42 Reasons to Visit Us
We started with the goal of identifying 10 reasons, but once we got started, we just got carried away and couldn’t stop. Here are 42 Reasons to Visit us hard by the Canadian Border, Deep in the Heart of the Northeast Kingdom.
We started with the goal of identifying 10 reasons, but once we got started, we just got carried away and couldn’t stop. Here are 42 Reasons to Visit us hard by the Canadian Border, Deep in the Heart of the Northeast Kingdom.
The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont was one of the very first geotourism areas in the world specially designated by National Geographic. Once you head over Sheffield Heights on Route 91 and head down into Barton, Brownington, Derby, Jay and Newport – a place where the rivers flow north – you are headed into a special place. We are what Vermont was 30 years ago: a land of fields and working farms, mountains, meandering streams and some of the most beautiful and cleanest lakes in North America. Looking for a Mall? You won’t find it here. Looking for Old School Vermont? You are definitely on the right track. Once you discover the Heart of the Kingdom, you will be back year after year with friends and family. Just ask the generations of families who have kept their summer camps, their fishing shanties and hunting camps, or their ski houses for decades and decades.
Just 3.5 hours from Downtown Boston entirely on I 93 and I 91 direct to Barton, Newport, Derby and Jay Peak. 2.5 hours from Springfield, MA, straight up 91. 5 or 6 hours from NYC. Oh yes, did we say we are just five miles from the Canadian border and 2 hours drive from Montreal? Hop on Route 10 out of Montreal and then 55 to 91.
Flying in? Manchester, NH. Burlington, VT, and Montreal, QC are the closest "major" airports. Each gets you within a two to two-and-a-half hour drive. Own your own plane? Flying in to Newport State Airport in Coventry, couldn't be easier. It's run by Dan Gauvin of Lakeview Aviation.
Paddle in? Or you can paddle in on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail or drive sections of the historic Bayley-Hazen Military Road, built during the Revolution to help us capture Montreal. It ended up being a major artery for early settlers heading north into The Kingdom.
The Daily News of Open Water Swimming has selected Lake Memphremagog and Lake Willoughby as 2 of the 50 greatest open water swimming venues in all of the Americas. Then there’s Lake Seymour, Crystal, Caspian, Island Pond and Lake Eligo, not to mention countless ponds.. Whether you like to swim, fish, boat, kayak, or just look at some breathtaking beauty (any time of the year) our legendary lake region is just that – the stuff of legends. The water is some of the cleanest you are ever going to find, anywhere in the world. Big lakes, glacially carved, incredibly deep in spots, spring fed. Should we keep going? OK – biggest lake trout, best bass fishing in the state, landlocked salmon, and humongous Northern Pike.
What makes the Northeast Kingdom one of the quietly most beautiful places in the world? Part of the answer is that it is a working landscape. Our farms are still active. Our sugarbush is tapped. Our forests are logged. We ski our mountains and kayak our streams. We hunt and fish our woods, streams and lakes. Waste not, want not. We use our land. We live off our land. We love to pass some time in our forests, fields, rivers, lakes and mountains any way we can think of. And with the winters so long, we’ve got lots of time to think.
This is a land that nurtures some wonderful artists. And they have gathered to display their works at the MAC Center for the Arts, an exciting store on downtown Main Street. In 2008, Yankee Magazine selected MAC as one of the best galleries in New England. But the Center continues to surprise and expand to include poetry and music within its mission. A very energetic and inspiring part of downtown Newport.
We don’t know how many ways you can say that WINTERS ARE LONG and there’s nothing better than our LAZY SUMMERS. That’s another way to say we love to read and we love our history. Our libraries are cherished institutions in our communities.
Take The Haskell Free Library and Opera House, built half in Stanstead, QC and half in Derby Line, VT, with the international boundary line running right through the reading room and the opera house itself. Or The Old Stone House Museum, in Brownington, built as a school by Alexander Twilight, the very first African American college graduate in the United States, and now home of the Orleans County Historical Society.
