Our favorite Manchester Vermont things to do – fun driving experiences, art, history, and more!
Over the last few years, Vermont has become one of our favorite travel destinations. We’ve spent significant time road-tripping to various small towns and cities, including Bennington, Killington, Shaftsbury, Brattleboro, and Woodstock. I aim to fully explore The Shires of Southwestern Vermont, a collective of 17 towns and villages. I still have quite a few more places to go.
With plenty of greenery, hiking trails, rivers and tributaries, farms, and friendly locals, Vermont is where we unplug, recharge, and enjoy the peace, quiet, and rugged outdoors. Recently, I had the chance to visit Manchester Vermont adding it to a growing list of quintessential Vermont towns and villages I recommend visiting in New England.
With two trips to Manchester (also known as Manchester Village) under my belt, one solo business trip in winter, and the most recent in spring with my family, Manchester is an all-year-round destination with something for all ages and interests.
In this Manchester travel guide, discover some of my favorite Manchester, VT restaurants, where to stay in Manchester, Manchester, VT things to do, and tips for planning your own epic adventure.
This Manchester travel guide was created in partnership with Manchester Business Association.
All opinions shared are from my personal experience.
Why visit Manchester, Vermont?
Table of Contents
- Why visit Manchester, Vermont?
- When is the best time to visit Manchester?
- Manchester VT Things To Do
- Manchester VT Restaurants
- Where to stay in Manchester?
Unlike some Vermont towns with little tourism infrastructure, Manchester packs a delightful punch. Located in Southwestern Vermont and considered the North Shire, Manchester is at the base of Mt. Equinox, the highest summit in the Taconics.
Welcoming tourists since the mid-1800s, Manchester is a well-known vacation destination a few hour’s drive from major cities like Burlington (VT), New York City, and Boston.
- 4.5 hours from New York City
- 3.5 hours from Boston
- 2.5 hours from Burlington, Vermont
Whether you’re looking for rest or want to spend your days exploring, for a small Vermont mountain town, Manchester offers historic attractions, art galleries, museums, shopping and outlets, plenty of restaurants and watering holes, thrilling driving experiences, hiking, fly-fishing, golf, music festivals, and other types of outdoor recreation.
You can easily spend a day, a long weekend, or an extended stay. I can see why so many people visiting Manchester often purchase second homes here.
Although less than 5,000 people live in Manchester, according to the 2020 census, Downtown Manchester is bustling with restaurants and eateries, cafes, locally owned businesses, boutiques and designer outlets with luxury brands.
With what seems like more roundabouts than stop lights, and sparkling marble sidewalks paying homage to the nearby marble quarries in Dorset, find grandiose and historic Greek revival and Federal-style architecture scattered throughout the area.
When is the best time to visit Manchester?
This is a tough question because there are no right or wrong answers.
Each season offers a unique way to experience Manchester, making it a wonderful place to visit throughout the year.
Nestled between Green Mountains and the Taconic Range, the majestic Green Mountains towers the skyline. Whether visiting during the winter, autumn or the warmer months, the natural scenery is picture-perfect.
With the Green Mountains stretching across the state of Vermont and up into Canada, leaf peeping and apple picking are must-have experiences in the Fall.
Warmer weather (June to August) ushers in outdoor experiences like hiking, kayaking, golfing, and endless outdoor dining, while the winter is perfect for hitting the slopes, skiing, snowshoeing, snow tubing, and ice skating.
Fun Fact: The snowboard was invented in 1977 by Jake Burton Carpenter in his Manchester garage.
Depending on what sort of activities and experiences you’re looking for, plan your trip to Manchester!
Spring is my favorite time to visit Manchester, VT – the weather is mild, you can still do a lot of outdoor activities like hiking and biking, and there are no crowds.
Manchester VT Things To Do
1. Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home
While visiting Manchester, VT, Hildene is a must-see, regardless if you’re a history buff or not.
The Lincoln family home built by President Lincoln’s only child to survive to adulthood, Robert Todd Lincoln, is a summer home coined ‘the cottage’ spanning 412 acres and features 12 miles of trails, a 1905 Georgian Revival Summer home, a fully restored Pullman car, and much more.
You can easily spend half a day touring the estate, which includes a working farm and a floating boardwalk. Take your time and wander on your own or book a guided tour with a knowledgeable guide.
Inside the mansion, read the exhibits in each room to learn what life was like for the wealthy Lincoln family; Robert Todd Lincoln was president of the Pullman Company, the largest manufacturing corporation in the country at the time.
Most of the furniture is original to the family, and some items are original to the home. Upstairs see one of President Lincoln’s three surviving famous silk stovepipe hats.
With so many things to see at Hildene, the Formal Gardens at the back of the home, designed by President Lincoln’s granddaughter, Jessie Lincoln, is undoubtedly my favorite place on the property. Overlooking the Valley of Vermont, the manicured garden is stunning, with one of the best views of Green Mountains.
