Williamstown, Vermont is the home to one of the most unlikely tourist traps a visitor can come across: Knight’s Spider Web Farm.
Although it is a small operation, it is certainly the largest of its kind in the world, considering that, as far as we know, it is the only one of its kind: A place where humans exhibit the artistic work of spiders, their amazing silken webs.
Less literal than Charlotte’s amazing webs, which extolled the virtues of her dear friend Wilbur the Pig, these webs are strictly abstract art.
Over 16,000 webs have been weaved and collected on the farm since Will Knight opened it in 1977. The webs are produced by orb-weaver spiders in two barns, which are packed with wooden frames which hang from the ceiling. The frames, which are built on grids, are irresistible to the artistic arthropods, and the weave like crazy, creating frameable finished products.
When a web is ready, Knight chases away the artist and begins the collecting process. First, he sprays each web with white paint to increase visibility. Then he passes a wood plaque through the hole, which saves the web. After he adds a few coats of lacquer Knight has a wonderful piece of spider art already mounted and preserved.
Since this is very much a work in progress, there could be not that much to see when you visit. The spiders can either be hiding, or the webs could have been all recently collected. There is, however, a permanent display of webs for sale. They are reasonable priced, and each one is unique, and hand, or rather, spinneret-made.
Unfortunately a fire in the fall of 2016 permanently closed this fascinating place.
If American history is your thing, then Vermont should be your destination for your next vacation. Here is just one small example of what hidden gems there are to be found in one of the founding states of the Union.
At the Calvin Coolidge Homestead District/President Coolidge State Historic Site you can bask in a fascinating slice of history. At this site, you can view the very room in which Calvin Coolidge was sworn into office as the 30th president of the United States, at 2.47 am on August 3, 1923 after his predecessor, Warren G. Harding died from a heart attack.
Coolidge was from the tiny town of Plymouth Notch, whose population of 29 was suddenly thrust into national prominence when its native son became VP and then president. The town, and the room where Coolidge became president, has been preserved as it was more than 90 years ago, including the famous kerosene lamp that lit the room where he was sworn into office.
Your visit will take you through the life of Harding and Coolidge, the “Roaring 20s” and the aftermath of the Crash of ’29 and the depression that followed. Learn such tantalizing tidbits like why the White House staff called First Lady Grace Coolidge, “Sunshine,” and why Coolidge kept his three-piece suit on even while farming and fishing, after he became president.
Guaranteed you will learn a wealth of great information during your visit to this lesser known, but still amazing, attraction.
The leaves are changing colors, the thermometer reading is falling, and we Vermonters are dusting off the skis in happy anticipation of heading out to our many wonderful ski resorts. Some of them have added some surprises to their schedules, so here is a summary of the new things we can expect when we head to the hills this winter.
For the first time in 25 years the eastern USA will have some amazing Alpine World Cup skiing. On November 26-27, the Audi FIS Ski World Cup will take place here in the Killington Resort. The public is invited to watch the Women’s Giant Slalom and Slalom races which will feature the best women technical alpine skiers vying for first place on the Superstar trail. The trail is infamous as the New England steep which is the last Eastern US ski trail still open until late May or even June. At the base of the trail there will be a jumbo screen to watch the full race course, plus the weekend is filled with great fun including free live music, movie premiers and more.
The attitude of the managers at Jay Peak is that their 5,000 acres are one huge terrain park. However they do realize that some focus is needed, and have decided to increase their snowmaking capacity by 60 percent at its LZ and Jug Handle parks. They are also installing a new water line up the Interstate trail, plus placing 20 new guns along the length of the Interstate. The outcome of these changes will be that the park will be able to open sooner this winter, plus the park will be able to open learning runs at its Tramside area earlier, too.
Chair number 1 at the Woodstock Inn & Resort’s Suicide Six Ski Area is being replaced at a cost of about $1.5 million. The new quad chairlift will double the number of passengers, and will give skiiers a more comfortable as well as quick lift to the top. The money for the overhaul is provided by a grant from the Laurance S Rockefeller Fund.
Ross Connelly is looking for someone to take over the operation of the Hardwick Gazette, the 127-year-old community newspaper that he has been in charge of for over 30 years. Last June he came up with a unique method to find the perfect person to hand over the keys to: an essay contest with an entrance fee of $175.
