21 Best Things to Do in Manchester, Vermont – a comprehensive guide to exploring and enjoying one of New England's most picturesque and dynamic towns. Nestled in the heart of the Green Mountains, Manchester, Vermont, is a treasure trove of natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant cultural experiences. Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast keen on hiking to the majestic Lye Brook Falls, a history buff intrigued by the Lincoln family's legacy at Hildene, or someone looking to unleash their inner child at Pastime Pinball, Manchester has something for everyone. In this post, we'll take you on a journey through Manchester's best offerings – from the thrill of driving up Equinox Mountain to the serene experience of learning fly fishing at the Orvis School, and the culinary delight of starting your day at Bob’s Diner. So, buckle up and get ready to explore the gems that make Manchester, Vermont, a must-visit destination.
1. Hike to the super-tall Lye Brook Falls
Nestled in the Green Mountain National Forest in Manchester, Vermont, Lye Brook Falls is a stunning natural spectacle and one of Vermont's tallest waterfalls. Towering at 125 feet, second only to Moss Glen Falls in Stowe, it cascades in a magnificent horsetail formation over multiple tiers. Fed by the Lye Brook, its waters are most vigorous in spring, swollen by melting snow and rainstorms. However, its charm endures year-round, with fall bringing a mesmerizing display of colorful foliage.
The falls, once known as Trestle Cascade, are accessible via the Lye Brook Falls Trail. This 4.4-mile round trip trail, starting off US-7 on Glen Road, offers a moderate hike with an elevation gain of 918 feet, passing through the heart of the Green Mountain National Forest. It's a family-friendly and dog-welcoming path, allowing for a wide range of explorers to witness this natural wonder. Convenient parking is available at the trail's end on Glen Road, accommodating about 20 vehicles, with additional parking along the road. Remarkably, this awe-inspiring journey to Lye Brook Falls is free, making it an accessible escapade into Vermont's breathtaking wilderness.
2. Drive up Equinox Mountain
Skyline Drive, ascending from Route 7A between Manchester and Arlington, Vermont, offers a spectacular 5.2-mile journey to the summit of Mount Equinox. As the longest privately owned, paved toll road in the United States, it climbs 3,248 feet, featuring exceptional engineering since 1947. The drive is adorned with various vistas and picnic areas, winding through diverse forest types, and provides a unique view of the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration, North America's only Carthusian monastery. Before beginning this ascent, visitors must obtain a token from the Skyline Drive Welcome Center on Route 7A.
At the 3,848-foot summit, the landscape unfolds in a breathtaking panorama. The perpetual breeze at this height adds to the tranquility, offering views of the Green and White Mountains, the Valley of Vermont to the east, the Adirondacks to the west, and the Taconics and Berkshires to the south. The Saint Bruno Scenic Viewing Center, a gift from the Carthusians, crowns the summit. The drive, costing $25 per car with a driver and an additional $5 per passenger, is accessible only with tickets purchased at the welcome center, ensuring an exclusive and serene experience for all visitors.
3. Tour the historic Hildene: The Lincoln Family Home
Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home in Manchester, Vermont, is the historic summer residence of Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's eldest son, and his wife Mary Harlan Lincoln. This estate, steeped in American history, remained in the Lincoln family until 1975 and was subsequently restored by the Friends of Hildene non-profit organization. Today, it attracts thousands of visitors annually, offering tours of the Lincoln home, a restored Pullman railcar, Hildene Farm, and over 12 miles of trails. Accessible year-round, five days a week, guests can explore the estate through self-guided and scheduled guided tours, including a Behind the Scenes Archive Tour. Spanning a recommended 3 to 6 hours visit, Hildene presents a unique opportunity to delve into the Lincoln family's legacy amidst the scenic Vermont landscape.
4. Stop by the Southern Vermont Arts Center
The Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester, Vermont, is a vibrant hub of artistic expression, blending local, national, and international talent in its carefully curated exhibitions. With artists hailing from across the United States and abroad, many of which are available for purchase. This visitor-centric institution emphasizes engaging, interactive gallery experiences, inviting the public to connect deeply with the art. Situated on the picturesque grounds of the former Yester House country estate, the center is a scenic marvel, encircled by fields dotted with an array of sculptures.
This multi-disciplinary arts organization, established in 1922, boasts extensive facilities including art galleries with both permanent and rotating exhibits, the region's largest sculpture park, a performance space, and educational resources. The center's campus, a listed site on the National Register of Historic Places, is open to the public for various recreational activities, offering trails for hiking and cross-country skiing. Admission is set at $10 for adults, with free entry for children under 10, making it an inviting destination for art enthusiasts of all ages.
