November was super busy for us; especially because I was on the road for work more than usual and Laurel's soccer and music commitments resulted in an uptick of engagements (and the associated who's picking up who and where type planning!). So when our weekend in Brattleboro, VT rolled around, the whole family was eager for downtime. I've never been so happy to sit still and drive and I could feel my stress dissolve with each passing mile!
The impetus for our trip was a kind invitation from the Vermont Arts Council, whose efforts to keep creativity alive basically make me weep from the awesome (you can see their 2015 and 2016 plans). Obviously, Vermont is a big state. There's a lot going on creatively and when the Vermont Arts Council suggested a few different places to visit, I immediately gravitated towards Brattleboro. I had been there once before (though a very long time ago so I couldn't envision much) and the idea that we could escape to Vermont in just a couple of hours was huge. The weekend was amazing; here are 10 reasons why I recommend you visit soon with your family.
1. Proximity to Boston. If you're looking to experience the beauty and creativity of Vermont, you really can't beat the commute! Just 2 hours from Boston, this trip was totally doable with our 4 and 11 year old kids (device- and nap-free at that!).
2. Walkability. We love not driving when we're on vacation and downtown Brattleboro is remarkably self-contained, with plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment options, as well as everyday necessities such as a hardware store, grocery store, and library. We stayed at the art deco inspired Latchis Theatre and Hotel right in the heart of town, which was fantastic. If you're booking there with a family you must book #208 (the Gotham Suite), which included 3 rooms -- two bedrooms separated by a sitting room -- which was such a perfect setup. The Latchis also offers a continental breakfast, though there is no shortage of food options elsewhere (I'll get to that in a second).
3. Outdoor adventures for kids. Obviously it's Vermont and there's a lot of opportunity for outdoor adventures. In close proximity is Wantastiquet Mountain (technically in New Hampshire, just a quick walk from downtown Brattleboro across the bridge crossing the Connecticut River) and I also was pleased to discover Living Memorial Park, which offers a bunch of outdoor recreation activities, including a little ski/snowboarding lift!
4. Indoor adventures for kids. And given that it's Vermont, indoor adventures are a must for frigid days. Laurel and Violet took an awesome circus class at New England Center for Circus Arts. Their teacher Lauren was amazing; she was friendly and lovely and warmed the girls up with some scarf play and then worked with them on the tight rope, silks, and trapeze. So great! Also, we didn't have time to check it out, but friends in Brattleboro also highly recommended KidsPLAYce (right downtown) for indoor fun.
5. Arts, arts, and more arts. The aforementioned Vermont Arts Council is a great stop to survey cultural options, but seriously, how crazy is it than in addition to New England Center for Circus Arts, Brattleboro is also home to things like the Vermont Jazz Center, Fulcrum Arts (a fine arts gallery we visited briefly...it was a bit nervewracking being there with Violet's rhinocerous-like personality), and the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (a small, well-curated museum right downtown). Also, The Cotton Mill (where the circus studio is) houses over 60 artists, artisans, and small businesses) and I'm kicking myself that we can't return to Brattleboro this coming weekend for The Cotton Mill open studios and holiday sale. I'm not kidding when I say I may plan a winter visit next year around that event.
6. Ridiculously great food options. We needed more time in Brattleboro if for no other reason than to eat our way through more options! Of note, we had our first delicious meal at Fireworks, got killer smoothies at Superfresh! Organic Cafe, enjoyed burgers at Flat Street Pub, indulged in divine baked treats at Amy's Bakery Arts Cafe, enjoyed coffee and baked goods at Mocha Joe's, drank beer at Hermit Thrush Brewery, ate delicious crepes at Tulip Cafe, and got anything else we needed at the Brattleboro Food Co-op. Impressive, no?! (Note to self and others: Our Brattleboro friends also recommended Duo, Whetstone, Eliot Street Fish, Chips + More, and the Royal Diner. I plan on visiting all of those establishments next time!)
7. All the cheese you could ever want. After our somewhat harrowing visit to Fulcrum Arts (Violet please stop touching ALL THE THINGS!), we popped into Grafton Village Cheese because why wouldn't you stop into a huge building full of cheese and snacks with kids?
8. Loads of indie shopping...very possibly all indie shopping. The downtown stretch is replete with shopping and it's very possibly all indie...I don't recall seeing any chain establishments. My favorite picks include Altiplano (a gorgeous gift store...I bought a beautiful ring for myself and earrings for Laurel), Hand Knits (a great store for knitters), Penelope Wurr (a pretty gift store with a British persuasion), Everyone's Books (because yay, indie booksellers!), and The B's Nest (even more gifts). We also had an awesome time browsing the Brattleboro Winter Farmer's Market (produce! chocolates! caramels! crafts!).
9. Great for runners. Boston is lousy with runners but shockingly, I didn't see a single runner on the road when I went out, even though Brattleboro is great for runners. There's plenty of open road of course, and also plenty of killer hills. This gorgeous covered bridge was a great reward during my run around town.
10. The vibe/pace. I'm not sure how else to say it, but Brattleboro is a little magical. It feels insulated from the hustle and bustle of the world and has such a wonderfully relaxed vibe and pace and a true community feel. It was so easy for me to sink into a state of content there with Jon and the girls -- I simply loved it.
Have I convinced you to visit Brattleboro yet? Because just writing this recap is leaving me with an itch to return, which I'm eager to do very, very soon!
Image credits: Christine Koh
Disclosure: The Vermont Arts Council kindly provided media lodging at the Latchis Hotel and a complimentary class at the New England Center for Circus Arts. I paid for all other expenses. All thoughts and opinions about Brattleboro are -- of course -- my own!