Abraham Lincoln visited Manchester in 1860 while on the presidential campaign trail and said to one of the Millyard workers, “Young man, the hand of honest toil is never too grimy for Abe Lincoln to clasp.” In this statement, Lincoln summed up many of the most important values of the city. Its rich history of textile production, pristine setting upon the Merrimack River, and political importance during presidential campaigns have helped to make Manchester a vibrant and cultured city. Manchester is located only an hour outside Boston, but its small-town feel belies its status as the largest city in New Hampshire. So whether you are looking to learn about the Industrial Revolution, sample cuisines from around the world, attend one of the premiere antique shows in New England, or simply marvel at the number of vanity license plates, Manchester is the perfect place to do all of these things.
The backbone of Manchester is Elm Street, a lively strip during both the daylight and nighttime hours. During the day, Elm Street is the center of government with Manchester City Hall and the Hillsborough County Court House and banks and other businesses. Official looking men bustle in and out of buildings as others relax in Veterans Memorial Park , which conveniently serves as the transport hub for all city buses.
Elm Street is also home to numerous bars and restaurants open until the wee hours of the morning. For lunch, both Lala's Hungarian Pastry and Z Food & Drink serve the midday food needs of local business people. On weekend nights, young people pack the numerous bars and add a lively atmosphere which suggests why the city has been nicknamed “ManchVegas.”
Filled with historic buildings and independent stores, the Cultural Crescent is located to the east of Elm Street. For great locally owned and operated stores, check out Hanover Street. Devastated by a fire in 1870, Victorian buildings now standing replaced the rubble. Unique, handmade jewelry can be purchased at Elizabeth's on Elm , fancy rolling pins at Break in Time , or locally made gifts and knick-knacks at the New England Sampler .
In this part of town can be found theaters, an art school, art galleries, and the Manchester City Library . The architecture of many of the buildings in the area were designed by Edward L. Tilton, who chose stately and beautiful designs to complement the growing importance of the city of Manchester.
Located on either side of the banks of the Merrimack River, the Millyard is distinct from the rest of the city. From the Amoskeag Falls in the north down through the district, the area is comprised of stately brick buildings. Once upon a time these buildings housed the various levels of production of the largest textile mill in the world as well as homes for the thousands of workers. These structures have now been turned into office spaces, apartments, and various educational centers. The uniformity of the buildings give it an almost college-campus like feel, perfect as the Manchester branch of the University of New Hampshire is located in this district. Numerous museums and displays pay tribute to Manchester's industrial past, and Arms Park is a great place to relax on the banks of the Merrimack River. Numerous buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the entire area is steeped in history.
The area north of downtown is comprised of quaint neighborhoods some containing rather grand houses, much as one might envision houses in New England should look. Among these houses is the Zimmerman House , one of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright's designs, and the only Wright designed private residence in New England open to the public. Here and there are pastry shops or other stores, but the area is mostly residential.
The southern area of downtown is a less quaint than other parts of the city. Here is located the Verizon Wireless Arena , which houses hockey and arena football games for both professional and college level athletes and the Merchantsauto.com Stadium . Also in this area are various cemeteries, small ethnic shops, and modest houses.
The area just north of the Manchester Boston Regional Airport is where you will find most of the larger stores and hotel chains. The Mall of New Hampshire as well as supermarkets and other large chain store can all be conveniently accessed in this area. Movie theaters and other shopping outlets abound, along with an alarming number of Dunkin' Donuts. Although the area is walkable, the frenzy of traffic and large parking lots make using a car preferable.
Looking for a greasy, hole-in-the wall place to satisfy a late night craving? Manchester is home to a diner that is known nationally as one of the best in the country. Have you set your sights on an upscale restaurant with a contemporary twist? As the largest city in New Hampshire, Manchester offers more options than anywhere else in the entire state! About time to nurse a cold beer in a party atmosphere? Manchester isn't called ManchVegas for nothing. Want to try something new from a different part of the world? Manchester's working class roots attracted immigrants from all over the world and the city offers a range of authentic and delicious ethnic cuisines. So go out for a bite in the city, you won't be disappointed.
By far the area with the largest number of offerings in such a tight space, visitors will be presented with a multitude of dining options simply walking down the street.
Asian restaurants include Thousand Crane , a good choice for those who do not want to have to choose between Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Rumor has it that the sushi is some of the best you will find in the city. Peking Garden 2 gives out sweet fried dough before dinner to help curb your appetite. Although perhaps not the most authentic Chinese food in the world, the American-style Chinese cooking satisfies all cravings.
Consistently rated a favorite in Manchester, Z Food & Drink offers a contemporary lunch and dinner dining experience with the option of eating outside if it is a nice day or night. Inspired combinations make it a great place to eat if you are looking to thrill your palate. Also one of the more daring choices is Lala's Hungarian Pastry . A wide range of sweet treats adorn the cases surrounding the cash register, and delicacies like goulash and upon occasion, cherry soup, are offered.
The center of nightlife, Elm Street is the reason the city is nicknamed “ManchVegas.” See a real Grammy at Shaskeen's , the winner of which is also the owner of the bar, The Chieftans. J.W. Hill's Sports Bar & Grille is good for after dinner drinks with large windows to let in light or at night when the scene gets a little more lively.
Ask any local for a restaurant recommendation, and chances are good they will mention the Red Arrow Diner . This small venue has 5 booths and a long counter, but the food is as typical diner as you could wish, extensive pie list and all. Famous visitors are commemorated with plaques at the places at which they sat and ate. Open 24 hours, it's a great place to visit after all the bars close.
Another “best” is Consuelo's Taqueria , awarded a “Best of New Hampshire” award in 2008. This friendly eatery serves up Mexican food with a flair. Another great choice for lunch (or even better, breakfast) is Suddenly Soupy's , with great coffee and superb sandwiches, and of course, delicious soups. The best pizza is arguably Alley Cat Pizzeria , with an extra large pizza to serve the entire family.
The big old buildings of the Amoskeag Millyard are perfect for converting into restaurants, and here you will find a number of upscale choices. Cotton is located just next to the river and is great for strong cocktails and mouth-watering entrees, American-style. If you're looking for something a little more European, Fratello's Ristorante Italiano has great seafood options and a porch perfect for warm evenings. The family friendly 900 Degrees Pizzeria cooks the round pizza pies in a wood fired oven.
Some of the best restaurants in the northern part of the city can be found on Hookset Road. La Carreta has a fun atmosphere and often a wait at on weekend nights. The Shogun Japanese Steak House not only serves up great Japanese fare, but entertaining tricks as well. Giving a nod to the country's roots, the Puritan Backroom Restaurant has daily specials and is always busy.
Pho Golden Bowl specializes the Vietnamese favorite pho, and to those who know Vietnamese food, it is a favorite. Day or night, try Murphy's Taproom , just south of the Verizon Wireless Arena . Happy hour and night time drinks are excellent. Or to switch up the scene try Theo's, a pizzeria with Greek and American influences.
Many of the restaurants in this area of town are chain, in fact, an alarming number of Dunkin' Donuts can be found here. But if you are looking for something a little unfamiliar, try Cactus Jacks with more than Tex-Mex, other cuisines make an appearance, and there are vegetarian options. For lunch, the locals choose Nadeau's Subs , with wraps as well as the title food, hot or cold. For a great buffet and the ability to eat as much as you can stuff into your stomach, try the lunch at India Palace , quickly becoming known as one of the best places to eat Indian in the area.