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Manchester is one of the must-visit places in Vermont. From outdoor activities to great restaurants, from fishing and kayaking to literature and art, there are countless great things to do in Manchester, Vermont.
I’ve been exploring Manchester, Vermont for nearly 20 years. In 2004, my family moved to the area and though most of us have spread further around Vermont, we return to Manchester frequently. It’s a sweet Vermont village that combines rural charm with a bit of luxury.
Get ready for some insider tips and suggestions for the best things to do in Manchester VT!
Awesome Things to Do in Manchester VT and Nearby
1. Explore Downtown Manchester
One of the best things to do in Manchester VT is simply to explore its quaint downtown. There are lots of shops, restaurants, a general store, an iconic bookstore, a waterfall. I could go on and on. (And I will later on in this travel guide!) Manchester is absolutely charming and has lots to see.
As you walk down Main Street, you might even spot my favorite oddity: a storefront filled with cats! I guess it’s an architect or design store, but I’ve never had cause to go in. I’ve merely stood out front and cooed at the kitties!
2. Climb Mount Equinox (or drive up)
As soon as you enter Manchester’s cute downtown, you can’t help but notice the tall, rolling mountain in the background. This is Mt Equinox and it seems to hug the town protectively, and if you want the best views in Manchester, it’s where you’ll need to go.
It has given its name to many nearby things, including a hotel, country club, and an alternative radio station (WEQX). Sitting at an elevation of 3840 feet, it is not the tallest mountain in Vermont, but it is the highest in the Taconic Range.
You can get to the top of this impressive hill either on foot or by car. If you decide to tackle Mt. Equinox sans vehicle, you can take the trail that departs from just behind the high school (Burr & Burton Academy).
This Mount Equinox trail is a 6.8 mile round-trip hike that is steep and challenging. It is recommended most for intermediate to advanced hikers, or those in good shape who relish a challenge. That Equinox mountain view from the summit is well worth the climb.
Not feeling the hiking vibe? You can drive to the top of Mt Equinox, too. Drive a few minutes south of Manchester on Route 7A and you’ll find the entrance to Mount Equinox Skyline Drive. This route will take you to the summit of Mt Equinox.
The price, like the drive, is also a bit steep (pun intended!) The toll road will cost you $25 or $30 for the vehicle and driver (depending on time of year) and an additional $5 per passenger. In my experience, this is worth the cost, though! Please note Skyline Drive is only open from Memorial Day Weekend to October 31st.
Also, there’s fun at the base of Mount Equinox, too! The scenery at Equinox Pond is absolutely unparalleled when the fall foliage is bursting into color around the water.
3. Visit the West Arlington Covered Bridge
Seeing Vermont’s famous covered bridges is an essential activity on any Vermont vacation. Just 15 minutes south of Manchester, you’ll find one of the best ones!
When you head to the West Arlington Covered Bridge, you will admire a classic Norman Rockwell scene. With a covered bridge, old church, and wide open fields, this pastoral area is not only one of the most highly photographed in Vermont, but Norman Rockwell himself used to live right here! It’s no surprise he painted such iconic pictures when he had landscapes like this surrounding him!
As a side note, I used to live about 3 minutes away from this bridge. So you could kind of say that Norman Rockwell and I were almost…neighbors? Just a century or so apart!
4. Play Pinball!
Did you grow up playing in arcades? You can jump into the past at Pastime Pinball in Manchester Vermont. There are more than 60 classic games available in this space, and they’re all set to free play! You just may a flat entry fee at the door.
You and the whole family can have a great time playing together on their fantastic pinball machines. Add this to the list of things to do in Manchester VT on a rainy day.
5. Browse one of New England’s best independent bookstores: Northshire Bookstore
Manchester is home to one of my favorite bookstores in New England, the Northshire Bookstore. This is an independent bookstore that has been in business for decades. Before opening as the Northshire in 1976, this Main Street building housed an inn.