The Goodrich Memorial Library in downtown Newport, offers up its own bit of history and, like The Daley Memorial Library in Derby Center and The Barton Public Library, offer great resources to visitors and residents alike.
#7. QNEK Productions
Acting is in our blood. Some say we learned to become great actors crossing the border. Whatever it is, QNEK Productions, our international troup of thesbians, puts on some great shows during the warm weather. And the Haskell Opera House with its refurbished curtain, stage, and gallery offers a unique venue. Plus, where else can you sit in the US and watch live theatre being performed in Canada.
#8. First Wednesdays
The Goodrich Library in Newport is one of nine venues in the state that hosts this wonderfully eclectic series of speakers offered by the Vermont Humanities Council. They present at 9 venues around the state, including Newport, on the first Wednesday of the month from October through May. The series attracts a wonderful and varied collection of speakers discussing the widest possible range of topics, from the social and historical impact of the interstate system in Vermont to Presidential Fishing, from the history of magic to the debate as to whether Vermont should secede from the Union, and from the impact of Vermonters on the Civil War to the scientific evidence regarding global warming, from quilting and family to middle east unrest. You get the idea. Fun, informative, and most definitely worth the drive.
We know we are biased, but we just happen to think this is one of the most beautiful bike paths in all of Vermont. Spring, Summer, and Fall it is busy with walkers, runners, and bikers. In the winter, parts of it serve as a cross country ski trail linking to miles and miles of additional trails maintained by Memphremagog Ski Touring Foundation. We love this combination of bike path and ski touring trails so much that in the summer we offer a 10 mile bike path and trail run, The Harry Corrow Freedom Run.
Long before Newport and Island Pond became railroad towns, they were part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail -- a 740 mile waterway linking 22 rivers and streams and 56 lakes and ponds, including Lake Memphremagog and the Clyde river. It follows the traditional east-west water routes used by Native Americans and early settlers in the Northern Forest Region, from the Adirondacks to Northern Maine.
Being a part of this Trail is really, really special and we’re thrilled that it includes the rivers, streams and lakes of our area.
11. Newport’s Waterfront
Newport’s Gateway Center is an integral part of our waterfront and and looks north up the lake. Leaves us breathless. But to sit down at the City Dock of an evening, eating some take-out Thai or Hoagies Pizza, or to meander along the board walk, makes us think – “Where else in the world would we rather be?”
Newport's Parks and Recreation Department offers up some regular entertainment at the Gateway Center and handles sailboat and kayak rentals at Prouty Peach. And the camp grounds at Prouty bring families back year after year. Cheap. Easy. Old School Summer Living.
12. Running, Biking, and Swimming Events
The Northeast Kingdom is a Mecca of sorts for outdoor recreation. Our area hosts a number of premier running, biking, and swimming events that are now drawing thousands of participants from all over the country, and all over the world. In fact, on just about any given weekend from May through October there is a running, biking, swimming, or triathlon event in the Northeast Kingdom. We have them listed under Events.
We’ve got some wonderful day hikes in our area. Climb a mountain, have a picnic, and enjoy a glorious day. Below are someof our favorites. Green Mountain Club NEK Division has the complete collection of trail maps in the area, plus information about group hikes and other activities. Or you can go to Woodknot Book Shop & Turner's Cafe in Downtown Newport and sit down with a cup of coffee and a scone and spend a few hours going through some trail maps there.
A warm summer day out on our lakes or floating down a river or stream is a day in paradise. Just is.
And here's a few hints: If you need a kayak - Clyde River Recreation will deliver a kayak to you anywhere in the Kingdom. They'll even drive you up the Clyde so that you can float back to your car. Newport Marine Services rents pontoon boats by the half day for only $140 or $230 for the full day. And Newport's Parks and Recreation Department rents Sailboats and kayaks at Prouty Beach for practically NOTHING. It's such a good deal we got rid of our own sunfish and, when the wind's right, rent theirs.
