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NewEnglandville | The Town of Our Dreams

Snow Kids: Montshire Museum of Science
We can’t wait for February 23, when once again Dr. Bert Yankielun, igloo-building expert, teaches us how to construct warm and sturdy homes from what winter gives us. And here we can also learn more about turtle hatchlings and invasive species in this former bowling alley turned hands-on science museum. Offering more than 140 exhibits in the permanent collection alone, indoors and out (100 acres, crisscrossed with nature trails)–all begging to be touched. 1 Montshire Road, Norwich, VT. 802-649-2200;

Starry Nights: Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium
The mysteries of the night sky hover closer in winter’s sharp air. Pricks of starry light form a luminous canopy pressing down–the perfect time to trot off to our local planetarium and learn what’s overhead. Alternatively, Fairbanks Museum meteorologists offer insights (and classes) into what’s happening on the ground, and that potential nor’easter headed our way (tune in to their VPR broadcasts). The museum spills over with enough oddities from the Victorian era and Civil War records to while away a snowbound afternoon. 1302 Main St., St. Johnsbury, VT. 802-748-2372;

A Winter to Remember: Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum
For the purposes of a reality check, NewEnglandville has its own museum of ultimate winter. After you’ve shoveled one too many walkways, you can come here to gaze at Robert E. Peary’s 1908-09 North Pole expedition sledge, or check out the clothing from Donald B. MacMillan’s 1923-24 Greenland expedition. With thousands of archival black-and-white (really, mostly white) photos and recent acquisitions such as contemporary Inuit art, it puts our season in the proper perspective. Hubbard Hall, Bowdoin College, 9500 College Station, Brunswick, ME. 207-725-3416;

Curling Up: Camden Public Library
Dozy and cozy, the combination of comfy armchairs, soaring ceilings, awe-inspiring windows facing the harbor’s frothy, dark water, and an endless supply of good books makes this the place to curl up for a long winter’s read-a-thon. Upstairs, it’s like stepping into your fantasy library, quiet and discreet; wend your way downstairs, into the mid-’90s addition, and it’s like a carousel, a hub-of-activity community center, which just happens to abut a little skating rink. The setting’s so pretty folks rent it out for weddings. 55 Main St., Camden, ME. 207-236-3440;

Acceptance Letters for All: Dartmouth College
Besides its deeply obvious New England roots (Eleazar Wheelock founded Dartmouth in 1769), we wanted a modern-day college resource in the center of town: one with perks such as a famous winter carnival, a cross-country ski center, and a place to skate, like Occom Pond. Plus ski and skating lessons; a membership to the alumni gym; a free-admission art museum (the Hood, one of the oldest and largest in the country); and top-notch entertainment at Hopkins Center for the Arts. And finally, in the pursuit of knowledge, the Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth (ILEAD), one of the best-attended (naturally) learning institutes in the country. Hanover, NH. 603-646-1110;

Trailblazing: Cranmore Mountain Resort
We want a ski mountain so close to town we can see the groomer’s lights twinkling on the slopes at night, close enough that we can even take a few runs before work if we have the urge–with 57 trails, big enough for good skiers, small enough that parents can keep an eye on their kids, plus one of the best snow-tubing parks in New England. Who wouldn’t want to point their tips down a North Country mountain steeped in 75 years of skiing and ski-school history? For a glimpse of where it all started–when wealthy financier Harvey Dow Gibson turned his back on a tradition of narrow trails in favor of wide Austrian-style alpine terrain–check out the New England Ski Museum exhibits at the base lodge. 1 Skimobile Road, North Conway, NH. 603-356-5543;

Beachcombing: Hammonasset Beach State Park
The sunbathers are long gone by the time we hit this two-mile-long white-sand beach for a windswept tug-of-war. The Atlantic roils at our feet, a gloriously free dog cavorts by, and we’ve got nothing more pressing to do than ponder the waves. Off-season it’s free, of course, but the shells, the driftwood, and the peace of mind are priceless. 1288 Boston Post Road (Route 1), Madison, CT. 203-245-2785;

Mail Call: Castine Post Office
When we go to mail a letter or buy stamps, why not also feel the legacy of history when we step inside? Our post office is one of the oldest continuously operated ones in the country. This elegant 1814 building still has its original gaslight fixtures, but there’s an ongoing debate over whether post-office use began in 1831 or 1833. Just be grateful that the earlier name, “Majabigwaduce,” was simplified to Castine. 43 Main St., Castine, ME. 207-326-8551

Sleepy Time: Woodstock Inn & Resort
When visiting royals come to town, we like to treat them to a quintessential New England inn experience, wrapped up in an elegant package. With its Rockefeller pedigree and the amenities of a four-diamond resort, the hush of well-being settles over the inn like a fresh blanket of snow. There’s a choice of 142 rooms where you can rest your weary head and a spa to take the chill off (“Body Melt Back Therapy” incorporates arnica for achy muscles), but we’re equally enchanted by the sheer postcard prettiness of this sprawling beauty, decking the town center with holiday warmth. (P.S. Lucky Woodstock, and hence NewEnglandville–for a small town we’ve got an impressive constellation of more than 20 inns and B&Bs to accommodate our winter visitors.) 14 The Green, Woodstock, VT. 802-457-1100;

Thanks to Annie Graves, Johnette Rodriguez, Dale Salm, Julia Shipley, and Chris Tree, who contributed to the town of our dreams.

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Updated Friday, December 14th, 2012

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