Oh! The Places You'll Go: Quechee

By Alexandra Johnson | 2/1/13 6:00am

If you looked up “quintessential New England small town” in the dictionary, you ought to be referred to Quechee. About 20 minutes from Dartmouth, the town of Quechee is nestled along the Quechee Gorge on the Ottauquechee River. With fewer than 1,000 residents and only a few businesses dotting the main road, the town is intimate and quiet.

A picturesque covered bridge runs across the gorge, perhaps the most distinguishable Quechee icon. Every Father’s Day weekend in June Quechee hosts a hot air balloon festival on the village green, featuring five balloon flights open to the public.

Two years ago, Quechee was hit hard by Hurricane Irene. Major flooding of the Ottauquechee River left much of Quechee underwater, and the covered bridge was destroyed. The river surge took out a corner of the old mill that now houses the Simon Pearce glass-blowing shop and restaurant, and several other businesses sustained physical damage. Since the storm, the town has been hard at work rebuilding and the bridge repairs are now near completion.

Though small in size, Quechee offers plenty in the way of entertainment. The flagship Simon Pearce store is worth a visit for the delicious food (it’s the perfect place to drag your mom and dad during Parents’ Weekend), the beautiful blown-glass vases and tableware in the shop and the downstairs studio where you can observe glassblowing in action! Simon Pearce has remained a household name in this town ever since Pearce set up shop in 1800 in the old mill.

Just down the road is the Quechee Public Library, a tiny white building you could miss if you blinked while driving by. Don’t be deterred by the size, though — there’s a lot going on inside. The library holds a weekly Tea Theatre event, featuring a classic movie on the big screen followed by tea and discussion of the film. Each Murder Mystery Monday, murder mystery lovers select a novel to read and discuss.

If you’re feeling adventurous, head a few miles north to the Sugarbush Farm, one of the many working farms tucked in the Vermont countryside. Sugarbush Farm lies at the end of a long, winding road and has spectacular views of the Upper Valley. The farm sits on over 500 acres and has remained a family-operated business since 1945. Today the farm produces cheese and maple syrup and offers tours of the sugarhouse, where maple syrup is made. I was surprised to learn that over 40,000 people visit the farm each year – for being so rural it attracts a lot of visitors! Fall is the busiest season for the farm, when “leaf peepers” stop by to admire the surrounding foliage (and sample some cheese, of course).

Quechee is close enough to Dartmouth to justify a day trip, but also far enough that it feels like a legitimate escape from campus. Whether you make it only to the Main Street shops or venture all the way out to Sugarbush Farm, Quechee is sure to make a lasting impression.

Alexandra Johnson