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River runs near it

Vermont town offers hiking, skiing, and may cultural attractions

Email|Print| Text size + By Kathleen Burge
Globe Staff / November 19, 2007

In the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire, Norwich is known as an Ivy League bedroom community for professors at Dartmouth College, across the Connecticut River in Hanover, N.H., and doctors at its affiliated hospital. But the sprawling town, with miles of hiking and skiing trails, the country's oldest flour company, and a renowned children's museum, also draws visitors for its own virtues. The town had an early military connection: In 1819, Norwich became home to the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy, the country's first private military academy. Granted a charter by the state in 1834 as Norwich University, the school moved to Northfield, Vt., in 1866, after a fire devastated the campus.

Recreation in Norwich tends to be of the outdoors variety. The Upper Valley Land Trust maintains about 4 miles of cross-country skiing and hiking trails on the old Cossingham Road Farm (603-643-6626, uvlt.org) as well as other trails in town. The Appalachian Trail cuts through Norwich and heads across the Ledyard Bridge into Hanover, N.H. Pick up local trail guides in Norwich town offices in Tracy Hall (300 Main St., 802-649-1419, norwich.vt.us). For children (and adults), the Montshire Museum (1 Montshire Road, 802-649-2200, montshire.org, adults $9, children ages 3-17 $7) is a hands-on paradise. You can learn about physics by balancing a beach ball on a blast of air; or observe a glass-enclosed honeybee colony; or find out how long you would need to pedal a bike to power the museum's elevator one story. The museum also has a two-acre outdoor Science Park, which includes a walking tour of the solar system, with scale models of the planets, and miles of trails on its property and along the Connecticut River.

For the kitchen conscious, King Arthur Flour (135 US Route 5 south, 802-649-3361, kingarthurflour.com), the country's oldest flour company, offers classes in its Baking Education Center, from Beauty and the Baguette to the Twelve Days of Cookies. There are also a few farms that sell vegetables, including Killdeer Farm Stand (163 US Route 5 south, 802-649-2852, killdeerfarm.com), open mid-May through October and weekends in November. The stand sells produce and plants from the farm, as well as locally produced cheese, maple syrup, and meat. If you're in town on a Saturday between May and October, swing by the Norwich Farmers Market (Route 5 south, norwichfarmersmarket.org, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.). Local producers sell their vegetables, fruit, plants, honey, and cheese, often there is live music, and you may get to see a sheep shearing.

The 27-room Norwich Inn (325 Main St., 802-649-1143, norwichinn.com, $94 to $239 seasonal) in the center of town was reportedly the inspiration for Bob Newhart's television show, "Newhart." Built as a stagecoach tavern in 1797, the inn sold bootleg liquor from the basement during Prohibition. Norwich Bed and Breakfast (229 Bradley Hill Road, 802-649-3800, norwichbnb.com, $100 to $180 seasonal), offers a more intimate option, with five guest rooms on a working sheep farm and views of the White Mountains. The innkeepers also serve dinner to guests who make arrangements; their specialty is rack of lamb, although vegetarian options are also available. For a host of chain hotels and motels, look a few miles south to White River Junction.

Carpenter & Main (326 Main St., 802-649-2922, carpenterandmain.com, entrees in dining room $21-$40, in tavern $9-$14) combines local food and French cooking in two rooms, a more formal setting and a tavern, whose offerings span duck confit to burgers. The Norwich Inn (see Rest, entrees $23-$33) also offers both a formal dining room and Jasper Murdock's Alehouse with smaller plates ($7-$14). Allechante (289 Main St., 802-649-2846) sells beautifully made pastries, fresh bread, and tasty sandwiches (try the one with tomato, goat cheese, and green olive spread). The cafe has a few seats, or sit outside on the Norwich Green in nice weather.

Night life here tends to be quiet as the woods in winter. Jasper Murdock's Alehouse at the Norwich Inn is the liveliest spot in town - and the only place that stays open later than 10 p.m. - with beer pumped in underground from the inn's microbrewery. The pub at Carpenter & Main (see Fuel), a little more formal, stays open until 10. In warmer weather, the Montshire Museum offers nighttime nature walks. For more boisterous options, drive across the river to Hanover, N.H., where hungry and thirsty Dartmouth students ensure that a handful of bars and restaurants stay open late.

The Norwich Bookstore (291 Main St., 802-649-1114, norwichbookstore.com, Monday-Wednesday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursday till 8, Friday-Saturday till 6, Sunday noon to 5) makes a cozy retreat on a blustery winter day and has an impressive slate of author readings. The store's children's section is well stocked with both books and toys. Two quirky stores sit across from each other along a small green called Norwich Square. The J List (289 Main St., 802-649-9000, thejlistonline.com, Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday till 7) is the more upscale of the two, with accessories from jewelry to cashmere socks to cotton robes. Zuzu's (295 Main St., 802-649-8111, Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Saturday till 5, Sunday noon to 5) is a bit funkier, with Marimekko designs, well-kept consigned clothes, and oversize purses. Dan & Whit's general store (319 Main St., 802-649-1602, danandwhits.com, daily 7 a.m.-9 p.m.) is a Norwich institution, with its uneven wooden floors and eclectic offerings, from wine and fresh meat to long underwear and chicken grain. To get a sense of life in the Upper Valley, read the ads on the sprawling bulletin board outside. King Arthur Bakery (see Do) also has a vast kitchen store, filled with essentials and luxuries, from cookie sheets to edible glitter. For handmade, nontoxic toys, stop by the shop of Vermont Wooden Toys (31 Tilden Hill Road, 802-738-5266, vermontwoodentoys.com). Ronald Voake's showroom, in the garden-level basement of his house, is open most days, but call ahead to make sure he's there.

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