As warm weather and summer break take hold, many of us are eager to venture out with our family and explore the beautiful scenery and exciting summertime events. As someone who loves discovering unique places and events and has spent a good chunk of life working and playing in the nonprofit space, I am thrilled to embark on a journey with my family, embracing the exciting seasonal programming offered by Vermont’s nonprofits.
Our adventure crew includes me, my husband, our curious 3-year-old daughter, and our little son, who is just under a year old. While not all cultural events are our speed yet, we make it a point to attend as many family-friendly activities as possible. It’s all about creating lasting memories and exposing our children, and ourselves, to the wonders of the vibrant community of Vermont’s nonprofits.
Vermont’s nonprofits play a vital role in improving the well-being of the state’s people and environment, impacting each and every resident and visitor. By learning about their missions and supporting them, families can share wonderful experiences while making a positive impact on their community.
Here are some of Vermont’s nonprofits that my family is most excited to visit this summer, arranged into five categories: Explore and Learn, Play, See a Show, Have a Picnic, and Give Back. Have fun exploring!
Explore and Learn
The Nature Museum in Grafton is a hidden gem that families won’t want to miss. This small but fascinating museum showcases the natural history of Vermont, featuring exhibits on wildlife, geology, and ecology. Families can learn about the animals and plants that call Vermont home, and gain a deeper appreciation for the natural beauty of the state. My 3-year-old daughter is particularly excited for September’s annual Fairy House Festival and, honestly, I am too.
If you’re looking for a fun and interactive museum experience, the Montshire Museum in Norwich is the perfect destination. This family favorite among Vermont’s nonprofits is a science museum that features hands-on exhibits that explore topics such as physics, chemistry, biology, and ecology. Kids can participate in experiments, build structures, and learn about the natural world in a fun and engaging way. There are also 100 acres of trails to roam and ramble on, as well as an outdoor Science Park, whose water exhibits provide copious summertime cool-down opportunities.
My kids can’t stand to leave the bubble exhibit, but the outdoor water exhibits are the best way I’ve found to get the soap off. Just make sure to pack a change of clothing, plenty of water to drink, and sunscreen.
Glasstastic is a summertime art exhibition at the Brattleboro Museum where kids in grades K-6 design and draw their own fantastical creatures. Selected drawings are chosen to be transformed into beautiful sculptures by a variety of skilled glass artists. Once those are created, both the drawings and sculptures get exhibited side by side. I am sorry I missed the opportunity to submit my daughter’s pen drawing of a series of straight lines she titled “Stripey Thing,” but there’s always next year.
- Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum is a children’s space located in Rutland that provides a playful, pretend-play experience for children of all ages. Having recently reopened in a larger space, the Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum offers a range of hands-on exhibits and programs that encourage creativity and imagination in children. Children can participate in interactive activities like driving a train, serving up customers in a restaurant, and growing a garden, which are all designed to inspire curiosity and spark joy. There’s even a gated section for those under two which is super nice for my 11-month-old.
- Echo, the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington is a science museum that highlights local plants and animals, as well as issues related to conservation. While there’s a lot to learn in the exhibits, my family enjoys heading straight upstairs to Champ Lane, which has tons of opportunities for play, including a tree house, a bridge and slide, water play, a streetscape, and much more. While it can get crowded, there are also lots of quiet corners to have break time with your family – there’s even a secluded feeding bench that I used during our last visit to give my son a bottle.
- The Vermont Children’s Museum in Middlebury is working towards opening a physical space, but in the meantime, they’re excited to host pop-up play events all summer long, focusing on the power of play, creativity, and connection (think a pop-up toy exhibit in the kid’s section of a children’s clothing store)… Stay tuned to their website and Instagram to hear more about those.
