Battenkill Valley, Vermont: Cows and Covered Bridges
You really can time-travel back to Norman Rockwells bucolic version of America--those paintings featured on the covers of the old Saturday Evening Posts, depicting small-town life at its most idyllic--because, in fact, Norman Rockwell lived on one of these very back roads and drew from the surrounding community of Arlington, Vermont, his inspiration and his models.
And, by God, those were real people. Aye-yup...
One of the most easily accessible areas of Vermont--bordered by New York and Massachusetts--is the Battenkill River Valley in southwest corner of the state, with the small town of Arlington (population 2290) at its leafy, mountainous epicenter. The former original capitol of the Republic of Vermont in 1787, Arlington was the home of those rebel Green Mountain Boys, Ethan and Ira Allen, who defied the English during the Revolutionary War.
Arlington is a bit of real New England, with covered bridges, grazing black-and-white Holsteins, working sugarhouses, colonial architecture, and a grand section of a famous fly-fishing river, the Battenkill (also known as the Batten Kill), which you can canoe, tube and fish. The Green Mountain National Forest--filled with hiking trails (including a section of the Appalachian Trail) is a stones throw away, while Antique stores and weekend tag sales draw bargain shoppers who want to nose out the overlooked--and underpriced--vintage treasure.
Technically, the town is divided into three sections: Arlington proper, East Arlington and West Arlington. In Arlington itself, youll find the main commercial center--dont blink!--the post office, banks, schools and churches. East Arlington is a picturesque, tiny historic village straight out of a Currier and Ives painting with a small café, antique shops, waterfall and candy store (homemade fudge). West Arlington is actually a rather long stretch that follows the Battenkill River into New York State. More rural than the other two areas, there are several farms to visit and wonderful country roads to meander.
Nothing else in Southern Vermont is very far from Arlington. The town of Manchester--with its upscale outlet shops and fine restaurants--is 15 minutes north, and Benningtons world-famous Grandma Moses museum is only 15 minutes south. The funky, timeless village of Cambridge, New York--with its art galleries and bookstores--is only 20 minutes down the road. The ski resorts of Bromley and Stratton are less than a half-hour away, and the Appalachian Trail, Long Trail and Green Mountain National Forest are just up the road (literally) from East Arlington.
This bit of Vermont is not only home to picture-postcard landscapes, but is also a cultural mecca that draws lots of folks from surrounding states to its myriad events. Jazz, folk, visual arts, musical theatre, classical music, childrens theatre, a fly-fishing museum, a Norman Rockwell museum, a Grandma Moses museum, a peony festival, farm festival, antiques festival, historic houses, antique car shows, polo, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, and the New York City Ballet all bring the valley to life. The summer months, especially, in southern Vermont are so ripe with cool events you cant do it all. But you can die happily trying.
Southern Vermont is also known for its fine winter skiing and boarding, and nearly all mountains make snow to compensate for the occasional bare month. But there is also great cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, sleighrides and ice skating--either indoors or out to keep you warm during the colder months.
But fall is the time of year we Vermonters like best. With gorgeous colors quilting the landscape, fresh-picked apples, cool days and the smell of woodstoves burning the first logs of the season, October brings out the best in the Battenkill Valley.
The majority of attractions in Arlington and the Battenkill Valley are outside, but even on a rainy day, there are arts centers, museums, tons of historic buildings and other favorite local attractions to keep you busy.
When periodic floods washed away Vermont bridges, some areas were virtually stranded for months. One bridge, the Chiselville Bridge, on Sunderland Hill Road in East Arlington, was built forty feet high in the air, spanning a deep gorge to escape flood threats. Built in 1870, its the second highest covered bridge in Vermont. You might even recognize it; its been featured in several movies. The sign above it states that anyone going faster than a walk on the bridge will be fined.
The Bridge on the Green, located in West Arlington off Rt. 313 and spanning the Battenkill River, was built in 1852. It sits next to a picturesque white clapboard church, the West Arlington Grange and the Town Green, and is one of the most photographed bridges in the state. There are picnic grounds beside it and in summer, daredevil kids tie a rope swing to it and land in the cool waters of the Battenkill below.
