There is so much more to the village of Manchester than outlet stores. With Equinox Mountain as a backdrop, you will discover what a gorgeous area it is and your children will love how much there is to explore. Here is a list of our favorite things to do in Manchester, VT.
1. Hildene- The Lincoln Family Home
This Georgian Revival Mansion was the home of Robert Lincoln, son of Abraham and Mary. The garden and grounds of the property are exquisite. You can tour the home, visit the animals on their farm and climb aboard a 1903 Pullman Palace Rail Car. Staff help you cover the sprawling acreage with tram rides, which ended up being one of the kid’s favorite parts. From June-August, children ages 3-12 can participate in their farm chores program (pre-registration required). Other offerings include a teaching greenhouse, a butterfly, bee and bobolink sanctuary and an 80 Acre Wetland with a 600’ Floating Boardwalk.
When in the mansion, have your kids seek out one of the last of the three remaining hats worn by Abraham Lincoln as well as his dressing mirror that he used to get ready the fateful night of the Ford theater shooting. Just imagine him glancing at the mirror, fixing his hat and seeing his reflection for the last time. To visit their website, click here.
2. Northshire Bookstore
This is the greatest bookstore in all the land! I don’t know who loves coming here the most- me or my children! It is such a cozy store filled to the brim with wonderful books and gift, but the real treat is upstairs in the children’s area. The entire floor is dedicated to kid’s books and toys. There is a ladder that leads up to a reading nook. Then there is a play area with train tables and toys that the kids are welcome to play with. Couches are tucked into quiet areas in case you want to curl up and have story time.
The staff are so friendly and welcoming as opposed to many other book stores that cringe when they see children approaching. I have even seen an adoption day there with kittens from a local shelter. My kids heads almost exploded. Kittens! Toys! Books! As if that isn’t enough, there is a great cafe downstairs (currently under renovation) with excellent coffee and food. We could spend the better half of the day here, and a better half of my salary as well. To visit their website, click here.
3. Manchester Community Library
This is the most beautiful library I have ever visited! In fact, it is rated one of the top 50 libraries in the country. It is designed to look like a barn with tall ceilings and giant windows filling the space with natural light. There are large stone fireplaces surrounded by comfy armchairs. The Children’s room, called the Kids Barn is bright and airy, with a computer lab for littles, a reading nook, and a large room for arts and crafts. There are toys to play with and a backpack program where a child can bring home a bag of books and a stuffed animal.
There is a lounge for grades 5-8 that tweens will go crazy for. There are chess games, video games and age- appropriate books. It is such a cool space and they will love having an area that is just for them.
The library which just opened it’s doors in 2014 after successfully raising 7.2 million dollars for a capital campaign, is more of a community center than a hush hush stuffy library. No library card is needed to visit and they have a laundry list of events and activities going on from day to day. My kids loved it here and we will most certainly be back. Click here to visit their website.
4. Skyline Drive
A 20 minute drive of hairpin turns will bring you to the summit of Equinox Mountain where you will experience a breathtaking panoramic view of the Green, White, Adirondack, Berkshire and Tactonic mountain ranges all from one place. There is a viewing area at the top of the mountain with restrooms and changing tables. We like to do a short hike along the ridge. You will be just about at 4,000 feet above sea level making it the highest mountain in southern Vermont.
Be prepared- your car will work very hard getting down the mountain and you will most likely experience a strong rubber smell. There are places to pull over and give your car a rest. For more information on visiting and to print out a coupon for $2 off admission, click here.
5. Feed the Fish at Orvis
We don’t actually shop at this store, but it is an experience to visit. If you head straight to the back of the store, there is actually a river that comes into the building. Put a quarter into a machine to get a small cup of fish food and head outside to where the bridge is. My kids loving feeding the fish. The trout are so big, they will jump straight out of the water and make a splash. The store is very dog friendly and you can bring your canine upstairs to pick out his own memory foam bed or choose from their giant selection of toys.
6. Factory Point Town Green & the River Walk
The park is located right in the center of town by the rotary. It is a lovely green space with a small stage where concerts are performed. It is a great place for a picnic or just to let your child romp and play. There is a beautiful view of the waterfall from the lookout area and you can continue to walk down along the Battenkill river.
The town has grand plans for the future of the River Walk. Right now it is hard to get down to the river and it is littered with beer cans and broken glass so we had to be careful. My daughter wanted to run barefoot, but it just wasn’t safe. I can’t wait to see the improvements they make because there is so much potential there. They have plans to create wooded pathways along the wooded glen and a bridge that will span the river and connect to a network of other trails. It is a great place to walk your dog as well.
7. Dorset Quarry
On a hot summer day, this is a great place to take a dip and cool off. It can be very crowded when it is hot and although it is very entertaining watching people do back flips off of the rocks, it can be very dangerous. Just use common sense and you will have a nice day. To find the quarry, just follow VT-Route 30 into the neighboring village of Dorset.
8. Shop till you drop at the Manchester Designer Outlets
Most people come to Manchester to shop. The streets are lined with high-end stores that you could spend an entire day perusing. It is not your typical shopping mall… it was created Vermont style with the stores moving into village-like houses. It’s a really beautiful area to walk around. My favorite store besides the Northshire Bookstore is called The Mountain Goat. They have the best name brands in outdoor gear in addition to the most kind and helpful staff. There is an entire section of kids Patagonia which I can never resist. The only other stores in town that cater to children would be Carter’s and Gap Kids. My kids also love peeking in at the sleeping kitties in the window of Circa 50.
9. Walk around Equinox Pond
For a family friendly hike, follow the Pond Loop around Equinox Pond. The trail is 7/10ths of a mile, mainly flat, well marked and well maintained. Head out in the fall for crisp air and beautiful foliage. Plan to spend about an hour to complete the loop. Click here for a trail map.
10. Play in the Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park
I have never seen a town park with so much to offer. There are 3 playgrounds, stroller-friendly walking trails, a swimming pool, kiddie pool, three baseball diamonds, a skateboard park, outdoor basketball courts, 3 tennis courts and a designated dog park all beautifully laid out across 88 acres.
11. Hike to Lye Brook Falls
This hike takes about 3 hours round trip but you will be rewarded with a beautiful waterfall hidden in the woods. Wear good shoes, as it can be slippery. May be challenging for younger children.
12. Go on a Backroad Discovery Tour
Though currently closed due to Covid, this highly rated tour offers year round tours of Vermont’s best kept secrets. Tours are $35 per person and recommended for kids over 8 years old. Visit their website for more information by clicking here.
I hope you found this list of our favorite things to do in Manchester, VT helpful. Sadly, the cinema in town has closed but they are looking to reopen a new facility in the future. What is your favorite activity in Manchester? Please let me know in the comments below!