Four decades or so after the back-to-the-land movement brought communes to the Brattleboro area, this small city along the Connecticut River in southeastern Vermont retains a healthy dose of that long ago vibe. Even the Chamber of Commerce website notes that “the hippies have had a lasting influence on the town’s character and values.”
These days, visitors sense that lingering presence in the expansive food co-op and a well-stocked progressive bookstore downtown, and in the restaurant restrooms that sport posters encouraging environmentally-friendly behavior. The city’s artistic bent, meanwhile, spawned the Gallery Walk, which turned Brattleboro’s businesses into a sort of civic art museum that spills into restaurants and stores.
Those who prefer the romanticism of Vermont’s agricultural past to its hippie history can time their visit for the first weekend in June and enjoy the annual Strolling of the Heifers which, as the name suggests, features a parade of cows and calves along Main Street.
For the full downtown experience, spend the night at the historic Latchis Hotel (50 Main St., 802-254-6300, www.latchis.com/). Rooms start at $90 for two on weekdays and $105 weekends; two-room suites overlooking the mountains are $160 on weekdays, $185 on weekends) Built in 1938, the Art Deco Latchis building also houses the downtown movie theater, which you should walk in and see during the day, even if you don’t take in a movie. Priced to compete with chains, its weekend rates kick in on Friday. About 3 miles north of downtown on Route 5 is the well-reviewed Hampton Inn (1378 Putney Road, 802-254-5700, www.hamptoninn3.hilton.com/en/hotels/vermont/hampton-inn-brattleboro-BRAVTHX/index.html. Rooms start at $139 for two on weekdays, at $159 on weekends.)
Take a few steps down off Main Street into a basement cafe and start your morning with coffee, a muffin, or gluten-free treats at Mocha Joe’s coffee shop (82 Main St., 802-257-7794, www.mochajoes.com; opens at 7 a.m. weekdays and 7:30 a.m. weekends; closes at 8 p.m., at 9:30 on Friday and Saturday). A double espresso goes for $2.55 in the coffee shop, which like many Brattleboro businesses displays paintings. For more substantial breakfast fare, walk up the street to The Works (118 Main St., 802-579-1851, www.worksbakerycafe.com/brattleboro-vt.html; open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; breakfast entrees from $2.99 to $4.99). Pick up a half-dozen bagels for $5.79 and head outside to enjoy the sun in one of Brattleboro’s picturesque small downtown parks, or dine inside, where floor-to-ceiling windows fronting Main Street make every meal a well-lit experience. The scrambled eggs entrée, with naturally-cured ham, bacon or sausage, spinach, and Vermont cheddar, is $4.89. A local favorite for lunch is Amy’s Bakery Arts Café (113 Main St., 802-251-1071). In the back, snag a window table that overlooks railroad tracks and the Connecticut River. The garlicky chicken hot sandwich features hormone-
free chicken breast, feta-garlic spread, fig-olive tapenade, and tomato on country sourdough for $7.75. If you want to keep all the day’s meals within walking distance, go to Peter Havens (32 Elliot St., 802-257-3333, www.peterhavens.com, opens at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, dinner entrees $22 to $34). The braised rainbow trout, with black truffle and vegetable stuffing, port veloute, and a mushroom-saffron risotto, is $30.
DURING THE DAY
The first Friday of everything month from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., take part in the Gallery Walk (802-257-2616, www.gallerywalk.org) and check out the art that seems to be everywhere from restaurants to the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center (10 Vernon St., 802-257-0124, www.brattleboromuseum.org; adults $8; seniors $6; students $4; children under 6 free). The museum is housed in the former Union Station train stop built in 1915 and is closed Tuesdays. With numerous tour and program opportunities listed on the website, the museum is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. This year’s Strolling of the Heifers parade (www.strollingofthe
heifers.com) begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 7, on Main Street. For more information, or to see still more art displays, the organization is housed in the spacious Robert H. Gibson River Garden (157 Main St., 802-246-0982, www.facebook.com/rivergarden). If you’re traveling with young children who need a play break, try KidsPLAYce(20 Elliot St., 802-254-5212, www.facebook.com/pages/kidsplayce/161944693835077, day passes $6 per child, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday). Inside are crafts, toys, a castle, and other playthings hand-built by Vermont artisans. An online area guide (www.brattleboroareaguide.com/attract.html) offers many other choices, including theNew England Center for Circus Arts (74 Cotton Mill Hill, 802-254-9780, www.necenter
forcircusarts.org), which offers lessons, summer camps, and workshops for those of all ages who dream of joining the circus.
Evenings can be quiet in Brattleboro and nighttime live music venues difficult to come by, but websites maintained by the Chamber of Commerce (www.brattleborochamber.org/event-calendar/upcoming)and an area guide (www.brattleboroareaguide.com/calendar.html) are good portals to find a variety of options for single-night performances, readings, and concerts.Bryan Marquard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORRECTION: Because of reporting errors, the Gallery Walk in Brattleboro, Vt., was incorrectly characterized in an earlier version. The walk is held the first Friday of every month from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Also, Brattleboro is in southeastern Vermont.