The Deep Dive
Manchester Tips + FAQs
What are the local, must-see attractions or hot spots?
You’re absolutely going to want to check out Northshire Bookstore. Located directly in the center of town, Northshire Bookstore is an institution. A sprawling, labyrinthian complex consisting of multiple floors, hideaways, and charming nooks and crannies, you’re going to be hard-pressed not to spend hours exploring. With an entire level for kids, a massive cookbook section, gifts, and doodads galore, everyone will find an area to hunker down. Be sure to stop into the attached Bonnet & Main café to help fuel while you peruse - the carrot cake is mind-blowing.
Next up is historic Hildene. The former summer home of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, this majestic Georgian Revival estate has been transformed into a living museum detailing the times, lifestyle, and values of the Lincoln family. There are miles upon miles of walking trails, house tours, exhibits, exquisite gardens, and jaw-dropping vistas.
While not technically located in Manchester proper, the area is known to locals as Manchester & the Mountains, so it’s only fitting that we include Stratton, Bromley, and Magic ski mountains. Far from just Winter attractions, these three mountains shine in all seasons. With world-class golf, the famous Alpine Slide, lift-serve mountain biking, exceptional concerts, and festivals - you’re going to want to be sure to spend as much time as possible at these mountainous locales.
Speaking of mountains, located at the foot of Mt. Equinox is the Southern Vermont Art Center. SVAC consistently features incredibly high-quality rotating art exhibitions, displayed in a truly stunning environment. With frequent programming for the entire family including concerts, kid shows, classes, and more - SVAC is high on our list of must-see Manchester attractions. A quick side note: SVAC is at one of several trailhead locations around town for an amazing network of trails and paths that run along the base (as well as to the peak) of Mt. Equinox. We suggest starting with a bite to eat in the curATE Cafe at SVAC and then making an afternoon of it while hiking through the trails of the Equinox Preservation Trust.
If you only had one night in town, where are you going for dinner?
You’ll find us at The Crooked Ram. Shining during the warmer months, their new addition The Yard is the hot spot in town. Wood-fired pizzas that are truly next level (we’re partial to the Verde), seafood, charcuterie boards, and a beer list that will knock your socks off - bottom line, the food and vibe here are both superb.
We’re looking to splurge a little - where are the best digs in town?
One of the great parts about visiting Manchester is there is no shortage of excellent accommodations. Depending on your personal preferences, we have several top-notch recommendations.
A Kimpton property, the Taconic Hotel exudes charm, class, and boutique sophistication. You can’t go wrong with a stay at the Taconic.
Just down the road is The Wilburton, built in 1902 as the largest private estate in town, The Wilburton features a grand historic mansion with 11 stunning rooms and sweeping views of the valley. Also available are a host of additional cabins and bungalows that are all one-of-a-kind and exceptional.
Closer to the center of town you’ll find the Barnstead Inn. Perfectly situated to explore all that Manchester has to offer, the Barnstead Inn is surrounded by immaculate gardens and offers 23 impressive boutique rooms and suites.
Where should we go for unique, one-of-a-kind shopping?
Manchester is a shopper’s paradise. Famous for its high-end designer outlets sprinkled throughout the village - there are a plethora of fantastic shops to choose from. For our part, we always find ourselves drawn to the locally headquartered Orvis Flagship Store. Filled with luxuriously rugged options for the entire family, towering field stone fireplaces, a dizzying array of fly-fishing and hunting goods, and an indoor, fully stocked trout pond (be sure to bring a few quarters - you’re going to want to feed these fish!). Not to mention a stunning three-story stained glass to welcome you inside.
Just outside of Manchester, in picturesque Dorset, you’ll find the legendary H.N. Williams Store. Family-owned and operated since 1840, H.N. Williams is a place to find quite literally anything. From clothing to cutting boards, dry goods to deli sandwiches, H.N. Williams is the true Vermont experience. Also, we believe they have one of the best beer selections around, so definitely check out their cooler. Pro tip: During the Summer and Fall on Sundays from 10 AM - 2 PM be sure to attend the Dorset Farmers Market located outdoors on H.N. Williams grounds. A producer-only market, you’ll be sure to find many delicious local delicacies.
We have our kids with us, where should we go with the entire family?
We’ve already touted how amazing Northshire Bookstore is, but it certainly bears repeating. If you’re at all concerned that a bookstore might not hold your kids' attention, we feel that the label of “bookstore” really sells Northshire short. Give it a go and if you have any concerns at all, give us a call - we’ll set your mind at ease.
Besides the endless array of hiking, biking, skiing, and riding options to be found locally, we love getting in some outdoor time at the Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park, or the Rec as it’s known to locals. With several great playgrounds, a pool, skatepark, soccer fields, track, basketball courts, and just about anything else - there’s always a game to find or an activity to do. As a bonus, you’ll find yourself surrounded by dramatic mountain views.
Also, no Summer family trip to the area is complete without a visit to the Bromley Adventure Park! Featuring the world-famous Alpine Slide, waterslide, giant swings, and a whole lot more, it’s always a thrill to spend the day at Bromley!
We’re looking to start the day off right, breakfast recs? Is there a famous, local breakfast sandwich?