Before you leave, don’t miss the gift shop, where you can purchase cheese, maple syrup, honey, books, and other souvenirs.
Admission: $23 for adults, $6 for youth under 16, and free for children under 5 years old.
2. Mount Equinox Skyline Drive
Mount Equinox Skyline Drive is another one of my favorite Manchester Vermont attractions. This 5-mile scenic drive to the highest peak in the Taconic Range promises mountain views as far as the eyes can see.
As the longest privately owned, paved toll road in the United States, driving on the winding roads up to the top of Mount Equinox, I recommend stopping at each viewpoint on the way up, offering sweeping vista views.
Expect to spend 20 minutes driving up a gradual but steep incline to the top of the summit.
At the summit, visit the Saint Bruno Scenic Viewing Center to learn more about the Order of Carthusians, a Catholic religious order of monks and nuns that vow silence, solitude, and prayer.
On the outdoor viewing deck, signage points out Burlington, Rutland, Killington Mountain, New Hampshire, New York, and the Adirondack Mountains off in the distance.
When descending, drive carefully; take frequent breaks at the lookout spots to avoid burning out your breaks.
Note: Only motor vehicles like cars and motorcycles are allowed on Skyline Drive. Hiking, walking, and biking are not allowed.
Mount Equinox Skyline Drive is a magical place with views that made my heart soar.
Admission: $25 per car and driver, plus $5 per additional passenger.
3. Southern Vermont Arts Center
Celebrating artwork from Vermonters, regional New England artists, and beyond, visit Southern Vermont Arts Center for all media types, including paintings, drawings, prints, textiles, ceramics, sculptures, jewelry, photography, and more.
I loved the contrast between the main building, Yester House, with ten galleries displaying member artists’ works, and the Wilson Museum & Galleries for contemporary art.
Walking from room to room at Yesterhouse, I felt like I was walking in a historic home equipped with an old-fashioned fireplace, piano room, library, and reading room.
The kid’s playroom was a big hit with Baby K: this is where your little one can play games, color, and be creative without constraint. Here parents can take a deep breath and don’t have to say: “No, don’t touch.”
Across the courtyard, visit the Wilson Museum & Galleries for contemporary art. With stark white walls and high ceilings, you’ll feel worlds away.
During our visit, we viewed work by Alberto Rey, whose exhibit featured large-scale paintings of Battenkill, a 60-mile river from southern Vermont to the Hudson River, highlighting how the natural world is changing and becoming more vulnerable.
While you’re in town, check the calendar for events like workshops, aerial yoga classes, and performances at the 400-seat Vermont barn-style auditorium, which can become an open-air venue when the side walls are rolled open.
Lastly, at Southern Vermont Arts Center, art isn’t confined to the center’s four walls; as you’re driving into the campus, keep an eye out for all types of sculptures in nature, over 120 acres of forest land.
Admission: $10 for adults and free for kids under 10 years old.
4. Land Rover Experience
Have you ever been off-roading?
Before visiting Manchester, I hadn’t considered off-roading as a way to enjoy the outdoors, so when I found out about the Land Rover Experience in Manchester, I couldn’t wait to hop in and give it a go.
If you aren’t familiar, off-roading is when driving on unpaved surfaces like mud, snow, rocks, sand, and other natural terrain.
During this one-hour experience, I sat in the passenger seat while a Land Rover off-roading instructor navigated the steep inclines, declines, and natural obstacles, like ruts and rock crawls. We were deep in the countryside!
Open daily year-round, rain, inclement weather, or shine; get ready for a bumpy ride through the heavily wooded forest.
Holding onto the edge of my seat: I couldn’t believe how our Land Rover titled close to 90 degrees, close enough we could touch the leaves on the ground!
I’m happy we weren’t left to our devices because I’m unsure how I’d handle the rough terrain.
For those interested in developing their driving skills, one-on-one coaching from an expert instructor will help you navigate the challenging terrain and refine your technique so you feel more confident driving in all sorts of intense conditions.
Learn good driving techniques, how to approach obstacles on the course, and cool Land Rover vehicle features, in case you are interested in purchasing one.
Hands down, this is the most fun I’ve ever had riding at 2 mph! Lots of smiles, gasps, and belly laughs.
Admission: $275 per vehicle with up to 3 passengers.
5. Pastime Pinball
While I vaguely remember arcades growing up, Pastime Pinball reminded me of how fun pinballs can be, even as an adult.
Featuring over 60 pinball games, including vintage pinballs dating back to the 1940s, all in mint condition, when you walk into the interactive museum, you’ll be greeted by blinking lights, clicking and clacking, and lots of smiles as everyone is having a ball.
If you’re short on time, purchase a sampler pass for 30-minutes of play, but if you have more time and plan to go upstairs to grab a beer and popcorn, the stay & play pass offers unlimited games and carefree fun, so you don’t have to worry about time running out.
