Montpelier is truly something unique. We’re talking about a state capital with only 8000 people, no McDonalds, and a community event called “All Species’ Day”. Nope, not kidding.
The downtown is vibrant, friendly, and energetic all year round. During the day, the mix of boutique stores and “everyday” stores is well-kept. Want some fun? Stop in at Woodbury Mountain Toys on a Saturday morning. You’ll get smiles from everyone there, and recommendations for kids of all ages.
Montpelier is a real “food” town. Being home to the New England Culinary Institute (NECI) helps. NECI operates a lunch/dinner restaurant (Main Street Bar and Grill) as well as a top notch bakery (La Brioche). Treat yourself to the wares of up and coming chefs.
Three Penny Taproom is a center of town activity. It's a quirky mix of hipsters, legislators, teachers, and everyone else. If there’s a good beer, you’ll get it here. Anything from the Alchemist in Waterbury to top flight independent beers across the country. There's no pretension here, just good food (peanut butter and jalapeño burger? Yes!), good service, and fantastic beer.
Other great choices for families are Sarducci’s which overlooks the Winooski River, Julio’s, and J. Morgan’s Steakhouse. Or do this--just stop anyone you see in town, and ask for a recommendation.
Hubbard Park is right in town, and has trails, a reserved off-leash area for dogs, sledding, and a skating pond. Plus there’s the stone observation tower. Definitely worth seeing. For more leisurely recreation, go to a Vermont Mountaineers baseball game (New England Collegiate Basebal League). Tickets are cheap, the games are good, and Skip (the mascot) is highly entertaining.
Being the home of the state government, many people work in the state agencies that dot State Street (of course). Other main employers are National Life, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Central Vermont Medical Center.
Montpelier’s neighborhoods have their own character. College Hill, The Meadow, Toy Town, The Barre-O. Even the names of the neighborhoods are fun.