5. Hike the Equinox Preserve
The Equinox Preserve in Manchester, Vermont, offers a splendid outdoor experience across its 914 acres on the slopes of Mt. Equinox. Established in 1996 through a conservation easement by the Equinox Resort, this preserve features 11 miles of diverse trails, ranging from easy routes like the Pond Loop and Flatlanders Pass to more challenging paths leading to the summit. Notable spots include Robin's Lookout for breathtaking views of the Battenkill Valley. The preserve is managed for both environmental conservation and public enjoyment, welcoming hikers, mountain bikers (with restrictions on certain trails), and leashed pets. Each season brings its own charm, from spring ephemerals to lush summer canopies and vibrant autumn foliage, making it a year-round destination for nature enthusiasts.
6. Take the road less traveled at the Land Rover Experience
The Land Rover Experience Driving Center, nestled in the stunning Green Mountains at the Equinox Golf Resort & Spa in Manchester, Vermont, offers a unique driving adventure. With options ranging from one-hour to full-day experiences, participants can navigate challenging terrains like icy hill climbs, rocky paths, and water crossings under expert guidance. The center, one of only three in the United States, provides a Land Rover for each driver to tackle the course, ensuring a thrilling experience amidst the picturesque Vermont countryside. This mix of luxury and adventure, set against the backdrop of the Equinox Resort's historic elegance, makes it an exceptional activity for thrill-seekers and automotive enthusiasts alike.
7. Fuel up for a day of adventuring at Bob’s Diner
Bob's Diner, a quintessential, retro-style diner in Manchester, Vermont, offers a delightful experience with its homemade classics. Known for its bustling atmosphere, especially during breakfast hours, the diner serves up favorites like buttermilk pancakes, omelettes, and corned beef hash, alongside lunch options including sandwiches and burgers. Signature to Bob's are its weekly-changing homemade pies, milkshakes, malts, and endless coffee, all enjoyed in a small yet lively setting. The diner's fast and friendly service enhances its charm, making it a must-visit for those in southern Vermont seeking an authentic diner experience.
8. Trek to Prospect Rock for some epic views
Hiking up to Prospect Rock in Manchester, Vermont, offers a rewarding experience with stunning views. The trail, beginning along Rootville Road and ascending the Downer Glen Ravine, is characterized by its steepness, covering a round trip distance of 3.5 miles with over 1,000 feet of elevation gain. While the hike is challenging, the wide and occasionally vehicle-accessible road makes the ascent manageable. At milepost 1.7, hikers encounter a junction with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, from where a short spur to the right leads 200 feet west to Prospect Rock.
This vantage point provides breathtaking views of the Manchester Valley and Mount Equinox, the tallest mountain in the Taconic Range. The hike to Prospect Rock is enjoyable in all seasons, each offering a unique perspective and experience. In winter and spring, the trail's tranquility makes it ideal for snowshoeing, while summer brings warm weather that enhances the hiking experience. Autumn is particularly spectacular, with the rock offering a panoramic view of the beautiful fall foliage. The trail, taking an average of 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours to complete, is also dog-friendly, though pets must be kept on a leash. Whether for the stunning views, the physical challenge, or the chance to enjoy nature, a hike up to Prospect Rock is a must-do for outdoor enthusiasts visiting Manchester.
9. Let your inner kid out at Pastime Pinball
Pastime Pinball in Manchester Center, Vermont, is a unique attraction that revives the classic era of pinball within the picturesque Green Mountains. This family-friendly playable museum features a vast collection of over 60 top-rated pinball machines from every major American manufacturer. Set to free play, these machines span various eras, from vintage games with traditional bells and chimes to modern ones themed around popular culture. The experience at Pastime Pinball is more than just entertainment; it's a hands-on exploration of science, technology, engineering, and math, appealing to all ages and skill levels.
The venue also boasts a mezzanine level snack bar, where admission includes free play of vintage arcade games. This area is a haven for retro gaming enthusiasts, offering everything from 1950s gun games to 1980s Atari classics. Guests can enjoy a variety of treats with a Vermont twist, including root beer floats made with local ice cream and organic nachos with homemade cheese sauce, complemented by a selection of Vermont craft beers, ciders, and wines. Admission to Pastime Pinball, ranging from $13 to $27, promises a nostalgic and enjoyable experience for the whole family.