You better believe it! We have two breakfast suggestions for you that are so good, you just might have to stay an extra day just to make sure you have both! First, Willoughby’s Depot Eatery serves up, by far, the most delicious homemade, hand-cut donuts that you have ever tasted. With a large and colorful rotating selection, you can’t go wrong with any of the choices, but we’re rather obsessed with their Boston Cremes. Be sure to send our best to the owner Courtney who is just about the nicest person imaginable.
Just up the road, you’ll find Dina’s Bakery Cafe, owned and operated by the equally wonderful Dina! Now our recommended Breakfast Biscuit might not sound like anything special, but take our word for it, this cheddar buttermilk biscuit, topped with light as a pillow cheddar spinach eggs is an absolute revelation. We’ve been known to order one for breakfast and head back for another for lunch, they’re that good.
We want to get out and breathe in some fresh air, what do you suggest we check out?
This is a ski town, so chances are if you’re here during the Winter you’ll be enjoying some legendary riding. Stratton, Bromley, and Magic are all completely different and each are some of our favorite places to ride in the state. For a more in-depth look at the local ski areas, be sure to check out our complete Skiing + Riding Guide.
If you’re looking for Fall Foliage options, we absolutely recommend the Mt. Equinox Skyline Drive. The longest privately owned toll road in the country, the Skyline Drive is a breathtaking journey up Mt. Equinox offering unparalleled views of the entire region on the summit. If you’re feeling adventurous and looking for a hike, there are several different ways to ascend and earn your views - one of which can be accessed through the Equinox Pond trail system. Which brings us to our next suggestion:
Take a hike! The Equinox Preservation Trust (remember them from the Southern Vermont Arts Center?) trail system consists of over 900 acres of gorgeous forest trails for all ability and fitness levels. We’d suggest starting with the Equinox Pond Trail loop and see where the afternoon takes you!
Another excellent outdoor activity is to head to Manchester’s Historic Marble Rail Trail. This newly constructed trail follows the historic railbed which allowed for the movement of massive amounts of marble at the beginning of the 20th century to be used in building structures such as the New York City Library, Jefferson Memorial, and many more. Recently converted, the multi-use Rail Trail winds through pasturelands and woodlands, and alongside babbling country brooks, with picnic tables, bridges, and many Instagram-worthy stops along the way.
We’re coming up for a couples getaway - where should we go for a romantic dinner?
Newly crowned the Top Date Night Restaurant in America (!!!), the Silver Fork is your clear and away winner. Residing in a historic library originally opened in 1897, husband and wife team Melody and Mark French have done a truly sensational job of artfully reimagining the space into a mid-century showcase. The location and ensuing vibe are only surpassed by the flavors and quality of the menu. If you’re looking to pull out the stops next date night, The Silver Fork is where to go.
How about local music or entertainment?
Stratton Mountain has brought some serious heat and excellence into bringing top-shelf, big-name musical acts to their mountain stages, and those efforts have certainly been paying off. We’re talking Willie Nelson, The Wailers, and Three Dog Night-level shows, set in an intimate, outdoor alpine setting. Oftentimes a part of weekend-long festivals, Stratton excels in offering a complete entertainment experience that the entire family will look forward to year after year.
For a truly one-of-a-kind experience, look no further than Earth Sky Time. Part community farm, concert venue, world-class Llopis oven-running bakery - Earth Sky Time is frankly something magical. From late Spring to late Fall be sure to head to the farm to enjoy an always eclectic, always jaw-dropping lineup of musical talent in a setting reminiscent of a rustic fantasyland. Intrigued? We can only promise that if anything we’re underselling the experience. Pro Tip: Be sure to come hungry! The community-styled dinner offerings made on-site are something beyond delicious.
We’re looking for something special for lunch - suggestions?
Al Ducci’s has been a stalwart of the Manchester lunch scene for close to 30 years. A gourmet Italian eatery, Al Ducci’s can at first seem a bit pricey for a deli, but their high-quality ingredients and excellent execution quickly leave you feeling extremely satisfied.
Up the mountain in Peru, you’ll find what was once the longest continuously running general store in Vermont. Nowadays, JJ Hapgood is serving up seriously excellent eats (enjoyed both in-store and to-go), where locals and visitors alike can sit back, relax, and dig in.
After a long, fun day a cocktail sounds perfect! Where are we headed?
A stiff drink after a complete day? We like where your heads at. You’re going to want to check out the libations offered at The Copper Grouse. Conveniently located in The Taconic, the Copper Grouse brings the same level of class and sophistication to their cocktails. Some of our favorites include Wisp of Smoke, #GetGroused, and their Gin and Taconic (clever!), but honestly, just let the bartender know what you’re into and they’ll take it from there. You’re in good hands.
We don’t want to be complete tourists - where are the locals going?
Well, Manchester (like many of the towns in Vermont) is a tourist town, so no matter where you’re headed you’re bound to be rubbing elbows with locals. Whether grabbing a daily slice deal at Sam’s Pizza, a breakfast sandwich at The Works Cafe, or an on-the-go lunch at Amy’s On The Road - getting out and exploring is always the best way to find new recommendations. Two more quick suggestions to check out: on a rainy day Manchester’s Public Library really comes alive. A downright gorgeous building complete with marble sidewalks and lofted timber framing, the community library is a great place to hunker down and spend a few hours. Additionally, making the trek out to Merck Forrest is always worth the effort as it allows you to immerse yourself in all of the beauty and nature that this area has to offer.