Today, the bookstore is a cozy, inviting shop that makes you want to browse for HOURS. There are thousands of great books lining the shelves, including discounted used books. This Manchester bookstore is arranged in sections, and you’ll find special sections for bookseller recommendations, local Vermont books, and more.
Quirky gifts, Vermont-themed souvenirs, and eco-friendly clothing round out the offerings. The entire 2nd floor is dedicated to an adorable Children’s Section.
The bookstore regularly hosts events with well-known authors, so it’s worth checking out their calendar during your trip to Manchester VT.
PS: While there is so much to do in Manchester, there are also nearby towns and areas that offer their own worthwhile attractions. These include Londonderry, Dorset, Bennington, Weston, Chester, and Arlington. Consider doing one of these as a day trip from Manchester!
6. Visit Hildene, the Lincoln family home
If you like historic homes—or a bit of presidential history—you may want to visit Hildene. This stately 1905 mansion was once the home of Robert Todd Lincoln, the only surviving son of President Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln.
Hildene offers a glimpse into life at the turn of the century and touring this historic home is one of the top family things to do in Manchester Vermont. The rooms are filled with history and there are sections devoted to Lincoln himself. Though the 16th president never set foot in Hildene, his legacy is certainly present.
Of all the cool things at Hildene, I thought these two items were the most incredible. In fact, I got chills seeing them! The first is one of Abraham Lincoln’s famous stovepipe top hats; the second is a mirror that hung in the Lincoln White House. And according to Hildene president Brian Keefe, this looking glass “was possibly the last place where Abraham Lincoln saw his own likeness before he was killed.” Amazing!
Hildene is about more than the mansion, too. The adjoining European style gardens are magnificent, and make for a sweet spot to walk around.
There are also impressive views out over the valley from behind the home. The 412-acre estate is also home to a working farm (with adorable goats!), extensive walking trails, and a 1903 Pullman train car exhibit, among other attractions.
NEXT: Want more on Vermont’s historic sites?
7. Enjoy flowers and farm fun at Equinox Valley Nursery
Head south on Route 7A out of Manchester’s shopping district, and it won’t be long before you find yourself in farm country. A few miles down the road you’ll find the Equinox Valley Nursery, which is a must-see part of the Vermont countryside.
This is the perfect seasonal destination when visiting Manchester in spring, summer, fall or winter, as the products and wares reflect the current season.
Fall is prime time to stop by Equinox Valley, as this is when a sprawling pumpkin patch takes over (one of my favorite Vermont pumpkin patches!). The nursery is filled with autumnal mums and tiny gourds waiting to turn your home into a fall wonderland; it’s definitely one of the cutest places to see in Manchester.
After wandering through the flowers and pumpkins, get lost in their tall, winding corn maze, and bite into some piping hot apple cider donuts, sweet and fresh from the fryer. This is especially good if you’re looking for family outdoor activities in Manchester VT in fall.
8. See the former home of New England’s top poet, Robert Frost
Are you a literary lover? One of the best things to do near Manchester VT is visit the old home of Robert Frost, New England’s most well-known poet. This is located in Shaftsbury, Vermont, and it is called The Robert Frost Stone House Museum.
Robert Frost is inextricably connected with New England, having written a great many poems focused on the nature and culture of the region, so if you’re looking for places to visit in Manchester with a cool historical connection, definitely consider the Stone House Museum.
You can see where he lived and wrote a few of his most well-known works, including “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.” So much of what he wrote was evocative of New England’s seasons, from snow-laden paths to stone walls and apple-picking.
You can also visit the resting place of Robert Frost. He is buried in Old Bennington Cemetery in Bennington, VT.
9. Visit the Southern Vermont Arts Center
Whether you’re an art aficionado or just have a vague passing interesting in the arts, the Southern Vermont Arts Center should be on your list of Manchester VT things to do! This is a quaint art museum set in a historic home, with an incredible array of outdoor sculptures that are uniquely interesting.
