Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Manchester, NH

  • Published 2023/01/06

Tucked within the scenic Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, Manchester is one of the most populated cities in the region.

While its roots can be traced back to the 1700s, it only officially became a city in 1846.

It rose to success with large manufacturing industries in the 20th century.

Manchester thrives as a cultural and economic center with various historical destinations.

The best part is that you don’t have to spend money to experience the charming sides of this city.

There are many diverse sights and activities, from distinct parks and historical sites to natural wonders and modern attractions.

Truly, Manchester is a splendid place for travelers seeking a budget-friendly destination.

Here are some free things to do in Manchester, New Hampshire:

See the Sunset at Massabesic Lake

Kayaking at Massabesic Lake

Jon Bilous /

Massabesic Lake is one of the finest options in Manchester if you need a quiet reprieve.

Since 1874, the beautiful lake has served a chunk of the Manchester region as its primary source of drinking water.

It was named after a Native American word that can be translated to “the place of much water.”

Sunset at Massabesic Lake

johnsotiriouphotography /

You can check out the banks of Massabesic Lake and admire the crystal-clear beauty of its azure waters.

It would also be a great vantage point to watch the sunset!

While water recreation is limited to preserving the lake’s cleanliness, you can use the public trails around the premises.

Picturesque view of Massabesic Lake

Diana Nault /

Those trails give beautiful views of the lake while also providing much-needed activity.

You can find it along Londonderry Turnpike!

Massabesic Lake covered with snow

Diana Nault /

Play Sports at Livingston Park

Livingston Park is an easy favorite of locals around the area.

It’s got an array of amenities for active recreation and a few facilities for tranquil leisure.

This includes a baseball diamond, various sports fields, children’s playgrounds, and a running track.

A simple trail also passes through a woodland area, rotating around the beautiful Dorr’s Pond.

In warm weather, you can fish for native species and ice skate during colder seasons.

The place is also clean and pristine, which adds to the scenic and casual adventure.

It’s no surprise that Livingston Park, out of all the parks in the city, has captured the hearts of many residents.

See what the park has to offer at Hooksett Road!

Take a Break at Pine Island Park

Just off the coast of Brown Avenue, you can locate Pine Island Park.

This pleasant park is a tiny, hidden gem embraced in a quiet atmosphere.

It’s perfect for those who want a break from the busy city or those who like to visit lowkey, underrated spots.

Since not many people know of Pine Island Park, it’s often peaceful and uncrowded.

The park contains a modest woodland area and an on-site pond that the public can freely explore.

Along the way, you may meet adorable wildlife, such as beavers, squirrels, and various birds.

It may not be the largest spot in the city, but Pine Island Park wields its subtle charm!

Go Window-Shopping in the Mall of New Hampshire

Entrance to Mall of New Hampshire

John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Other than parks, another place you can freely explore would be the Mall of New Hampshire.

Established in 1977, it has remained a commercial center for residents of Manchester for decades.

This place is home to various international and local stores with multiple products.

They’re housed in modern architecture, perfect for reminding you of the vibrant city lifestyle.

A walk around the mall can offer many exciting items in the middle of a casual and welcoming venue.

Whether you admire the mall’s splendid architecture or check out its indoor decor, the Mall of New Hampshire is a magnificent place to spend time.

You also benefit from a cool, air-conditioned breeze, especially during the hotter seasons!

Explore the wonders of this mall at Willow Street.

Take a Swim at Crystal Lake Park

Crystal Lake Park offers the perfect activity for those who need to cool off during warm weather.

Swimming is a joint venture in this cozy park at Bodwell Road.

It provides access to the historic Crystal Lake, also known as the Mosquito Pond.

The place garnered attention when it became the home of Charles Lambert, a hermit, who built a log cabin.

While he has since passed away, his story lives on through tales about Crystal Lake.

There’s also a playground for children at Crystal Lake Park!

All in all, the appeal of this park lies within the natural waters of its on-site pond, which the public can freely enjoy.

See the Charm of Old Buildings at Arms Park

River walk along the Arms Park

Pretzel4, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Arms Park is one of the many leisure spots in the bustling city!

The unique charm of this venue lies in its assortment of historic mill buildings, separating it from other places.

Once you walk along its trails, you’ll get clear views of old-style buildings and refurbished establishments.

Arms Park is also located right along the scenic Merrimack River, which adds a bonus to the experience.

View of Merrimack River at Arms Park

Captain-tucker, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

See cute ducks waddling across the river, or wait for the sun to set!

There’s also a creative staircase that local artists painted to give the park a livelier tone.

Bring yourselves to Arms Street and find this incredible park!

Browse the Books in the Manchester City Library

The Manchester City Library opens its doors to anyone looking for quiet and cozy comfort.

Along Pine Street, this building is rich in books, written documents, and history.

It was established in the mid-1850s and has become one of Manchester’s largest libraries.

You’ll see an array of both old and modern resources!

This venue offers broad options, from audiobooks and physical books to DVDs and other informative materials.

The architecture and structure of the building are also praiseworthy.

It features a mix of the classic Greek-Revival style with bright, contemporary renovations for a cozy yet sophisticated feel.

It’s also on the National Register of Historic Places.

Enter the Wilderness at Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve

Head towards the Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve for outdoor adventures in a hygienic environment.

Along Countryside Boulevard, this place features a vast piece of untamed nature.

It spans 640 acres, hosting miles of varying trails that show the different sides of the environment.

