There's local, and then there's local.
Middlesex is a town of 1700 people in the heart of Central Vermont. But don't let that population fool you. There's a lot to do and see in Middlesex, and it's easy to understand why people love living in Middlesex and moving to Middlesex.
Things to do in Middlesex, VT
Formed by the creation of a large earthen dam as a 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps project, the Wrightsville Reservoir is a favorite place to spend summer days. For swimmers and beachgoers, there's a sandy beach that's easily accessible. You need to get a pass to use the beach area, and you can get a day pass or a season pass. Passes are intentionally affordable so that the area is as accessible as possible. There are bathrooms at the main guest center.
There are pavilions for rent, picnic tables, and charcoal grills available for use.
Canoe and kayak rentals are available, and "The Res" is a popular place for fishing, floating, and stand-up paddle boarding.
A bit away from the beach area is a boat launch for putting in your own kayaks, canoes, and other boats. Motorboats are allowed at Wrightsville Reservoir. Fishing is permitted as well; just make sure that everyone has a license. Fish and Wildlife's website is easy to navigate, and you can get a license fairly quickly.
The Wrightsville Reservoir also has a renowned disc golf course. The course is accessible from the main entrance/parking area/beach area and a separate parking area right off Route 12. Equipment can be rented at the check in center, or bring your own.
The Wrightsville Dam itself is beautiful. Drive along Horn of the Moon Road, and enjoy the gorgeous views of the length of the Reservoir, ringed by hills and trees, and with the Worcester Range in the background. Not a bad place to take in the sights!
Shady Rill Recreation Area
Shady Rill Recreation Area (more often referred to as Shady Rill Park by the locals) is located on Shady Rill Road, just off Route 12 on the northern side of Middlesex. The park is a popular place for picnics, family reunions, birthday parties, and more. Access and parking are easy, and cookout sites have charcoal grills. The bathroom facilities are porto-lets, and they're generally well taken care of.
The park is not supervised, and it's free to use.
Shady Rill (a rill is a small river, like a brook) runs through the park on the way to the Wrightsville Reservoir. Numerous swimming holes and places to sit and cool down make "the Rill" a great location on a summer day.
Whatever you think you'll find in a small town just a couple miles from the state capital, Camp Meade is not it. Located on the banks of the Winooski River and originally a depression-era campsite for Civilian Conservation Corps workers, it's a real hub for activities.
Camp Meade hosts concerts, art shows, and live performances. Try to pin down the offerings at Camp Meade; we dare you!
It's easy to get here too, near the Middlesex/Moretown exit off 89 (Exit 9).
Camp Meade is in the same area as Red Hen Bakery and The Filling Station.
Middlesex Bandstand Summer Concert Series
The fields adjacent to the local elementary school (Rumney Memorial School) are home to the Middlesex Bandstand Summer Concert Series. Hundreds of people bring blankets and lawn chairs on Wednesday evenings in July and August for the "Bandstand".
It's a great place to see friends and neighbors, as well as to meet new friends. Kids tend to run free, teaming up with their friends to run and play (it's right next to the playground, in case the kids don't want to sit and listen to great music). Food offerings vary, but there's always something. The concerts are free, thanks to local sponsors. It's common to see folks bring picnics, wine, and those unbeatable Vermont beers.
While Pie Breakfast itself isn't exclusive to Middlesex, it is one of the beautiful events of the town. The community is invited to Pie Breakfast each spring, organized by the Rumney PTO and hosted in the school gym/cafeteria.
If you're wondering what pie breakfast is, think of a vast, community-wide potluck where all that people bring are pies. Now, think of how creative people are. Fruit pies, cream pies, quiches, meat pies. Gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free. There are hundreds of pies, all-you-can-eat, by the slice (served with smiles and sometimes whipped cream by local volunteers). Whole pies are also available for purchase.
Pie Breakfast is a fundraiser for the Rumney PTO, so there is paid admission. Folks are encouraged (but not required to) bring their own plates and silverware. You can bring one or more pies, or you can bring none at all. That's the vibe.
Hunger Mountain and White Rock are two of the most beautiful hikes and views around. The trails can be picked up in Middlesex off Nellie Chase Road. It's a 5-mile or so round trip, and it gains 1900 feet of elevation, so it's a workout. But it's gorgeous when you get to the top, with spectacular long-range mountain views. Editorial: the trail website says the access is rough, but personally? Come on, it's fine.
Middlesex is conveniently located next to the state capital, Montpelier. There is an exit off I-89 as well, which makes it much easier to get to Waterbury, Burlington, the Burlington airport, and even Boston or Montreal. Granted, you're 2.5-3 hours to Montreal or Boston, but that's relatively convenient!
Montpelier has loads of restaurants, shopping, cultural events and more. The next town north, Waterbury, boasts similar activities. So, while there are only a couple of restaurants in Middlesex, and no big grocery store, you're only a few minutes from those amenities in either Montpelier or Waterbury.
World-class skiing is at your doorstep in Middlesex. 45 minutes gets you to the Stowe Mountain Resort, Sugarbush Resort, Smugglers' Notch Resort, Bolton Valley Resort, and Mad River Glen. You can get everything from skiing some of the biggest mountains in Vermont, with the most vertical drop, and the most luxurious resorts (Stowe and Sugarbush). To a completely different taste of Vermont skiing with no-grooming, no snowboarding, just raw, old school (and absolutely awesome) skiing at Mad River Glen.
Locals tend to ski more at Bolton and Sugarbush, but hey, to each their own.
The pre-K-6th graders in Middlesex go to Rumney Memorial School. It's a public school right on Shady Rill Road. Class sizes tend to be minor, and the teacher/student ratios encourage lots of attention and solid relationships.
Activities include sports, music, outdoor gardening, and even sugaring in the spring. It's common to see the kids out in January and February cross-country skiing or snowshoeing as part of the PE class. The kids are Vermonters, they're fine!
Once the kids reach 7th grade, they move up to U32 Middle and High School in East Montpelier. The union school brings together kids from five communities: Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex, and Worcester.
U32 Middle & High School has a tradition of adopting and embracing best practices in education, often well before they become mainstays elsewhere. These include Teacher Advisory groups ("TA") in which a few students stay in the same group together with the same teacher for 7-12 grades. They get to know each other well, and their teacher gets to know them. The arrangement makes it easy for parents to know who to talk with and feel a strong connection to the school. Understanding that "TA" can mean the teacher and the class takes a minute, but context helps. "They're in my TA." and "My TA gave me this permission slip."
As a union school, U32 is a relatively large (by Vermont standards) school. Its curricular and extracurricular activities are extensive. There's something for everyone!
Perhaps you had yet to think that an old gas station turned into a restaurant specializing in sushi and burgers was a thing. Think again! The Filling Station, across from Camp Meade, is exactly that. And the food is delicious. The Filling Station offers indoor seating, outdoor seating, and takeout. Plus, it's a great place to grab something delicious before heading across the road to the activities and performances.
Red Hen Baking
Red Hen Baking is a very popular place for coffee, pastry, lunch, and more. It's not uncommon to see a nearly full parking lot, with license plates from all over New England, and a full bike rack. It's a great scene, always a mix of folks working on laptops, reading books, and talking with friends.
Red Hen is a wonderful place to stock up on some essentials as well. If the essentials are gourmet food, excellent wine, and unbeatable local beers. Red Hen Baking has a wide distribution area, so you can pick up their products all over if you can't make it to the bakery itself.
With the stellar outdoor activities, the food, the community events, and the schools, it's easy to see why Middlesex is a popular place to live and a popular place to visit!