The Norman Rockwell Gallery
The Bennington Museum and Grandma Moses Gallery
Southern Vermont Art Center
Robert Todd Lincolns Hildene
Concerts and candlelight tours are offered in the winter season and the carriage barn becomes a cross-country ski center in winter. The massive meadows not far away are used for polo matches and tented antique and craft festivals.
The American Museum of Fly Fishing
The road is closed in winter, but there are also several walking, hiking, and cross-country ski trails to the summit that can be accessed from behind the Equinox Hotel in Manchester Village.
The mountain, once sacred to the native Americans who lived here, is owned by a silent order of Carthusian monks whose monastery is located halfway up. Sorry, no visitors, but you can see it from the summit.
The Wayside Country Store
New Skete Monasteries
Wilcox Dairy Ice Cream Stand
Clear Brook Farm
Chances are youll also stumble past a roadside stand belonging to a local family who just had a few more veggies than they needed this summer. You might even chance upon someone selling homemade apple pies and jams.
Some people think there is no better place to be outdoors than in Vermont. They may be right: weve got incredible scenery, miles and miles of uncrowded dirt roads, off-road trails for mountain biking, pristine rivers and lakes and, best of all, temperate weather. If youre headed outdoors, several local outfitters can set you up with bikes, gear, canoes, trail maps and guides.
A detailed guidebook is available from:
You can reach a local National Forest Ranger in Manchester at 802-362-2307.
Other hiking trails in the Green Mountain National Forest can also be accessed off Kelley Stand Road.
North Road (out of East Arlington) is another great biking spot and will take you the back way to Manchester.
Sunderland Hill Road (paved) is great touring road that crosses the Chiselville Bridge past farms and historic buildings into Manchester Village. Route 313 West follows the Battenkill and will take from Arlington into New York State through rolling farmlands.
If you need a tune up (tourist repairs!), maps or want to rent a bike, contact:
For guided or self-guided tours of the area, contact:
Fishing, Canoeing, Kayaking
Battenkill Canoe Ltd.
Tubes can be rented at Video Villa on Route 7A in Arlington.
If you head in the opposite direction, east out of East Arlington, youll run into the Kelly Stand Road. This gravel road (closed November to May) was once a main thoroughfare across the Green Mountains. Daniel Webster once gave a rousing political speech to over 15,000 people in a field near the top, and loggers from miles around frequented the now gone taverns and bowling alleys in the once bustling town.
Deceptively pristine, the Kelley Stand Road now winds up along the boulder-strewn, Roaring Branch River, into the Green Mountains and eventually to the backside of Stratton Mountain. There are first-come, first served free camping and picnic sites along the river side of the road and the lovely Grout Pond where you can camp, hike, kayak and canoe is just over the top.
Just south of Arlington, Lake Shaftsbury State Park on Rt. 7A is a lovely place for canoeing, swimming or picnicking. Open summer only.
Another hot spot where you can get cool is the Quarry in Dorset, about 25 minutes north of Arlington. This is an old marble quarry, now flooded by deep, cold water, and there is always someone flinging themselves off the high marble walls or picnicking among the white monoliths that border the pit. Located on Rt. 30, halfway between Manchester and Dorset.
Horseback riding/ sleigh and hay rides
There is also an outdoor skating rink at the park. Its real old-fashioned (bring your own hot chocolate and skates), but lots of fun for the kids and the adults. For indoor skating, head to Riley Rink on Route 7A in Manchester, an Olympic-sized rink with skate rentals and a snack bar.
In winter, Kelley Stand Road and the Green Mountain National Forests trails are open to snowmobilers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers. But youll need a snowmobile to get up the road from Arlington. You can also access the trails from Stratton Mountain.
If youre here in the winter, you can visit one of the local tree farms and select a beauty of a Christmas tree from among the young spruces and firs, another Vermont family farm industry. These are the real things: freshly cut, homegrown Vermont evergreens.
Pleasant Valley Tree Farm
Land Rover Driving School
The Equinox Hotel, British School of Falconry
If fly-fishing is your thing, try Orvis fly-fishing clinics held at the Orvis pond in Manchester, or take a longer guided course with a few hours on the Battenkill.
The Southern Vermont Arts Center often has day or weekend workshops in the visual arts. Contact them for the exact schedule of classes.
