Family Fun in New England, Part 10: Montpelier, Vermont

This is the tenth post about our family's visit to New England. I suggest that you read the firstsecondthirdfourth, fifthsixthseventheighth, and ninth posts from the trip before this one. Because I blog about educational travel, I was given admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits for some of the places we visited during our trip. Some places are free for everyone; we paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm share is something that I recommend without hesitation. If you see any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, restaurant, or hotel enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.

Montpelier, Vermont

After a delightful stroll through downtown Barre, it was time to explore downtown Montpelier. What a charming place! It's easy to fall in love with Montpelier. Steve mentioned that he could see himself living there. I pointed out that we were visiting in June and that he should probably look into the weather during the other 11 months of the year before making such a claim. (Little did I know what July would bring.)

Of the 50 state capital cities, Montpelier is the smallest with a population of just over 8,000 people. (Our capital city, Sacramento, has 525,000 people.) Despite its small size, Montpelier has plenty to do. One of the most obvious is to visit the Vermont State House


The Capitol grounds are lovely. Some locals were relaxing in the park-like setting, enjoying the beautiful weather.

On the left, a picture I took looking back at where Steve was standing to take our picture. On the right, a statue of Ethan Allen. If you see a statue of a man in Vermont, you can bet it's Ethan Allen.   


OK, so maybe don't make that bet. This is not Ethan Allen. 

The Vermont Capitol is relatively small and straightforward, much like Montpelier itself. There was no security check to get in, despite the fact that the legislature was in session and the governor was hanging out with his door open. We were free to poke around at will....

... sort of. The Senate chamber was roped off while the senators were taking a recess. You can see the red rope in the top left of this photo. 

Did you notice that we're on the wrong side of the rope? (And that Steve and Trevor wore matching t-shirts without realizing it?)

While we were looking around the Capitol, we met a nice man in the hallway who offered to show us the Senate chambers. As he stepped past the rope, I realized he was probably a senator. I asked him what area he represents and his answer was Chittenden. That didn't mean anything to me. I was about to ask where that was when the security guy told me to ask the senator his name. Turns out it's also Chittenden. Senator Thomas Chittenden, to be specific. 

But that's not all. Senator Chittenden took us out into the hallway where a portrait of Vermont's first (and third) governor was hanging. Governor Thomas Chittenden. Wow! 

Big thanks to Senator Chittenden for his hospitality. It made our visit that much more special. 

One of our goals when visiting each state is to find their Liberty Bell replica. It's usually at the Capitol (sometimes indoors, sometimes outdoors, sometimes in a filthy storage area in a utility closet beyond the underground parking lot). Sometimes it's at the state's history museum, or another prominent location. We hadn't seen it in Montpelier, so I asked a guard. It turns out it was next door at the Vermont Supreme Court, but not on display. He told me to ask the guy there if we could see it, so I did. 

Interestingly, the Supreme Court was not in session and the building was completely empty except for the guard, but we still had to pass through a metal detector. That didn't surprise me; it surprised me that we didn't have to do that next door at the Capitol that WAS in session. After we signed in, the guard took us to see the bell. Goal achieved!

 We found this sign outside. Good job, Vermont! Love is love. 

When we visited, the road in front of the Vermont History Museum was under construction (and is currently under water), but the museum was open. I'm glad it was open, as we really enjoyed the museum and learned a lot about Vermont history. 

This sign is so important. Vermont's history starts in many places. Yes, there was a time when it was first called Vermont, which is a possible starting point for a story. It also has a statehood date and other significant potential starting points. But the first story of Vermont begins long before that. 

The Vermont History Museum is designed to weave you through a changing Vermont, starting with the indigenous people of the area. 

We'd learned a bit about the Abenaki people during our visit to the Ethan Allen Homestead, but this absolutely shocked me: 

The Abenaki weren't recognized by law until 2011 and 2012. Wow. It's never too late to do what you can to right a wrong, but that's MUCH later than I would have expected from a state that pioneered same-sex marriage rights years before that. 

The museum continues along through history from there. It was all very interesting with several fun hands-on activities.

Nothing shocked me until this display about Vermont's budding tourism industry. 

Wait... what?!



It might be tempting to ignore the ugly part of history, but it is so important to acknowledge what happened. 

At the end of the museum, we had a chance to make a quick card about what Vermont means to us. That's mine in the center. California will always be home, but Vermont is so beautiful and it has a special place in my heart. 

If you are local or visit the area regularly, consider a membership at the Vermont History Museum. If you're not local, consider a donation to help with flood recovery

We strolled through downtown Montpelier...

 ... before choosing Positive Pie for dinner. The food was fantastic. 

Then we went for a walk along the Winooski River. 

It was so peaceful and pretty. 

It was at 5 feet when we were there. Flood stage is 15 feet. It crested at 21.3 feet this week. 

After our walk, we went to our home away from home, the Capitol Plaza Hotel. It was a great place to stay - clean and comfy and so convenient. That's the Capitol dome peeking over the left side of the hotel. 

Exactly three weeks later. 

The flooding is heartbreaking. Montpelier is a really charming town and so pretty, with genuinely nice people. It's a wonderful place. We'll be back. 

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