Arts & Entertainment

Affordable Summertime Thrills Close To Home

ae-baseball-gameBy Richard Daybell

With the economy down and travel alerts up, chances are good that many of us will be putting off that cross-country or around-the-world super vacation for something a little more frugal and closer to home. Perhaps even staying at home. But that doesn’t mean we can’t vacation. After all, Vermont is a vacation destination, and affordable summertime thrills are plentiful right here at home.

• Take music. Once again, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and the Vermont Mozart Festival will give summer performances throughout the state. Most performances are outside at venues such as Shelburne Farms and the Trapp Family Concert Meadow.  Bring along a picnic dinner (gourmet, of course) – a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and Amadeus under the stars – what more could a person want?

Folk, perhaps. If you prefer guitars and banjos to violins and oboes, you’ll want to take in the Champlain Valley Folk Festival. Six stages on the grounds of the Kingsland Bay State Park will offer music in Yankee, Irish, Native American and French Canadian traditions July 31 through August 2.

• Stages also mean theater, and one of our own, the Saint Michael’s Playhouse, is presenting four great pieces of nostalgia this summer: “Dames at Sea,” a spoof of 1930s movie musicals, “Talley’s Folly,” a romantic comedy set in 1944, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” 1959 in the Catskills, and “How the Other Half Lives,” 1969 London.

• While hardly a vacation, time spent in the garden can be rewarding. But when you get a little tired of weeding your own flowerbeds, how about spending some time in somebody else’s garden? A visit to some great nearby gardens can offer, along with a day off, a little inspiration.

In downtown, Burlington, there’s the Waterfront Park and Promenade at the foot of College Street. Take a leisurely walk along the promenade featuring a wide variety of annuals and perennials including over a hundred All-American Selections and over 500 daylilies framed by shrubs and ornamental trees.

The Horticulture Club Gardens on the University of Vermont campus offers a 150 foot-long display garden starting off with spring bulbs followed by a wide variety of both traditional and unusual annuals and perennials. The Gardens also feature displays of rhododendrons. vines and tropical plants. The Horticulture Research Center in South Burlington is also a part of UVM. Display gardens here feature woody ornamentals, lilac crabapple, flowering shrubs and perennials. The Friends of the Hort Farm host open houses, tours and plant sales.

One of the most spectacular close-to-home gardens requires foreign travel but only a couple hours of it. It’s the Jardin Botanique de Montreal (Montreal Botanical Garden). Bring your passport and get an early start. With over 22,000 plant species and cultivars in 30 thematic gardens and 10 exhibition greenhouses, it’s going to be a long day. Thematic gardens include the largest Chinese garden outside of China (in the style of the Ming Dynasty); Japanese Garden, tea room and bonsai collection; Alpine Garden; Aquatic Garden: Rose Garden, and Idea Garden to name just a few. Greenhouses feature amazing collections of orchids, begonias, ferns and cacti. The Insectarium provides an extensive look at the world of insects. A free tram will help you get around efficiently.

• If you missed out on a cruise this year, cruise our great lake. During the summer, Lake Champlain Cruises aboard the Northern Lights offers daily lunch cruises, daily 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. scenic cruises, Sunday brunch cruises and Thursday dinner cruises with entertainment. Or take one of the many daily crossings to New York via the Lake Champlain Ferries that depart from Grand Isle (12 minutes to Plattsburgh), Burlington (1 hour to Port Kent) and Charlotte (20 minutes to Essex). Farther south, the cable-drawn Ticonderoga Ferry makes a 7-minute crossing from Larabee’s Point to Fort Ticonderoga.

Lake Champlain Shoreline Cruises operates the Spirit of Ethan Allen, offering daily lunch cruises Monday-Saturday, a Sunday brunch cruise, and themed dinner cruises seven nights a week.  They also have narrated scenic cruises daily at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

And don’t forget Vermont Discovery Cruises, offering overnight cruises aboard the Moonlight Lady.

• Visit some of Vermont’s many museums. The Shelburne Museum is a national attraction. Its 37 buildings on 45 acres house over 150,000 items. In addition to artifacts, the museum exhibits entire buildings such as a lighthouse, 19th-century railroad station, a 1950s ranch house and the 220-foot steamship Ticonderoga.

ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain at the foot of College Street features exhibits on the lake and its history.

The Jericho Historical Society’s Old Red Mill Craft Shop and Museum features an impressive collection of snowflake photographs taken by a local farmer, Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley. Bentley took 5,000 photos of snowflakes during his lifetime.

Music, museums, gardens, water sojourns. If your plate isn’t full yet, add a Lake Monsters baseball game or two at Centennial Field, relive the drive-in movie era at the Sunset in Colchester (the area’s last) or take in a performance by the Royal Lippizzaner Stallions in North Hero. Enjoy!

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