There’s a cafe onsite, as well.
10. Tube or paddle the Batten Kill River
One of our favorite outdoor things to do in Manchester VT is to enjoy the nearby length of river. The Batten Kill River snakes its way through Manchester, Arlington, and into New York state. The stretch along Route 313 is ideal for a short paddling or tubing trip. The river is typically gentle and not very deep, and makes for a peaceful, fun excursion on a hot Vermont summer day.
If you have your own tube, you can enter the river from the first bridge crossing over the river, just after where Route 313 intersects with Route 7A. Tube a couple hours downriver and exit at the covered bridge.
Don’t have a tube? No worries. There are several spots renting tubes throughout the height of summer. One of these is Battenkill Valley Outdoors which is located just over the border in New York state.
If it’s fall when you visit Vermont, you can still go paddling downriver (though tubing would be far too chilly), or simply admire the gorgeous foliage fringing the Battenkill.
Fall in Manchester VT is absolutely gorgeous.
11. Learn how to drive off-road with the Land Rover Experience
Have you ever wanted to drive off-road like a rugged badass? The Land Rover Experience, through the Equinox Resort, can make this happen for you. Options range from a 25-minute adventure ride to a full day incredible experience. Learn to drive the versatile Land Rover and encounter all kinds of terrain in all seasons and weather.
You’ll learn how to tackle obstacles and generally have an awesome time driving in the woods of Manchester, Vermont. Our friends at Nothing But New England wrote about their own take on the Land Rover experience here; this would definitely be a unique Manchester VT experience!
12. Hike to Lye Brook Falls
Hiking is a must-do activity in Vermont and Manchester is no exception. There are a range of popular hikes you could experience, but Lye Brook Falls is a easy to moderate day hike that comes with a great reward: one of Vermont’s prettiest waterfalls!
Your destination is the picturesque Lye Brook Falls, towering in the woods and tumbling 125 feet down a rocky ledge. Many people recommend Lye Brook Falls as a great family hike, so if you’re looking for things to do with kids in Manchester VT, you should add this to the list. This 4.7 mile out and back trail takes about 3 hours to complete from start to finish.
A late spring visit, such as in early May, may be when the falls are at their fullest, but beware a wet and muddy trail if heading out in spring.
Some other popular hikes near Manchester include Prospect Rock Trail, Little Rock Pond Trail, and various options at Equinox Preservation Trust.
13. Enjoy a trail ride or sleigh ride on horseback
When searching for Manchester VT’s top things to do, what could be more quaint than a horse-drawn adventure? In the winter months, you can take a traditional sleigh ride through the snow.
For a horse-drawn sleigh ride, check out Taylor Farm, just up the road in Londonderry, VT. They offer traditional box-style sleigh rides pulled by impressive Belgian draft horses. Blankets are provided on every ride.
The sleigh rides last for approximately 45 minutes including a fireside stop in the woods with beautiful views; definitely one of the top things Londonderry VT is known for in winter.
In any season, head over to Mountain View Ranch in Danby, VT for a guided trail ride. These rides are perfect for travelers of all ages and abilities and you’ll enjoy beautiful views as you ride your trusty steed through Vermont’s woods.
14. Eat at Up for Breakfast
While there are several great places to grab a yummy breakfast in Manchester, VT, I highly recommend the adorable Up for Breakfast. Located—you guessed it—upstairs, this cozy eatery is always hopping in the mornings. Since it is small, it fills up easily, so the earlier you can get up (literally!) the better. Don’t miss their yummy flavored coffees and plentiful breakfast staples like pancakes with Vermont maple syrup!
15. Relax at Emerald Lake
Just north of Manchester is a beautiful lake, fringed with green. The aptly named Emerald Lake State Park is home to one of the prettiest lakes near Manchester VT and is the perfect place to swim, sunbathe, or go for a paddle.
