Brattleboro, Vermont | Summer Day Trip
Memorial Day weekend unofficially marks the transition to summer and all the activities the warm weather brings with it. For myself and my husband, it’s the time of year when we pull the kayaks out of the shed and start thinking about places to paddle. Currently, our favorite spot is a mere 30 minutes from our home in Keene, New Hampshire: the place where the West River meets the Connecticut in Brattleboro, Vermont. The West River is perfect if you’re interested in a lazy, winding kayak ride, while the Connecticut River, which is more heavily traveled, will give your arms more of a workout.
A morning on the river is reason enough to make Brattleboro a destination, but with careful planning you can pack a lot more into your day there. With our kayaks secured on the car, we like to grab lunch at the Marina Restaurant — which in 2010 Yankee named one of the best places in Vermont to dine by the water — before heading into town.
Historic downtown Brattleboro supports many independent shops, bookstores, and eateries, and although it’s hard to choose favorites, there are some that we always seem to end up in.
Vermont Artisan Designs, on Main Street, features a wide array of fine art and gifts, the majority of which are crafted by artisans from around the state. If you’re passionate about buying local goods, this is one gallery you don’t want to miss.
Just across the street is Verde, a home and garden shop that carries everything from Maine Cottage furniture to clothing accessories to glassware. Regardless of whether you’re looking for innovative or traditional décor, you’re sure to find something to take home from among the store’s brightly colored displays.
Head down the hill and you’ll find an assortment of items lining the sidewalk in front of Twice Upon A Time Antiques. Fair warning: With three floors and 10,000 square feet of floor space filled with vintage clothing, accessories, and home goods, it’s easy to lose track of time here, so be sure your parking meter is loaded up with quarters.
Turn the corner onto Elliot Street and you’ll find Altiplano. This shop is dually based in Brattleboro and Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, and offers an eclectic mix of collections — you can pick up a new outfit, baby toys, and a birthday card all in one stop — all designed by owner Shari Zarin.
With the shopping out of the way, it’s a good time to go in search of something to eat, and Brattleboro serves up enough variety among its restaurants to satisfy any taste. Back on Main Street, my favorite dinner spot is Fireworks — Yankee’s 2009 pick for best new Italian restaurant in New England — featuring an upscale selection of pizzas and homemade pastas. Or, if you’re in search of something a bit sweeter, pop into Amy’s Bakery Arts Café for a beverage and something fresh from the oven.
Because we started our day in Brattleboro in the morning, we’ll need to head back to Keene before evening to take care of Brewski. We’ll be back soon, though, as Brattleboro’s summer season is just getting started: The Farmers’ Market opened in May; the annual Strolling of the Heifers celebration is the first weekend in June; the Gallery Walk is the first Friday of each month (throughout the year); and there’s always something going on at the Latchis Theatre and the Hooker-Dunham Theater and Gallery.