Things to do in Manchester VT for a Relaxing and Fun Fall Road Trip
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Our introduction to New England was in the quaint town of Manchester VT in the valleys of the Green Mountain National Forest.
The town is famous for its ski resorts, cross country skiing, and an alpine slide that sit at the base of the Stratton Moutain. But what many people don’t realize is, there are many things to do in Manchester VT all year round.
In the Spring and Summer, its downhill skiing runs turn into epic hiking trails, and in the fall, the autumnal colors fill the top attractions in Manchester with colors of orange, yellow and red.
The town is also home to many fascinating museums, farmers markets, and parks.
No matter what time of year you visit, you will be sure to find something to keep you busy and entertained in Manchester.
Our Experience Visiting Manchester
Manchester VT is a bucolic town in the Battenkill Valley in southwestern Vermont.
It’s relaxed and sophisticated, and while I preferred the town of Stowe in the northern part of Vermont, Manchester is a great base to explore Vermont’s unspoiled Green Mountains!
It has been a dream of mine to visit New England in the Fall for many years. I think Fall is possibly the only time humans celebrate change and transformation, I wanted to celebrate it in the place where the leaves danced in vibrant fashion.
Sadly, in some parts of the North East, the weather was unseasonably warm, which meant the leaves weren’t singing the loudest.
But, it also meant the leaf-peeping season was late, and we were late getting to New England, so lucky for us we caught the leaves at their peak colors.
We stayed in Manchester Vermont for three nights and did our best to chase the leaves all over the Green Mountain region.
We missed the turn off to our accommodation, which lead us to this driveway to turn around. I quickly snapped a photo, which was so popular on our social channels.
I really think it captured the spirit of New England – colonial, patriotic, warm, and perfectly suited to the spirit and vibrancy of Fall.
We explored Manchester on a New England road trip. If you’re planning a road trip, be sure to check out RentalCars.com, the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar. Book your car rental in Vermont here!
Things to Do in Manchester VT
Whether you’re staying for a weekend or a week, you’ll find there are plenty of attractions in Manchester to keep you busy. Here are some of the fun things to do in Manchester Vermont.
1. Bike riding through Manchester Village
We were excited to be using our new bikes for the first time in New England. What better way to explore Manchester VT than riding down the charming Main Street, which splits Manchester into two sections.
We began in Manchester Village, which is where you’ll find many of the white columned mansions and Victorian-era inns.
There is the gorgeous church and in the fall you’ll get golden pops framing the spire.
The popular and luxurious Equinox Hotel, built in 1769, is the centerpiece of the village.
Mary Todd Lincoln and her children from Washington D.C. spent two summers at The Equinox, which is said to be haunted by Honest Abe’s beloved wife.
A little cycle further north and you’ll reach Manchester Center with the more unpretentious stores, one of the most famous being the Northshire Bookstore sitting on the corner of a busy intersection.
There are a few arts and crafts shops and restaurants here as well.
2. Prospect Rock Trail
There are a lot of hiking trails in the Green Mountain National Forest.
We chose the Prospect Rock Walk as it seemed family-friendly and offered good views over the Manchester Valley. It was an uphill, 3.1 mile return walk. The uphill was fairly gentle though so easy enough to do with kids.
It’s a dirt trail beside a creek for some of it. The girls enjoyed the walk and seeing the fall colors for the first time.
It winds along a mountain brook before departing into birch-beech forest on a wide and open logging path. The trail criss-crosses the Appalachian Trail and Long Trails.
Be warned, you may miss the entrance to Prospect Rock. It comes off the main trail on the right. I only saw it because I glimpsed at the group of Malaysians in front of us who were standing on the rock.
Once we figured out how to get there we looked up and saw a small sign camouflaged high up on the tree trunk pointing you to the beautiful views of the Manchester Valley with Mount Equinox to the west.
If you’re looking for a more challenging trail, consider the Mount Equinox hike, which offers views of The White Mountains, the Green Mountains, the Adirondack Mountains, and the Berkshire Mountains!
3. Drive Around and See the Covered Bridges
Looking for a bit of nostalgia and quirky character on your Vermont Road trip?
A drive to discover the covered bridges in Southern Vermont and the Manchester VT area might be just your thing.
We learned that hunting for covered bridges are one of the most popular things to do in Manchester, New England! They are also called kissing bridges for the lovers who’d linger as they passed through. Vermont has more than 100 covered bridges.