Did we say that our lakes and streams offer some of the best fishing in the state. Best bass fishing is out by the (censored). We’re not going to say any more. Our favorite times to fish are Spring (Fly), Summer (Lake) and Winter (Ice). And if you are as crazy as we are and love to sit out on a frozen lake and watch tip ups, you don't want to miss Wright’s Fishing Derby on the last weekend in February. Whether you like to fish, or just eat fish, the dinner on Saturday night is a great time. Check out some pics of this year's dinner by clicking here.
16. Eating Experiences
We love to eat. We love to spend some time, hanging out and eating. And, we have some great places to enjoy. Our area has experienced a kind of a Dining Renaissance with new restaurants joining our longstanding institutions to offer an increasing variety from Thai to Mexican, from wood fired pizza and Italian to steaks and seafood. We even offer up Sushi on Thursdays, straight from the Boston Wharves. And then there's Jay Peak and some terrific new dining opportunities "on mountain." Check out our Dining section. Is it worth the drive just to spend an evening at one of our restaurants? You bet it is.
17. Driving Around
We pass the time driving our roads. We have several drives we love. We’ve listed one on our Tours and Trails section.. Stay tuned and we'll be adding some more of our favorite drives.
Don’t get us started on all of the wonderful birding on our cliffs and in our swamps. Just look up over south bay and you may see a bald eagle out in the hunt. Or check out the cliffs at Pisgah for the Peregrin Falcon’s nest. And our loon, geese, and ducks, Great Heron are everywhere. One visitor recently complained that mornings were too noisy because of all the birds. But the real lure of our region are the Boreal Birds that lurk in the Nulhegan River Basin, which is overseen by the Sylvio O. Conte,National Fish & Wildlife Refuge. All are very rare and challenging to find on the eastern half of the country. Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, and Boreal Chickadee are what bring in "birders" during the spring, summer, and fall.
20. Downhill Skiing and Riding
Jay Peak has the most Snow in the East and the Best Glade Skiing in North America. This is a Big Mountain with some great, great skiing. Sure, sure, Jay Peak Ski Resort has become a four season destination resort (See Reason #37). But, we are"blessed"with six months of SNOW ON THE MOUNTAINS. Do we really need to say more? And, for old school skiing, nothing beats a day at Burke Mountain. You can almost hear Neil Young wafting up the mountain while you ride the chair lifts. And, Burke Mountain Acadamy has been consistently training Olympic downhill skiiers for decades.
22. Motorcycle Riding
We are the home of Kingdom Thunder, one of the best up and coming motorcycle rallies in the northeast. This is a charity ride with wide open roads, great views, spectacular moments, good people, good eats, a good party and a great cause. Last weekend before Labor Day, it’s just a wonderful way to salute the end of summer. www.kingdomthunder.org
But we have to say, we are a biker friendly area of Vermont. Any time during the warm weather there are bikes all over our roads. We’ve got some great roads with light traffic, and a wide variety of biker friendly establishments, happily offering lodging and dining.
Hundreds of miles of VAST trails and lots of snow, wide open fields and well maintained trail network through the woods make the Northeast Kingdom a snowmobile paradise. We're starting a list of snowmobile events, but at the top of the list has to be the Fire and Ice speed races out by the EastSide on the third Saturday of January. 130 MPH won the event this year. Now that's TOTALLY COLD.
