You may have seen a recent blog post making the rounds by Granite Haze of Mind entitled “The Top 5 Worst Places in Manchester, New Hampshire,” tearing apart spots throughout the Queen City. We certainly did. It’s hard to deny parts of the post were funny, but its focus solely on the bad – and ignorance of some of the work the city is doing to improve many of the spots on the list – left a bad taste in our mouths.
There are so many positive things going on in Manchester that it’s important not to let the bad overshadow the good. If you need a refresher on some of these things feel free to check out the Guide to Manchester in last August’s issue of NH Magazine.
So, in an effort to debunk some of this blog post, and honestly just to spend a nice day outside in Manchester, the Boards & Brews crew packed up some sandwiches and a few board games and visited these so-called worst places in Manchester for a little picnic.
Here’s our experience:
#5 – Fritzie’s (West Side)
Fritzie’s was a delight. While some may see the store’s inventory as sparse, we like to think of it as a small, well-curated selection of convenience store necessities. We grabbed a Monster energy drink and a bag of BBQ chips for our picnic and set up shop across the street. There was a friendly family barbecue going on in the yard of the nearest apartment building and people were out enjoying the weather.
#4 – Arms Park (East Side)
This one making the list is hard to understand. Sure, the huge lot in front of Arms Park does sort of live up to its local “Arms Parking Lot” nickname, but that’s pretty much the only reason to hate on this spot. Manchester Connects just put a bunch of money into the park to add picnic tables, fun colorful seating, a permanent cornhole setup, and a bunch of other improvements to make the space more bike friendly. For several years now the park has hosted the Manchester Brewfest, an awesome event that has grown to feature brewers from around the state plus a bunch of great local food trucks. The mill buildings surrounding the park host DEKA’s offices where some of the most cutting edge medical research in the world is happening. All told its a solid place that will only continue to get better. Oh, and the river is actually pretty beautiful on a nice day.
#3 – Rock Rimmon (West Side)
Rock Rimmon was actually pretty cool on such a gorgeous day. There were at least 50 people out enjoying the park – a full squad playing basketball, kids and families on the jungle gyms, and couples playing tennis and pickleball on the tennis courts. This is another park the city has been focused on improving in recent years, and it was awesome to see so many people utilizing it. Anyone who’s grown up in Manchester has probably climbed to the top of the rocks to get a good view of the city, and sure, the top could definitely be a lot cleaner, but that’s going to be true of pretty much any somewhat-difficult-to-get-to scenic spot in the middle of a city that’s hard for city employees to keep clean.
#2 – Cumberland Farms Beach and Hanover St. (East Side)
Our picnic outside this Cumbies was pretty interesting. Setting up out front definitely drew some attention, and we were welcomed into the store by employees after they learned what we were doing. What was most surprising about this visit was just how much offense they’d taken to being called out as one of the top 5 worst places in Manchester. Called out in the article for catering to the drug-using set with products like tin foil and Chore Boy, they assured us they didn’t actually stock any of these products. Then they hooked us up with some free Slurpees.
Sure, Cumberland Farms is far from a local establishment, but this was a reminder that the employees are, in fact, local, solid people who care about the area and hate the reputation their store has developed. We can’t deny the fact that a seedy element has been known to congregate around this area, but that’s certainly not the fault of the store itself. Drug abuse is probably the most difficult problem to solve in our city right now, and we’re not literally suggesting you come and picnic in the parking lot of this spot, but our time here wasn’t so bad.
#1 – Cadillac Motel
Ah, the Cadillac. Our picnic here was hilarious and pretty much a bucket list item we were glad to finally cross off. Popping champagne under the iconic “Rooms for a night or a lifetime” definitely drew some attention – including from a police officer who demanded to know if we were going to pop the bottle before approving and encouraging us to go for it with a big smile on her face. It’s obviously hard for us to recommend spending a night at the Cadillac, but we’ve all watched movies and TV – cheap slightly-unsavory motel rooms exist everywhere, right?
The point of this whole exercise wasn’t really to try to convince people that the places on the aforementioned “Top 5 Worst Places in Manchester” list are actually all destinations that NH residents and tourists should go out and visit ASAP (although in nice weather the parks are definitely worth a visit). It started with just looking for something fun to do on a nice day in Manchester, but by the end we’d gotten pretty worked up about the whole experience, at least enough to write this post and try to share our experience with the city.
We were born and raised in Manchester, and care a lot about the quality of life here, as most of you reading this do. We can’t say we didn’t get a laugh out of the “Top 5 Worst Places in Manchester” list – they’re all places most people who’ve spent much time in the city know, and if you can’t laugh awkwardly about them you probably haven’t actually spent much time around them. The real problem though is that our conversations around them online, mostly on Facebook and similar platforms, are almost always unproductive. A day doesn’t go by that we don’t see people yelling about how Manchester has become a bad place to live. None of the yelling and screaming is productive though, and if you care enough to yell and scream online about the state of various parts of the city, maybe you should actually do something about it.
David Casinghino and Keating Tufts are proprietors of Boards & Brews, 941 Elm St., New Hampshire’s first board game cafe.