Several local tour operators and outfitters can set you up for almost any kind of activity.
Battenkill Canoe Ltd.
Battenkill Sports Quarters
From luxurious country inns to family-owned B&Bs and farmstays, there is no shortage of unique lodging in the Arlington area.
The Hill Farm Inn
The Arlington Inn
West Mountain Inn
Keelan House Bed & Breakfast
The Inn on Covered Bridge Green
The Green River Inn
Roaring Branch Cabins
Camping on the Battenkill
The Battenkill Valley offers an astounding smorgasbord of dining opportunities. From take-out, light fare, starting out at $3 for a simple, yummy sandwich, to the finest Continental cuisine at the-skys-the-limit prices, you name it, Arlington and Manchester have it.
For take-out lunches and light dinners (great picnic foodstuffs), just down the road from Arlingtons center on Historic Rt. 7A, is Loka Gourmet. Burritos, salads, tabouli, grilled veggies, hummus, quiches and whimsical baked goods. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 802-375-2310.
For casual local lunch and dinner dining in Arlington, try the East Arlington Café on Old Mill Road in East Arlington. Chef David Ingisson dishes up some of the finest entrees in town, including crab cakes, fish and chili made with local microbrew beer. Moderate. Open Tues-Sat for lunch and dinner.
Jonathons Table on Route 7A by the Sugar Shack is another casual Arlington dining spot. Featuring prime rib and hearty New England fare, it is off the beaten path, but worth the stop. Dinner only. Closed Tues. and Wed.
If you want a real old-fashioned dining experience (with fries and a shake), stop at Snows Dairy Bar on Route 7A south of the center. Open spring through fall, Snows has tasty and inexpensive burgers, hot dogs, fresh-fried haddock and soft-serve ice cream. A favorite local spot and a hit with the kids.
The Arlington Inn and West Mountain Inn also have fine restaurants open to the public. The West Mountain does an amazing Sunday brunch, too. Try the Sticky-Gooey thing. If youre willing to drive north to Manchester, you can find some tasty, if sometimes expensive, alternatives. Two of the areas most renowned restaurants are Mistrals (exquisite French cuisine in an intimate riverside setting) on Rt. 11/30, 802-362-1779 and Chantecleer (European cuisine) on Rt. 7, 802-362-1616. Reservations and proper attire are essential at both. If youre in the Manchester area hiking or shopping, stop for a creative bagel and fresh-roasted Green Mountain coffee at Bagel Works on Rt. 11/30 in the center of town, or pick up some donuts and local gossip at Mrs. Murphys Donuts just up the road. If you need lunchtime takeouts, Al Duccis Italian Pantry, a little bit of Italy in Manchester, draws locals as well as savvy travelers who crave their fresh sandwiches, homemade soup, handmade sausage, renowned fresh mozzarella, pastas and raviolis. Another favorite local lunch spot is Village Fare, just across from the Equinox Hotel, offering wonderful fresh sandwiches, salads and baked goods to die for in a sunny, relaxed café setting.
If youre headed south to Bennington, be sure to stop at the Blue Benn Diner, on Route 7. A classic diner with a distinctly hip taste, the "Benn," as it called, has been a local favorite for generations. Their vegetarian specials are the best in town and the breakfasts--huge omelets, granola pancakes and homemade donuts and muffinsare well worth the wait.
East Arlington offers the best shopping in town. The Happy Cook--everything you can think of for the culinary maestro--and The Candle Mill--thousands of candles and a dip-your-own stand for the kids--are housed in historic buildings beside a lovely waterfall and picnic area.
Stop at The Village Peddler across the street for some homemade candies and fudge to munch on while you peruse the treasures in the East Arlington Antiques Center next door. Another filled-to-the-brim antique center is just up the road in an old movie theatre.
The shopping opportunities in Manchester are nearly legendary. All stores are within walking distance of each other in the heart of Manchester on Rt. 7 and Rts.11/30. Think Freeport, Maine, married to New York City. Outlet shops include Armani, Donna Karan, Johnston & Murphy, Escada, Coach, Cole Haan, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Timberland, Versace, J. Peterman, Movado. The prices arent always the lowest, but sometimes you can find some real bargains. Bring your credit card.
