It’s Isle La Motte’s Shelburne Farms, but a lot more chill — a gallery, concert venue and teahouse. Presidents William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt were both guests. You can always stop in and look at the art in the 19th-century horse-and-carriage barn, but on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5, they serve tea and dessert to live acoustic music.
You can’t bring them home, but the fossilized corals that make up the Chazy Reef on Isle la Motte are definitely worth a visit. Paleontologists believe the reef was formed almost half a billion years ago, when Lake Champlain was part of the shallow Iapetus Ocean, where Zimbabwe is today. A well-marked path leads through the field to outcroppings swirled with signs of life — swirled skeletal remains of cephalopods and stromotoporoids. “Discovery Areas” are numbered and identified. The one-room museum sheds light — when it’s open.
Jedediah Hyde Jr. built this one-and-a-half story cabin in 1783. The Vermont Historical Society moved it to its current home on Route 2 in 1945. It’s allegedly the oldest authentic log cabin in the United States. It houses period furnishings and historical items of interest.
The folks at Lajoie Stables in Jeffersonville organize guided tours for all levels that on a clear day promise spectacular views of Mount Mansfield and Smuggs. They’re open seven days a week, all year round.
Smugglers' Notch resort rocks on, with a new summer emphasis on climbing. The ski area is offering weekly rock-climbing socials and family climbing-adventure days. Hard-core types will be more interested in via ferrata — Italian for “iron way” — a new adventure sport that combines climbing, hiking and high-ropes adventure. “Safely traverse local gorges,” the description promises. “Scale huge boulders.” Too ambitious? Smuggs also offers Segway excursions on those self-balancing scooter contraptions. Amazing, there’s an all-terrain “extreme” tour that goes for the glades.
You can’t get through the narrow pass that connects Stowe to Smugglers’ Notch in winter; it’s closed to traffic. But in summer, the Smugglers' Notch Scenic Byway — its official name — is a gorgeous drive through a rocky, alpine landscape, with 1000-foot cliffs on either side. You can have a picnic up there, or camp at the state park, knowing Vermont’s earliest “entrepreneurs” — and later, escaped slaves — once did the same.
Barre proudly calls itself “the Granite Capital of the World” — a slight exaggeration, perhaps, but not much. The city’s quarries produced the world-famous “Barre Gray” granite steps on the east side the U.S. Capitol. But gravestones are Barre’s niche. The personalized memorials the workers made for each other — and many other people — are all over the city’s most remarkable cemetery. Look for the life-sized armchair, big soccer ball, race car and airplane, all with accompanying sad stories. PHOTO: ALICE LEVITT
Stowe is all about altitude and catching air — both essential ingredients of a glider ride. Stowe Soaring and its FAA-certified pilots run flights out of the Stowe-Morrisville Airport when the weather’s nice. The “intro ride” is $89 for 10 minutes; the “Mile High Mt. Mansfield Special,” which is $189 for 40 minutes, promises to be “life-changing.”
Vintage posters of pink-cheeked skiiers. Prehistoric bindings. Old accounts of ski adventures along Route 100. The Vermont Ski Museum chronicles the history of going downhill fast with a large collection of skiing artifacts and memorabilia. Vermont’s famous Cochran family figures prominently. Special exhibits this summer include, “From Schussing to Shredding: The Evolution of Ski Technique.” The museum is open every day but Tuesday.
In winter, the road to Stowe sees a lot of slope-seeking Saabs and Subarus. The summer crowd tends to be driven by ice cream: The Ben & Jerry's Factory in Waterbury is one of the top tourist destinations in Vermont. If your visitors have heard of one thing in the Green Mountain State, sadly, this is probably it. The guided tour doesn’t dwell on the company’s founding entrepreneurs — you have to search high and low for signs of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield — but it maintains their “If it’s not fun, why do it?” philosophy.
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