Newport News

Author: , March 2nd, 2014

Newport, Vermont - Apple Maps

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Newport, Vermont is going through quite a renaissance.  What was once a sleepy town on the Quebec border is quickly becoming a boomtown, thanks to nearby Jay Peak Resort and an unprecedented investment of money from both the public and private sectors.

Newport is situated in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom on Lake Memphremagog, a scenic glacial lake roughly 30 miles in length; with one end in Vermont the other in Quebec.  Local folklore even mentions that it has its own lake monster, called Memphre.  During the winter the lake is a frozen giant, perfect for ice fishing and skating.  While in the summer, it has a wonderful assortment of outdoor activities (which I’ll be writing about in the coming months!).  The fact that Newport is just 30 minutes from Jay Peak makes it the perfect spot to mix up your ski trip with a little shopping getaway.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a day with Patricia Sears, the Executive Director of the Newport City Renaissance, a not-for-profit tasked with advancing and enhancing Newport’s economic environment, developing a cohesive and welcoming City design, and promoting the City as a tourism and investment destination.  An enthusiastic lover of her city, she led me on a tour around the downtown, saying hello to all the people she knew, while describing the many things that Newport has done and continues to do to make it such a vibrant destination.  Her excitement about Newport was palpable and very quickly, it’s easy to see why.

As we strolled through Main Street – the center of downtown life – Patricia pointed out all the things that are making Newport such an exciting place.  Newport is a perfect example of the modern Vermont: within just a few blocks we went from the sophisticated full service salon, Jon Somes Salon with its sleek urban ambiance, to Woodknot Bookshop and Turner’s Cafe, a charming bookstore and Café, to The Pick and Shovel – a quintessential Vermont General Store with everything from hardware and hand tools to shirts and pants.  It is a perfect balance of what is best about old Vermont with the addition of wonderful modern amenities. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center, listed as CNN’s Top Spot to Visit in Vermont for 2014!

The Tasting Center began as the brainchild of Eden Ice Cider Company’s owners, Eleanor and Albert Leger, who were looking for a way to expand their business.  The result is a cooperative of venders featuring foods from all over the Northeast Kingdom.  Approximately 20 Northeast Kingdom farmers and venders, along with many more from the surrounding counties, sell their products in the Tasting Center, contributing to creating a destination for tourists looking to savor the best of what Vermont has to offer.

When you walk into the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center, you immediately realize you’re in for a gastronomic treat.  Stands line both sides of the former department store with all manner of deliciousness, including Jocelyn & Cinta’s Bake Shop filled with a wide assortment of delicious baked goods, and Butternut Mountain Maple Farm, filled with all shapes and sizes of the sweet treat that Vermont is famous for. In the basement, you’ll find Eden Cider’s newly opened Tasting Bar and Winery, so you can sample their delicious Iced Cider and Aperitifs. I met several of the vendors, including the Legers, whose excitement about Newport and the Tasting Center was tangible.

Before we left, I was treated to lunch at the Brown Dog Bistro, a localvore-style restaurant with fantastic food, including burgers with beef ground freshly just across the way from our table at the Brown Dog Butcher. You certainly can’t get more freshly prepared than that! Patricia convinced me to try the Kingdom Mac and Cheese, made from some of the Northeast Kingdoms award winning cheese makers – worth every calorie! Brown Dog Bistro alone was worth the trip to Newport.

 

The hard work of both the Newport City Renaissance and the people of Newport have certainly merited all of the positive buzz focused on the town.  Even in the winter, it proves to be a wonderful place to explore.  In just a few months, construction will begin on a block–long multiuse building, which will bring hotel rooms, more retail and residences to Main Street.  With these developments on the horizon, the excitement around Newport will only continue to flourish.

Pride Vermont 2013

Author: , September 8th, 2013

Pride Vermont LogoJust when you thought it was safe to put your pride flags away, Vermont has different plans for you. While the Pride Festivities of New York, Boston and other Northeast cities are a distant memory, every September, Burlington holds it’s annual Pride Parade, celebrating the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

Pride Vermont 2013 will take place Sunday, September 15th from 12:30 pm – 5 pm. It begins with the Parade, which starts at the south end of Church Street and ends in Battery Park overlooking Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains.

The Parade may finish in Battery Park, but that’s where the next festivities begin. The Vermont Pride Festival, best described as one big party, embraces the whole LGBT community (including our beloved allies). True to its Vermont heritage, expect to see people of all ages and backgrounds, from drag queens to the curious. The Festival runs from 1pm – 5pm and includes musical performances, booths featuring local LGBT organizations and other vendors, a children’s activity tent, and of course a beer tent.

A first for Pride Vermont this year is “OUT on Church Street.” On Friday, September 13th, from 6pm – midnight purchase a Street medallion, sold at participating businesses or through Pride Vermont. With the medallion (which costs $10 and benefits PRIDE Vermont), get 10% off at participating restaurants, shops, and stores, including Macy’s.

If you’re a foodie and looking to get your fill of local Vermont favorites, you’re in luck. Running concurrently with Vermont Pride in Battery Park is Northern Decadence Food & Travel Expo brought to you by the Vermont Gay Tourism Association. Northern Decadence features a wide array of events, including a tent filled with Vermont-based food vendors, cooking demos, and beer and wine tastings. There will be a Silent Auction with offerings such as ski passes, retail gift certificates and stays at Vermont Inns. Northern Decadence is $5 to enter (free for children) and runs from noon – 5pm.