10. Learn a new skill at the Orvis Fly Fishing School
The Orvis Fly Fishing School in Manchester, Vermont, set in the picturesque Green Mountains, provides comprehensive fly fishing lessons for anglers of all skill levels. Whether opting for a one-day or two-day course, students learn essential skills including fly casting techniques, knot tying, gear selection, stream entomology, fly selection, reading water currents, and safe fish handling, all under the guidance of expert instructors. The school's state-of-the-art facility, located across from the Orvis Flagship Store and near the historic American Museum of Fly Fishing, offers a unique combination of practical instruction and immersion in the rich heritage of American fly fishing. This makes it an ideal destination for anyone looking to enhance their fly fishing skills in a scenic and historic setting. Reservations for lessons can be made online
11. Support locals at the Manchester Farmer’s Market
The Manchester Farmers Market in Vermont, running from May 25th to October 12th, is a bustling producer-only market where over 30 local farmers and artisans gather every Thursday from 3pm to 6pm at Adams Park. Established in 2000, this market guarantees that all products sold are made directly by the vendors, providing an authentic and personal shopping experience. Visitors can engage with the producers themselves, gaining valuable insights into the products and their creation. This market not only supports the local economy by directly sustaining small businesses but also fosters a strong sense of community, bridging the gap between consumers and producers, and emphasizing the importance of local production.
12. Enjoy local produce, fresh baked goods, and more at Earth Sky Time Farm
Earth Sky Time Community Farm and Hearth, a certified organic family farmstead in Manchester, Vermont, doubles as a wood-fired bakery and a vibrant cultural hub for artists and musicians. Open Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm, with preordering available online, the farm offers a range of homegrown produce, artisanal breads, spreads, pastries, and local products. Known for their Llopis oven and exquisite wood-fired breads, they bake throughout the winter and increase production in the summer. Visitors are encouraged to experience the farm's serene atmosphere and try their renowned hoomoos, made with organic ingredients, alongside a freshly baked loaf of bread, making Earth Sky Time a cherished destination in Vermont for organic produce and artisanal fare.
13. Learn everything about fly fishing at the American Museum of Fly Fishing
The American Museum of Fly Fishing, located in Manchester, Vermont and established in 1968, is a unique institution dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of fly fishing. With the world's largest collection of angling and angling-related items, the museum's extensive exhibits include rods, reels, flies, tackle, art, photographs, manuscripts, and books, tracing the evolution of fly fishing from the sixteenth century to the present. Catering to fly fishers, outdoor enthusiasts, and history buffs alike, the museum features a dynamic exhibition program in the Leigh H. Perkins Gallery, ensuring a fresh and educational experience with each visit. As a custodian of fly fishing traditions and practices, the museum also emphasizes the importance of conservation in this sport. The museum is open Thursday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for kids.
14. Enjoy a fresh baked good at Dina’s Bakery Cafe
Dina’s Bakery Cafe in Manchester, Vermont, led by award-winning pastry chef Dina Bronson, is renowned for its wide variety of handcrafted, high-quality pastries, including sticky buns, cakes, pies, and more, using the finest ingredients. The cafe also caters to diverse dietary needs with gluten-free and vegan options, complemented by a range of coffee and tea drinks. This cozy spot is ideal for a casual breakfast, lunch, or snack, perfectly suiting those exploring Manchester. Open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, Dina's Bakery Cafe is a delightful destination for both locals and visitors seeking exceptional baked goods in a welcoming atmosphere.
15. Shop for a new book at Northshire Bookstore
Northshire Bookstore, a family-owned gem founded in 1976 in Manchester, Vermont, is housed in the historic Colburn House at 4869 Main Street. This expansive 10,000 square foot bookstore, known for its extensive children's section, offers an inviting atmosphere for serendipitous book discovery. In addition to a wide array of books, the store features stationery, magazines, cards, calendars, local Vermont foods, and various gifts, from clothing to jewelry. Bonnet & Main Cafe is conveniently housed within the bookstore which allows visitors to grab a drink and snack while shopping for a new book. Northshire Bookstore provides a beautiful, well-organized space that's both aesthetically pleasing and accessible. A fantastic book selection and a friendly, knowledgeable staff, make it a cherished destination for book enthusiasts and visitors in Manchester.
16. Drink like a local at Smugglers' Notch Distillery
The Smugglers' Notch Distillery Tasting Room in Manchester, Vermont, is a celebrated addition to the town's vibrant community, showcasing the distillery's acclaimed spirit selection. Founded in 2006 near the iconic Smugglers’ Notch in Jeffersonville, Vermont, the company has seen remarkable success, particularly after the launch of their Double Gold Award-Winning Vodka in 2010. Since then, Smugglers' Notch Distillery (SND) has expanded its repertoire to include a variety of gold and silver medal-winning spirits such as bourbons, gins, rum, rye, flavored vodka, the Double Gold Winning Vermont Maple Cream Liqueur, and their latest creations, Maple Gin and Vermont Bourbon Maple Cream Liqueur.
