Category Archives: Foliage

Late summer at the Inn

Here we are in the middle of September wondering how the 4th of July got to be so long ago.  It was a long, hot, dry summer – now there’s a nip in the air every morning and the colors are starting to show on the trees.  Fall tends to be a long season here in northern New England and that’s just fine with us because there’s always a lot to do, things to see and great food to sample.

The downtown area on and along Elm Street will be busy tonight because it’s the night of the 7th Annual Taste of Downtown event from 5:00 to 8:00 PM.  Participants will be able to wander form shop to shop and sample culinary delights from 21 downtown restaurants.  It’s a great opportunity to see what the shops, new and old, have to offer and try some of the newest dishes from local restaurants.

This weekend will feature the 1st Chase event for the NASCAR crowd at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS)in Loudon, NH.  Always a great event that draws huge crowds to the area, this will be the last year that NHMS hosts the first of the Chase.  Next year the first event will be in Chicago but NHMS will still have the second event of the Series!  After a couple of years of cold and sometimes rainy weather, it looks like we should have great weather for the main race on Sunday.

By the first of October, it gets even busier!  The World Championship Chili Cook-off (see my earlier blog for the details) will be in downtown Manchester from October 1-3.  The Deerfied Fair, which is one of the oldest, largest and most exciting fairs you could ever attend, takes place in nearby Deerfield from September 30 through October 3.  And the Fall colors will be coming out in full splendor around us while all these other events are taking place.

How are the colors going to be this year?  You can ask 100 people how the colors are going to be this year, or any year for that matter, and get 101 answers.  The bottom line is that they are always breath-taking.  The real beauty is that it isn’t just one day – it’s a whole season unto itself.  By the end of August the “swamp Maples”, maples near the bogs and swamps with their endless supplies of water, have already started to change to bright red and orange.  As time moves along the colors spread up the hillsides and across the forests starting with the softer birch and maple and moving slowly towards the harder ash and oak.  By the end of October, we are left with the soft, warm shades of brown that mark the end of Fall and the prelude to Winter.  Many oak trees will keep their leaves into, or even through, the winter so the foliage season just seems to keep on going.

Time to make your plans to come to northern New England to see all that we have to offer.  We’ll be here at the Ash Street Inn to help you enjoy it all.

 

Top 10 Cities to Live In

I know I talk a lot about Manchester, NH being a great place live in and visit.  Some folks might just shrug that off and attribute it to the fact that lots of people think they live in a great place.  If they didn’t think it was that great they would probably move to another place that was better!  But Manchester has received a bunch of accolades from several sources so I thought I’d pass them along to prove that I’m, at least somewhat, impartial.  And I’m not a native of New Hampshire either.  My wife and I are both from Massachusetts, what they call Flatlanders up here, so that’s not just being idyllic about home-sweet-home.

Portfolio.com, which is the online presence of the now-defunct magazine, recently named Manchester, NH the 10th best mid-size place to live and start a business.  They found that Manchester has a healthy economy, moderate cost of living, light traffic, robust housing stock and top-notch educational system!  As innkeepers here at the Ash Street Inn, we are more interested in what might drive visitors to Manchester than what might make them want to live here but it turns out that they overlap quite well.  A good economy, light traffic and great schools in the area mean that we get lots of guests who are looking for a chance to relax and enjoy themselves and want to spend that time in a vibrant community with other folks who are doing the same things.  Works for us all.

One award however does not a trend make.  It would be much more meaningful if there was some independent corroboration.  So here we go.

In May of 2010, Forbes Magazine named Manchester, NH to their Top 10 list of livable places based on the last five years of economic growth, cost of living, current unemployment rates and crime rates.

In 2009, CNNMoney.com named Manchester, NH 13th on their list of the best places to live and start a business in the United States.

Also in 2009, Kiplinger’s named Manchester, NH the second most tax friendly city in the US, second only to Anchorage, AK.

Last, but not least, also in 2009, Forbes magazine put Manchester, NH #1 on it’s list “America’s 100 Cheapest Places to Live”.

It’s great to see that, for the criteria that were the basis for these surveys, Manchester, NH is doing well and has been for some time.  Of course, if you were to change the criteria, Manchester’s ranking might well be different but to find a thriving, active, fun community that can change with the times and isn’t just about the hype of the current fads, these criteria work just fine.

If you ever have the opportunity, you should spend a few days in Manchester, NH and see for yourself what a great place it is.

 

Great new restaurants in Manchester, NH

While there’s certainly no shortage of great places to dine in Manchester, we have some great new spots that deserve some attention.  While Darlene and I have not yet been able to visit these spots, the guests at the Ash Street Inn have given us some great reviews.  So we thought we could pass along some great new ideas to our readers.

