The extreme heat in New York City has driven many people to the beach. Even when it is hot – on Saturday, in the Hamptons, it hit 103 – you have the option at the beach to jump in the water. Plus it usually cools off a little bit at night.
We headed into the mountains, specifically the Green Mountains of Vermont, where cooler weather usually prevails. We were not prepared for how cold it was on Friday -maybe the first time I’ve been cold since April. It rained. It poured. We were thrilled. We just kept thinking about the millions baking in the city and smiled even as we shivered.
We were in the little town of Middlebury, Vermont, home to Middlebury College and a quintessential small town: the village green, the burbling brook running by, the cafes and the mountains.
Otter Creek runs through Middlebury, and a terrific craft beer, Otter Creek is made right in Middlebury. You can stop by the brewery to taste the beer, or sample it at one of the restaurants in town. On Fridays, free Vermont cheese is set out – it goes surprisingly well with the beer, and you can now call the brewery family friendly, since kids can eat the cheese or the pretzels offered.
In summer, you can hike or bike the 16-mile TAM, the “Trail Around Middlebury.” This footpath is a popular spot for cross-country skiing in winter. Also, walk down to Otter Creek, where a park is under construction; you can walk across a bridge, watch the water rush by, and check out the Marble Works, a cluster of buildings where local marble was once processed; now it is home to offices and a restaurant, American Flatbread. We buy the frozen American Flatbread at our local food coop, but it is even better fresh out of the oven, with a local side and a microbrew.
Kids might not be as excited about going to the source of their food as parents might be, so thrill them with a trip to Maple Landmark Woodcraft, where wooden toys like blocks, trains and puzzles are made with local wood. Kids can play on the large train out front.
The Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History has a children’s room where kids can dress in period costumes, try out an 18th century bed, and play with dolls or ‘cook’ over a ‘fire’. The building itself is worth exploring; it was built in 1829 and is filled with period furniture.
You can also hike the Long Trail (the name, also, of yet another local craft beer) or the mile-long Robert Frost Interpretive Trail, both about 20 minutes away, or a portion of the Appalachian Trail. If you come in winter, Middlebury College owns the inexpensive, family-friendly Snow Bowl, also about 20 minutes outside town.
Spend some time on the Middlebury College campus, which has a swing set and large lawns for tumbling and running. There is also a free art museum, specializing in Asian and western art.
The vegetarian friendly Storm Café has outdoor seating and a great Rustic Hearts sandwich: grilled artichoke hearts, asiago cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and caramelized onions. For dinner, try the mushroom & spinach risotto cakes or fresh pasta loaded with vegetables. Fire & Ice specializes in burgers and steaks, but they also have a pan seared tofu, and a VCR theater, where kids can hang out while parents eat. Tully & Marie’s has Thai curries with tofu or meat, fajitas with tofu or meat, and a large children’s menu.
The Swift House Inn is one of the rare B &B’s that accepts -indeed, welcomes – children. When we checked in, my kids were offered fresh baked cookies and fruit available throughout the day. A two-course breakfast left us so full we thought we wouldn’t need lunch. Somehow, we managed to eat a few hours later. The Inn is on several acres, and kids can wander through the gardens. The Middlebury Inn has free afternoon tea.