I went here countless summer days with my family and it’s absolutely lovely. It’s shallow enough in parts for floating and swimming with kids, but also worth exploring by boat.
If you want to have a Vermont summer adventure, rent one of the available kayaks, canoes, or paddleboards for an hour or so. The lake is small enough to explore all sides of it.
After your done, take a walk on some of the nature trails surrounding the lake. Whatever you choose to do at Emerald Lake, you’ll be enjoying beautiful views in all shades of green.
16. Grab a latte at Charlie’s Coffee House
I don’t travel anywhere in Vermont without seeking out the best maple latte. Well, I found it here at Charlie’s Coffee House in Manchester.
This is a cute Manchester coffee shop with pastries, sandwiches, and more, and if you’re lucky, you might see the shop’s namesake dog Charlie padding around looking for pats!
17. Pick up some fresh produce at the Dutton Farm Stand
On the hunt for farm-grown fruits, vegetables, and other products? Dutton Farm Stand is the perfect stop for these things while you’re in Manchester. It’s just up Route 11 toward Londonderry and you’ll find the bright, sunny farm stand surrounded by flowering plants and even the occasional goat or two.
Here you can find maple syrup, fudge, jams, apple cider, and a variety of fruits and veggies. In the summer months, stop by for some Pick-Your-Own opportunities.
18. Attend some fantastic theatre performances
There are several wonderful theatres in the area that can provide you with unparalleled entertainment. For the most part, summer through early fall is when you can enjoy professional productions in nearby Dorset and Weston, VT.
The Dorset Playhouse offers the Dorset Theatre Festival, a summer season of plays including several new works by renowned playwrights.
In Weston, roughly 30 minutes from Manchester, you’ll find the Weston Playhouse. This is a phenomenal summer theatre that presents a variety of shows including award-winning musicals. This is Broadway-caliber theatre and I can attest that I’ve seen some amazing productions here at Weston, including Hairspray, Rent, and Les Miserables.
19. Swim in the Dorset Quarry
The Dorset Quarry is one of the region’s most popular swimming spots. This 60-foot deep granite quarry offers cool, inviting waters for a summer swim, and plenty of high ledges for brave souls to jump from into the water, so if you’re in Manchester VT on a hot summer day wondering what is there to do nearby, here ya go!
The Quarry is also historic. It was the country’s oldest commercial marble quarry, first mined in 1785. Stone from the quarry was used in such buildings as the New York Public Library’s main branch as well as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
20. Shop at Manchester Designer Outlets
Manchester Designer Outlets, or MDO, is the one stop shopping experience in Manchester VT that you might be looking for. Do designer brands like Armani, Michael Kors, and Ralph Lauren offered at outlet prices appeal to you? Then you definitely will want to spend a little time shopping in Manchester!
In fact Manchester’s outlets are quite well known and draw visitors from states away. Where else can you find luxury shopping set amidst a small, New England town backdrop?
21. Find adventure in Stratton
Many visitors use Manchester VT as a base for visiting Stratton Mountain Resort. Home to one of the best ski resorts in Vermont and so much more, there’s something going on at Stratton in every season.
In the winter, ski Stratton Mountain, the highest peak in Southern Vermont. It now boasts 99 trails across 670+ skiable acres of terrain. And it’s known as the birthplace of snowboarding; definitely one of the top things to do in Manchester VT in winter.
Summer is just as busy and fun with opportunities for mountain biking, golf, concerts, kayaking, hiking, and more fun Stratton VT things to do.
The alpine-esque Stratton Village is where you can gather with family and friends, dining at great restaurants and exploring fine shops.
22. Discover all things quaint and charming at the Vermont Country Store
About half an hour from Manchester in the town of Weston you’ll find the famous Vermont Country Store.
This is not just one of the top things to do in Manchester, Vermont, but, in so many ways, this is an essential attraction to visit during any Vermont trip. (There’s a second location in Rockingham, VT, but Weston’s store is the original).