Located just off the main traffic circle amidst Manchester's outlet shops, the Tasting Room offers a welcoming and open space for visitors to explore and sample SND's award-winning spirits. The tasting experience is enhanced with the option of flights, allowing guests to savor a range of flavors. The knowledgeable and friendly staff are an integral part of the experience, readily offering suggestions, sharing insights about the spirits, and assisting visitors in a relaxed and approachable manner. This Tasting Room not only provides a glimpse into the quality and craftsmanship of SND's products but also contributes to the rich, diverse offerings of Manchester and Southern Vermont, making it a must-visit destination for spirit enthusiasts and casual visitors alike.
17. Get caffeinated at Charlie's Coffee House
Charlie's Coffee House in Manchester Center, Vermont, is a cherished coffee house and bakery, serving a variety of high-quality Mocha Joe's Coffee from Brattleboro, Vermont. This includes Organic Fair Trade and Farmer Direct Trade selections, alongside specialty coffee drinks, espresso, lattes, cappuccinos, and Harney & Sons Teas. The cafe also features a full bakery producing an array of delicious pastries, cakes, muffins, scones, croissants, and more, complemented by savory options like sandwiches, salads, soups, and their famous Plymouth Mac and Cheese, made with local Plymouth Cheese. Ideal for breakfast or an afternoon treat, Charlie's offers a cozy atmosphere and a commitment to local sourcing, making it a go-to spot in Manchester for both coffee aficionados and food lovers.
18. Savor the best local produce at Dutton Farm Stand
Dutton Farmstand in Manchester, Vermont, is a quintessential operational farm that offers a true Vermont experience with its wide array of fresh, farmer-grown fruits and vegetables, homemade baked goods, and signature fudge. The farmstand enriches its offerings with locally produced wines, beers, cheeses, gifts, jams, honey, and ice cream. A highlight of the farm is its own sugarhouse, producing gallons of high-quality maple syrup each year, available for purchase alongside products from their greenhouse. This combination of homegrown produce, artisanal foods, and local specialties makes Dutton Farmstand a must-visit destination for those seeking the authentic taste and charm of Vermont.
19. Play a round of golf at the Golf Club at Equinox
The Golf Club at Equinox in Manchester, Vermont, renowned as one of the state's top golf clubs and a public facility, offers a unique golfing experience with its picturesque mountain setting. Designed in 1926 by U.S. amateur champion Walter Travis and managed by Troon Golf, the course blends historical charm with contemporary challenges. Ranked 10th in New England Golf Journal's "100 Best Public Golf Courses in New England," this par-71, 6,423-yard course tests golfers with its meticulously crafted fairways, bunkers, and greens, making it a must-visit destination for golf enthusiasts looking to enjoy the best of southern Vermont's scenic beauty and golfing excellence.
20. Indulge in some of the best cakes and other sweets at Mother Myrick's Confectionery
Mother Myrick's Confectionery, established in 1977 and located on Main Street in Manchester, Vermont, has evolved from a small fudge shop into a renowned bakery famed across New England for its delectable cakes and sweets. The confectionery, celebrated for its homemade fudge, buttercrunch, caramels, and an expanded selection of chocolates and European-style baked goods, is most famous for its Lemon Lulu cake, a light and moist lemon pound cake with a delicate lemon glaze. Awarded First Prize in desserts and pastries at the Taste of Vermont Culinary Competition in 1984, Mother Myrick's continues to impress and win awards today. With both classic favorites and new creations, the shop is a must-visit for those seeking the finest baked goods and chocolates in Vermont.
21. Load up on locally made products at Above All Vermont
Above All Vermont in downtown Manchester is a whimsical general store that offers a nostalgic shopping experience, showcasing the quality of Vermont's small, cottage-based businesses. The store, renowned for its diverse range of products, including shirts, toys, puzzles, games, home goods, bath products, and specialty foods, truly embraces Vermont's reputation as the maple syrup capital of the United States. It features an extensive array of maple products, from traditional syrup to unique items like maple popcorn, cream, taffy, cotton candy, cake mix, and candy. A visit to Above All Vermont is a must for anyone looking to discover and take home the essence of Vermont's greatest gifts.
As we conclude our exploration of the 21 Best Things to Do in Manchester, Vermont, it's evident that this charming town is a mosaic of adventures, history, and artistic flair. From the tranquil trails of the Equinox Preserve to the nostalgic fun at Pastime Pinball, each experience in Manchester weaves together a story of a town rich in diversity and warmth. Whether you’ve spent your day learning new skills at the Orvis Fly Fishing School, supporting local artisans at the Manchester Farmer’s Market, or unwinding with a drink at Smugglers' Notch Distillery, we hope this guide has painted a picture of Manchester as a destination of endless possibilities. Indulge your senses, ignite your curiosity, and create lasting memories in this Vermont gem. With its doors wide open and a variety of experiences waiting, Manchester is more than just a destination; it's a journey into the heart of New England's charm and splendor.