Connelly is 71, and until his wife died in 2011, ran the paper with her assistance. He was hoping to have already picked a winner by now, but instead is extending the deadline for a second time, until October 10th. His hope is to receive 700 essays for a total of $122,500. He has even received many donations of $175 which stated that they did not want to win the paper, only to help Connelly out.
To help meet his goal Connelly launched a crowd-sourcing campaign on Kickstarter as well.
The winner will need to have written a 700-word essay convincing Connelly that he/she believes in the “importance of a free press and believes that community journalism is key and necessary to democracy.”
The winner will receive ownership of the newspaper and the building it is in, equipment, website and all the materials needed to run the business. The newspaper is printed offsite at a press not owned by the Gazette.
“Rather than walking out the door and saying goodbye … I want the Gazette to continue,” said Connelly.
I am always going on and on about all the great things there are to do here in Vermont, but when have I ever stopped to just tell you a little bit about this magnificent place? So pardon me while I introduce to you- Vermont!
Before we delve into a bit of history, let’s get some of the important facts out of the way. The capital of Vermont is Montpelier, but it is not the largest Vermont city. That designation goes to Burlington. At 9,615 square miles, Vermont is among the country’s smaller states, ranking 45th out of 50. The population is 626,630, making it the next to the last of the states in number of residents. The major industries in the state are the production of maple syrup, dairy farming, tourism, electronics, and forest products such as paper. Two US presidents were born here: Chester Alan Arthur and Calvin Coolidge.
Vermont was the 14th state to join the union, making it the first one after the original 13 declared independence. The date was March 4, 1791. The name Vermont is derived from the French “mont vert,” or “green mountain.”
It is believed that the first European to gaze on Vermont was Jacques Cartier, in 1535. Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer, claimed the area as part of New France in 1609. In 1690 a contingent of Dutch-British settlers arrived from Albany in neighboring New York and established a trading post and settlement at Chimney Point, which is 8 miles west of today’s Addison.
War led to confusion about the boundaries of the region, or perhaps the other way around. In any case, on January 15, 1777, representatives of the New Hampshire Grants declared the independence of Vermont. Vermont was self-governing, but could not be admitted to the Union due to a land dispute with New York, which claimed Vermont as part of its own territory. The dispute was finally settled with an exchange of $30,000 to compensate New Yorkers who had claimed they owned land in what became Vermont. The compromise led directly to the admittance of Vermont into the Union on March 4, 1791.
Yes, it’s true. Vermont is known for its amazing winter recreation, and the cold season is when we attract a great portion of our visitors. There are, however, lots of great things to come to Vermont for in the summer.
First off, it’s gorgeous here. The mountains are green, the lakes are deep blue, the bike paths and hiking trails are shaded, and the views from them are spectacular. There is just about nowhere to go in Vermont in the summer that won’t take your breath away. That being said, here is one of my all-time favorite spots to visit when summer renews us here in Vermont.
Receiving 4.5 stars on Tripadvisor, Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, is a fantastic place for either a romantic getaway or family excursion. Replete with gardens on 412 lush acres, this former residence of RobertTodd Lincoln, the only surviving child of the nation’s 16th president, is an exciting slice of American history.
Tours include a walk through the home, a Georgian Revival mansion built in 1905; listening to the 1,000-pipe Aeolian organ; and a visit through the Hoyt Formal Garden. It is also possible to visit the 1903 Pullman Palace Car Sunbeam, a site on the Vermont African American Heritage Trail. The exhibit there included Many Voices, the story of the paradox of Pullman Porters and the rise of the black middle class which followed.
Hildene is located in Manchester and open every day all year long. For more information check out their web site.
If you love jazz the way I do, then you should be looking forward to one of the best events that takes place in Vermont: The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival.
This year the event will take place from June 3 through June 12, at just about every nook and cranny where music can come from in Burlington. From the areas’ premier performing arts facility, the Flynn Center; to the Church Street Marketplace venues; to neighborhood clubs and restaurants.
Lined up to perform during the festival are Randy Newman, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Diane Schuur & The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, and more.
Ticket prices range from as low as $10 for Jazz Junior at the FlynnSpace where you can bring the whole family to learn about Jazz; to as much as $125 for an Intimate Benefit Performance with Marcus Roberts to benefit the Festival. There is even a free performance with Madaila at the WPTZ 5 Block Party.
So come and swing at the Discover Jazz Festival.