The Vermont Country Store is filled with wares of all kinds that you’ll be poring over for hours. It’s a classic general store, but so much more.
In addition to plenty of shopping (think housewares, clothing, old-fashioned candy, Christmas decor, cozy blankets, and even beauty products) you can grab an ice cream or a meal on-site at Mildred’s Grill and Dairy Bar. Be sure to spend some time relaxing on the pretty grounds of the store as well.
Truly, this is one of those classic Vermont things to do that just can’t be missed!
If you’re visiting Manchester as part of a Vermont road trip, especially a road trip along Route 100, you’ll pass the Vermont Country Store!
23. Check out the American Museum of Fly Fishing
Do you have a fisher in your midst? You’re going to want to check out the American Museum of Fly Fishing, then!
A variety of exhibits that cover the history and culture of fishing in the United States will keep the fishing aficionados in the family quite happy!
Places to Stay in Manchester VT
If you’re ready to plan your visit to Southern Vermont, we’ve rounded up some of the best places to stay Manchester VT offers, including our personal recommendation for the romantic Manchester hotel we stayed in and loved!
The Kimpton Taconic Hotel
The Kimpton Taconic Hotel is a beautiful and modern boutique hotel in a great location in historic Manchester village within walking distance to the popular outlet shops of downtown Manchester as well as within easy reach of delicious restaurants and major attractions/activities.
I have personally stayed here with my husband and it was a genuinely terrific experience.
The Taconic has an elegant-meets-rustic style, a cozy and homey place where you’ll want to relax by the roaring fireplace as you watch the falling leaves outside. Many of the rooms have their own fireplaces, which is extra perfect for a romantic getaway in Manchester; it would be absolutely ideal in the fall!
Don’t forget to check out the on-site restaurant The Copper Grouse which has incredible local flavors and awesome cocktails.
In the evenings, the Taconic provides guests with a complimentary glass of wine. This is a lovely time, the “social hour,” and my husband and I enjoyed sitting in rocking chairs on the wide porch and relaxing together near the fire pit.
Aspen at Manchester
Looking for a great place to stay with the family in Manchester Vermont? Consider Aspen at Manchester, a family-run hotel on 9-acres offering rooms that are comfortably decorated with a rustic charm, some featuring spectacular views of Mt Equinox.
Amenities include an outdoor pool, a Great Lawn with lawn games and shuffleboard courts, seasonal fire pits, a gazebo, yoga mats for Sunrise and Sunset Yoga, complimentary grab and go breakfast, and more! Aspen at Manchester is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a great place to stay in Manchester VT with kids or without.
The Reluctant Panther
If you’re looking for romantic things to do in Manchester VT, consider booking a stay at The Reluctant Panther, one of the top spots for romantic getaways in Vermont! This adorable inn has 20 guest rooms and offers romantic features like fireplaces, marble baths, in-room massage, and nightly turndown service.
A generous home-cooked complimentary breakfast is provided each morning, but the Zagat-rated Main Dining Room is also available for dinner service, so gourmet dinner is on the table (he he!) here too.
Read Next: Romantic Vermont Getaways for Couples
Places to Eat in Manchester VT
In between all the fun things you’ll be doing when visiting Manchester, Vermont, you’re sure to work up an appetite, so if you’re wondering where the best restaurants in Manchester VT are, well, here are my top picks!
In the mood for a great burger? Consider Depot Street Burgers. Craving a hearty Vermont meal served up in a historic building? Check out Ye Olde Tavern. If it’s breakfast spots you’re looking for, there are several great options for breakfast in Manchester VT!
Despite being modest in size, Manchester Vermont has a lot of restaurants to choose from and it’s very unlikely that you will go wrong picking any of them.
There are so many fun things to do in Manchester VT, these are just a few ideas to get you going while you plan your next Manchester trip!
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