We jumped in the car to explore five of them from Manchester to Bennington.
If you’re short on time, I’d skip this, or at least visit the following two covered bridges, which I found most interesting. You can get a bit covered-bridge tired after the first couple.
Just down the country road from Manchester and spanning the Roaring Branch and tucked down into the dip was our first covered bridge sighting.
Slow down so you can see the sign upon entry, and so you don’t get a fine.
As the sign says, it’s a $1 fine for driving too fast across it!
West Arlington Bridge
Two miles from the New York border is the cute West Arlington Bridge spanning the Batten Kill River.
The West Arlington Bridge was built in 1852 and is on National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the most known, and photographed in Vermont.
4. Bennington Battle Monument
Looking for historical things to do in Manchester VT and fancy a bit of Revolutionary War history?
I quite enjoyed the Bennington Monument, which was built to commemorate the Battle of Bennington. The battle which occurred on August 16, 1777, is considered to be the turning point in the Revolutionary War
For $5 you can take the elevator to the top of the Monument (306 ft high).
I’ve you’ve come all this way, I recommend you do. It offers a pretty birds eye view of the Bennington area, including where the battle was fought and all the way to New York state and Massachusetts.
5. Skyline Drive to Mt Equinox
One of the most popular things to do in Manchester VT is the Skyline Drive!
In true yTravel with kids fashion, we were late getting up the Skyline Drive which meant the lighting was harsh in the middle of the day for viewing and photographs: plenty of haze with the endless valley views.
The Mount Equinox Skyline Drive is the longest privately owned paved toll road in the USA. 5.2 miles long, elevation increases to 3,235 feet.
There are some parts of the Skyline Drive that were pretty, but not as spectacular as I was hoping as it was more brown in color. The auto toll road was a little expensive as well.
We did three different toll roads in New England up mountains and this was my least favourite. I think if you went at the right time of the day and had more time to take some walks and have a picnic it would be a better experience.
We did have a play with our new drone on the way back down though which gave us a wonderful perspective and some good video and photos.
Mt Equinox Skyline Drive toll road prices:
- $15.00 car and driver
- $5.00 per passenger
6. Visit Earth Sky Time
I’m pretty sure anyone can just pop into the Earth Sky Time Community Farm and it was one of the most interesting things to do in Manchester VT.
It’s a certified organic three-generation family farmstead, wood-fired bakery, and thriving community of artists, musicians, and friends and was founded by Oliver, the brother of Melissa from the Wilburton Inn.
Melissa took us to see the cool things they are doing with the farm.
Every week, the farm bakes 2,000 loaves of bread for local markets, restaurants, and cafes. Earth Sky Time now has a community farm store with fresh produce from the garden.
Oliver is also known for making amazing hummus. And they have various art and music programs and events on the farm.
Oliver and his wife have recently started homeschooling their kids so it was great to have a chat with them about our roadschooling lifestyle and how to transition into it and make it work.
We also had a look at the bus Oliver welded together for his family’s road trip in the US. They baked bread along the way which they bartered for various things. How cool? The world is full of people doing fascinating things.
The farm is also popular with WOOFers. So if you like to follow this volunteering strategy around the world this farm may be the place for you.
Oliver has taken old shipping containers and refrigeration trucks and built woofing quarters out of them. Lots of sustainability things happening at this farm.
7. Stay at the Historic Kimpton Taconic Hotel
Located in downtown Manchester, the Kimpton Taconic Hotel is a historic building and boutique hotel that offers luxury and hospitable accommodations.
The hotel is set in the former home of Julius Kellogg, who built the cottage in 1876. It was turned into a hotel in 1907. It has changed names as a hotel many times over the years, but it has always retained its rustic charm.
With cozy fireplaces, wood-paneled walls, and a white-washed porch, it’s one of the most authentic properties you can stay in Manchester.
8. Visit The Lincoln Family Home (Hildene)
The Hildene Manor is a large mansion estate that was commissioned by Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, the only one of Abraham Lincoln’s children to survive into adulthood.
He built this Georgian Revival mansion to be his summer house in 1905. Today it is a museum and lovingly preserved home of Robert Lincoln and his descendants.
