In its early years, now-bucolic Manchester was something of an industrial region. At various times, it was home to marble mills, lumber companies, and iron mines. The presence of so many mills inspired the name Factory Point for the area that is now Manchester Village. The town's proximity to the Green Mountains gave it a foothold as a summer resort, particularly for wealthy New Yorkers, and those long-ago factories have been supplanted by factory-outlet shopping, with more than 30 of the stores clustered in Manchester Center. With the picture-postcard village and The Equinox resort and spa as its hub, Manchester is home to outdoor pursuits including skiing, fly-fishing, and hiking, and to shopping, the arts, and a simmering dining scene.
PlayIt's no accident that the American Museum of Fly Fishing (Route 7A, 802-362-3300, $5 adults, $3 children ages 5-14, amff.com) is in Manchester, or that it sits across a shared parking lot from the Orvis Co.'s flagship store. Town native Charles Orvis developed the ventilated reel, which allowed the fishing line to dry quickly on the reel, and opened his first store here in 1856. Orvis now has 55 stores and more than 500 dealers. The museum was created in 1968 and lays claim to the world's largest collection of angling artifacts, including Ernest Hemingway's fly rod. Note: The museum's main gallery will close temporarily Sept. 4 for installation of an exhibit.
The Equinox Preserve (free; park at The Equinox, at Burr and Burton Academy upper lot when school is not in session, or at the top of West Union Street) consists of some 850 acres on the slopes of Mount Equinox, and boasts perhaps the largest northern hardwood forest in New England. It is open year-round for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and snowshoeing. A trail map lists a dozen big trails and suggested one-, two-, three-hour, and day hikes.
A mere pitching wedge shot across the road from The Equinox is Gleneagles Golf Course (green fees $104 weekends, $92 weekdays, $59 twilight, equinoxresort.com), which was designed by esteemed architect Walter Travis in 1926 and updated by Rees Jones in 1992. It earned the No. 59 spot on Golf Digest's 2006 ranking of the top US re sort courses.
SpendIt must have been a heck of a party when the last book in the Harry Potter series went on sale at Northshire Bookstore (4869 Main St., 802-362-2200, 800-437-3700, northshire.com). The wide staircase that leads up to children's books is adorned with a Hogwarts school facade, and halfway up the stairs you find yourself under an enormous "sorting hat." This large yet independent store frequently hosts author events (Garrison Keillor is scheduled Sept. 19), and browsers will find hundreds of cards with capsule book recommendations by its staff. It also boasts music and movie sections, crafts, and stationery, and the Spiral Press Cafe (soups, salads, and sandwiches, $3.25-$9).
Have a hankering for Lemon Lulu? It's a lemon pound cake, and the proprietors of Mother Myrick's Confectionery and Ice Cream Parlor (Route 7A and Ways Lane, 888-669-7425, mothermyricks.com) suggest you keep one in the freezer for unexpected company. Also check out their Pecan "Myricles," featuring caramel and either milk or dark chocolate. Have a question about getting something shipped? E-mail them at email@example.com.
Did we mention outlet stores? The Manchester Designer Outlets (routes 7A and 11/30, 800-955-SHOP, 802-362-3736, manchester designeroutlets.com) are discreetly ensconced in several Colonial-style buildings with understated signage. The concentration of outlets does not assault the eyes quite like those in North Conway, N.H., or Kittery, Maine, but it is wildly successful, to the point that Manchester generates more state sales tax revenue than all but four Vermont municipalities.
PartyMuch of the area night life is closer to ski areas such as Bromley and Stratton. The Perfect Wife Tavern (see "Fuel"; click on "live music" for schedule) fancies itself Manchester's premier source for live music. It hosts an eclectic assortment of acts, with styles ranging from punkabilly to "newgrass" to hip-hop, nearly every weekend. It also lists 29 beers on its tavern menu along with sandwiches, crab cakes, and nachos.
Laney's Restaurant (1716 Depot St., 802-362-4456, entrees $11-$21, laneysrestaurant.com) is a good spot to catch the ballgame. It boasts a restaurant on one side, with a children's menu, steaks, seafood, and pizzas, and on the other side is a lively sports bar.
FuelThere is a reason why people climb the 15 stairs to Up For Breakfast (4935 Main St., 802-362-4204, $6-$12) and why it has earned "best breakfast" honors from Vermont Magazine. Despite its cramped, L-shaped confines, it churns out delicious, healthy morning and lunchtime fare (frittatas, French toast, wild turkey hash) quickly and with a friendly flair.
The Depot Cafe (515 Depot St., 802-366-8181, entrees $9-$17), located in a furniture store called Depot 62, serves natural and organic fare with a Turkish flavor. Among the offerings are handmade, wood-fired pizzas (some of them vegetarian), salads, and chicken dishes.
Bistro Henry (1942 Routes 11/30, 802-362-4982, entrees $24-$35, bistrohenry.com) has earned Wine Spectator's award of excellence 13 years running. It features the cuisine of southern France and northern Italy, and namesake Henry Bronson and his wife, Dina, like to say that they "elevate the classics to a modern style." Gourmet, Food & Wine, and dozens of other reviewers agree.
Located on a hillside with sunset views just outside of town, Garlic John's (routes 11/30, 802-362-9843, entrees $8-$24) has served hearty Italian fare for 30 years, and the hundreds of Chianti bottles dangling from the ceiling attest to its longevity.
Along the same "restaurant row" that straddles Route 7 is The Perfect Wife (2594 Depot St., 802-362-2817, entrees $15-$28, perfectwife.com), with an elegant, 55-seat greenhouse dining room and casual tavern. On the website, chef-owner Amy Chamberlain playfully describes herself as an aspiring "perfect wife," but she has made headlines with her cuisine, including features on the Food Network.
StayThe Equinox resort (3567 Main St., Route 7A, 800-362-4747, 802-362-4700, $279-$699, equinoxresort.com) dates to 1769, and its own description that it "symbolizes all that is elegant and gracious" is not an exaggeration. Mount Equinox rises from its backyard, and the resort boasts a spa, plus all forms of outdoor pursuits, including falconry and clay skeet shooting.
The Reluctant Panther (17-39 West Road, 800-822-2331, 802-362-2568, $219-$579, reluctantpanther.com) is a luxurious, 20-room country inn in the village with ridiculously comfortable beds that almost require a footstool to climb into.
Its 22 acres of lush lawns include a 9-hole, par-3 golf course, but the Palmer House (5383 Main St., 800-917-6245, $130-$160, palmerhouse.com) has attractive rates to boot. It also offers indoor and outdoor pools, a variety of rooms and suites, and an impressive an tique doll collection.
DoThe Southern Vermont Arts Center (West Road, 802-362-1405, svac.org) showcases lovely artwork in a gorgeous setting, with a 400-seat performance space nestled among its buildings. Outdoor sculptures dot the 400-acre campus, which marries art, music, dance, and theater, while offering workshops and classes in several disciplines.
Skateboarders and snowboarders will want to do more than gawk at the huge LEGO snowboarder in the window of Podium (5081 Main St., 802-367-7669, podiumvt.com), which boasts that it is rider-owned and -operated. Along with apparel and boarding equipment, it touts its vintage board collection. The rider in the window is 2002 Olympic gold medalist Ross Powers, who won the halfpipe event at Salt Lake City and opened the shop last year with friend Nick Pedemonti.
Frog Hollow Vermont State Crafts Center (4716 Main St., 802-362-3321, froghollow.org), one of three affiliated centers in the state, features traditional and contemporary works from more than 250 juried Green Mountain State artisans. It also hosts classes, children's summer camps, private les sons, and open studio time.