XO on Elm, at 827 Elm Street, calls their style “metropolitan nouveau cuisine with a unique New England flair.  Our guests call it fresh, unusual and exciting!  Lots of different mixtures of flavors in some new twists on old favorites makes for an interesting experience whether you go for tapas and cocktails or for dinner.  There is always lots of excitement with a new place and the service has always been quick and professional.  I’m looking forward to the jumbo sea scallops frilled with a maple bourbon glaze and accompanied with pumpkin risotto!

Ignite Bar and Grille, at 100 Hanover Street, has been around a bit longer than XO on Elm but it is still quite new.  In a very short time it has become a favorite spot for local professionals after a hard day’s work whether it’s just for a quick drink and some appetizers or a leisurely dinner with friends.  Lots of great menu items and some really interesting takes on some things.  Ever had fried pickles?  One of our guests said that a deep fried sliced dill with ranch dip is awesome!  And the Asian BBQ Ribeye Steak is made with real Asian BBQ sauce.  I’m going to have to try that one just to see what it is.

Firefly American Bistro and Bar, at 22 Concord Street, has been around well over a year but they still have that “new spot” feel.  They have won several awards through our local “underground” newspaper’s reader’s poll (I promise to write about the Hippo soon!) including 2010 awards as the “Best Date Place” and the “Best Cocktail” for the Firefly Dirty-tini!  One cold, raw day last winter, Darlene and I stopped in for an early dinner and a wonderful time.  It was just noisy enough to put some life into a dreary day and the chowder was perfect for warming up the insides too!  I’m already planning to go back for their Sea Scallops Casino because I’m dying to try scallops with smoked bacon, spinach and feta cheese.  Might have to get back there soon!

We’re really blessed to have great little spots like this so close to us at the Ash Street Inn.  These three are all within a three-block area (little city blocks – not NY blocks) and just over a half mile from the Inn.  We’ll keep talking about all the fine dining that’s available here in Manchester.  Sooner or later we know you will find a reason to some stay with us at the Inn and indulge in some fine dining of your choice.

 

Hiking Manchester

I know I keep talking about the CITY of Manchester, NH and all there is to do here but, before you start picturing all the concrete and blacktop, I thought I’d talk a bit about all the walking and hiking you can take in without driving all the way to the White Mountains.

From the Ash Street Inn you can get to some pretty fun spots pretty quickly.  The list of parks within the city limits is pretty extensive and can be found at the Manchester parks and recreation website.  As you can see from this listing, some of the parks are quite small – mostly historical monuments and such.  But several are quite large and allow for lots of recreational activities year-round.

Derryfield Park is just about a mile east of the Inn.  It is situated on a broad hill overlooking Manchester, to the west, with great views of the skyline and the mountains beyond.  The park covers almost 77 acres primarily around the Oak Hill Reservoir, with some of the area developed for recreation and some left in it’s natural state.  At the northern end of the park it connects with the McIntyre Ski Area which is a small, local ski area that is a favorite for tubers!   A great park for lounging around on a Sunday afternoon with a good book – and a pillow!

Livingston Park/Dorrs Pond is about a mile north of the Inn.  The park is situated around Dorr’s Pond and offers a wide of recreational activities from fishing and hiking to soccer and tennis.  It covers over 130 acres, including the pond, and is a favorite nearby getaway for our guests.  For a day of fishing, a few quick sets of tennis or a three mile run, it is close and convenient and still in the city.

The Massabesic Audubon Center may be the best of all.  Just six (6) miles from the Inn, the sanctuary surrounds Massabesic Lake which is the primary water supply for the city of Manchester.  The Lake has a surface area of 2,500 acres and the protected watershed area covers another 8.000 acres.  Here you can fish and boat, hike, go bird-watching and just commune with nature all day long.  There are guided activities through the Audubon Center as well as marked trails if you want to head off on your own.  Whatever you choose, it’s a remarkable place to be for a few hours and just a few minutes from downtown Manchester.

These are a few of the large parks and well worth the time to visit.  But you don’t even need to go out of your way to enjoy some great little parks that dot the city.  From the Inn to the restaurant area Elm Street, you can pass through three parks complete with well mown grass, trees and flowers, traditional park benches and all the little things that make parks fun like children, puppies {on leashes, of course) and squirrels.  All during a 15 minute on your way to dinner.  Which we’ll get back to next time.

 

Great Irish pubs

This week I want to talk a little about “pubbing” in the Manchester, NH.  I’ve talked about some of the dining but we also have our fair share of Irish pubs.  The Irish have always played an important part in Manchester’s history and the tradition continues.

First, we have the Wild Rover at 21 Kosciuszko Street.  Since it opened in 1990, it has been billed as the only Irish pub on a Polish street in a French city.  It has won awards for serving the best pint of Guinness in the city and was voted the “Best of the Best Pub” by the Hippo magazine’s voter’s awards in 2010.  (More about the Hippo coming soon!)  With it’s 100 year old oak floors and brick walls, it is as comfortable and cozy as a pub can be.  The food is great from Bangers and Mash to the Irish Mixed Grill to the Lobster Mac & Cheese, there’s always something for everybody.  Lots of live entertainment every night and Thursday is Irish sing-along every week.  Less than half a mile from the Ash Street Inn, a lot of guests go there just to relax and have bit of pub food.