The Hildene Estate is a massive complex with a huge manor, 14 historic buildings, an observatory and manicured gardens. There are over 12 miles of trails that take you to Hildene Farm and Dene Farm, where you can pet the goats, sheep, and cows.
The home stayed in the possession of the Lincolns until 1975, when the last of the descendants, Mary Lincoln Beckwith, passed away, it was passed to the non-profit organization, Friends of Hildene.
Visitors can book a guided tour before visiting.
9. Learn about Fly Fishing at the American Museum of Fly Fishing
Fly fishing is one of the top things to do in Manchester, or Vermont for that matter, and if you want to learn all about how this unique sport came to the area, there’s no better place to learn than at the American Museum of Fly Fishing.
The museum preserves the history, traditions, and practices of fly fishing and also strives to promote the conservation of the rivers.
If you’re interested in trying your hand at fly fishing, the Battenkill River is one of the best places to try it.
10. Admire Local Art at the Southern Vermont Arts Center
The Southern Vermont Arts Center is a space for the community to come together and participate in the arts. They hold regular classes and workshops, as well as showcase the work created by local residents.
If you’re interested in art, then a visit to the Southern Vermont Arts Center is definitely worth adding to your Manchester itinerary.
11. Roam Around Equinox Pond
The Equinox Pond is a relaxing lake just outside central Manchester. It’s a relaxing place with a few hiking trails nearby. To get to the pond, park your car near the Red Gate Trail Head and walk 800 meters to the pond.
The Equinox area’s nature is unlike anywhere else. It’s quiet and tranquil, and depending on the time of year you visit, is alive with color. We definitely recommend coming here in the Fall if you can.
The Equinox Valley Nursery is also a great place to visit in October during the fall season. The nursery is full of trees and greenery that comes alive with color this time of year.
12. Pack Your Snowshoes and Check Out The Ski Resorts
Stratton Mountain is the number one place for skiing near Manchester in the winter. It has 99 trails and runs from one singular summit and the highest peak in Vermont.
It’s also known for being the birthplace of snowboarding.
The trails range from beginner trails to advanced trails, so if you’re a skiing or snowboarding enthusiast, this is the best thing to do in Manchester for you.
You can also take sleigh rides from Taylor Farm, if you’re visiting with kids in the winter and not interested in hitting the slopes.
13. See Glass-Blowing at Manchester Hot Glass
Manchester Hot Glass is a glass-blowing studio where you can learn and create amazing hand-blown glass products. Glass-blowing classes tend to take around two hours and you can take home the product you create.
This is certainly one of the most exciting things to do in Manchester on a rainy day, as well as a way for you to take home a unique souvenir.
14. Manchester Farmers Market
Manchester Farmers Market runs every Thursday from early June through early October. It’s a local produce market that pops up in Adams Park from 3pm-6pm, where 30 vendors sell their produce and artisans.
It’s the perfect place to pick up some local food to sit and have a picnic.
15. Chase Manchester’s Rivers and Waterfalls
Manchester is surrounded by outstanding natural beauty, so you should definitely make sure to head out in search of the best nature spots.
Some stunning natural landscapes in the Manchester area are Lye Brook Falls, which lies on the Appalachian Trail. There’s also Dorset Quarry, which has been filled and turned into a lake.
Places to Eat in Manchester VT (and surrounds)
Of course, exploring all these top things to do in Manchester means working up an appetite. If you’re not sure where to eat in Manchester, here are some of our top recommendations.
For a special night out, Silver Fork is an elegant dining room serving high-end French cuisine. The owner is an award-winning chef who creates dishes that are works of art.
The menu changes according to what the chef finds fresh at the market or what’s in season, so you’re always guaranteed to have a delicious and fresh meal.
This restaurant is like an English tavern that has been dropped in the middle of Vermont. It’s dedicated to traditional American craft cooking, using freshly sourced ingredients.
Even if you don’t eat here, be sure to order a cocktail and enjoy the pub-style ambiance.
Up For Breakfast
On our first morning, we headed to Up For Breakfast on recommendation by our waitress the evening before.
It’s a local’s favorite tucked up a set of stairs in a cozy building.
The carrot cake pancakes came highly recommended which I was dying to try, although they did not have a gluten free version, so we opted for the blueberry gluten free pancakes instead.
You try the carrot cake ones for me and let me know what they are like, okay?