24. Shopping and Antiquing
As we said, if you are looking for a Mall, you’re just not going to find it here (at least not yet). But, if you are looking for some wonderful and surprising Old School Downtown Main Street Shopping, you’ve come to the right place. Our try a cruise along the Route 105 Shopping Trail from Country Thyme in Derby Center (Try the colorful handmade socks. You’ll like them!) through Derby, Newport, Newport Center and out to the Jay Village Store. (That 10 foot Indian with the eagle may look real, but it’s one of 10 to 20 incredible, chain saw carved sculptures greeting you when you arrive) On your way out, stop by Breault’s for some of the finest, freshest, tastiest, beef jerky ever.) A must stop in downtown Newport is The Pick and Shovel. Yes you can buy a Pick and a Shovel and a garden hose, and lumber and the traditional range of hardware. But you can also by underwear, waders, clothing, gloves, boots, boating supplies, parrots, spiders, fish (WHAT?) electronics, appliances, household supplies. We may be biased, but for our money, the Pick and Shovel is the best old school general store in all of Vermont. It just is. When you walk up and down Main Street you have a choice, you can see some empty storefronts which signal a downtown in transition, or you can see some incredible diversity and variety in the stores that we have – Jewelry, kids, books, specialties, kitchenware, clothing. So what’s so different and special? Here’s the difference -- Spend a half an hour in any store and you will find a wide variety of sometimes surprising things to buy and you will most probably meet the owner. When you leave, you will walk out into the New England air, look up the lake to Canada and enjoy one of the MOST QUIETLY BEAUTIFUL VIEWS IN ALL THE WORLD. Then you can move on to the next store, or stop for lunch or a cup of coffee and some desert. That’s how we like to shop. Old School.
25. Some kind of Fun
We love any excuse to celebrate the four seasons. Indoors, but especially outdoors. We’ve listed some of our outdoor festivals under events and festivals. The Dandelion Festival, Kingdom Aquafest, First Foliage Festival, Wright's Fishing Derby, and Newport's Winterfest, and more are on the way.
26. A Taste of Quebec Close By
In a blink of an eye (with passport or enhanced driver’s license in hand) you can wonder into Quebec. (Some innocents cross the border by mistake, it’s so close by. Right, Buzzy? Heck, it's so close we swim over, every now and then.) Our favorites are: Georgeville by Boat or by Car or by bike, Magog with its wonderful shops, The Abby with its distinctive cheese and Sutton – Owls Head just because we love that mountain. Then again Lake Massawippi, North Hatley and Ayers Cliff offer some international experience equal to none.
And, we celebrate our cross-border friendships in so many ways.
The Border Sky Fly Meet on Lake Memphremagog,
In Search of Memphre, a 25 mile international swim between Newport, VT and Magog, QC,
Hands Across the Border – An annual square dance at The Haskell Library in Derby Line, US and Stanstead, QC,
Tour de Kingdom’s Friday International Ride-Around-the-Lake.
Relais du Lac Memphremagog – an 85 mile, relay run around Lake Memphremagog, sponsored by and in support of the Christian Vachon Foundation.
27. Just some special, special places
There are just some special, special places the likes of which are hard to find anywhere else in Vermont or the northeast. Here's a starter list. (More info and links are on the way)
There’s some fine music deep in these hills. Mostly it’s played in the homes of those who love to gather and jam. But every now and then our local musicians venture out and play for the general public. Find one of these gatherings and you’ll just shake your head in wonder. Don’t know whether it’s the Quebec influence or the long winters, but there’s some wonderful music to hear in the Kingdom, if you just listen and look for it.
29. It’s just a great place to hang out with your kids
One night a few summers ago we were out on the lake “with the boy” listening to a Montreal classical radio station and low and behold, the Northern Lights just burst forth over the lake. Filled the sky with curtains of color. Three hours later we were still mesmerized, quietly watching the wonder of it all, all to the sounds of Beethoven. An experience we will never, ever forget. Whether you are skiing, boating, tubing, fishing, biking, running, swimming, playing cards, watching the fire burn - it's all just a little slower, which is perfect, as far as we're concerned
31. Barton Fair
The Orleans County Fair is the best of Vermont. Again, old school, tractor and horse pulls, competitions of all sorts. Some high level Harness Racing – Trotting. Demolition Derby. Entertainment. Not to mention the trained pigs. It’s a blast. Everybody is at the Fair. We measure our summer by The Fair. The minute they pull the tents, you can feel the crisp fall air arrive.
32. We are "The Place Where Fall Foliage Starts."
Last weekend of September, we’re already peaking in spots. Hard by the Canadian border, no one can dispute that, as far as the US is concerned, we are "The Place where Fall Foliage Starts.” Just one more reason to close off Main Street in Newport and hold another outdoor celebration, "First Foliage Festival with some significant music and the Chamber's awe inspiring ChiliFest."