There are marshy swamps, mysterious woodlands, quiet meadows, remote wetlands, and other habitats.

You’ll also see plenty of animal wildlife living in their natural habitats.

From colorful birds and friendly mammals, the Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve is a safe place for various species.

The preserve was made possible through an agreement between environmental organizations in 1999.

From there, the officials could gather funds for the preservation and nurturing of the scenic preserve.

See the Local Scene in Downtown Manchester

View of Downtown Manchester

Jon Bilous /

Visiting a new city’s downtown district is a must because it shows a lot about where you are.

Explore the vibrant local scene of the city through Downtown Manchester.

It’s the city’s economic and commercial center!

Nestled within the heart of Manchester, this district is home to an array of nationally recognized historic buildings.

Street view of Downtown Manchester

djenkins5 /

Paired with floral decor and street aesthetics, this main street offers a lively, inviting ambiance.

With an abundance of local shops and businesses, the district allows you to immerse yourself in the city’s culture.

Downtown Manchester also hosts festive events and community gatherings for the general public.

This includes guided tours, annual eating events, musical concerts, and other holiday celebrations.

Skyline of Downtown Manchester

Sean Pavone /

Admire Diverse Artworks in Art 3 Gallery

For more than 30 years, Art 3 Gallery has provided a safe space for beautiful and creative artworks.

It’s located along Brook Street, nestled within the city’s historic Millyard district.

They feature a wide range of themes and mediums to foster diverse creations from talented artists.

The gallery takes in works from both local and international origins, so expect a mix of styles and techniques.

From paintings and sculptures to prints, glass, and ceramics, there are many works in the Art 3 Gallery.

It’s great for anyone wanting a glimpse of beautiful, artificial creations!

Besides browsing the art, visitors can also avail of services like consulting and customized framing.

Reach the Top of Rock Rimmon Park

A top venture in Rock Rimmon Park involves reaching the top of the summit and basking in its gorgeous views.

The trek upwards may be challenging for others, but the view is often considered worthwhile.

You’ll be met with sweeping views of the bustling city below, alongside its beautiful, natural environment.

Spanning 140 acres, Rock Rimmon Park also takes pride in being the city’s largest park.

It’s home to many public facilities like field courts, children’s playgrounds, and a skate park.

Rock Rimmon is also the subject of many legends!

It’s often connected to a fabled love story between a young Englishman and an intelligent Indian girl.

Visit the park at Mason Street and see the place with your own eyes!

Ride Your Bike at the Piscataquog Trail

Scenic view of Piscataquog Trail

Jon Bilous /

Built in early 2016, the Piscataquog Trail provides accessible recreation for locals and travelers.

Whether walking, biking, or running, this straightforward path is accessible to each classic activity.

The trail spans ten feet, featuring a mix of paved and unpaved walkways.

When it was first constructed, the Piscataquog Trail was planned and structured in four distinct phases.

Bridge over the river along the Piscataquog Trail

John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Each of them takes you to a different point in the city!

It includes some of the city’s attractions, including the downtown district, the West Side Ice Arena, and sports fields.

You can also reach another trail, the Goffstown Rail Trail, completed at the final phase.

Find this easy riverside trail along Precourt Street!

Entrance to Piscataquog Trail

John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore the Lawrence L. Lee Scouting Museum

Lawrence L. Lee Scouting Museum presents a free learning opportunity along Blondin Road.

This place has an extensive collection of artifacts and historical items related to the Boy Scouts.

There are many interesting finds in this venue, from vintage medals and uniforms to hundreds of badges and guns.

Lawrence L. Lee Scouting Museum also posts informative notes so you can read and learn at your own pace.

Moreover, they feature New Hampshire’s history and tales at the national and international levels.

Indeed, there is a lot to learn at this museum.

It’s great for a short pitstop to discover a few more interesting facts!

Enjoy the Breathtaking Views at Weston Observatory

In 1896, the foundation of the Weston Observatory was laid in honor of Manchester’s 50th anniversary.

It took its name from an esteemed resident, James Weston, who contributed much to the city’s development.

The observatory thrives as a beloved tourist attraction thanks to its historic appeal.

You can admire its impressive granite structure, standing at about 66 feet tall.

View of Weston Observatory

User:Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Once you reach the top of Weston Observatory, you’ll see some of the most popular spots in the city.

This includes several mountains in the New Hampshire region, as well as the whole city of Manchester.

It’s located along the high point of Oak Hill Drive.

The elevated trek may be challenging, but the above views can be worth the hard work.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Take Pictures of Animals at Massabesic Wildlife Sanctuary

If you want to see more native flora and fauna, the Massabesic Wildlife Sanctuary is a splendid choice.

It’s home to a collection of common, uncommon, and rare animal species that are unique to the lands of the New Hampshire region.

You can also explore diverse terrains such as mixed woodlands and open plains!

Specifically, there are two trails to choose from: the Yellow Trail and the Red Trail.

You can tell which trail you’re on based on the colored tags scattered around the scenic routes.

Depending on the trail, you can view the tranquil Lake Massabesic or spot rare ospreys.

The Massabesic Wildlife Sanctuary is in Auburn, New Hampshire, about 12 minutes from Manchester.

Final Thoughts

Manchester may be a commercial center, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend money to have a good time!

Plenty of attractions in the city don’t burn a hole in your pocket.

For example, it has diverse parks, nature preserves, historic venues, and local establishments.

Check out the free things to do in Manchester, New Hampshire!

© All rights reserved.