Sue Hoxie, Better Middlebury Partnership

Summer weather has finally(!) kicked in after a cold, wet spring. I suppose if we wanted perfect weather year-round, we’d live in San Diego, but how dull would that be? Kids are out of school and the call of “I’m bored!” is probably starting to echo in every parent’s ear. Maybe you’ve got your kids’ or grandkids’ fully booked for the summer….or perhaps not.

Don’t forget about all the outdoor recreation opportunities within a few miles’ drive. Take a short hike on the TAM, splash in a swimming hole, pack a picnic and head up to Silver Lake, or swim at either Branbury State Park or the town pool. On a hot, sticky night take the kids (and kids at heart) for a maple creemee or root beer float.

Maybe you’re more spontaneous or need a plan for a rainy day. Here are a few suggestions to put on your summertime to-do list. Most are free, and if not, fairly inexpensive.

The Vermont Book Shop offers a summer book club for kids ages 8-12. Kids read the book prior to the meeting and come ready to talk about it. They meet once a week, three weeks in a row, eat pizza from Nino’s and talk about the fun, engaging book they just read. If a book club is more commitment than you’d like, how about a Super Summer Reading Challenge? Or, just check out the children’s section for a great summer read. Find details in-store or on Vermont Book Shop’s website.

Stop by Maple Landmark on Exchange Street for hours of summer fun. Embrace your inner conductor on the 6-car, 45-foot wooden train out on the front lawn. When you’re ready for a break, head inside to the showroom, stocked with all kinds of toys and games including wooden trains that you can bring home with you. If you have time, take the kids on a factory tour. It’s fascinating to see how their toys are made.

Did you know that Middlebury is home to Vermont’s largest candy store? With more than 1,500 different candies, what kid wouldn’t want to go to Middlebury Sweets, now located on Route 7. See a giant gummy bear that’s almost as big as a toddler and a giant gummy snake that’s taller than the tallest Dad! Middlebury Sweets’ has a display of plastic bricks (from a brand we all know) that’s filled with scenes including the town of Middle Brickbury, an amusement park with moving parts that’s being constructed as you read this. There’s also a spooky cemetery with glow-in-the-dark ghosts and a western scene from the Lone Ranger.

Most days the store is home to beautiful and entertaining parrots—macaws and a talkative African Grey. There’s a huge collection of candy dispensers and M&M products. Take your kids’ picture with oversized M&M characters, Willy Wonka and Oompa Loompas.  

Every Saturday the Marquis Theater shows free kids’ movies. Seating is first come, first served and the bar and kitchen are open, so grab lunch or a snack while there. Showing at 12:30 pm is a kids’ movie, generally rated G or PG, geared towards younger families. At 3 pm there’s a second showing, typically an “adventure” film rated PG or PG-13. Check out Marquis Theater’s website to see what’s playing.

If gaming—either electronic or board and card games—are your kids’ things, check out Tinker and Smithy on Main Street. It’s a community gaming space first, and a retail store, second. They provide the games they sell free in-house and will even rent the games out for take home use. Families can use the expansive game library free of charge at any time. There’s also a free, fully equipped, private Dungeons and Dragons room available for use. Who knew?!  If your child has miniatures, either for collecting or gaming, Tinker and Smithy provides free paint for them to complete their masterpieces. Painting times are Wednesday from 6 to 8 pm and Sundays from 12 to 2 pm. Tinker and Smithy also lends Magic: The Gathering decks for both their free and paid events.  Decks can also be requested just for folks to use for fun!

Lastly, how about a little culture? The Henry Sheldon Museum is hosting an exhibit titled “Whimsical Wonders: Fairy Houses from Nature”. The fairy houses range from 3 ½ inches to 12 feet tall, but most fall within 12-18 inches. Many of the sculptures are made from materials the artist finds and gathers herself in the forests near her studio, located between the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain.  It runs through September 1st.

That’s a pretty diverse list of activities to do with your kids or grandkids this summer. Enjoy the good weather while it lasts!