I gravitated to horror-themed pinballs, including Halloween, Ghostbusters, and Terminator. Find the pinball games that speak to you, from digital to old-school mechanical.
For free things to do in Manchester, Vermont, stroll around the Manchester Riverwalk, hike the Equinox Preservation Trust or Lye Brook Falls, or window shop at the Manchester Designer Outlets.
Helpful Tip: For free maps and brochures, and information on things to do in Manchester, visit the Manchester Visitor Center.
Address: 58B Depot Street, Manchester, Vermont
Manchester VT Restaurants
For the best restaurants in Manchester Vermont, let me point you to my top choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Little Rooster Cafe is a great place for breakfast and lunch. Locals say it has the best pancakes in town. Frequented by locals and hungry visitors alike, this roadside diner is decorated from top to bottom in a red rooster theme. Their famous pancake recipe is a modern twist to the American breakfast staple, ‘flapjacks.’
Known for its housemade pasta, bring your appetite because Mystic Restaurant & Bar’s tasty selections and top-notch service will quench your thirst and fill your belly. The glossy trendy wood finish and windows offering lots of sunlight reminded me of the kind of experience you’d expect in New York City, not a small Vermont town.
The wild tuna rice bowl was made fresh and absolutely delicious. And although they have an extensive wine selection and cocktails, I’d recommend sipping an elixir for a refreshing non-alcoholic drink.
Note: If you’re traveling with a baby, highchairs weren’t available during my visit, so bring your stroller.
Located in Yesterhouse at Southern Vermont Arts Center, have dinner at CurAte Cafe.
In the warmer months, ask to be seated outside, where you can dine on the patio with stunning rural Vermont in the background.
With a nice selection of vegetarian and gluten-free options, the roasted mushroom flatbread with caramelized onions melted in our mouths and the Halibut fish n’ chips with Casper thyme aioli was a filling entree, perfect for Baby K, who loves to hold french fries in his hands.
Open to museum-goers and the general public, reservations are required, and seating times are limited, so check the website or call beforehand.
Where to stay in Manchester?
For a cool mountain breeze and breathtaking views of Magic Mountain and Stratton Mountain, the historic Seesaw’s Lodge dating back to 1805, offers classic Vermont rustic cabin stays and luxurious comforts from hot tubs to in-suite deep soaker tubs that melt all your stresses away.
Approximately 20 minutes from Manchester, Seesaw’s Lodge is located in Peru, Vermont, an even smaller neighboring town.
Our family stayed at the spacious second-floor Black Walnut suite with a large king bed, a cozy seating area, and a gas fireplace. A basket of fresh croissants and muffins was waiting for us as well as a Keurig with plenty of coffee options.
I adored the French doors which opened onto the patio where I enjoyed the sunset. After a long day of exploring, running a warm bath and soaking in the deep tub with a glass of wine was icing on the cake.
Checking in, we met the innkeeper, Kim Prins, who welcomed us and showed us around the seven-bedroom lodge with a large living area, dining room, and fully equipped kitchen.
Conveniently located on the property, grab a drink at Johnny Seesaw’s and sit outside on the outdoor deck in the warmer months for an incredible view.
For a more traditional and centrally-located hotel, The Kimpton Taconic, an IHG dog-friendly hotel, is within walking distance of downtown Manchester.
Amenities like daily shuttle service to various local attractions, complimentary tickets to Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, and daily social hour serving wine and beer made for an unforgettable stay.
I stayed here during a business trip and found it formal. The on-site restaurant and bar, The Cooper Grouse, serves breakfast and dinner. The bar also closes at 9 pm.
So, is visiting Manchester worth it?
Absolutely! Manchester is a beautiful destination I can imagine returning to year after year because of the abundance of activities and things to do.
I cannot wait to plan a Manchester winter trip for snow tubing when Baby K gets older and leaf peeping, apple picking, and cider donuts in the Fall.
I’d recommend Manchester for family vacations, romantic couples getaways, or a girl’s trip. Manchester is also a top pick for female solo travelers.
Despite two trips to Manchester, there are still so many experiences I’ve yet to have, including biking the Historic Marble Rail Trial, visiting the Museum of the Creative Process, and spa treatments at Serenity Spa or Equinox.
Watch this video on Instagram recapping highlights from our trip to Manchester!
What Manchester Vermont activities would you recommend? Let me know in the comments below what things to do in Manchester I missed.
Read Next: Soft Adventure Ideas and Wellness Getaways or listen to the episode below.
Danielle Desir Corbett paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27, and has traveled to 27 countries, including her favorites, Iceland, China, and Bermuda. Go here to learn Danielle’s incredible story, from struggling financially and in debt to finding creative ways to earn more and live on her terms. Listen to The Thought Card Podcast, where Danielle shares how you can creatively travel more and build wealth regardless of your current financial situation. Reach out to Danielle by contacting: thethoughtcard (at) gmail (dot) com.