Picks for Kids

by Samantha Kolber

July is National Ice Cream Month, and what better way to celebrate than to visit a creemee stand! What a creemee you may ask? Why, it’s delicious soft-serve ice cream, yum! Vermont is notorious for its snack shacks and creemee stands, if you see a sign on the side of the road as you travel through the state, don’t be shy. Stop in and grab a creemee – the maple ones are a treat, but you’ll find flavors from traditional vanilla to pistachio and peanut butter!

Commemorate the birthday of the only U.S. president born on Independence Day with a President Calvin Coolidge Birthplace Celebration on July 4th in Plymouth Notch. At noon, march with members of the Vermont National Guard from the village green to the cemetery. A chicken barbecue follows at the site restaurant and special musical performance at the church. Event is free; admission to tour historic buildings (www.historicvermont.org/coolidge).

Family-friendly hikes are all around Vermont, and what better way to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the Green Mountains than from a mountaintop? Hiking with kids is both fun and educational! Encourage a love of nature as you walk the trails. Teach kids to follow trail markers, look for signs of wildlife, and identify trees and plants. Plus, those energetic ones will love the freedom to run in the woods and climb on great rocks. For a list of family-friendly hikes, turn to page 115 of this guidebook or visit the website of Vermont State Parks (www.vtstateparks.com)

Swimming holes are also everywhere in Vermont, and it’s refreshing to jump into crisp, mountain waters, a lake, river, pond, or stream. Ask your concierge or innkeeper where to find a safe and accessible swimming hole nearby. If you’re into big air, choose a resort with a giant water trampoline such as the Basin Harbor Club on Lake Champlain or an inn such as the Willoughvale Inn on Lake Willoughby.

Kids love a visit to the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center on the Burlington Waterfront. Experience an interactive center where you can watch live animal feedings, touch a starfish, make your own weather forecast on TV, play in a mini lighthouse, build a water pathway for wooden boats, watch a big screen movie about erosion and the Lake Champlain Basin, and discover rare frogs from around the world, including South America’s blue poison dart frog, whose toxic skin is legendary, and Madagascar’s tomato frog, red as catsup. And these are the permanent exhibits! Check their website for ECHO’s current changing exhibit.

Experience Vermont on the back of a trotting horse: horseback riding is something many kids and families will enjoy. In southern Vermont, book a ride with Kimberly Farms of Bennington.  Their one-hour Green Mountain Horseback Ride meanders through rolling farmland that ascends through a wooded wildlife preserve, past Vermont’s oldest marble quarry, to a lovely viewpoint on Lookout Mountain. Kimberly Farms can provide lunch, too, and their website has helpful tips on preparing for a horseback ride. Giddyup!

A kid favorite every summer, the Circus Smirkus 2011 Big Top Tour comes to a town near you! With shows in Brattleboro, Essex, Manchester, Montpelier and Greensboro, catch one of these eyeopening shows while on vacation in Vermont. Be prepared for hijinks and amazement as you watch performers between the ages of 10 and 18 on trapeze and high-wire, as acrobats, jugglers, clowns and more! Many of these youth performers go on to work in Cirque du Soleil and other big shows. Circus Smirkus, a non-profit, brings joy and wonder to communities throughout Vermont; it’s the circus that Family Fun magazine called “one of America’s best!” Find tickets and show times on their website (www.smirkus.org).

Hot Air Balloon Festivals – what’s all the hot air about? Watch colorful balloons launch and enjoy the festivities of music, food, kids’ activities, craft vendors and more at these popular summer celebrations of hot air in Vermont: The Stoweflake Hot Air Baloon Festival in Stowe on Friday and Saturday, July 8 to 10, from 4 to 8 pm (www.stoweflake.com/balloon); and the Quechee Hot Air Balloon, Craft & Music Festival from June 17 to 19, a Vermont Top Ten Event for 2011 (www.quecheeballoonfestival.com).

A lively and colorful commemoration of the only Revolutionary War battle fought in Vermont is a fun historical event to experience with kids. Visit the Battle of Hubbardton Living History Encampment Weekend in Hubbardton on July 9 & 10, to see and talk to reenactors portraying the 1777 battle, with demonstrations of military tactics, camp life, colonial crafts and games, artillery show, interactive programs, camp and battlefield tours, and Mistress Davenport’s School. A full-scale history drama in the original, beautifully preserved setting (www.historicvermont.org/sites).

A one-day event that is both fun and altruistic is the Citizens Bank Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival in Burlington on August 7, 2011 from 8 am to 4 pm. Dragonheart Vermont, a breast cancer survivor/supporter Dragon Boat team, hosts the 6th annual festival at Burlington’s Waterfront Park. Cheer on 80 community teams from area businesses, neighborhoods and families as they compete in 41-foot dragon boats. Fun for the whole family with live entertainment, raffles, silent auction, and great food. Proceeds benefit Vermont-based, cancer-related nonprofit organizations (www.ridethedragon.org).

Apples to Apples is not just a game, but a “Pick-Your-Own Apples” tradition in Vermont! Enjoy the fresh air and fruitful bounty of early fall as you visit PYO orchards throughout the state. Apples are ready for picking August through October. Here is a sampling of some wonderful family orchards:

  • Southern VT: Green Mountain Orchards in Putney has great views, a farm store and horsedrawn wagon rides.
  • Central VT: Vermont Tech Orchard in Randolph, on the stunning campus of the Vermont Technical College, also sells local honey and maple syrup (www.vtc.edu).
  • Northern VT: Adams Apple Orchard in Williston is open daily from 10-5, with accessible picking and a Fall Harvest Festival on September 17 & 18, 2011.
  • Northern VT: Allenholm Orchards in South Hero is a charming farm with 20 varieties of apples. You can also tour their small family farm, visit their Petting Paddock, and even feed the animals. Bring home one of “Papa” Ray Allen’s amazing apple pies! (www.allenholm.com).

For a complete list of PYO farms in Vermont, visit the website of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture (www.vermontagriculture.com).

Another traditional fall activity is jumping and playing in leaf piles! We’re sure you don’t need any instruction on how to find or participate in this event – leaves are everywhere! Many village greens, common areas, and even the state house lawn in the Capital City of Montpelier have great piles of raked leaves for jumping in. You may want to be a sport and bring your own rake. Hop to it – have fun playing in Vermont.