Just about halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga, is the town of Manchester, TN. With a population of about 12K, it is the perfect size to have small-town vibes along with plenty of great things to see and do. It’s a secret most residents keep pretty well, but now that I’ve been there, I’m sharing with you. When you go to visit Manchester TN, and explore all that it has to offer, please don’t tell them I sent you!
But seriously, people are warm and inviting here, and the small-town vibe includes beautiful art, historic buildings, boutique shopping, and some great places to eat. All set against a gorgeous backdrop of trees, foliage, rivers,and waterfalls. Keep reading for a fun summary of Manchester…
Beautiful nature in Manchester
Probably one of the best reasons to visit Manchester TN is to see its gorgeous green spaces. Of course, there’s a lot of that all over Tennessee. Coming from southern California, it’s amazing to me that residents don’t need to use sprinklers at all to keep their lawns green! Check out these favorites of mine:
- Old Stone Fort State Park, 296 Stone Fort Dr. – I personally think this might be Manchester’s greatest attraction! With stunning views and an interesting history, you can wade in the river, duck under waterfall shelves, hike along the trails, or explore the old stone fort. There’s also a historic bridge limited to pedestrians only, and a beautiful campground.
- Waterfalls – be sure to check out my blog post about four waterfalls near Manchester
- Little Duck River Greenway and Fred Deadman Park – Paths along the river greenbelt make a beautiful place to stroll and enjoy nature and wildlife.
- Driving back-country roads – Pretty much wherever you go in Manchester, you’ll pass old barns, historic homes, and green fields that stretch forever. You’re likely to feel you’ve stepped back in time just a little, too!
Shopping in Manchester
Much of Manchester’s shopping district is located in the historic downtown area surrounding the historic Coffee County Courthouse. It’s a quaint area that really gives off the best of small-town vibe! Here are some noteable shopping venues, but be sure to wander around and explore others as well!
- Coffee County Farmers’ Market, 216 E Fort Street – held every Saturday May through October
- Foothills Crafts, 418 Woodbury Hwy – Foothills Crafts is a 39-year old craft store. The Coffee County Craft Association runs the store and is dedicated to preserving local craftsmanship. You’ll find a treasure trove of unique, one-of-a-kind handcrafted items from over 70 local artisans. From pottery and wood carvings to quilts and knitted creations, there’s something for every taste and budget.
- High Cotton Vintage Home Furnishings, 213 N Spring St – My personal favorite boutique store in Manchester with lots of seasonal decor, clothing, and furnishings!
- The Cracked Pot, 111 W Main St – furniture, gifts, and home decor
- Downtown Antiques, 109 N Irwin St – something of interest in every space!
- Harvest Local Foods, 101 N Erwin St – all products locally sourced from Tennessee, ranging from beef, pork, chicken ,eggs, milk, cheese, honey, baked goods, prepared meals, crafts, and jewelry.
Appreciating Manchester history
Established in 1817, Manchester, TN is named after Manchester, England because of the nearby “Little Duck” and “Big Duck” Rivers’ potential for powering industry. In 1832, Coffee County was established and Manchester became the county seat. Early pioneers built the courthouse in 1837.
- Coffee County County Courthouse – this courthouse was built in 1871 to replace the original after it was destroyed by fire, supposedly set by a local who was “short on his books.” It is now the Coffee County Historical Society Museum and it houses artifacts, documents, and exhibits chronicling Manchester’s history.
- Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park – early native Americans left tools and artifacts, dating back as far as 6000 BCE. There are burial mounds and the remains of an old stone fort as well as the beautiful landscapes mentioned earlier.
Manchester’s art scene
Manchester is home to several art murals, displayed in prominent areas. You can see these murals at the following locations:
- “The American Flag” by Tara Aversa on the Wheeler Construction & Restoration building
- “The Manchester Postcard” by Mobe across the street from the Food Lion on Hillsboro Blvd.
- “You Are Not Alone” by Sarah Painter and Cosby Hayes on the side of Foothills Crafts
- “American Eel” by Ivan Roque under a bridge on the Little Duck River Greenway at Fred Deadman Park
- “The Good of the Hive” by Matt Willey on a bridge intersection of the Little Duck River Greenway and Dave King Park. (My grandchildren call this the “Bee Bridge”!)
Fun & recreation in Manchester
- Fitcore Extreme Obstacle Course at Riverview Park, 837 Emerson St. (behind the old Riverview School) This is a great workout just trying to navigate the challenging obstacle course. And even if you don’t succeed, it’s still lots of fun!
- Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival — this might be what Manchester is most famous for! The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival brings musicians and music afficionados alike from all over. The next festival will be held June 13-16, 2024.
- Little Duck River Greenway at Fred Deadman Park, Wilson St. — This park includes a beautiful greenway along the river, art murals, a playground, tennis courts, and baseball fields.
- Manchester Recreation Center, 200 W Fort Street — my grandchildren enjoy all kinds of sports, swimming, and dance activities here. I’m always so impressed that the staff know and remember their names — that’s definitely small-town vibe for ya!
Visit Manchester, TN for great eats
Mercantile Cafe and Sweet Simplicity Bakery, 210 N Irwin St – unique restaurant and bakery with crafts and home decor for sale. Walk in, select your food, sit down and eat, and don’t pay till you leave! Specializing in traditional southern fare and desserts. Serving lunch 11 to 2.
Cracker Barrel, 103 Paradise St – Very friendly staff with a lovely southern drawl and amazing food. Be sure to order the homemade biscuits with honey and spend some time in one of the front porch rocking chairs.
Jiffy Burger, 1001 Hillsboro Blvd – the hometown diner established over 50 years ago
Connecting with the locals in Manchester
Whether it’s at Foothill Crafts as you browse artisan crafts, or at the Cracker Barrel rocking in a rocking chair or eating southern fare at the Mercantile Cafe, it really is the locals that make Manchester so special. People make you feel glad you’re there, not like you’re an imposition. If you visit Manchester, TN, take in that wonderful small-town vibe and be grateful you can call their residents friends!