Oakledge Park marks the Southern end of the Burlington bike path. Once home to the Webb family's Oakledge Manor, it now boasts picnic shelters, playground equipment and a stony swimming beach (no lifeguards, though). It's also home to the first handicapped accessible treehouse built in a public park. A short walk north takes you to the site of Burlington's Earth Clock. Stick around for the spectacular sunset.
Downtown Burlington is dominated by the Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian-only promenade enlivened by shops, restaurants, food vendors and street performers. When the weather’s nice, and the cafe tables come outside, you can get dinner with a side of people-watching. It’s the closest thing in Vermont to an Italian piazza. No Vespas on the cobblestones, though.
The original Vermonters — Native American Abenaki — have a voice at the Vermont Folklife Center. So do the Vermont descendents of slaves. With an archive that consists of more than 3900 tapes, the organization aims to document and conserve the state’s cultural heritage, including groups making history today. A recent photo exhibit captured the lives of Mexican dairy farm workers in Addison County.
Best known for its connection with the Underground Railroad, the Rokeby Museum preserves the history of four generations of remarkable Robinsons. Ahead of its time in every way, the family was made up of Quakers, abolitionists and artists. They were also successful farmers. Patriarch Thomas R. Robinson was among the first agriculturalists to import Merino sheep to the U.S. If he were around today, the old man might be raising something equally radical, like llamas. Two of them live across the road from the Rokeby, along with a camel.
This historic public art gallery in a renovated fire house next to City Hall is managed by Burlington City Arts.
The forest is never far away when you’re in central Vermont. In Montpelier, there’s a 28-acre reserve on Elm Street. The North Branch Nature Center maintains a network of hiking trails along the Winooski River and through Hubbard Park that links up with a similar system in East Montpelier. Nature programs for all ages include summer camps for kids, lecture series and amphibian monitoring programs.
You can’t miss the gold dome — Montpelier’s “bling” — on the outside, but the inside of the Vermont State House interior is full of treasures, too. Meticulously restored to its original glory, the building is a lesson in architectural evolution, with excellent examples of Neoclassical, Greek Revival, American Empire, Renaissance Revival, Rococo Revival and Aesthetic Movement styles. Phew. The legislative session runs January through May, but the building is open to the public all summer, too. Weekday tours are every half hour from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. On Saturday, it’s 11 a.m.
Located on the Burlington waterfront, the 2.2 acre ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center/Leahy Center for Lake Champlain features 70 live species, more than 100 interactive experiences, seasonal changing exhibits and events — all exploring the ecology, culture, history, and opportunity for stewardship of the Lake Champlain Basin.
The West Branch Gallery and Sculpture Park is the place to go in Stowe to see outdoor art. Check out the native cedar “goddess” totems in the woods.
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