For a full list of events for the week leading up to Pride and the weekend itself, visit Pride Vermont.

See you there!

Vermont Gay Travel: Whatever Your Heart Desires…

Author: , July 1st, 2013

VermontVermont is beautiful every season of the year. The summer, however, is exceptional. The trees in the mountains are so thick that they seem soft to the touch and vegetation literally blooms everywhere it can.  Add to that, temperatures that rarely hit 90 degrees and low humidity – Vermont is a summer destination not to be overlooked.

So why miss out?  Sun Birds have been coming to Vermont in the summer for decades to avoid the hot and humid weather of other parts of the country.  Why not get a group of your friends together to spend some relaxing times in beautiful, bucolic Vermont?

Custom Tours, Inc., based in Vermont’s Capital, Montpelier, has been doing just that since 1994.  According to their website: “Vermont offers many exceptional and diverse touring options: soft adventure tours with guides, breathtaking 18-hole golf courses, panoramic hiking, picturesque bicycling, scenic canoeing, fabulous tennis facilities, and unspoiled white water rafting!”  If those examples aren’t enticing enough – don’t forget the natural beauty you can experience while sitting and enjoying delicious locally grown foods. The possibilities are endless.

Imagine spreading out on a cozy motor coach, enjoying your favorite cocktail, while leisurely traveling to peaceful, beautiful Vermont.   When you arrive, you are warmly greeted at your mountainside or lakefront property. From here on, the rest of your trip is what you want to make it – all thanks to Custom Tours.

Perhaps you just want to relax and enjoy some privacy? Or, you may want to be active and enjoy the outdoor playground that Vermont excels at? What about visiting and exploring Vermont’s cultural and culinary delights? How about some of everything? Custom Tours will tailor your group tour to make it feel like individual travel.

When you (sigh!) leave Vermont, you’ll already be planning your next trip.

MK Bateman is a Freelance Writer and Blogger based in Vermont.

Vermont Gay Travel: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Author: , July 1st, 2013

VermontVermont is a dream destination. With endless beauty, clean air, abundant outdoor adventures, cozy inns and fantastic restaurants — it’s the perfect draw for anyone. When you factor in a culture of acceptance, you have a destination ideal for LGBT travellers.

One question might be running through your heads, though: How do we get here?

It’s not an absurd question. With the smallest population on the East Coast and transportation system that relies heavily on private car ownership, you urban gays and lesbians may have thought twice before planning a trip to the Green Mountain State in the past.

Fear not. Whether by train, plane or automobile there are plenty of ways to make your destination trip to Vermont possible.

By Plane

Whether you live near airports in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, or Atlanta there are non-stop flights available daily to Vermont. Many major airlines, including United, Jet Blue, and Delta offer non-stop flights at Burlington International Airport. It’s an easy airport to navigate, just a short cab ride to Burlington and close to Stowe, the Mad River Valley, and locations in Northern and Central Vermont. The best part of that airport — just turn around at baggage claim and you’ll find a large selection of national car rental companies to choose from.

If a southern Vermont experience suits your fancy, the newly expanded Rutland-Southern Vermont Regional Airport may be a better choice. Cape Air has multiple flights daily to and from Boston. The airport is less than 30 minutes from such well-known Vermont locations as Manchester (think Outlet Shopping), Killington and Okemo. And with Cape Air’s partnership with Jet Blue, you can fly anywhere JetBlue flies.

By Train

Should you have the time, and want to ease your way out of the hustle and bustle of the East Coast Corridor, how about travelling the old fashion way by train? Amtrak provides two daily services to Vermont. The first, the Vermonter, travels from Washington, DC, through Philadelphia and New York to Vermont. While certainly not the fastest travel, it is definitely the most beautiful. Plus, through a deal with VGTA, you can receive 20% off with the Visit Vermont fare. For a southern Vermont trip, try the Ethan Allen Express, which takes you up New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley, through Albany.

By Automobiles (or Bus)

Want something a little faster and (usually) a little cheaper than a plane or train? Then your best bet might just be the bus. Buses offer the convenience of downtown depots in Boston, New York and other cities and will often drop you off closer to your Vermont destination than any other mode of transportation. There are several companies that provide limited stop or even non-stop service from the major East Coast cities to Vermont.

Megabus may not have $1 rates any longer, but with round trip tickets from NYC to Burlington costing less that $60, you can’t go wrong…and did I mention that it’s non-stop?

The ole’ dog of the bus business, Greyhound also offers a wide range of departures and destinations. While you may have some random stops, you certainly will be able to experience the natural beauty of the region, while saving your money for the actual vacation. Remember, Vermonters are a practical group, so that bus stigma all too common for urbanites doesn’t matter here.

Car Rentals

Once you get to Vermont, if you aren’t in the mood to stay put at your destination, you may want to rent a car during your trip. While most national rental companies have locations in Vermont, Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a great choice for one reason: they come to you. If you arrive after business hours, they will gladly come to your lodging the next morning with your car.

Many B&Bs, Hotels and Inns will make arrangements to pick you up at the airport, train stations, or bus depots. Just make sure to ask them about it when you’re booking your stay. If not, Vermont has taxi services that allow you to book well in advance. Don’t worry— you won’t be stuck at the bus station without a way to your vacation spot.

Remember, should your trip bring you to Burlington, it’s a very pedestrian friendly city with easy access to all its local amenities, including shopping, the Lake Champlain waterfront and some of Vermont’s top restaurants.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

MK Bateman is a Freelance Writer and Blogger based in Vermont.