Take the Kids: A day in Manchester
Art, science, a taqueria and a grocery store filled with international delights
Consuelo's Taqueria in Manchester.
Painting with blocks at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester.
Dan Barrick photo
Danielle Kronk Barrick and Dan Barrick, February 6, 2013.
(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
When we first started dating, our conflicting work schedules gave us just a few blocks of time together each week. Sundays were the best, as we were able to spend the day together until about 4 o’clock. So while other couples enjoyed mid-week dinners
out, went to the movies and spent romantic weekends out of town, we became experts at packing all of our fun into day trips – brief excursions, preferably an hour’s drive or less from Concord, where we could enjoy discovering new places in quick, well-planned bursts.
We’ve learned to continue with this approach since having kids, for slightly different reasons.
Infant and toddler sleeping and feeding needs often make long, leisurely days out-of-town difficult – if not downright impossible. And Concord’s location makes it a great hopping-off point for lots of daytrips across Northern New England.
In this column, we plan to sketch out an itinerary with plenty of detail, but enough space to allow for variation or a piecemeal approach. Sometimes we’ll stick to the well-trodden spots, while other times we’ll try to highlight a personal favorite that’s less well-known. Our children are both younger than 3 years old, but we’ll try not to skew our recommendations too much towards the toddler set. And we welcome suggestions – tell us what your favorite daytrip destination is, or let us know if we overlooked the can’t-miss restaurant or attraction in a place we’ve already written about.
Our first excursion is designed for that special kind of mid-winter day – not enough snow for sledding, too warm for skating, too slushy for the playground, house too messy for indoor play. On days like this, we like to head to the big city to our south – Manchester – where an itinerary of museum-going and international cuisine will satisfy kids’ minds and bellies.
Start your day at the Currier Museum of Art. And you should make sure that day is a Saturday, because the museum offers free admission to anyone who shows up between 10 a.m. and noon that day. Even better, the Currier offers something called Family Saturdays on the second Saturday of each month (the next one is March 9), in which space is set aside for kids to make their own art, inspired by the works on display.
No matter what day you go, take your kids to the Discovery Gallery, a small room off the central courtyard where children are encouraged to flex their own art-making muscles.
On a recent visit, brightly-colored magnetic tiles allowed children to construct their own quilt patterns on the gallery walls.
The museum itself offers plenty of opportunities to engage kids in the fine arts. Here’s one fun scavenger hunt: Help your kids find as many images of children as they can – nearly every gallery has a painting of a child, from various eras and styles.
The museum’s gift shop has an impressive selection of art-themed souvenirs, if your children are inspired to get creative back home: illustrated books, posters, paint kits – even stuffed dolls of Picasso and DaVinci.
A morning of gallery hopping requires nourishment. And while Manchester has no shortage of kid-friendly eateries, our favorite is Consuelo’s Taqueria, just a few blocks from the Currier.
Consuelo’s offers the standard Mexican fare, served fresh and with very friendly attitudes. They also offer a reasonably priced kids’ menu of mild quesadillas and burritos. The brightly painted interior and assortment of colorful masks, sculptures and paintings decorating the walls make Consuelo’s feel like an art museum of its own – though one where the smell of cheese fills the air.
Fortified from lunch, head down to the Millyard to the SEE Science Center, a true kid-friendly gem in the heart of Manchester.
This hands-on museum is mostly aimed at the grade-school crowd, with exhibits illustrating standard science class lessons like magnetism, gravity and acoustics. But younger kids will find plenty to enjoy here, as well. Near the entrance, there’s a barnyard-themed playground and a collection of reptiles in small tanks.
In the basement, you’ll find an aquarium, a life-size kaleidoscope, and a soapy bubble-blowing station.
The simple red balloon at the museum’s center, held aloft by steady bursts of air, never fails to capture our daughter’s complete attention.
But the museum’s masterpiece is undoubtedly the scale-model display of the Manchester Millyard, circa 1900, constructed from roughly two bajillion Lego pieces. It’s supposedly the largest permanent Lego construction in the world, and you can walk around the entire thing.
But you’ll likely find the exhibit’s countless details as astonishing as its grand sweep.
Tucked among the mill buildings and city streets, you’ll find a parade of miniature trotting horses, a rotating Ferris wheel, policemen busting a would-be thief on a city rooftop, and mill workers enjoying their lunch break. Several buckets of loose Legos allow your kids to construct their own versions of old Manchester – or whatever else strikes their fancy.
The science center’s gift shop also has some cool, educational toys: inflatable globes, build-your-own-robot kits, and a whole bucket of geodes.
If your kids have made it through this second round of museum-going, here’s a good way to end the day: head south a few blocks to Spice Center, one of Manchester’s best international grocery stores.
This crowded, no-frills shop occupies a corner of an unremarkable strip mall at Valley and Maple streets. But inside, you’ll find a window into Manchester’s diverse immigrant communities.
Spice Center’s shelves are jammed with treats from across the globe: curry powders, Greek pastries, giant bags of bulk rice, frozen naan and samosas, and an astounding variety of Indian teas.
A lunch counter serves homemade Middle Eastern meals like shwarma and falafel.
Near the register, you’ll find bins bursting with bite-size international sweets as well – the perfect way to show your kids that learning about other cultures can be delicious.