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Love One-of-a-Kind Towns? Try Brattleboro, Vermont

Brattleboro VTFowntown

Brattleboro, Vermont.

by Eric Hurwitz. Article updated on 11/30/16

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  Downtown Brattleboro, Vt., was nearly silent on a late spring Sunday afternoon, but the atmosphere of the town came across loud and clear.

Two old townies conversed in front of the former Army Navy store now known as Sam's Outdoor Outfitters. A middle-aged man with very long hair walked the Main Street singing slightly out of tune some unidentifiable folk rock song. A few families were headed out for dinner, downtown. A group of travelers were walking the side streets, complimenting the beautiful old homes and restored brick building architecture. At the fire station, I asked the best way to get back to Boston, and one of the firefighters with a conservative personality talked with me like an old friend and went over ever detail to make sure I was heading in that direction, and not toward Upstate New York.

It would be easy for me, like every other travel guide, to talk about Brattleboro's great small-town arts scene (it is listed in John Villani's book The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America) and the myriad locally-owned stores, restaurants and cafes up and down the long Main Street, but I'd prefer to talk about the feeling of the town. Sure, the thriving downtown businesses and museums, theater and galleries are something to revel in a town of only about 12,000 people. What I like best about Brattleboro, however, is that you have an interesting mix of people -- kind of like Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., comes to the country -- and that citizens and local elected and appointed officials came together over the past 30 years to revitalize this formerly drab New England mill town into something special for the world to see. Sure, some areas still have a rough-around-the-edges look but, for the most part, the revitalization of this town has been nothing short of miraculous. Plus, it's located on the Connecticut River and is surrounded by mountains for an innate scenic beauty in southern Vermont. For some like me, just walking around Brattleboro and taking in its groovy-to-traditional makeup is enough (although I typically don't sing folk-rock tunes in any downtown setting).

Clearly Brattleboro isn't just another town that has downtown shops and restaurants. There are so many destinations like that. Brattleboro is a place with its own personality, powered by the people -- whether it be hippies and activists, rednecks, the blue blood, the middle class enjoying affordable living, entrepreneurs, New Yorkers looking for a new life or vacationers supporting the terrific downtown. People seem to co-exist here peacefully and are genuinely proud to call this southern Vermont town their own.

We also see amazing restoration happening in Bellows Falls, and White River Junction, Vt., but those communities aren't quite there yet (very close, though,and definitely worth a look). Brattleboro, however has arrived, and seems to be getting better everyday!

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