Category Archives: Recreation

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.

 

Antiques Week is here!

Every year early August brings a truly great series of events to Manchester, NH.  The whole collection is referred to as “Antiques Week” and, for almost two full weeks, Manchester, NH is the site of some of the greatest auctions, shows, fairs and exhibits of Americana in the country.  Beginning with a three-day auction of impressive items from world acclaimed collections and ending with a multi-day “flea market” at the Deerfield Fairgrounds, there is something for everyone who enjoys Americana.

Ron Bourgeault of Northeast Auctions kicks off the festivities with his superb auction at the Center of New Hampshire.  He is renowned for his ability to put together amazing collections of items and his auctions are always well attended.  For three days, collectors and dealers from around the country bid on one-of-a-kind items from America’s past.  While there are lots of items that you and I might be interested in, there are always “high-end” items that only a few can afford to bid on.  Some items end up selling for tens of thousands of dollars and reflect the highest points of American craftsmanship and artistry.

Between August 7 and August 15, the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen will hold their 77th annual fair at the Mount Sunapee Resort.  Here 350 juried members of the League display the efforts of their labor and provide demonstrations of their respective crafts for the public.  With all the different mediums in which they work and the different perspectives that they bring to their crafts, it is a truly amazing event.  More than enough treasures for everyone!

All week long there are dozens of other smaller events that offer the opportunity to discover your own special “finds”.  At the Furniture World Building, at 1300 South Porter Street, there are three days of events planned for mid-week visitors.  On August 9, there is the Manchester Pickers Market Antiques Show with 80 real pickers and dealers offering their finds to the public.  On August 11 and 12, the Mid-week in Manchester Antiques Show featuring over 100 dealers and their collections of Americana.

Mixed in with all of these events are the quaint little craft fairs in every small town in the area where local artists and dealers display their own wares for sale.  Here is where it is all about the hunt as you travel from town to town looking for just the right item to add to your own collection and have the thrill of the find when you are successful.

Whatever your interest in antiques might be there is something in Manchester for you to enjoy during this time.  Whether you’re a collector or a “picker”, a dealer or a buyer or someone who simply enjoys watching a true craftsperson at work, you will be able to find something that suits your style somewhere near the Ash Street Inn.

 

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.

 

NASCAR in New Hampshire

I’ve talked about some of the things that happen in and around the Ash Street Inn here in Manchester, NH in some of my previous posts.  And, with temperatures expected to drop into the low 30s for the next couple of nights, it may seem a little early to bring up this topic anyway.  But two things happen in northern New England come June 1st – it’s time to plant the garden and it’s time to get ready for NASCAR.  That’s right – NASCAR in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS), at 1122 Route 106 North in Loudon, NH, is the site of two great NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races every year.  The first, the Lenox Industrial Tools 301, takes place on June 27.  The second, the Sylvania 300, which is the first of the “Chase” events, takes place on September 19.  With over 100,000 spectators anticipated for both events, it’s a great time for NASCAR enthusiasts.  The little town of Loudon, with a population of just over 5,000 residents, is a bit overwhelmed with the influx of visitors but everyone manages to have a great time.  In order to get everyone out of town after the race, they even turn 5 out of the 6 lanes on I-93 into southbound lanes for most of Sunday afternoon to accommodate all the extra traffic heading home!

With NHMS about 25 miles (30 minutes on a good day – an hour or two on race day) from the Ash Street Inn, we don’t get many guests for the races but we do get everyone else.  We get the last minute, frantic calls asking us what’s going on in New Hampshire and why can’t they find 10 rooms for their christening guests!  We carefully explain that there is a hugely popular NASCAR event in Loudon, NH that weekend and wait for their response … what the heck is a NASCAR?!?  Oh well, we can’t all be enthusiasts now can we.

 

Spring Shows

Manchester, NH is home to two great venues for performances by renowned talent, sports and special events.  Both of the performance centers are large enough to draw great performers and groups but small enough so that you can really enjoy the show and see your favorite artists while they perform.

The Verizon Wireless Arena, .9 miles from the Ash Street Inn, at 555 Elm Street, is a 10,000 seat arena which is home to the Manchester Monarchs minor league hockey team but also hosts concerts and special events all year.  Some of the upcoming events include: Smucker’s Stars on Ice – Wednesday, April 14 @ 7:00 PM; the first annual Foursquare Day in Manchester – Friday April 16 from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM; Alan Jackson with Josh Turner and Chris Young – Thursday, May 13; Daughtry with Lifehouse and Cavo – Tuesday, June 15; and Justin Bieber with Sean Kingston – September 1.   A great place to see some of your favorite performers without the crowds you find elsewhere.

Less than .7 miles from the Inn, at 80 Hanover Street, is The Palace Theatre, an 840 seat late 1800s theatre which has been beautifully restored to the grandeur of its day.  It hosts events and performances in a truly intimate setting and offers the opportunity to see artists who prefer audience-focused venues.  From the New Hampshire Philharmonic to comedians to plays, the Palace hosts many one-of-a-kind events in the state.  Some of the upcoming events include: comedian Bob Marley – Saturday, April 17 at 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM; Gaelic Storm – Friday, April 23 @ 8:00 PM; Loretta LaRoche – Saturday, April 24 @ 8:00 PM; The Full Monty between April 30 and May 15 – Part of the Citizens Bank Broadway in NH series; the third annual farewell tour of Colin Mochrie & Brad Sherwood (Whose Line Is It Anyway?) – Thursday, May 20 @ 8:00 PM; and Recycled Percussion Friday and Saturday, June 4 and 5 @ 8:00 PM.  Tucked right in among all of Manchester’s great dining and clubs, the Palace is always great entertainment.

So keep these two great venues in mind when you want to get out and enjoy a live performance but don’t want to break the bank doing it.  And keep the Ash Street Inn in mind if you want to make a whole night of it while you’re here in Manchester!

 

Manchester, NH sports scene

Manchester is fortunate to have two great minor league sports teams, and two great venues, in the city.  Professional minor league sports are a great way to see talented, motivated players enjoying the sport they love, up close and personal, at a fraction of the cost of major league games.

Less than a mile from the Ash Street Inn is the Verizon Wireless Arena which is the home of the Manchester Monarchs, the AHL affiliate of the LA Kings.  Since November of 2001, the Monarchs have been a powerhouse in the league and have been in the Calder Cup playoffs every year except one.  They are in third place this year so they will be in the playoffs once again!  Their games are always well attended both for the great hockey and for the “fun for the whole family” atmosphere that surrounds each game.  With a few remaining regular season games and then the playoffs, there is still a lot of great hockey to be enjoyed.

Less than a mile from the Verizon Wireless Arena, along the Merrimack River, is the Merchantsauto.com Stadium which is home to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Double A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.  Since their inaugural year in 2004, when they won the Eastern League Championship, the Fisher Cats have enjoyed a string of successful years.  Every year they gain in popularity and continue to grow a loyal following.  They average over 5,400 fans at every home game in a stadium that seats 6,500 people.  In May of 2009, John Smoltz was on the mound and the franchise set a record for attendance with an SRO crowd of 8.903 fans!  With all the great baseball and great food, a day at the park is a fantastic way to spend a summer day.  And great food doesn’t mean just hot dogs and sausage subs – PETA has named the Stadium as the most vegetarian friendly ballpark in minor league baseball!  Opening day this year is April 15 so come on out and see a game.  Don’t forget that Friday becomes “Fireworks Friday” when the Cats are at home!