Besides the glittering outlet stores, there are the quirky local shops: The Old Game Store, The Bird Place, Vermont Village Crafts, The Jelly Mill, The Porter House of Fine Crafts, and Herdsman Leathers are all locally-owned shops with eclectic merchandise.
For the best selection of books in this part of the state, head to the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, a fine, independent bookstore dedicated to the art of browsing. Excellent sections on local lore, authors and guides. Check their full schedule for readings and author appearances.
Theres always something happening in southern Vermont. Some events are world-class arts performances, while others are local parties--travelers invited.
Manchester Music Festival
Dorset Theatre Festival
Vermont Symphony Orchestra
Hildene Crafts Fairs and Farm and Food Fairs
Harvest Festival and Chicken Pie Supper
There are also countless other concerts, lectures, performances, rummage sales, antiques auctions, local benefit chicken, ham and game suppers, polo matches, races, full moon hikes and festivals all year long.
Contact the Arlington or Manchester Chamber of Commerce or check the Vermont News Guide, a free weekly magazine available just about anywhere in the region, for listings. Also check bulletin boards at Paulins on Route 7A in Arlington and Mrs. Murphys Donuts on Routes 11/30 in Manchester.
For more local festival information
The old Vermont saying (well, one of em) is that if you dont like the weather, wait a minute. It will change. In winter, it can be icy and very cold, so be prepared for extreme elements. (Vermont also sprouts periodic "thaws" mid-winter--sprouts that are increasing in appearance, what with global warming--when you can get by with a light jacket.) Layering is your best strategy for all four seasons in Vermont.
Spring in Vermont has been labeled the "mud season." Pack boots and warm rain jackets; its often mucky and damp.
Fall is famously and gloriously beautiful, and youll want to be outdoors. Bring warm jackets or sweaters for the evenings; be prepared to peel down to tee-shirts during the days.
One of the best secrets about Vermont is its summer. There isnt a lusher paradise imaginable in which to hike, bike, canoe, kayak, run, camp, sightsee and enjoy Vermonts homegrown, organic goodies. Cool nights and steamy days make for comfortable adventures. Bug spray and a bathing suit are must-pack items, as well as that light jacket for evening.
Only a 4 _ hour-drive from New York City, you can also access Arlington from the southwest via Rt. 7 out of Albany, New York, or Rt. 22, which runs north along the New York/Massachusetts border. Once in Bennington, head north on Rt. 7.
Travel by car is easy given the relatively few main roads that run through these small New England towns. Stop at the little white building which houses the Arlington Chamber of Commerce (located on Historic Rt. 7A in the center of Arlington) to pick up a terrific map of the area and other information on local points of interest.
You can catch a ride between Bennington, Arlington, and Vermont on the Vermont Transit Line or the new commuter bus, "The Bus," or hop the summer-fall Vermont Valley Flyer tourist train from Manchester Depot to Arlington and back (the train actually goes all the way to North Bennington, a quaint village at the back door of Bennington College). Once at your destination, all towns are suitable for walking tours. Several local taxis provide service, as well.
There are ATMs available right in the center of Arlington at the Factory Point Bank and The Chittenden Bank on East Arlington Road. In Manchester, several ATMs are available at the Chittenden Bank, on Rt. 7A and at the Factory Point Bank on Rt. 11/30, near the outlet stores. Credit cards and checks with proper ID are widely accepted.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
For emergencies, The Southwestern Vermont Medical Center is located in Bennington, just 15 minutes south of Arlington.
Northshire Medical Center Group
For medicines, try Mortar and Pestle Pharmacy on Route 7A in Arlington or Rite Aid on Route 7A in Manchester.
Public phones are available at Stewarts on Route 7A in Arlington and near the Chamber of Commerce Travelers Booth on Route 7A in Manchester. Arlingtons main post office is located on Route 7A and the East Arlington Post office is located next to the East Arlington Café on Old Mill Road. Important: Due to the fact that Arlington sits in a valley, some cell phones might have a difficult time receiving or transmitting.
Arlington Chamber of Commerce
Manchester and the Mountains Regional Chamber of Commerce
If you want to be on top of current happenings, events, music, theater, anything, pick up a free copy of the weekly Vermont News Guide at nearly any convenience store. Youll have your finger directly on the pulse of the entire area.
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