Stop Off At Exit 8

07 montpelier skylineLinda Burton posting from Montpelier, Vermont – “There’s no other capital quite like it.” That’s the answer; the question is: why Montpelier, Vermont? I’m reading the brochure I picked up at the Information Center on I-89 near Sharon. Why Montpelier? See for yourself, the brochure implores; stop off at Exit 8 and experience the architecture, art, artisan beers, restaurants, shopping, music, café culture, river walks, and stunning views in the smallest state capital in the United States. Smallest it is, with a population of 7,855 (US Census 2010); the next smallest is Pierre, South Dakota, which is almost twice as big; and then Augusta, Maine, my next 07 exit 8 againstop, with a population of 19,136 (US Census 2010). Tucked in a quiet Vermont valley, on the Winooski River, centrally located. Stay in Montpelier, the brochure continues. Unfortunately, none of the hotels in Montpelier are pet-friendly, so I’m forced to stay 35-miles away in Burlington, Vermont’s largest city (where Alex and Jack are welcome at the pet-friendly LaQuinta chain, as always). Peter, the helpful volunteer at the Information 07 state houseCenter, had commiserated with me on that problem; “We travel with pets too. I wish hotel owners were a little more understanding.” He made some calls to find a place in Montpelier I hadn’t already tried; no luck. So I’ll be driving into Montpelier; I’ll stop off at Exit 8 to check out the architecture, restaurants, and general ambiance; today I’m making up my list. The brochure offers suggestions for a day, starting with morning at the golden-domed State House and a guided tour. Maybe a hike in Hubbard Park? Some of the trails wind through the woods just behind the State House, and there’s an observation tower for those promised stunning views. Sounds interesting, I’m warming up. Then, afternoon?

07 bookstore 2Downtown is walkable; there are outdoor restaurants for a pleasant lunch and then some browsing time in locally-owned shops full of vintage treasures – handmade crafts, unique gifts, and books; that’s one choice. Or spend an afternoon at the Vermont History Museum – their interactive exhibit, Freedom and Unity, covers Vermont’s past from the 1600s. This is beginning to sound like a two-day stop. I read more inviting phrases in Montpelier’s brochure – slow down for a day; stretch your legs; grab a picnic lunch; lounge on the State House lawn. How nice! There’s an appeal to the idea of nestling down and tucking in; no rat race, here. Do you know the geography of Vermont? Get this picture in your mind: Lake Champlain and a valley to the west; the Green Mountains running north and south for 250 miles from Canada to Massachusetts (the name of the range changes at the state line); and capital city Montpelier centrally located in the middle of the state. The highest point in the state is Mt Mansfield at 4,393 feet, about 20 miles northwest of the State House. The 07 map vermontVermont State Map I also picked up at the Information Center is dotted to the northwest with little red icons of skiers; Smugglers Notch Resort, Stowe Mountain Resort, Bolton Valley Resort, Cochran Ski Area. To the southwest, also within 20 miles or so, is Sugarbush Resort at Mt Ellen Base, and at Lincoln Peak Base, and Mad River Glen Ski Area. The icons have two distinct shapes – the downhill skiers dot the map near the resorts; the cross-country skiers are scattered all over the place.

07 long trail personSo, people come to the Montpelier area for nestling, browsing, and, in the wintertime, skiing. And with that many mountains, in the summertime, hiking. Vermont’s Long Trail is the first long-distance hiking trail in the country; the idea came from James Taylor of Windsor, Vermont back in 1910. His mission became to “make the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of the people by protecting and maintaining the Long Trail system and fostering, through education, the stewardship of Vermont’s hiking trails and mountains.” Construction of the trail began in 1912 and was completed in 1930; this was a precursor of the Appalachian Trail.

07 collegeAnd people come to the Montpelier area to go to school. There’s the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where you can get a graduate degree in visual arts and writing,; the New England Culinary Institute, one of the top three culinary institutes in the country,; and Norwich University, about 10 miles south in Northfield, one of the country’s first military schools, Goddard College is 10 miles northeast in Plainfield; it’s a liberal arts low-residency institution, The Montpelier area is a good place to study, and think; surrounded by peaceful mountains, and let’s face it, outstanding recreational opportunities.

07 coffee cupBut there’s one thing more. I believe people come to the Montpelier area for tours. There’s that famed autumn foliage, of course. And my Vermont map shows all the businesses that offer tours; some of those businesses are household words around the country. Like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, and Green Mountain Coffee (for a number of years now, it’s my home-brewed coffee of choice). Can I possibly visit all of these interesting spots during my time in the area?


  • Bragg Farm Sugarhouse
  • Fresh Track Farm Vineyard & Winery
  • Morse Farm Maple & Sugarworks

Barre (7 miles from the State House)

  • Rock of Ages Granite Quarries

Waterbury (13 miles from the State House)

  • Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory
  • Cold Hollow Cider Mill
  • Danforth Pewter
  • Grand View Winery
  • Green Mountain Coffee Visitor Center & Café
  • Lake Champlain Chocolates07 burton

Twenty miles or so from the State House, in different directions, are the Cabot Creamery Factory Tours, Goodrich’s Maple Farm, and Vermont Folk Rocker; go all the way to Burlington (where kitties and I are staying, 35 miles from the State House), and that’s a story unto itself, worthy of a separate post – the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, Burton’s Snowboards, the top-notch University of Vermont; the list goes on and on. Add to that Lake Champlain cruises on the Spirit of Ethan Allen, or a ferry ride across to New York, and the Adirondacks.

07 trainI’m past nestling, and browsing, by now. More to see, and do, and be a part of, than I’ll be able to pull off in two weeks. And did I mention? Montpelier is easy to get to, from everywhere. It’s not too far from Montreal, and Boston; the Amtrak station is a stop for The Vermonter (daily service from Washington, DC to St Albans, Vermont); and I-89 goes right by the edge of town.

07 three pennyI’ll just stop off at Exit 8. Restaurants are listed on that Montpelier brochure too (see below), and oh yes, there’s a beautiful sculpture garden courtesy of the Vermont Arts Council; I’m adding that to my list.

  • Bagito’s
  • Clean Slate Café
  • J Morgan’s Steakhouse
  • Julio’s
  • Kismet
  • NECI on Main
  • Positive Pie
  • Three Penny Taproom (which offers 24 rotating drafts including a selection of Vermont’s acclaimed local brews)

Montpelier Alive,

Vermont Department of Tourism,

Vermont Chamber of Commerce,