12 Things To Do With Family In Manchester, Connecticut

Last Updated on March 3, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Manchester, Connecticut offers a variety of fun and exciting things to do with the whole family. From exploring the great outdoors and learning about nature to experiencing the local food scene and admiring fine art, Manchester has something for everyone to enjoy.

This article highlights 12 excellent activities and attractions to consider when visiting Manchester with kids, teenagers, and adults of all ages. With top-rated museums, numerous beautiful parks, enticing restaurants, and more, Manchester provides an amazing backdrop for making family memories that will last a lifetime.

1. Cruise Along the Connecticut River

One of the best ways to take in the natural scenery around Manchester is by paddling down the Connecticut River. Rent a canoe, kayak, paddleboard or arrange for a guided river cruise to enjoy a relaxing outdoor adventure.

Spot local wildlife like great blue herons, turtles and beavers as you wind through the peaceful river valley. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on a stop at one of the river’s scenic coves. Operating seasonal river cruises with comfortable seating and food options are also available.

2. Hike Case Mountain

Lace up your hiking boots and challenge the family to climb to the top of Case Mountain. Located just 15 minutes from downtown Manchester, the steep trail leads you to a scenic overlook with panoramic views across Connecticut’s hills and valleys.

Along the 1.4 mile route, keep an eye out for songbirds, deer and even the occasional moose! Once at the summit, take time to relax and snap some family photos. Remember to bring water and snacks to keep your hiking team fueled.

3. Explore Dinosaur State Park

Budding paleontologists will love digging for fossils, examining dinosaur footprints and towering skeletons at Dinosaur State Park. Set on over 400 acres, the park features an on-site Archeology Excavation Center where visitors can watch lab technicians cleaning and cataloging fossil specimens.

Outside, follow the self-guided Fossil Trail to inspect hundreds of early Jurassic period dinosaur prints left in the bedrock. Other kid-friendly activities at the park include themed arts and crafts projects, plaster fossil casting, and special events and lectures.

4. See a Show at the Majestic Theater

Treat the family to an entertaining show or musical performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown Manchester. Children and parents alike will delight at the vintage charm of this historic performing arts center.

With main stage shows featuring popular plays, musical guests and comedy acts, you’re sure to find a lively show the whole family can enjoy together. Smaller children can also attend productions aimed directly at young audiences in the theater’s fun and intimate Children’s Stage theater.

5. Picnic and Play at Wickham Park

Encompassing over 250 sprawling acres, Wickham Park provides plenty of space for families to spread out and enjoy the fresh air. Gather up a hearty picnic lunch and claim one of the park’s pavilions or tree-shaded lawns. Kids will stay busy at the large playground and splash pad area.

When you’ve worked up an appetite, play a game of disc golf on the park’s challenging course. Other activities at Wickham Park include hiking trails, tennis and basketball courts, athletic fields, and a scenic pond for fishing. Rent a paddleboat for cruising around the water with smaller children.

6. Grab a Bite at a Family Restaurant

Refuel after a busy day of Manchester adventures by dining at one of the city’s many family-friendly restaurants. For classic American flavors in an upbeat atmosphere, Millwright’s Restaurant is a local favorite. Kids can scan toy trains circling overhead while parents tuck into hearty dishes like steak frites, fish and chips, or fried chicken.

At First and Last Bakery, picky young eaters can count on finding bagels, grilled cheese sandwiches and nibbles like chocolate chip cookies. Top off your meal with their signature “kitchen sink” ice cream loaded with goodies. For authentic Italian cooked in copper ovens, Salute boasts exposed brick interior dining and a sprawling patio overlooking a scenic stream.

7. Play Mini Golf

Putter your way through 18 holes at one of Manchester’s entertaining mini golf courses. Topnotch Family Fun Center features an indoor glow-in-the-dark course with neon lighting and fun surprises. Outside, you can also race go-karts or take a few swings at Topnotch’s expansive driving range.

At Stonebridge Adventure Park, mini golfers wind through stone formations, water features and tricky bank shots on the creative natural rock course. The venue also offers pedal cart rentals for racing around their wooded trails, a perfect active outlet for older kids.

8. See Exhibits at the New Britain Museum of American Art

Featuring a world-class collection of over 12,000 works, the New Britain Museum of American Art makes an excellent (and free!) family cultural excursion. Spanning three expansive floors, the museum’s bright galleries showcase an array of paintings, sculpture and drawings from Colonial times through the present day.

Interactive touch screens allow kids to learn more about featured pieces. Special programs like storytime followed by themed art projects provide a great introduction for younger children. Teens may enjoy special tours focusing on photography or contemporary abstract artworks. With an on-site café, families can relax on the museum’s terraces and sculpture garden when ready for a break.

9. Learn Local History at Lutz Children’s Museum

The Lutz Children’s Museum delivers hands-on history displays focused on Manchester’s fascinating past. Housed in a restored historic mansion, exhibits let kids step back in time to learn how early Manchester residents lived, dressed, worked and played.

Interactive spaces cover topics ranging from Washinee Indian camps to 1940s kitchens. Creative play zones feature areas for building block structures, playing schoolhouse or storing general store inventory. Special programs and events also connect Manchester’s heritage with kid-centric topics like the art of quilt-making or ice harvesting methods.

10. Skate the Area’s Ice Rinks

Lace up some skates and take advantage of Manchester’s several community ice skating venues. The open-air Bolton Ice Palace offers public skating sessions on an Olympic sized rink surrounded by beautiful mountain views. Their on-site Ice Palace Café sells hot chocolate and snacks to warm up with afterwards.

The Veterans Arena complex in downtown Manchester also hosts public skating on two indoor NHL regulation ice surfaces. Skate rentals are available at both locations. For hockey fans, catch a minor league Manchester Monarchs home game during the season for family-friendly live sporting event excitement.

11. Shop ‘Til You Drop

Manchester offers plenty of charming boutique shops, antique stores and vibrant shopping centers for leisurely retail therapy during family visits. Seek out unique vintage wares and handcrafted gifts at Old Manchester Trade Center, Butterfly Shoppe and Trove Marketplace. At The Soap Lady, kids will get a kick watching employees cut and prepare custom soap bars by hand.

The expansive Buckland Hills area provides all your typical mall chains like Macy’s, Target and Barnes & Noble to conveniently handle back-to-school shopping or stock up on vacation trip essentials. Don’t miss visiting the nostalgic retailers at Highland Park Market packed with toys, confections and novelties.

12. Chow Down on Comfort Food Favorites

A hearty meal at one of Manchester’s retro diners makes for a quintessential family dining experience. At HK Restaurant, start your day fueled up on their huge stacks of fluffy pancakes, open-faced breakfast sandwiches and bottomless coffee. Later, return for their classic cheeseburgers, patty melts and homemade soups.

For diner fare paired with 1950s flare, check out Shady Glen. Their trademark “Bernice” burgers keep the grill sizzling while oldies tunes play on the jukebox. Arrive with cash in-hand as credit cards aren’t accepted.

No family visit is complete without an ice cream stop. At Sno-Zone, scoop up your flavors among a mind-boggling 40 choices. Sip on thick milkshakes, hot fudge sundaes and their legendary “Kitchen Sink” piled excessively with toppings galore.

Conclusion

From easy hiking excursions to hands-on history lessons and shopping sprees, Manchester offers an excellent assortment of family-friendly things to experience. With countless opportunities for affordable fun and entertainment, the city provides a perfect playground for making memories on your next family vacation or hometown staycation.

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