U.S. Senator George Aiken coined the term “Northeast Kingdom” in 1949, in an effort to describe the beauty of Vermont’s unique farthest-flung corner. Ironically, the “Kingdom” is the state’s unruliest region: It’s wild and wooly. And woody — logging revenues keep many families afloat. Resourcefulness goes a long way in a place where conditions are harsh, population is sparse and economic opportunities are limited. And from the Kingdom’s challenges derive its charms: dramatic landscapes, old-fashioned businesses, resilient characters. Curious about that roadside sign for taxidermy? Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Arts & Entertainment
Bread and Puppet Theater
The days of the annual “Domestic Resurrection Circus” are over, but Bread and Puppet Theater is still using its political puppet pageantry to fight the power. The last president certainly gave them plenty of material... B&P perform a stage show every Friday night all summer, in a barn with bleacher seats. On Sundays, B&P holds museum tours at 1 p.m., then opens its large outdoor amphitheater for several "side shows" at 2:30 p.m. in advance of its "Circus” at 3 p.m., followed by a pageant in and around the magical Pine Forest. Leave time to tour the museum of papier-mâché masks and puppets. Photo: Jordan Silverman
The ambiance is a little bit rock and roll. On the menu, which comes folded and at first glance resembles a treasure map, many items are named for songs, including the ironic "Free Bird" chicken entrée and the "Come Sail Away" fish 'n' chips. Keep reading...
Photo: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
The Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium
The Fairbanks Museum is Vermont’s Smithsonian. Founded in 1889 by St. Johnsbury industrialist and amateur naturalist Franklin Fairbanks, it was an outgrowth of his own personal “cabinet of curiosities”: 175,000 items, as it turned out, that included more than 2500 dolls, 55,000 archival photographs and North America’s largest collection of stuffed hummingbirds. Don’t leave without seeing Jon Hampson’s patriotic bug art. Once apprenticed to inventor Thomas Edison, Hampson created nine works of art composed entirely of colorful bettles and moths. The Fairbanks displays seven of his creations, including portraits of George Washington and Abe Lincoln. There’s more amazing art down the street at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum.
Old Stone House Museum
Learn about 19th-century rural Vermont life by touring six historical buildings on 55 acres, including the home of Alexander Twilight, believed to be the nation's first African American college graduate (Middlebury College) and state legislator. The centerpiece of this hillside town is the four-story stone dormitory, Athenian Hall, that Twilight built by hand in the 1830s. Another featured home is that of Samuel Read Hall, the inventor of the chalkboard and the author of the first teachers' training manual. This historical village's pastoral, sweeping views are a perfect backdrop for a picnic or quiet stroll. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Lake Willoughby and Mt. Pisgah
Vermont boasts plenty of pretty panoramas. But the state’s most dramatic landscape is the view of Lake Willoughby from atop Mt. Pisgah. When a glacier came through the area 12,000 year ago, it cut through the granite like a knife, leaving sheer cliffs on each side of the deepest lake in Vermont — Willoughby is 312 feet deep in some places. From above, it looks like shimmering blue stone — more like a Norwegian fjord than a Vermont watering hole. To catch the South Trail up Pisgah, follow Route 5A to the south end of the lake — near the nudie beach. After about half a mile, you’ll see a parking lot on the left. It’s a little more than a mile to the top, and there’s a great lookout part way up. Photo: Hike New England
Boating & Hiking
Craftsbury Outdoor Center
There's no rest for the wannabe Olympian here. Once the snow melts, the cross-country skis are replaced with skulls. Boaters come from all over to ply the waters of Big and Little Hosmer lakes at the first-ever rowing camp in North America. They work with world-class coaches, eat good food and take classes in related disciplines such as yoga. Runners, too, flock to Craftsbury to improve their technique and hang with other hoofers. The Center's core trail network, groomed for cross-country skiing, is just as inspiring in the summer. Photo: Chris Milliman
Dirt Rag magazine calls it “the best mountain biking in the United States.” A Boston Globe reporter “felt like shouting ‘Wahoo’ like a kid.” The media raves are coming in about Kingdom Trails in East Burke — a huge, mapped, marked mountain-biking network in the Northeast Kingdom. About 90 percent of the pedaling paradise is on private land. Bikers come from as far as Maine and Ontario to ride the singlertrack on trails called Poundcake, Today’s Tour, Jaw, Beat Bog and — get this — Coronary Bypass. Another one, The Web, “weaves through a stand of ancient pine trees that seem to scrape the sky, running on a thick, plush carpet of red needles,” according to the Globe.
View Larger Map
- Picturing the NEK
- Gallery Profile: GRACE Anatomy
- Belvidere Mountain's Tillotson Camp
- Northeast Kingdom Music Festival
- Athenaeum Puts its Treasures on the Net
- Three for the Road: Northeast Kingdom Music Festival
- Best Outdoor Towns: East Burke
- Best Outdoor Towns: Newport
- East Craftsbury Curio: Simpson Memorial Library
- Seize the Daylily: Greenboro's Garden Center
- Hardwick's Galaxy Bookstore
- Harder Look at Hardwick: A Cabot author's new book asks whether local food can really "save" a town
- A Taste for "Venture": Vermont's food-business incubator makes a controversial move, from Fairfax to Hardwick
- Hardwick Hits: Celebrity Chef Emeril Lagasse Set to Film in Hardwick
- Taste Test: Claire’s Restaurant and Bar
- Hungry Hardwick
- Grilling the Chef: Claire’s Restaurant and Bar