14 Things To Do this Summer in the Northeast Kingdom
Affectionately called “the Kingdom” by locals, or otherwise referred to on bumper stickers as NEK, the Northeast Kingdom is the uppermost northeast region of the Green Mountain State. It includes the counties of Essex, Orleans and Caledonia and is characterized by its bucolic vistas and raw natural beauty. I know, I know… isn’t all of Vermont known for such things? True, but the Kingdom is a bit different.
Our family makes the drive north every year and though it’s only two hours from our Champlain Valley home, it feels light-years away. Sure, the cell service is spotty and there are far fewer dining options but we don’t go for the modern convenience. We go for the experience of being in a remote and breathtaking place.
That said, there are some fantastic things to do in the Northeast Kingdom in all seasons. Here’s our NEK to-do list for Summer 2016…
1. Bread and Puppet. Who knew that the longest-running, self-sustaining nonprofit theatre company in the United States is located in Glover, VT? Artistic Director Peter Schumann has been creating his political puppetry since 1963. It’s a spectacle of cheap art, freedom of speech, political activism and is a fantastic experience for both old and young alike. Go for the summer pageant and the museum tour every Sunday afternoon from late June through August. Or show up on a Saturday for rehearsal and be in the show the next day. And yes, they do serve bread, homemade and slathered in the zangiest garlic aioli you’ve ever tasted. Read more about the Bread and Puppet experience, here.
2. Parker Pie. If you’re not already satiated with carbs after your Bread and Puppet show, you’ll want to head over to West Glover’s happening pizza joint, Parker Pie. Tucked in the hills this gem of an establishment serves up amazing pizza with inventive toppings. We’re partial to the Green Mountain Special and the Bangkok Disco. But honestly, they’re all bangin’.
3. Maidstone State Park. This is the most remote of the state parks and a favorite of NEK native and State 14 contributor Nathanael Asaro.
4. Hill Farmstead Brewery - What would a visit to the Northeast Kingdom be without a stop at the Best Brewery in the World... for two years in a row? Located on a quiet dirt road in Greensboro, VT, Hill Farmstead is a destination for beer fans worldwide. Go for a flight tasting and savor sips of the Edward, Society & Solitude, the Harlan and more.
5. Hardwick, VT has arguably done more for the locavore movement than any other American town. Author and State 14 contributor Ben Hewitt wrote an illuminating book called “The Town that Food Saved” about the role Hardwick has played in shining a light on the importance and viability of localized food systems. Visit downtown Hardwick, eat at some of the locally infused restaurants or visit the Buffalo Mountain Food Co-op to stock up on healthy car snacks for your drive through the NEK.
6. Pick a lake, any lake… Caspian Lake, Crystal Lake, Shadow Lake, Maidstone Lake. You really can’t go wrong with any lake in the Kingdom. We are partial to Lake Willoughby. It may be chilly due to its glacial nature but the pass between Mount Pisgah and Mount Hor is spectacular. The waters and the view will take your breath away, quite literally.
7. Mount Pisgah - If you want to see Lake Willoughby and an astounding sweeping view of the region, take a hike up Mount Pisgah. P.S. there are steep drop-offs, so don’t bring the kids.
8. Karmê Chölin Shambala Mediation Center.Barnet,VT If you’re not Zenned out by the bucolic landscape already, pay the Karmê Chölin Center a visit. This world-renowned meditation center is located on 700 pristine acres and has six meditation halls. Stop in for a day visit or sign up for one of their many workshops or retreats.
9. Red Sky Trading Post, Glover, VT. Feel like doing a little shopping? Red Sky Trading Post is an experience like none other. First of all, its vintage wares are invitingly arranged inside and around a quaint little barn in town. Secondly, they have some of the most delicious baked goods, pickles and local treats. And last but not least, it’s self-serve. Yep, bring cash or a check and leave it in the jar because no one’s on duty. We’re on the honor system here in the Kingdom.
10. East Burke, VT - Looking for a picturesque small town? Visit East Burke with its charming homes and postcard-perfect general store.
11. Kingdom Trails. And while you’re in East Burke make use of Kingdom Trails. This nonprofit’s mission is “to provide recreation and education opportunities for local residents and visitors while working to conserve natural resources and create economic stimulation." With the permission of more than 50 local businesses and residents, Kingdom Trails is a valued asset for some serious outdoor fun.
12. Circus Smirkus Camp, Greensboro, VT. Magic awaits under the big top at the Circus Smirkus Campus where circus professionals teach kids the arts of acrobatics, aerial, juggling, balance, performance and more. Kiddos can attend Smirkus Camp for one day or up to two weeks, and yes, there’s even a session for adults! And if you can’t go to camp, catch one of the Smirkus shows in the Big Top Tour!
13. The Museum of Everyday Life -This unique no-frills museum is located in a barn on Route 16 just south of Glover. The museum explores and celebrates everyday object and rejects a “commodity-based model of collection and display” by sourcing material and stories from the general public. Past exhibits include: Toothbrush from Twig to Bristle in All It’s Expedient Beauty, The Pencil in the 21st Century, The Incredible Story of the Safety Pin, and a Celebration of the Match. This year’s show is all about mirrors. The museum is self-serve, so if you arrive and no ones around, just follow the directions at the door: “Turn on the lights when you enter, and don’t forget to turn off the lights when you depart!”
Finally and maybe the best thing to do on your visit to the Northeast Kingdom this summer is …
14. Nothing. Because really, part of the beauty about being in the Kingdom is the chance to slow down and do less. It’s about taking in the natural world and spending time reconnecting with the friends and family you might have travelled with. It’s about getting back to basics. Getting back to yourself. So log off, bring a book and leave the fancy shoes at home.