Vermonters, as well as many other landlocked states, know that a state does not need a coastal border to enjoy fantastic water activities. If you haven’t been already, it is highly recommended that you take your family over to Lake Champlain and see what fun can be had on a gorgeous lake like this one.
A good place to start your water adventure is the Basin Harbor Club. Located at the narrowest part of the lake, the view from the BHC is of the New York shore with the backdrop of the spectacular Palisades Cliffs.
Guests at the Club can explore the country’s sixth largest lake in a huge variety of ways. You and members of your family can try kayaking, sailing, swimming, a water trampoline, and much more. You can even take an ROV tour: remote-operated vehicle and see some places underwater that you would otherwise never be able to see. If seeing a shipwreck really whets your appetite for sunken treasure, head on over to the nearby Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and learn about the area’s maritime history.
BHC welcomes children. There is a fun-filled, bursting-with-activities kids club where the children often make lifetime friends. The kids participate in activities such as arts and crafts, sports, fishing, hiking and more.
Needless to say, there are great hikes in the vicinity, golfing and other land-based activities to round out your stay at this full-service resort.
Is your idea of a romantic getaway filled with walks in dense, exotic forests; along running rivers; or adjacent to beautiful, inspiring waterfalls, then Vermont is for you.
Choose from a huge variety of getaway styles, from affordable bed and breakfasts to luxurious stays in five star hotels. Whichever you choose and anything in between the following suggestions all offer unique accommodations, great service, and large selection of things to do to keep you busy.
Vermont’s Mad River Valley boasts and outstanding accommodation: Round Barn Inn. The facility is surrounded by meadows and ponds, and has its very own organic garden. Each room is different, but all have magnificent views of the trees, gardens, meadows and mountains. For some extra romance ask for a gas fireplace and a Jacuzzi. When you wake up you can look forward to a pampered breakfast of Vermont-roasted coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice, fresh fruit and some wonderful main courses.
Looking for luxury? Consider Twin Farms in Barnard. The resort has everything you could want for a romantic weekend filled with pampering care and exciting adventure. There is a spa, gourmet restaurant and wonderful works of art displayed throughout the facility. Accommodations vary from luxury cottages to suites, and guest rooms. Room rates include breakfast lunch and dinner; evening cocktails, afternoon tea, bonfires and s’mores, the spa, and other luxury amenities. You can even ask to have a customized lunch delivered to any romantic location of your choosing.
Rabbit Hill Inn offers romantic getaways in Northern Vermont. Each room is uniquely decorated. Some rooms have private entrances, double spa tub, canopy bed, porch and fireplace. Breakfast and dinner are available in the dining room, offering American cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. The facility also has in-room massage services, gorgeous country gardens, and a pond which can be used for swimming. There are acres of wooded walking trails, and stargazing is a popular activity.
We have finally made it to the deepest and darkest part of the winter. That means it’s time to ski!
So get out your gear and head out to Okemo Mountain Resort. Located in the southern part of Vermont, Okemo offers skiers the longest vertical drop anywhere in Vermont of 2200 feet. There are 121 runs, 8 terrain parks, a 4 mile run and 667 acres of skiable terrain.
The runs are divided almost equally between beginners, intermediates, advanced and expert. The summit reaches to a height of 3,343 feet and the base is 2200 feet below at 1143 feet.
The resort is geared towards families, and is a family run operation. Okemo has 96 percent snowmaking across 655 of its accessible acres. There is also something for freestylers, featuring a Superpipe, and an Amp Energy AirBag.
Okemo is a great place to spend your yearly ski holiday within the borders of amazing Vermont.
I am always looking for new and different ways to spend time in Vermont which is unique to this wonderful state. Here is something kids of all ages can enjoy: a visit to a newborn foal and her mother.
When it comes to Morgan horses, the University of Vermont’s Morgan Horse Farm is the go-to address. With over 70% of the entire world population of Morgan’s coming from this locale, you can bet a visit here will be a special treat.
The Morgan farm is located in Middlebury. It is 215-beautiful acres which got its start when Justin Morgan acquired a colt in 1789. Morgan was a Vermont native who received his colt from someone in Springfield, Massachusetts as payment for a debt he owed. Morgan was taken with this horses outstanding look and excellent athletic abilities. Morgan named the colt “Figure” and observed that the horse could “out trot, out run and out pull” all his other horses.
