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.
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In Manchester New Hampshire, when you talk about efforts to incorporate more local foods, most chefs will direct you to Chef Jeffrey Paige of Cotton Restaurant. When he opened Cotton, using local foods and working with local people who are passionate about their products became, according to Paige, "a lifestyle choice." In 1988, Paige began a quest to find out where food really came from. He became Executive Chef at Canterbury Shaker Village, one of two remaining active Shaker communities left in the world at the time. There, working with the last Shaker sisters, all in their 90's, he developed an appreciation for New England's rich culinary heritage. He developed numerous relationships with farmers, cheesemakers, gristmills, smokehouses, fishermen, etc. from all over the New England states. In 1991, with assistance from Gail McWilliams Jelly, NH Department of Agriculture, he founded the state's first Farm to Restaurant Connection.