5 Fun Ideas for Your Family's Trip
Manchester, NH bills itself as “New Hampshire's Business Capital,” but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of family fun to be had. The largest city in the state—and all of northern New England, for that matter—offers parents and kids a variety of entertaining and enriching indoor and outdoor experiences.
You can always find a list of current and upcoming events at the websites manchesternh.gov or intownmanchester.com. This is a quick way to learn about special downtown happenings, concerts, sports events, temporary exhibits and other stuff going on in the community during your visit. But with the attractions and activities regularly available, you'll never have a hard time filling your itinerary while you're in town.
See All There Is to See at the See Science Center
The See Science Center (200 Bedford St., Manchester, NH) is a fun, educational, hands-on children's museum. It's indoors and great any time of year, but especially when you need shelter from the frigid New England winter. Explore an array of science, nature, technology and engineering subjects through many interactive exhibits and daily demonstrations.
Kids weighing less than 70 pounds love the Moonwalk experience, while you'll all marvel at the Lego Millyard Project, billed as “the largest permanent Lego installation at minifigure scale in the world.” A recreation of Manchester's Amoskeag Millyard circa 1900, it took about two years and 10,000 labor hours to build. It uses approximately three million Lego blocks and 8,000 Lego figures, and it's so impressive the President of Lego Co. flew in from Denmark for the exhibit's opening.
Admission is $9 per person (and free for kids under 3), so a visit shouldn't strain your travel budget. If you're a member of your own local children's museum or science museum, you may be eligible for free entry under the reciprocal membership program; remember to bring your membership cards along.
Learn What “Anadromous” Means at the Amoskeag Fishways Learning and Visitors Center
The Merrimack River has long been an important waterway for commerce, fishing and hydropower in Manchester and New England. It's also an important waterway for all sorts of anadromous fish and other wildlife.
At the Amoskeag Fishways Learning and Visitors Center (4 Fletcher St., Manchester, NH), your family can learn all about the river and its history, ecosystem and fish. There are many interactive exhibits, like the “Build a Watershed” kinetic sand display, fun but educational games, live frogs, turtles and fish, the opportunity to generate electricity, and more for kids and adults of all ages.
If you visit during “fish season” from the beginning of May through mid June, you can watch the river herring, American shad and sea lampreys migrating en masse to spawn. Even if you won't be in town during this window, the center is open year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and seven days per week during fish season. Admission cost is just a donation of your choosing.
Live It Up at Livingston Park
No family vacation is complete without a pleasant park experience to provide some fresh air, exercise and family bonding. Of Manchester's several dozen city-operated parks, Livingston Park (244 Hooksett Rd., Manchester, NH) offers a great outdoor escape and a chance for the kids to burn off some excess energy. In addition to the scenic nature trail around picturesque Dorr's Pond, there's a toddler playground, a big kids' playground, sports fields, a running track and a swimming pool with a water slide and splash pad feature.
If you're interested in some relaxing freshwater fishing—perhaps after your visit to the Amoskeag Fishways Learning and Visitors Center—it's permitted in Dorr's Pond during the spring and summer months. Or, it's a popular ice skating spot when the pond is frozen over.
This is a public park with no entrance fee. So if you're looking for a free, outdoor family activity to fill a few hours of your Manchester vacation, look no further than Livingston Park. Bring some food along and enjoy the sheltered picnic area, too.
Become Patrons of Local Performance Art at the Palace Theatre
The historic Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St., Manchester, NH) is a beautiful venue for plays, musicals and other live performances. Built in 1914 and modeled after the famed Palace Theatre on Broadway in New York City, it seats nearly 900 audience members.
There's an emphasis on family-friendly programming here, and the stage and production talent is top-notch. Catch a show to add an entertaining cultural experience to your family's trip to Manchester.
The annual season at the Palace Theatre typically runs from September through June. Ticket prices vary by show and are cheaper for children. For convenience, buy your tickets online at palacetheatre.org. There are several free and low-cost parking lots and garages within a few blocks of the theater. There's also metered on-street parking all around, but beware spots with two-hour limits.
Immerse Yourselves in Nature at Lake Massabesic
For a beautiful day enjoying the New England wilderness, take the family to Lake Massabesic (16 Londonderry Tpke., Manchester, NH). This pristine lake spans more than 2,500 acres, and it's a great spot—along with the surrounding ponds—for freshwater fishing for large-mouth and small-mouth bass, white and yellow perch, pickerel, horned pout and trout.
There are multiple hiking and biking paths, including a 4-mile loop nature trail. The area is a prime birding and wildlife viewing location; hawks, loons, deer, fox and other animals are all around. It's a popular boating destination too, with three public launches. If you're traveling with a car-top boat like a canoe or kayaks, use the Deerneck launch. Swimming, jet skis and most inflatable watercraft aren't allowed.
You can visit Lake Massabesic any time of year, and it's free to go. However, as would be expected, it gets quite cold in the winter.
Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.