Second we move down on to Elm Street for The Shaskeen at 909 Elm Street.  Since 2005, the Shaskeen has been providing Manchester with Irish music 7 days a week.  Fits well since the pub is named after a famous, traditional Irish folk dance called the Shaskeen reel.  There is always something new to hear and lots of old favorites to remember.  The food is great here too!  From the Beer-battered Fish and Chips to the Guinness Beef Stew, the food will warm you up as the draughts cool you down.  The Shaskeen is part of a family of pubs owned by music loving folks of Irish descent who make the music as important as the food, drink and atmosphere.  The Shaskeen is less than ¾ of a mile from the Inn.

The Ash Street Inn is lucky to have two great Irish pubs within walking distance.  Many of our business travelers find them to be a great change from the usual fare they have available to them when they are on the road.  We’re glad they’re here – just another reason to stay at the Inn!

 

Chili Cookoff comes to Manchester, NH

I know I’ve said before that there is something for everyone here in Manchester, NH.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve just gotten started going through some of them in more detail to give you all an idea of how many diverse activities coexist here in northern New England.  In fact, just last week, I dedicated my post to talking about how New Hampshire is the host of not one but two NASCAR events every year.  Who would have thought about New Hampshire and NASCAR at the same time?

Well, this one may be even better.  From the 1st through the 3rd of October, 2010, Manchester, NH will be the scene of the 2010 World Championship Chili Cookoff (WCCC).  Yes, that’s right – chili in New Hampshire.  And not just chili – World Championship Chili!  The event is sanctioned by the International Chili Society which is a non-profit that sanctions chili cookoffs all year leading up to the WCCC.  Last year, they sponsored over 200 events that raised over $1m for charity.  Some of their more illustrious members include Carrol Shelby (think Cobra/Mustang) and Robert Petersen (think Hot Rod magazine/Guns and Ammo).

Now we all know that early in October New Hampshire certainly can get “chilly” but we usually warm it up with “chowdah” rather than chili.  Not that we don’t like chili here because we certainly do.  But we locals are a lot more familiar with clams, cream and onions than we are with beef, beans, chili powder and cumin.  So it will be exciting to have some of the greatest chili being prepared, and enjoyed, right in our own backyard.

The event will take place at Veteran’s Memorial Park in downtown Manchester on Elm Street between Central Street and Merrimac Street.  The venue is less than a mile from us here at the Ash Street Inn and it’s a pleasant 15 minute walk through a beautiful part of the city to get there.

The combination of the world’s greatest award winning chili and the world’s greatest Fall foliage is going to be hard to resist.  Being able to meld these two into one great weekend could be the opportunity of lifetime.

 

Manchester, NH – the “center of the universe”?

You might say we’re biased but, yes, we do see it as just that.  From the Ash Street Inn Bed and Breakfast, so many places are so close and easy to get to.  You can visit any of the New England states on less than one-half tank of gas.  Mystic, CT; Newport, RI; Portland, ME; Montpelier, VT and Provincetown, MA are all less than 175 miles away.  And with the easy access to all the interstate highways, you can get there quickly.  Or, if you prefer, there are lots of choices for “the road less travelled” that might get you there more slowly – or might not get you there at all.  It’s so easy to get sidetracked along the way that some guests never get where they were originally going at all – and don’t mind a bit.

Closer to home, there are still lots of choices when looking for great things to do in and around Manchester, NH.  Within 45 minutes in any direction, you can experience the wide range of choices that New England has to offer.  Head south and you can be in downtown Boston, MA with all that it has to offer – from the arts to sports to history.  Head east and you can experience all 13 miles of New Hampshire’s scenic coastline from the sandy beaches of Hampton Beach along the rock-strewn cliffs to Portsmouth.  Head west and you will be in the Monadnock range where picturesque little towns like Peterborough and Dublin home of Yankee Magazine, can be real “finds”.  Head north and you will discover Lake Winnipesaukee and Franconia Notch in the White Mountains, home to our beloved Mount Washington.

And, without even leaving Manchester, there are so many exciting things to do.  There is hiking, fishing and mountain biking around Massabesic Lake and the Audubon Center.  In season, you can ski and “tube” at McIntyre Ski Area. Minor league hockey and baseball are always great fun.  We have several venues for concerts and performances by artists from the world over.  The Currier Museum of Art and several other galleries and museums can make even a rainy day a great time.  With all the great restaurants and clubs in the city, everyone can find something that suits their style and have a remarkable day doing just about anything at all.

In future posts, we’ll talk in more detail about all the things to do in Manchester, NH and you’ll see why we like to think of it as the “center of the universe”!