As you plan your trip to The Kingdom, we hope you’ll stop for a minute, grab an extra day while you’re here, and enjoy. We’ve seen it time and time again. First trip to the Northeast Kingdom for an event, folks tend to plan on coming in to town on Friday evening and leaving early Sunday. But, over half of our athletes return the next year for an event. When they do, they tend to bring family and friends and stay longer. Here’s a list of some of our favorite things to do in The Kingdom (other than ski, skate, run, bike, and swim) and some of the things Kingdom Gamers report that they love about the NEK, one of the quietly most beautiful places in the world.
- Paddling the Clyde with Clyde River Recreation – Head east on Route 105 out of Derby until you get to West Charleston. You’ll see the kayaks on the right and the (portable) office on the left. For cheap they’ll fit you out, drive you up river, and let you float and paddle back. Just one of my favorite things to do.
- An hour fly-over with Lakeview Aviation – Dan Gauvin runs the airport in Coventry and offers up a great, one hour, aerial tour of The Kingdom at an unbelievably inexpensive rate.
- A visit to The Pump House Indoor Waterpark at Jay Peak Resort – My favorite: La Chute with its 60 ft drop and 360 degree loop. But there’s lots of other less “strenuous” rides along with surfing “The Wave.” One kid said breathlessly to his father as he returned from a century ride at Tour de Kingdom, “Dad! Even better than Disney!” True story.
- An afternoon at Big Falls in Troy, Vermont. Head west (south) on Route 100 until you get to River Road just before the village of Troy. Head north and the best kept secret in The Kingdom will reveal itself. Love this place for 15 different reasons. Here’s a high water YouTube
- Climbing Mount Pisgah (or Hor or Wheeler) at Willoughby Gap. An easy hike. An extraordinary summit. All overlooking Lake Willoughby, one of the most majestic, glacially carved, pristine marvels in North America. And while you’re here add in a swim at North or South Beach. Love the sand and the clarity of the water. The nudist beach on the south/west corner of the lake is discretely tucked away, but continues the grand Vermont skinny dipping tradition. (Is that one or two reasons? Don’t know, but it’s definitely worth a layover for a day.)
- A tour of Lake Memphremagog or a dinner date on The Northern Star. Departs from the Newport City Dock on a regular basis, throughout the three seasons. Love this lake and love this boat. Venue for NEKOWSA’s annual pizza party. But so much more.
- A bike ride or a run up the Newport-Derby Bike Path on the east side of Lake Memphremagog. This year there will be bike rentals at the Newport City Docks, Great Outdoors, or the Village Bike Shop. The views heading north are wonderful any time of year. Feeling adventurous? Cross the border at Beebe and continue along the Missisquois River all the way to Ayer’s Cliff and North Hatley in the Eastern Townships. Or, as you head north on the path, cut into the trails of Memphremagog Ski Touring Foundation for a run or a bike detour through the woods.
- A day in The Eastern Townships of Quebec. The Lavender Farm, Georgeville (Auberge McGowan and about 3 different art galleries), Magog (Microbrasserie La Memphre, shopping on Rue Principal (they also have some of the best Montreal smoked meat sandwiches at B&G’s), around the lake to The Abby de St. Benout du Lac and its fine cheese shop and on to Mansonville or southeast from Magog to Ayer’s Cliff for dinner at Auberge Ayer’s Cliff or Ripplecove Inn, or to North Hatley and Hovey Manor. Or, keep it short and get some really, really tasty crepes at La Tomifobia just across the border in Beebe. Whatever you do, the minute you cross the border you will know you are in a different country. Friendly and quite charming, they are. We’ve made many good friends in the Eastern Townships.
- Rent a sailboat from Newport City’s Department of Parks and Recreation at Prouty Beach. Nothing like a Sunfish and a good, steady northwest wind.
- Rent a pontoon boat from Newport Marine Services and explore one of the most beautiful, mysterious, and spiritual lakes in North America, Lake Memphremagog.
- Kingdom Trails – has the very best bike trail system in North America. There, we said it. They may be too modest to put it this way, but we’re not. Love these guys. Bike rentals are available. Check ‘em out.
- Craftsbury Outdoor Center – Sculling on Hosmer Pond, running the trail system, biking the back roads of Craftsbury. This place is the home of Olympians. Just the thought will cut a bit off your time, no matter what you are doing at this mecca for outdoor sports and training.
- An afternoon on Main Street in Downtown Newport. Don’t be fooled. There’s some wonderful shopping, tasting, and dining on The Street – between MAC Center for the Arts, The NEK Tasting Center, Pick & Shovel, Newport Natural Market & Café, Brown Dog Bistro, Lago Trattoria, La Belvedere, The EastSide Restaurant (with its deck on the water).
- Shopping at the Louis Garneau Factory Outlet. We’re not North Conway with tons of factory outlets. But what we’ve got is just the best of the best. Louis Garneau makes some of the finest kits, helmets, jackets, jerseys, apparel, bikes and triathlon gear and the prices are unbelievably affordable at the factory outlet in its all new store on the Newport-Derby Road. One of our triathletes who returns each year describes his yearly pilgrimage to Louis Garneau’s outlet as “a religious experience.”
- A visit to The Old Stone House Museum and a climb up Prospect Hill to the Observatory Tower with its 360 degree views north past Owl’s Head on Lake Memphremagog and south through Willoughby Gap. We’d do this as part of our favorite drive – Fly to Pie – From the airport in Coventry on the back roads through Brownington, past Evansville, over Barton Mountain, through Barton, over Burton Hill and back into West Glover with some wonderful pizza and beer at Parker Pie, West Glover. If you want a map of this route, check out www.kingdommarathon.com. It’s the course of our marathon Run, Bike, or Hike this year on October 8th. It’s just a beautiful drive anytime of year.
- In this era of “Border Bashing,” The Haskell Free Library and the Haskell Opera House, straddling the US/Canadian border as they do, stand tall as a tribute to sanity past and our hope for sanity future in our nation’s relationship with our Canadian friends. The Opera House has a full schedule of high quality plays and concerts. You can sit in the US and watch a play in Canada. In fact the line goes right through the seats. Yes, we have a “wall” in Derby Line. Didn’t cost a kabillion dollars. It consists of flower pots. One of our Dandy runners took a visit and jumped back and forth over the pots. Just for the Fun of It.
OK we lied. There are at least sixteen totally wonderful things we’d do with a little extra time in The Kingdom. And we haven’t even started the list of micro breweries and distilleries in the area, soon to be incorporated into our “Swim & Swill Tour”© during our Swim the Kingdom Week. So, don’t be in such a hurry. Stick around. Grab an extra day while you’re here and enjoy. Life only comes round once.
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You’re the best, Phil! This list sounds great. My bucket list just grew!
Thanks, Neal. Next up. The list of local microbreweries and distilaries.