15 Best Things to Do in Manchester, CT

Manchester, CT
DenisTangneyJr / iStock.com

With recreational trails and rich history and culture, the town of Manchester in Hartford County, Connecticut, is a great escape from the big city.

Named after the city of Manchester in England, the town is nicknamed Silk City due to the Cheney Family's silk mill industry.

The town was incorporated in 1823, and its population has grown to almost 60,000, according to the 2020 census.

Today, the town offers numerous attractions that guarantee a fun-filled vacation.

Visit the town's historical sites, score beautiful items at the gift shops, or go on an outdoor adventure while enjoying majestic sights.

Here are the best things to do in Manchester, Connecticut:

Enjoy a Bike Ride to the Case Mountain Recreational Area

Waterfall under a bridge at Case Mountain Recreational Area
Jennifer Yakey-Ault / Shutterstock.com

Mountain biking and hiking are popular activities in the Case Mountain Recreational Area with its rocky and hilly terrain.

The trail is moderately difficult due to its steep rocky climbs and descents, although beginners can also bike or hike.

The Mountain Bike Magazine readers voted the Case Mountain Recreational Area as the Best Ride in Connecticut, which has drawn many bikers from neighboring places.

Stonewall trail at Case Mountain Recreational Area
Jennifer Yakey-Ault / Shutterstock.com

If you're a biking enthusiast, you shouldn't miss the famous single-track Metavomit trail and the Slick Rock trail.

You can find built stone walls, a carriage path, a stone bridge, and a log cabin in the area.

Don't forget a trail map before hiking or biking at Case Mountain Recreational Area on Spring Street.

Rocky trail at Case Mountain Recreational Area
Jennifer Yakey-Ault / Shutterstock.com

Explore the Cheney Brothers Historic District

In South Manchester on Interstate 384, the Cheney Brothers Historic District sits on a 175-acre area, highlighting the 16 mill buildings made of mostly bricks.

These are the mills used during the early days of producing silk which eventually became the largest silk producer in the world.

It also features the Cheney Mansions, including the Cheney Homestead, which is now a historic house museum.

You can also find the mill workers' homes, Cheney Hall, a fire station, schools, churches, and a water treatment plant here.

In 1978, the Cheney Brothers Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark.

It's the best place to visit if you're up for a historical tour.

Take Scenic Strolls around the Cheney Rail Trail

If you're up for a longer outdoor adventure on your way to the Cheney Mills or the houses, you can take the Cheney Rail Trail on Lodge Drive.

It would take a little over three miles of hike to and fro, with squirrels occasionally crossing the pathway.

You'll also see the fascinating mural and pillar artwork on the Cheney Mills as soon as you get there.

It's an easy and flat trail, which is part of the passage of the South Manchester Railroad.

The Cheney brothers built the trail in 1869.

The Cheney Rail Trail is great for strolling, running, biking, and walking your dogs while sightseeing.

Take Your Kids to the Lutz Children’s Museum

Lutz Children’s Museum is a must-visit if you have kids in tow while exploring Manchester.

The museum focuses on children's education in arts, natural sciences, and history.

It features live animal exhibits and has an extensive collection of artifacts, all donated to the museum.

Fun events for kids are available here too.

The museum has hosted magic shows, puppets, and live music.

For a fun and educational day out with your kids, visit Lutz Children Museum at South Main Street.

Enjoy Horseback Riding at Full Circle Farm

Whether or not you're an experienced equestrian, Full Circle Farm offers you quality horseback riding in Manchester.

The family-owned farm features an indoor riding arena and an outdoor ring where you can ride a horse or take lessons and training from one of its experienced instructors.

The farm also hosts local horse shows and leases horses for shows and events.

Full Circle Farm was established by Dianne Kuzmickas, who shares the same love and passion for horses with her daughter Kristen, the farm's manager and head trainer.

You can find the farm on Birch Mountain Road.

Go Cross-Country Skiing at the Hop River State Park Trail

Glide through the slopes at the Hop River State Park Trail, which stretches around 20 miles from Manchester through the town of Columbia.

The winding trail takes you to remote paths, crossroads, and modern residential areas, making your skiing more exciting and fun.

There's also a trail bridge, which lets you cross the Willimantic River in the town of Windham.

Enjoy the slopes and the sweeping views of the countryside.

The Hop River State Park Trail is also great for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

The park trail is located on Colonial Drive.

Play Disc Golf at Center Springs Park

Also known as Frisbee Golf, disc golf is among the activities you can try on a Manchester trip.

At Center Springs Park, you'll be welcomed with a nine-hole disc golf course, where you can spend an hour or two playing while soaking up the park's beautiful views.

There's also a small pond for fishing, a trickling waterfall, and covered pavilions for picnics.

You can also enjoy strolling around the trail.

The Cheney family donated most areas of the park in 1917, and the Hilliard family gifted an additional 7 acres in 1921.

