is the owners grow their own beans and raise their own pigs for the restaurant. If you want more adventurous meats like lengua and tripe, this is your spot. BYOB.
Mi Pueblito is El Rincon’s counterpart on the west side of Manchester. Easy takeout with delicious tacos and the only place we know of in New Hampshire to get pupusas, the Salvadorean thick filled corn tortillas. Try them filled with pork and cheese or loroco, a mild green vegetable. Their hot red salsa is truly spicy.
India Palace has a popular daily lunch buffet, but is great for takeout or eating in at any time of day. All dishes can be ordered mild, medium, or hot. In addition to the usual mango lassi, India Palace also offers coconut and strawberry lassis. The food is up there with our all-time favorite Indian spots. Try the Goan Shrimp Curry or the Chicken Makhani.