Hanover offers the ideal college community escape
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Another in a series of New England getaways on public transportation.
Hanover may be the quintessential New England college town: a leafy campus around a sprawling green, smiling undergraduates bundled up in sweaters, and professors given to zippered fleece vests over button-down shirts. The intellectual and academic effervescence of campus life spills over to shops and restaurants, ensuring that Hanover isn’t just for Dartmouth students and dons. The lively performances at Hopkins Center and striking exhibitions at the Hood Museum are open to all. Change comes slowly in small communities that have struck a happy equilibrium, but Hanover does have some striking new lodging and dining choices.
THE RIDE: DARTMOUTH COACH FROM SOUTH STATION
Dartmouth Coach provides nearly point-to-point transportation between Boston and Hanover with brief Granite State stops at the New London commuter lot and the company’s terminal in Lebanon. Passengers can board at Logan International Airport but most riders get on at South Station. (The return bus goes first to South Station before heading to Logan.) The ride is scheduled for about 2½ hours, but good weather and light traffic can trim up to 20 minutes.
The coaches are equipped with Wi-Fi and each seat has a dual 120-volt power outlet. With bottled water, bags of pretzels, and headsets available for on-board entertainment, we almost felt like we were flying coach — except that the seats had more leg room and the headsets were free. We didn’t cart a computer but found the hardly first-run movies (“Pretty in Pink,” “The Prestige”) helped pass the time. We love that Dartmouth Coach prohibits cellphone use.
The first bus of the morning from Boston arrives in Hanover at midday, and the last bus back leaves at 5 p.m., making the trip best for travelers who are planning to stay overnight. The Hanover bus stop is across the street from the College Green. Lodging, dining, shopping, and activities are all nearby. The free mass transit system (that’s right, free) on Advance Transit (www.advancetransit.com) connects downtown Hanover with surrounding communities in New Hampshire and Vermont.
WHAT TO DO
Dartmouth is the main attraction. The Admissions office offers free one-hour campus tours (depart from McNutt Hall, North Main Street, College Green, Mon-Fri 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., Sat noon) for prospective students, but curious visitors are welcome to tag along for a first-hand account of college life.
The tour touches on Baker Library (head of College Green, 603-646-2704, www.dartmouth.edu/~library/bakerberry, free), where the walls of the basement reading room are covered with a masterpiece of Mexican mural painting. José Clemente Orozco created “Epic of American Civilization” here in 1932-34. Free audio tours, available for loan at the reference desk, help elucidate the powerful but sometimes obscure imagery.
There are other surprises on campus. The permanent collections of the Hood Museum of Art (East Wheelock Street, College Green, 603-646-2808, www.hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu, free) include eerily beautiful Assyrian relief panels from the ninth century BC. Through mid-March, the second-floor galleries are filled with a dazzling exhibition of Australian Aboriginal art.
Next door, the Hopkins Center for the Arts (East Wheelock Street, College Green, 603-646-2422, www.hop.dartmouth.edu) is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a stellar lineup of concerts, theater pieces, films, and art exhibitions. The center’s website has a detailed schedule and sells advance tickets.
WHERE TO STAY AND EAT
The Hanover Inn (East Wheelock Street, College Green, 603-643-4300, www.hanoverinn.com, doubles in November $199-$299) is close to wrapping up extensive renovations. A jaunty modernism now replaces the set-in-amber Colonial Revival style of yore. Until the signature restaurant opens in the spring, chef Justin Dain is offering New American bistro fare (entrees $15-$29) in a Shaker-inspired space with cozy fireplace off the main lobby.
Only two blocks from College Green, the new Six South St. Hotel (6 South St., 603-643-0600, www.sixsouth.com, doubles in November $199-$229) combines contemporary ease with decorative flair. The hotel’s Bistro at Six (entrees $15-$19) offers a good bar scene and casual American fare in a comfortable modern room.