12 Things To Do in Manchester, Connecticut

Last Updated on March 4, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Manchester is a quaint town in central Connecticut, located just 10 miles from Hartford. With its charming downtown area and surrounding nature, Manchester offers visitors many fun things to see and do for a quick day trip or weekend getaway.

From museums and historic sites that provide a glimpse into the town’s rich history to outdoor activities that take advantage of the area’s natural beauty, Manchester has something for everyone. Read on for 12 of the top attractions and activities in Manchester for your upcoming visit.

See a Show at the historic Cheney Hall

Built in 1922 as part of the Cheney Brothers Historic District, Cheney Hall is a beautiful multi-use theater that hosts concerts, plays, dance performances and even weddings and other private events. The Italian Renaissance Revival style building has ornate architecture and made it on the National Register of Historic Places.

Catch one of Cheney Hall’s community theater company productions or a touring musical act or comedian. With everything from beloved family musicals like Annie to tribute bands that cover popular artists, Cheney Hall always promises an entertaining cultural experience.

Tour Hockanum Mill and Learn About Manchester’s History

The former Hockanum Mill is the best place to learn about Manchester’s proud history as a booming mill town and center of silk production. On a tour through the mill, you’ll see amazing examples of textile engineering equipment from the 1800s and early 1900s.

Plus, your guide will explain how important Cheney Brothers Historic District and mills like Hockanum were to transforming Manchester into an industrial powerhouse. From the impressively large factory floor to hearing the tales about the hardworking people that kept the mill running daily, it’s an insightful look into Manchester’s past.

Shop and Dine Downtown

In recent years, downtown Manchester has undergone quite the renaissance with local shops, eateries and breweries breathing new life into its Main Street area. Get your retail fix by browsing the goods at unique boutiques like Amato’s Toy and Hobby, Raggedy Ann’s Attic antique shop or Artisans a work cooperative that sells local artists’ crafts, jewelry and more.

When it’s time for a bite, sit down for wood fire pizza at Fire at the Ridge or grab an egg sandwich and plans from The Lunch Box. And to sample Manchester’s brewery scene, cozy up at Wooden Spoon for drafts of their original brews like American pale ale Poses for Bros.

Explore the Mandell JCC Nature Trails

For some fresh air without leaving town, hit the two miles of nature trails around Zachs Campus of the Mandell Jewish Community Center. The easy terrain takes hikers through serene wooded surroundings. As you traverse the trails, you’re likely to see local wildlife like rabbits, chipmunks and deer.

And for some extra kid-friendly fun, there’s StoryWalk, where laminated storybook pages are staked along the trail for little ones to read page by page as they take the scenic walk. The trails are free and open to the public from dawn until dusk.

Take the Kids to Lutz Children’s Museum

Of all Manchester’s museums, the hands-on Lutz Children’s Museum is one designed just for kids. Small children will love exploring the indoor playhouse furnished with mini versions of home necessities from couches and doll houses to toy appliances.

The museum also fosters learning for little ones with areas focused on science experiments, art projects and more. Parents can unwind at the adult seating while watching their children play. From toddlers to elementary school-aged children, kids find endless entertainment through interactive imaginative fun at Lutz Children’s Museum.

Tour Fort Knox Self Storage Wine Vault

What’s more surprising to find in Manchester than an underground wine cellar? The Fort Knox Self Storage also functions as Connecticut’s largest wine vault at ideal temperature and humidity controlled conditions. Oenophiles can schedule private group tours of the impressive facility that holds over 20,000 cases of wine.

Guides will take your party through the secured tunnels while explaining Fort Knox’s wine storage services. And select tour options allow guests to enjoy wine tastings from the collection too, for the ultimate wine experience.

See Nature at Case Mountain

Just minutes north of downtown, Case Mountain offers nature lovers gorgeous scenery and plenty of outdoor recreation. Hike over four miles of trails up to the 240-foot summit for panoramic views across Manchester and out to Hartford’s skyline. Mountain bikers also flock to Case for its altitudinal single track challenges like the 1⁄4 mile Cliff Drop.