Convinced that he should have more horses like this one, he started to breed “Figure.” To Morgan’s surprise and satisfaction, he discovered that no matter what kind of mare Figure was bred with, the offspring turned out just like their father. Unknowingly Morgan had discovered one of the most important equine sires in horse history.
The farm is open to the public and offers tours of the premises. Enjoy!
This is NOT the place where the Woodstock music festival took place, in Bethel, New York, or anywhere near Yasgur’s farm. Rather, this is Woodstock in Vermont, only one county over from the border with New Hampshire. There is a lot to do and see in this beautiful town which was first chartered in 1761. In 1790 Woodstock had 1,605 citizens living in its borders, and had its highest population of 3,315 in 1840. As of 2014 the population is 2,996.
So what is there to see and do in such a small stable town? Plenty!
• Go see the gorgeous and historic Woodstock covered bridge from behind the Woodstock History Center.
• “Discover the Story of Woodstock” at the Woodstock History Center. The museum takes its visitors on an informative journey through the 250 years in which Woodstock has evolved from a frontier territory to the bustling community that it is today.
• The FH Gillingham & Son General Store is one of those stores that you have heard about in which you can buy just about everything. It has been around since 1886, and is still a family-owned establishment.
• In 1892 the Woodstock Inn was opened. There are many wonderful pleasures that can be experienced uniquely at this “Grand Dame Resort,” including watching the snow fall on the other side of a great picture window while you are relaxing in the sauna. Try a night or two at this iconic inn, you won’t regret it.
Vermont isn’t only about relaxation and maple syrup. A fantastic way to see the state in the fall is on the seat of a bicycle. Enthusiasts can choose from old logging roads, gravel paths and an huge network of hardly-used small roadways that make perfect biking roads.
Take your bike to just about any type of scenery: meadows, forests, hills and dales, beckon. You can even go riding to an abandoned granite quarry.
Considering a real multi-day adventure? Then you must look in to an authentic inn to inn, door to door biking experience in Vermont’s lower Champlain Valley. Travel like a king or queen with luggage transfer, cue sheets, maps, well-known routes, and best of all, dinner and breakfast supplied each day.
Biking in Vermont is an experience you won’t soon forget.
The stereotypical impression non-Vermontians have of our fair state is that it’s a place of green mountains and maple syrup. However, as I am always trying to point out in my blog posts, Vermont is so much more than pancake topping.
Vermont is the birthplace of land conservation, the Morgan Horse, and as was mentioned in my last post, the beloved Grandma Moses. Also mentioned last month: Robert Frost took much of his inspiration from our beautiful way of life?
OK, it’s true, another icon of Vermont is the covered bridge. Why fight it? It’s true, and something we are so proud of that we even have a covered bridge museum. Come visit and learn everything there is to know about covered bridges at the Bennington Center for the Arts.
Do you like prestige or antique cars? Then you will love Bennington’s antique car museum, located in a truck garage. There is also a car supply store and an old fashioned (Sunoco) pump.
The man who first warned the world about climate change was born in Woodstock, Vermont. George Perkins Marsh was a US diplomat, philologist, and most likely the country’s first environmentalist. Learn about this incredible man at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park in Woodstock.
When we think of Vermont, most people will bring to mind green mountains and maple syrup. Here are a few stops you can make that have nothing to do with Vermont’s natural appeal, and everything to do with its social, literary and artistic heritage.
• Take a 1 minute and 14 second ride up the elevator in the 306 feet Bennington Monument. This landmark is the most visited in Vermont, built in the 1800s to commemorate the Battle of Bennington which took place on August 16, 1777. The views from the top are amazing.
• Also in Bennington you can visit the grave site of America’s most beloved poet, Robert Frost. At the Old First Church, the first church in the US “dedicated to the separation of Church and State.” The congregation was established in 1762, and its building erected in 1806. Frost was born in 1874 and died in 1963, and is buried alongside many members of his family.
• The Bennington Museum is the home to the largest collection of Grandma Moses paintings in the world. Anna Mary Robertson Moses was born the same year that Abraham Lincoln was killed and died the year that John Kennedy was assassinated. She was a self-taught painter who didn’t pick up the brush until she was 78 years old. A great lesson that it is never too late to follow your dreams.
Vermont is one of the most beautiful states in the United States. Come and discover what makes my state so special. This video wonderfully shows the wonders of Vermont.