8 decades as a 4-H camp in the Kingdom, with some new blood added by Siskin Ecological Adventures, makes Coutts-Moriarty a great old school/new school summer camp adventure for kids. Ropes courses, paddling in the Nulhegan on the Clyde and the Connecticut, living outdoors, eating healthy food with many locally grown ingredients, healthy activities, and learning about a sustainable healthy planet as well. This camp is a keeper. And, worth the visit by the young’uns.
36. Louis Garneau Factory Outlet
We are the home of Louis Garneau which has an incredible Factory Outlet in Newport, with running, biking, swimming, and triathlon equipment, gear, and apparel at incredibly low prices. Some of the participants in our summer running, biking, and swimming events describe the annual excursion to Louis Garneau as an almost “religious experience.” It may be our only Factory Outlet, but it alone is worth the visit!!!
You won't find a wider variety of golf courses anywhere. From the old school, scottish play cow fields of the Mountain View Country Club in Greensboro, to the hilltop course with spectacular views overlooking Lake Memphremagog at Newport Country Club, to the totally championship challenge offered up at the Jay Peak Resort Golf and Country Club (with five different tees at each hole, the course can be stretched from 5,000 yards to 7,000 yards to accomodate all types of golfers), to the "leave your fee in the mail box" at Granddad's Invitational course in Newark, with a duck serving as golf pro (we kid you not). And, you can't spend a week playing the Kingdom without a trip to The Orleans Country Club and The Barton Golf Club. Every course is unique, Every course is accessible and friendly, And the prices are right.
38. Jay Peak Resort, The Ice House, The Pump House, The Championship Golf Course
Forget about skiing for a minute. The Pump House is an indoor outdoor water park that will just blow you away. Can’t think of a family that wouldn’t love some time at The Pump House.
One very happy Dad spent a day cycling in the Tour de Kingdom while his family spent the day at The Pump House. When he joined them, one of his kids gave the best review of all: "Dad! This place is even better than Disney!!" True story. No puffery here. The place is just AWESOME. Add in the Ice Hous, the golf, the mountain biking, trail running, plus some very, very fine dining and a host of special events and you have a world class, all seasons, destination resort.
39. The Best Damn Small Hospital in the Nation
Our hospital is made up of crackerjack physicians, nurses, support staff and administrators who are here by choice. They love life in The Kingdom and understand what a miracle it is to be able to live here. Heck a couple of physicians head up the Memphremagog Ski Touring Foundation and you can see them out grooming the trails at 6 o’clock in the morning before they head into work. We may not be Sloan Kettering. But the folks at North Country Hospital save lives every day, are close into town and quick at the draw when you need them. And if you do need to get out of here to a tertiary care facility, there’s a helicopter at the ready to scoop you up and get you to the next level of care “speedy quick.” We may look like a bunch of bumpkins, but when the rubber meets the road, these folks know what they are doing. Match their RESULTS against any other small hospital in the country and they are right at the top. And, they are very, very nice. True of all of us, actually, ‘cept when we fight amongst ourselves.
We get tons of snow, not just in the mountains
but also in the valleys and hill towns like Craftsbury. There's a well known snow belt that makes Craftsbury's conditions some of the most consistently good snow in the northeast. And there's some wonderful cross country skiing at Jay Peak, at Memphremagog Ski Touring Foundation Trails in Newport and Derby as well as at Burke Mountain. The Craftsbury Outdoor Center, in fact is one of the 42 Reasons to Visit, year round, but most especially during cross country ski season.
Kingdom Trails in East Burke is renowned throughout the northeast and the entire nation as providing some of the best trail riding, ever. Terrific, fun, events. Downhill options, complements of Burke Mountain.. Jay Peak itself is getting into the mix of things and then there's the tons and tons of dirt roads throughout our area as another, more civilized option for those with mountain bikes.