Montpelier, Vermont’s capital, is artsy, walkable, friendly and, well, surprisingly small. It’s the least populous state capital in America, barely cracking 8,000 residents. Nestled among the mountains on the Winooski River, it’s on the verge of the Northeast Kingdom, but just a 40 minute jaunt from Burlington on Route 89.
For such a small state capital, it sure didn’t skimp on the State House. The beautiful gold-domed Greek Revival building sits in a wide park with a hillside backdrop with a long terraced lead-up to the entrance that can make you feel like you really matter. The statue topping the dome is Ceres, the goddess of agriculture. She welcomes you for a visit any day of the week but Sunday for a free docent-led or self-guided tour.
Montpelier itself is a very walkable little (really little) city, so park your car and get your feet moving. In addition to the State House, learn something new about this beautiful state at the neighboring Vermont Historical Society Museum inside a brick mansion. Then explore the local shops and have a bite at one of many little eateries.
Outside of town, visit the Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks or Bragg Farm Sugar House for a syrup tasting and an irresistible maple creemee.
South of Montpelier is Barre, the “Granite Center of the World”. Famed for the quality and quantity of granite mined from its hills, it attracted stone craftsmen from around the world throughout the 19th century. You must visit the Rock of Ages in Graniteville for a guided tour to the Smith Quarry – at almost 600 feet deep, it will wow you with the aquamarine waters and granite ledges. You can also tour the factory and watch today’s stone artisans at work.
Heading into Barre City (you’re currently in the village of Graniteville in the town of Barre – Vermont is confusing this way), learn more about granite at the Vermont Granite Museum. Then head over to Hope Cemetery. Trust me on this – what kind of memorial stones might you find in a place full of stone craftsmen? Yep – wander around and just try to stop taking photos.
The last place of note in this region is Northfield, south of Barre. If you haven’t had enough covered bridges yet in your Vermont trekking, you will find four in this little town, three of them clustered within walking distance of each other.
So come visit the state’s capital area – it’s worth it.