Manchester has many personas, depending on who you are and where you live. For some it’s where you see Van Halen play on its next tour. For others it’s a place to go bar hopping, and unfortunately for others, they see Manchester as a city where your car might get broken into. I’ve worked in Manchester off and on for a few years now and have found that the city has more to offer than its “Manchvegas” nickname lets on.
1. Manchester is multicultural
For one of the least diverse states in the country, New Hampshire’s Queen City is very diverse. Dozens of languages are spoken by students in Manchester’s public schools and more than 20 percent of the students are non-white. Manchester today is home to Sudanese, Bhutanese and Iraqis. Having different cultures represented in the city means there are stores and restaurants that cater to these cultures. The West Side has the Ali Baba Wholefoods Festival & Treasures, which serves wine, groceries and prepared food like falafel, shawarma and channa masala. Near Gill Stadium is its sister store the Spice Center, a market offering foods mainly from the Middle East and southeast Asia. There are many more small markets throughout the city that have ethnic food sections catering to the neighborhood. Manchester also has an embarrassing amount of good Mexican restaurants and a highly rated Nepali restaurant, Café Momo.
2. Manchester has the Merrimack River
During the Industrial Revolution, Manchester’s riverfront property was taken over by mills and warehouses. Now it has a baseball park, walking trails, and luxury condominiums. The mills are still there, but inside are tech firms, restaurants and the UNH Manchester campus. If you want to get up close to the river, head to Arms Park. Parking is ample and you can walk along the Merrimack just feet from the rushing water below.
3. Manchester has great parks
Manchester White Cedar Swamp was protected by the Nature Conservancy in 1999 and is the only white cedar and giant rhododendron swamp north of Massachusetts. This extremely rare habitat comes into bloom in June, a great excuse to get outside when the weather gets nice again. Once you’re in the park, you’d hardly know it was Manchester. I also love Livingston Park in the summer for its great pool, and Valley Cemetery, a beautiful and eerie place that was once forgotten but is slowly being restored to its former glory. Be careful though. It’s said to be haunted.
4. You can learn to ski in Manchester
McIntyre Ski Area is small, but it’s also a relaxed and affordable place to learn to ski. A few years ago, I took a women’s snowboarding class that included ticket and rentals for five weeks. After three lessons I was maneuvering the chair lift with ease.
Throughout the winter, McIntyre has special events for kids of all ages and after-work ski/snowboard lessons (which I’ve heard are good for meeting other young professionals). If the slopes aren’t your thing, McIntyre also has a tubing park.
5. Manchester is a college town
Manchester is home to Southern New Hampshire University, UNH-Manchester, NH Institute of Art and St. Anselm College. Manchester Community College, Mount Washington College, and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences are also within the city. That’s a lot of schools for a city with 110,000 people. These students help supply the local restaurants, bars and coffee shops with patrons and give Elm Street its energy at night. New Hampshire has one of the oldest populations in the country, but Manchester, thanks to its many colleges, is one of the state’s youngest cities.