Vermont Travel Guide

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Grafton - Just a few decades ago, Grafton was a down-at-the-heels mountain town slowly being reclaimed by termites and the elements. A wealthy family took the town on as a pet project, lovingly restoring it to the way it once was, even burying electric lines to reclaim the landscape. It does not feel like a living history museum, it just feels right.

Woodstock - Woodstock has a stunning village green, a whole range of 19th-century homes, woodland walks just out of town, and a settled, old-money air. This is a good place to explore by foot or bike, or to just sit on a porch and watch summer unfold.

Montpelier - This is the way all state capitals should be, slow-paced, small enough that you can walk everywhere, and featuring lots of shops that sell wrenches and strapping tape. Montpelier also shows a more sophisticated edge, with its culinary institute, a theater showing art-house films, and several fine book shops. At heart it is a small town, where you just might run into the governor buying duct tape at the corner store.

Montshire Museum of Science - This children's museum, on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire, offers wonderful interactive exhibits on the inside and nature trails along the Connecticut River on the outside

Hildene - Located in Manchester, this is one of the most intriguing historic homes in Vermont. This lavish summer home was built by Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln's son, Robert. A prosperous businessman, the younger Lincoln built this summer retreat complete with a 1,000-pipe organ and extensive formal gardens. To visitors curious about how the other half lived late in America's gilded age, this is the destination.

Outdoors

The Appalachian Trail - This 2,100-mile trail, from Georgia to Maine, includes some of the most spectacular scenery in northern New England. The trail enters the region in southwest Vermont, winding through the southern Green Mountains before angling toward the White Mountains of New Hampshire. From here, it passes by remote Maine lakes and through hilly timberlands before finishing up on the summit of Mount Katahdin.

Lake Champlain - "New England's West Coast" is lapped by the waves of Lake Champlain, that vast, shimmering sheet of water between Vermont and New York. Visitors can enjoy good views when they are on this lake. To the west are the stern Adirondacks, to the east are the distant, rolling ridges of the Green Mountains. Sign up for a lake cruise, or just hop the ferry from Burlington for a low-budget excursion across the lake and back.

Connecticut River - The broad, lazy Connecticut River forms the border between New Hampshire and Vermont, and it is a joy to travel along. Visitors will find wonderful vistas, peaceful villages, and evidence of the region's rich history when the river served as a highway for northern New England. Today, it is a hidden gem of a destination.

Moving around

Travel can be convoluted and often confusing, and it is handy to have someone adept at map reading in the car with you if you veer off the main routes for country-road exploring. North-south travel is fairly straightforward, thanks to the four major interstates in the region. Traveling east to west (or vice versa) across the region is a more vexing proposition and will likely involve stitching together a route of several state or county roads.

On the other hand, New England is of a size that touring by car can be done quite comfortably, at least in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Traffic is generally light compared to most urban and suburban areas along the East Coast, but there are exceptions. Traffic on the interstates leading north from Boston can be sluggish on Friday afternoons and evenings in the summer. A handful of choke points, particularly on Route 1 along the Maine coast, can back up for miles as tourists jockey to cross two-lane bridges spanning tidal rivers. North Conway in New Hampshire is famed for its hellish traffic, especially during the foliage season. To avoid the worst of the tourist traffic, try to avoid being on the road during big summer holidays. If your schedule allows it, travel on weekdays rather than weekends and hit the road early or late in the day to avoid the midday crunch.

National festival and holidays

Alburg Lake Champlain Bluegrass Festival - Held annually in August, the annual fiddle and banjo contest, has become one of the focal points of the Bluegrass Festival. The Festival is combined with the Vermont Craft Show, and each item sold is an authentic Vermont product. This is a day of fun and excitement for the whole family.

Vermont Mozart Festival - Most of the concerts presented during the winter series consist of small chamber ensembles such as quartets and not complete orchestras. Generally the concerts feature a well-known quartet with one or more special soloist guests. The Christmas concert is the only time, in the winter, when the Vermont Mozart Festival orchestra are presented. The Vermont Mozart Festival takes place in a number of different locations throughout northwestern Vermont, during the month of October.

Brandon's Harvest Festival - In October, visitors and townspeople, old and young, enjoy making "Harvest People", stick figures, scarecrows, leaf people, and others, during the annual Harvest Festival. All materials, accessories, and instruction on how to make your very own "Harvest Person", are supplied. Besides Harvest People-making, the day includes hayrides, pumpkins, an Apple Pie Festival, and a Church Bazaar.

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