No one said it would be easy for Mayor Joyce Craig.

Manchester school spending ranks last in the state, and tests scores are just about as bad.

Firefighters picket just down the street from her office. The budget she inherited has a revenue shortfall.

And now, her city has a romance shortfall.

That’s according to, which two weeks ago released its 20 Ridiculously Romantic Getaways in New England. Manchester’s not on it.

At least not Manchester, N.H. The website’s publicity department sent us an exciting email with the “news” that Manchester DID make the list. Had the publicity department checked, it would have seen that Manchester, Vt., and its arousing, heart-pounding outlet stores made the list. Not us.

Other romantic spots in our nation’s cradle of liberty include Portsmouth and Conway, N.H.; Newport and Providence, R.I.; Portland and Camden, Maine; and Plymouth and the Berkshires, Mass.

I can understand New Hampshire’s romance shortfall. After all, the message on our license plates doesn’t encourage one to turn the lights down low and queue up Gladys Knight and the Pips on Spotify.

However, I venture that the Queen City offers a healthy amount of romance. At least more than Concord or Derry. So it being spring, when warmth and sunshine stir the romance in even the coldest of hearts, it’s time to take stock of our romantic hot spots, and get Craig to work on the Manchester romance budget.

Lake Massabesic

It’s big and open, the water laps gently on grassy or rocky shores, and there are lots of walking trails, islands, and out of the way places where couples can sit and have a quiet lunch. The only drawback — no lovers wetting their toes or skinny dipping in the lake, said Bill Dupere, who patrols our city’s drinking water supply for the Manchester Water Works.

Romantic activity on a remote beach can even draw a no-no from Dupere and his fellow officers.

“All of the patrol guys have run across people being friendly,” Dupere said. “We just remind them this is public (land). There’s no part of the lake we can’t see.”

Currier Museum of Art

“We’ve got beautiful things to look at. It’s a great atmosphere here. We are a great place for a date,” said museum director Alan Chong.

Use the Currier to really get to know your date. It’s not like going to a movie or bar with a loud band, which prevents conversation. And it’s not a dinner date, where you can end up with awkward silence after you discuss the texture of the calamari.

Rather, couples can expound on the brush stroke of a Monet or the facade of family harmony in a Marisol Escobar sculpture. And afterward, the Winter Garden cafe offers a place for a snack, wine or beer.

And the Currier’s romance reputation is growing. A recent opening-night party for an exhibition drew a crowd of 500, after the event was listed on, Chong said.

The only problem, the museum isn’t open during dating hours. It normally closes at 5 p.m., and stays open late (until 9 p.m.) only on the first Thursday of the month.

Downtown dining

A romantic dinner calls for something more than a South Willow Street chain restaurant. Downtown provides lots of romantic dining spots, and what could be more romantic than a restaurant named XO?

“Here at XO, we’re all about the love,” said owner Rosa Paolini. “We give customers a lot of love, and love what we do.”

That’s the secret to having love in your life — loving what you do, said Paolini, who splits her time between running a restaurant, massage therapy and raising two sets of twins.

Of course Manchester can be a romantic place, she said.

Romance depends on the people, the atmosphere and the circumstances, so a city doesn’t need a Tivoli Fountain to be romantic. “You can be in the middle of the desert, and if love is there, it is romantic,” she said.

Seeing red

The color of Valentine’s Day is also one of the colors of the Memorial High School Crusaders. (Sorry Central and West, nothing romantic about green or blue.)

So does that means the Memorial Crusaders are a romantic bunch, especially when the band or the athletes don their red uniforms or jerseys?

“I hope not,” said Marc Putney, who is in his eighth year as Memorial hockey coach. “Hockey’s a rough and tumble sport. I hope when they’re putting on their uniforms they’re not thinking of romance.”

Putney, a retired Manchester police officer who is now an investigator for the Hillsborough County Attorney, said he never thought of Manchester as a romantic place. New York City and the Poconos, yes. Manchester, no.

“Maybe that’s why they’re talking about Manchester, Vermont,” he said.


• Dinner at XO, a picnic at the lake (without getting caught), and a trip to the Currier. If you’re still going strong after all that, there’s a wedding chapel in Las Vegas that will cement the relationship for eternity. A quick round trip (with only one stop) from ManchVegas to Las Vegas will only cost $1,100 for the two of you, according to TripAdvisor.

• The facelift of Wagner Memorial Park, best known as Pretty Park, resumes in the coming months. Flowering bushes, benches, a new patio and the signature Wagner monument make the park a natural for romance.

• Manchester has intown walking trails, notably the Riverwalk and the Hands Across the Merrimack Bridge. And nothing will make your date cling tighter than encountering a few of the people who live along the Riverwalk.

Mark Hayward’s City Matters appears Saturdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader and He can be reached at