You can find Center Springs Park on Lodge Drive.

Have a Picnic at Wickham Park

Scenic sunset over Wickham Park
Pugalenthi Iniabarathi / Shutterstock.com

Gorgeous gardens, vast open fields, serene ponds, and relaxing picnic areas are among the things that Wickham Park offers.

Built in 1960, the majority of the area was gifted by industrialist Clarence Horace Wickham, while around 60 acres was donated by landowner Myrtle Williams in 1967.

The park is home to lush gardens featuring native ornamental plants and trees.

There's a pond here, too, which adds to the place's relaxing vibe.

Buckeye flowers at Wickham Park
Jeff Holcombe / Shutterstock.com

You can have a picnic at the park's designated areas and pavilions for a small fee.

They are adjacent to the sports facilities, which are all available to guests on a first-come, first-served basis.

Make sure to reserve before your visit.

The park also hosts special occasions and events like weddings, birthdays, and more.

Wickham Park is nestled on Middle Turnpike West.

Magnolia flower at Wickham Park
Jeff Holcombe / Shutterstock.com

Learn the Local History at the Cheney Homestead

In the historic district of Manchester sits the Cheney Homestead, the Cheney family's ancestral home in the late 1700s.

The house was built in 1785 by Timothy Cheney, a revolutionary captain, and his brother Benjamin.

The Cheney brothers were the early American clockmakers and silk producers who became significant figures in the history of Manchester.

They lived in the homestead from 1785 until 1965, when the house was donated to the Manchester Historical Society.

Now a historic house museum, the homestead features the Cheney brothers' original creations, manuscripts, books, and relics.

The Cheney Homestead is located on Hartford Road.

Indulge in Comfort Food at Market Grille

Manchester is known for having casual restaurants that offer delectable dishes.

At Market Grille, you get to enjoy a sumptuous meal for lunch and dinner.

Try the Small Plates menu, which is famous among customers.

The restaurant also offers salads, steaks, noodles, and pasta; there's also a raw bar where you can enjoy a delicious Tuna Sushi Bowl.

Gluten-free and vegan options are also available for those with diet restrictions.

Pair your meal with specialty cocktails and other beverages from the bar.

Market Grille was established on Buckland Hills Drive in 2012.

Buy Handcrafted Gifts at Native Crafts

In Manchester, handcrafted items abound at Native Crafts on Buckland Hills Drive.

It offers a wide selection of handmade products—from clothing to jewelry and home decor.

Dream catchers, necklaces, crystals, incense, sweaters, scarves, bracelets, and everything handmade is all here.

If you're looking for ideal souvenirs and gifts, Native Crafts is the perfect place to visit.

Go Rope Climbing at Soarin’ Indoors

If you're up for some rope climbing adventure during your Manchester trip, don't miss Soarin' Indoors.

It offers fun and exciting rope climbing for those who want to test their core strength and stretch their muscles.

This indoor adventure park features zip lines, twisty ladders, and wobbly bridges, perfect for thrill seekers.

Kids under seven can enjoy the Lower Course, which includes a lower zipline equipped with a safety system.

Located on Progress Drive, Soarin' Indoors guarantees indoor fun for the whole family.

Get Your Favorite Wine at Manchester Wine & Liquors

After a full day of adventure and fun in town, you can relax with a bottle of wine from Manchester Wine & Liquors.

The store features a huge selection of wines, including organic and vegan wines and beers and spirits.

On most weekends, they offer free wine tasting.

Twin brothers Joe and Jim Jacobsen established Manchester Wine & Liquors in 1987.

You can find it on Buckland Plaza on Tolland Turnpike.

Wind Down at Little Bird Wellness

Heal and relax your tensed muscles at Little Bird Wellness with a soothing massage from licensed therapists.

Various massage options are available: Thai massage, lymphatic, Sarga bodywork, chair massage, hot stone, and Thai herb compress with add-ons like CBD oil.

They also offer a Couples Massage and a Couples Lesson, wherein one of their therapists gives you and your partner a 45-minute bodywork lesson.

You can also try their other services, such as Shaman Healing, Skin Care, Nutrition Therapy, Spa Treatments, and even Wellness Parties.

Little Bird Wellness was established in 2011 by Lani Dove, a licensed massage therapist, and a Nutritional Therapy practitioner.

You can find Little Bird Wellness on Main Street.

Final Thoughts

From its beautiful park trails to casual dining restaurants serving delectable dishes, the historic town of Manchester offers a fun and memorable trip.

Here, you can spend a full week of fun or even a few days of adventure and return home with memories to cherish for a lifetime.

Maximize your stay with our guide on the best things to do in Manchester.

Spotted a mistake, have some feedback, or just want to chat with our editorial team? Click here to get in touch.
Find out more about Travel Lens and read our editorial guidelines here.