The L-Shaped room is cramped yet grandmotherly cozy. It definitely wasn’t a fancy place and, while I didn’t think it was worth raving about, it was a local’s tip so we’re sharing it with you.
The Reluctant Panther Restaurant
Don’t let the name fool you, this restaurant is one of the number one places to visit for authentic Southern Vermont local food.
Like Silver Fork, The Reluctant Panther also has an intimate dining setting, but is a little less “date night” and a great place to eat for any traveler visiting Manchester.
J.J. Hapgood General Store & Eatery, Peru
We loved this little grocery store we discovered in the quaint one-street town of Peru near Bromley Mountain, one of the ski resort areas in the Green Mountains of Vermont.
Historically, J.J. Hapgood has been the longest continuously-running general store in the state.
Owner Juliette Britton grew up in Peru and, with her husband Tim, revived the beloved general store in 2013.
It’s now not just a store that provides provisions, dry goods, and local produce, but it houses a local foods café, a custom wood-fired oven built by artisan Peter Moore, a gallery space, an outdoor patio, and growler filling stations.
We ate delicious homemade food on the tables outside in the warm sun while the girls played games of corn hole and giant jenga in the garden.
I highly recommend a glass of the local kombucha on tap. It was a relaxing lunch after our Prospect Rock Walk.
Bryant House, Weston
Another cute village near Manchester VT is Weston, home to Vermont’s oldest professional theater company.
The famous Vermont Country Store is an impressive art gallery and the popular Bryant House, which is where we stopped for lunch on the way to Stowe.
Next door to the busy Vermont Country store is the 1825 eating rooms at the Bryant House Restaurant.
It’s popular so book ahead or arrive early.
We sat at the bar in the 1885 bar room as we were in a hurry. The menu is pure New England fare, with classics like Yankee Pot Roast and Chicken Pie.
The roast vegetable stack that I had was the most delicious meal I had in Vermont. It was also Bryant House where we had our first taste of hot apple cider – a Vermont specialty – it was delicious and is something we now seek out.
Where to Stay in Manchester
One of the highlights of visiting Manchester VT was our stay in a cozy cottage at Wilburton Inn, a historic inn on a 30-Acre hilltop estate.
If you like your accommodation to be more than just a bed to lie in, then The Wilburton Inn is for you.
The property was built in 1902, but has been independently owned for 30 years by the Levis family. I enjoyed meeting with Melissa, the daughter of the owner, who has taken over as manager of the estate.
Over breakfast, Melissa moved around to every breakfast table, greeting the customers, sometimes with a warm embrace, and spending time to find out a little about their backgrounds and lives.
It’s really rare to see that kind of care and interest. There is a lot of love and passion behind creating a warm, friendly and heartwarming experience at the Wilburton Inn.
This is the kind of atmosphere that her mother created when the family took over the inn and transformed it from an exclusive resort to a warm and friendly place open to creatives and romantics.
The Levis want their property to be more than just a hotel. Throughout the year, they put on fun events such as murder mystery weekends, Farm Nights with music and special menus, and holiday celebrations.
The Wilburton Inn also is the site for private yoga retreats, and corporate getaways, with its beautiful vistas and historic charm, many weddings.
There is plenty to do on the beautifully maintained 30 acres of property – biking and walking paths as well as tennis courts and a swimming pool (in season).
Don’t miss The Museum of the Creative Process, which consists mostly of a sculpture trail around the property.
These sculptures pay homage to love and the art of Greece, Japan, Mexico, India, and Mesopotamia. There are seats near many of the sculptures for your reflection or meditation.
The Wilburton has inn rooms, suites, and vacation villas ranging from 2-bedroom cottages to a 15 bedroom mansion.
We stayed in the Inn keeper’s cottage with unobstructed views of the Green Mountains.
The cottage was first built for the original innkeepers. It’s a two bed, two bath cottage that can sleep up to 6 people.
The cottage has a kitchen and is spacious and cozy (especially with the wood fire burning at night.) I loved watching the fog break over the mountain early in the morning during sunrise from the deck.
We stayed for three nights as guests of the Wilburton Inn.
Before You Go
So there you have it, those are the best things to do in Manchester VT and as you can see, there’s more to see and do than just skiing.
We hope this guide helped you plan your Manchester adventure!
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Do you have any tips on things to do in Manchester VT? Or do you plan to visit New England in the fall? Share in the comments.