See a Show
- Weston Theater Company, in Weston, produces a variety of professional shows throughout the year. In the summer of 2023, the company will be presenting You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, a family-friendly musical based on the Peanuts comic strip. Families can enjoy the show together and be entertained by the classic characters and songs. An added bonus: It’s free, it’s outside, and you can bring a picnic! There’s usually an opportunity to get a picture with the performers afterward as well if that’s your thing (my daughter likes to contemplate it for an extended period of time, and then quietly walk away).
- Vermont Farm to Ballet Tour. Experience the beauty of Vermont in a unique and agriculturally focused way through the Farm to Ballet Project. The tour features family-friendly ballet performances that take place in fields and orchards across the entire state. The audience can enjoy the loveliness of the natural surroundings while watching professional ballet dancers perform. Tickets are offered on a sliding scale but don’t wait too long to purchase them because they sell out fast! We’re really excited to watch our area’s performance at the Pittsford Village Farm.
- The Vermont Symphony Orchestra offers a summer tour that travels throughout the state, bringing classical music to audiences in outdoor venues. The tour features a variety of musical styles and genres, and is a great way to engage children with the world of classical music and, in the case of this concert series, jazz. We are huge live music fans, taking our son to his first when he was only a couple months old, and are looking forward to these. As an added bonus, the outdoor spaces give plenty of room to wander away if a break is needed.
Have a Picnic
- Pittsford Village Farm is a community farm that offers a beautiful and peaceful setting for a family picnic. The farm features walking trails, gardens, and farm animals that children can visit and interact with.They also have weekly free concerts throughout the summer, a community garden, and other events. Last year my daughter went to her first Touch a Truck there, and you’d better believe we’re returning this summer to see the bulldozer and ambulance collections again. (Touch a Truck is always a classic good time!)
- Retreat Farm. Located in Brattleboro, Retreat Farm is a historic farm that’s on a mission to connect people to the land and one another. The farm features 10 miles of walking trails, farm animals to visit, and community events throughout the season – all of it free. Families can bring a picnic or visit one of the several food trucks that call Retreat Farm home.As a family that doesn’t get to see food trucks much, this is a particular highlight.
- The Southern Vermont Arts Center is a beautiful setting for a family picnic. With 120 acres of walking trails, gardens, and art exhibits, all nestled in Manchester’s bucolic landscape. Families can bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the art and natural beauty of the center. We like taking our kids to the nearby, and absolutely wonderful, Northshire Bookstore beforehand, to get some new post-picnic reading material.
- Volunteer at a Farm. Vermont is a state that values giving back to its community. One way to actively contribute is by volunteering at nonprofit farms, and gleaning is a significant way to do so. Gleaning involves gathering surplus crops from farms, ensuring that no food goes to waste and instead reaches those in need. Some great options to start with are the Intervale Center, Salvation Farms, and Susu Community Farm, where families can engage in this rewarding experience while supporting local agriculture and food security initiatives.
- Food Shelf/Food Pantry. Families can get help out by donating food or volunteering at their local food shelves or food pantries. These organizations work to ensure people have access to food every day. You can visit Vermont Foodbank’s website to find one in your area.
- Habitat for Humanity builds affordable housing for families in need, including here in our state. Families can get involved by volunteering to help build houses or by donating to the organization. Many regions of Vermont have local Habitat for Humanity chapters – reach out to yours to find out how you can help.
This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list of all the Vermont nonprofits doing exciting things this summer. Explore your county and beyond, and you’ll find even more amazing organizations to engage with.
And please remember – if you have a good time, keep the relationship going! Follow Vermont’s nonprofits on social media, sign up for their newsletters, tell a friend, get involved, and consider donating.
Pin this post and be sure to follow Vermont Mom on Pinterest!
Vermont Mom Insiders get exclusive content that you do not want to miss, so sign up today!
Guest Writer: Abbey Harlow
Abbey Harlow is a nonprofit fundraising and communications consultant based in south-central Vermont. She loves road trips, beer, gardening, reading, and talking about nonprofits. Reach out if you want to have a conversation!