And every winter the park maintains tailored trails for cross country skiing or snowshoeing through the picture-perfect snow covered landscape. With so much to experience across the seasons, Case Mountain is the ideal green space for active outdoor fun or taking in the peaceful nature right on the edge of Manchester’s city center.

Go Back in Time at the Cheney Homestead Museum

The Cheney family, known for turning Manchester into a silk empire, built this Georgian style mansion in 1759. Now the impeccably preserved Cheney Homestead serves as a museum that offers visitors a glimpse into 18th century life. Tour guides will walk you through the historic rooms of the homestead which function as mini-exhibits showing what colonial living looked like.

Estimate the weight and price per pound of goods at the working scale house exhibit or try on historically accurate costumes for fun photo ops. With artifacts straight out of history and passionate guides bringing the era alive, the Cheney Homestead makes Manchester’s past incredibly interesting and entertaining.

Catch a Baseball Game at Northwest Park

Home to the New Britain Bees, Northwest Park offers Minor League baseball action in a fan-friendly stadium perfect for affordable family fun. Catch an afternoon game to see future MLB stars and longtime veterans battling it out on the diamond.

Enjoy ballpark staples like hot dogs and ice cold beer from the concession stands. And stick around for special entertainment between innings like dizzy bat races, T-shirt toss competitions and local dance team routines that keep energy high all nine innings. Baseball fans find Northwest Park the ideal spot to relax and take in America’s favorite pastime on a Manchester afternoon.

Tour the Residence of Mary Cheney

Another important Cheney family residence that now serves as a museum is that of Mary Cheney. As one of the most powerful women in Manchester’s male-dominated manufacturing industry, Mary Cheney challenged gender barriers as she led Cheney Brothers through difficult times to immense success.

Tour her restored home to admire the lovely Victorian architecture and interior design for a glimpse at the life of an affluent single woman in the early 20th century. Costumed guides offer insight about Mary Cheney’s legacy along with intriguing stories about the home itself being a rumored stop on the Underground Railroad.

Attend an Event at MCC on Main

MCC on Main brings Manchester’s downtown cultural scene to life as a multi-use performing arts center. The venue attracts exciting acts across all genres from rock, reggae and folk concerts to stand up comedy shows, musical theater performances and more.

Even major political figures like past presidents have selected MCC on Main’s stage to give important speeches over the years. And when it’s not hosting rowdy concerts and productions, MCC on Main opens its doors for quirky events like adult spelling bees, poetry slams and late night jazz jams. Check MCC’s online calendar so you can catch a show or happening while exploring downtown.

Raise a Glass at Labyrinth Brewing Company

Industrial warehouses now redeveloped provide the perfect laidback setting for Labyrinth Brewing Company’s tasting room. Pull up a metal stool at the bar serving beers crafted next door at their in-house brewery. Or grab a table by the glass garage doors that open to sunshine and skyline views.

Their tap list features a range of options from interesting sours to classic IPAs and stouts to suit every beer lover’s palette. Hang out at Labyrinth for a while playing yard games outside and snacking on food truck eats. It’s the ideal local Manchester hangout whether stopping in for happy hour after work or spending a weekend afternoon meeting friends old and new over frosty pints.

Conclusion


From historical sites and museums that reveal Manchester’s rich past to outdoor recreation taking advantage of the town’s natural scenery, Manchester offers many attractions to fill a weekend itinerary or longer stay. Catch a play downtown at Cheney Hall or take a factory tour to learn about the booming silk industry Manchester was once built on.

Shop local artisan wares, grab a bite and try craft beer from the ever-growing foodie scene around Main Street. Just outside the city center, explore trails and check out Minor League Baseball at Northwest Park for family-friendly fun.

With this list of 12 top things to do, visitors have plenty of options to experience Manchester’s uniqueness as both a historic New England town and lively cultural destination.

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