There is probably not a bumper sticker in the world more ubiquitous than the one that says: “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington.” Pasting that sticker to the back of the car that has made the climb up the 7.6 mile ascent and back down again is certainly a sign of a really fun outing for the driver and passengers of said car. But how much do you really know about Mt. Washington and its amazing mountain road?
Work began on the road in the summer of 1854, and reached its halfway point by the fall of 1856. At this point construction was forced to come to a standstill as money for the project ran out. In 1859 a new company took over the project, which recommenced the following year. On August 8, 1861 the celebration of the opening of the summit took place.
Since that time the use of the road has continued to grow. In 1935 3,100 private cars made the journey, while by 1955 the number more than doubled to 6,600. By the 100th anniversary of the road in 1961 12,800 private cars conquered the winding road to the breathtaking summit. Today’s figure of 45,000 cars per year attests to the beauty and grandeur of this very special tourist site.
Thinking about a visit? Mt. Washington’s famed Auto Road is found in Gorham, New Hampshire, along Route 16. From June 6 to August 30 the road is open from 7:30am to 6:00pm every day, but is always subject to the constantly changing weather. Be sure to check for special hours and events on the Mt. Washington website, such July 11 when there will be a bike race on the Auto Road, or June 28 when the road is completely closed to cars all day.
The first New Hampshire fair of the season will kick-off on Thursday, July 16 in Stratham. Gates open every morning at 8AM, except for Thursday’s fair when the fair begins at 12PM.
Visitors to the fairgrounds can expect a taste of a real “old-time” fair which follows closely in the traditions of old country fairs. There will be 4H activities and exhibits, midway rides, magic and music, and of course the Miss Stratham Fair Pageant. And that is just the beginning.
This particular fair was first produced in 1967, and has been a highlight of the New Hampshire fair circuit ever since. A single day pass costs $8 for an adult and $5 for children ages 6-12 and seniors older than 65. Under 6 are free.
Thursday is Grandparents day which means grandparents bringing along a child or children under age 12 get to enjoy the fair for free.
For more information about tickets, sponsors, programming and more, go to the Stratham Fair web site. Last day of the fair is July 19th.
See you at the fair!
In New Hampshire the peregrine falcon is considered state-threatened, and in Vermont there are only 40 pairs. How lucky then for employees at the Yankee Nuclear Power Station that a rare couple of falcons have chosen the smokestack of the power plant as their home.
The falcons were first sited by the workers at the plant in 2009 when they were phoned by a New Hampshire Audubon biologist. The workers then swung into action and received permission from their management to build and install a nesting box on the smokestack. The box was built by veteran employee Steve Skibniowski, who is now a consultant at the plant. Skibniowski received intstructions for the nest’s construction from Audubon experts on peregrines. The box boasts an open front and a unique perch for the birds.
“I’m surprised it’s held up as well as it has, because it’s very severe weather up there,” he said.
The nest also has a camera which allows them to watch the younger birds as they grow up. Observers learn about the daily lives of falcons from the camera feed, which is not available to the public at large.
Sometimes the employees do more than merely watch the birds. At least one time they were able to help them when a young falcon fell from the nest and broke one of its wings. Skibniowski acquired gizzards and giblets to feed the wounded bird, and then drove him to the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences, where they staff a bird rehabilitation center in Quechee. When the bird subsequently healed at the center he was released back into nature.
All my loyal readers know how much I love Vermont. Here are some wonderful facts that will convince anyone, even someone that thinks Vermont is in Canada, to admire this fair state.
1. Vermont has its very own Loch Ness Monster, but in this case its in Lake Champlain.
2. There are no billboards (legally) posted in Vermont. That’s right. Billboards have been banned in the state since 1968.
3. Vermont was once an independent country. For fourteen years from 1777 to 1791 when it became the 14th state of the United States, the nation of Vermont had its own currency, had its own postal service, and made slavery illegal.
4. Lake Champlain was one of the Great Lakes. Running almost the entire length of the border between New York and Vermont, Lake Champlain is the sixth largest interior body of water in the USA. In March 1998 President Bill Clinton signed a bill that officially declared Lake Champlain as the sixth Great Lake. This designation paved the way for the lake to receive research funding from the National Sea Grant Program. Unfortunately this status only lasted a few weeks until the bill was repealed.
5. Vermont produces 35 percent of all the maple syrup in the US, making it the single largest producer of the sugary syrupy treat.