This is my eighth post about our family's visit to New England. I suggest reading the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh posts from the trip before this one. Because I blog about educational travel, I received comped tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits for some of the places we visited during our trip. A few places are free for everyone and we paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing 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.
On Monday, June 19 we arrived at the New England Maple Museum, excited to start exploring Vermont, the 47th state on our quest to visit all 50 states.
The self-guided tour starts with an introduction by this animatronic maple farmer. It's a second career for him - his first career was as a pirate at Disneyland!
The Maple Museum covers everything there is to know about the production of maple syrup, from past to present. I learned a lot about the history of the equipment, the different grades of syrup (determined by time of season, not quality of sap or boiling time), the difference between the American system (Fancy, Grade A, and Grade B) vs. the Canadian (1, 2, 3, 4), and what happens if you boil your sap for too little time (spoilage) or for too long (crystals). I learned that a tree needs to be at least 40 years old to tap; thus literally no one plants maples for tapping.
These were my two favorite displays. On the left, you see a slab of sugar maple with tap holes in it. Each hole is from a different year. The display on the right is obviously containers of maple syrup. Sort of. The four shelves in the middle are the Four Shelves of Shame. They have between 0%-3% maple syrup.
The number cut off in the photo is 2%, so this is one of the better ones. Only 98% shame, Log Cabin!
After the tour, we tasted the different grades of maple syrup. I was very surprised how different they are. We each liked Grade 1 the best, but they were all fantastic.
As we continued driving north through Vermont, I was struck by just how beautiful the state is. I mean, you can find beauty in every state, but Vermont as a whole was breathtaking. I can only imagine how much more stunning it is during the fall. (#TravelGoals).
When we got to Burlington, Vermont's largest city, we swung by the World's Largest Filing Cabinet. Save yourself the trip. It's 38-drawers-worth of real file cabinets welded on top of each other, sitting on a tall base. It's no World's Largest Stamp Ball or World's Largest Boot.
Next we visited the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum.
Ethan Allen is best known for founding Vermont and for the capture of Fort Ticonderoga during the Revolutionary War. He lived on this property in Burlington from 1787 until his death two years later. We took a guided tour of his house, restored to how it would have looked at that time.
The garden also looks as it would have in the 18th century.
The museum has interesting information about Ethan Allen and his family, as well as displays about the original peoples of the area, the Abenaki. It's definitely worth a visit.
We had a mid-day meal of crepes at the Skinny Pancake, which was outstanding. I had the local apples and cheddar crepe off the kids' menu and it was so good. Trevor and Steve had the Johnny Crepe and the K-Pop, both excellent.
The Skinny Pancake is located right on the waterfront, which is where we boarded the Spirit of Ethan Allen for a narrated cruise of Lake Champlain.
We came at the right time, because the ship was blissfully empty during the 4:00 pm cruise that day.
It was nice to be able to move easily back and forth between the decks and indoors, with almost no one else around.
Bonus: Nobody was talking over the captain's narration! I will never understand why someone would pay for a narrated tour and then talk the whole time, but that happens so often. If you ever read in the paper that an irate blogger tossed an inconsiderate jabberer off a narrated boat trip...
... ahhem. As I was saying, we had a lovely time aboard the ship. We learned so much about the geography, geology, and history of Lake Champlain and the surrounding mountain ranges.
The weather was perfect and we thoroughly enjoyed our 90-minute tour. After we disembarked, we spent a few minutes walking along the waterfront.
Then we headed to our final destination of the day, Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks. What a fantastic place!
To be perfectly honest, I put it on our itinerary solely because so many websites had named it as the best place to get a maple creemee. It did not disappoint. I will be thinking about those creemees for a long time.
But there is so much more to Morse Farm than frozen treats. Be sure to watch the film in the Woodshed Theater...
... check out the trailer-sized scale version of the Vermont State House....
... buy Vermont souvenirs...
... and enjoy the spectacular views.
Do not, under any circumstances, skip the Maple Trail.
Along the Maple Trail, you will see maple trees. Between the maple trees, you will see blue plastic tubing.
Step carefully over the tubing when it crosses the Maple Trail.
What's the deal with the tubing? Well, when you own a farm with more than a handful of maple trees, it is much easier to collect their delicious sap via a series of tubes than to schlep buckles through the Vermont snow. If you'd like to take a really deep dive into the world of maple tubing, I recommend checking out The Maple News. (If you'd like to take a really deep dive into maple syrup, I recommend buying it from Morse Farms and filling your bathtub.)
We checked into the lovely Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier, tired from our Monday adventures but really excited about what Tuesday had to bring. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.