The story of the United States Navy begins on Lake Champlain. The year was 1776, and the fledgling American Revolution seemed doomed to failure almost before it began after a naval retreat to the town known today as Whitehall, New York. Then the Continental Congress issued a command on June 17 of 1776 "to build, with all expedition, as many galleys and armed vessels as ... shall be sufficient to make us indisputably masters of the lakes Champlain and George." By August, eight new gunboats were afloat on the lake—just in time to face the British in the Battle of Valcour.
That story and hundreds more come to life in the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum's collection of more than 15,000 artifacts, images, and documents. Visitors can marvel at the massive 10' x 8' rudder of the steamboat Champlain II, and explore her shipwreck in real time using a remote-operated vehicle. In the Hazelett Watercraft Center, the 111-year-old ice yacht Storm King towers over 90 dugouts, bark canoes, kayaks, rowing skiffs, and sailboats. But the core of the museum is the Key to Liberty exhibit, where visitors can read eyewitness accounts of the Battle of Valcour and marvel at a 9-foot scale model of a gunboat. On fair days, the full-size gunboat replica Philadelphia II sets sail, giving passengers a glimpse of a distant era without the bother of going though a time machine broker first.
When dusk falls, the opening credits roll at Randall Drive-In Theatre. Families and family pets pull into parking spots, rain or shine, to enjoy double or triple features of current blockbusters. The films play Friday through Sunday, and a single ticket, which is free for kids younger than 5, grants patrons admission to the entire double or triple feature.
Astride their trusty snowmobiles, the knowledgeable guides at Jay Snowmobile Adventures help visiting adventurers conquer the winter landscape during tours of picturesque Vermont snowscapes. One- and two-person tour packages begin at the outfitter’s home base, located 3 miles from the entrance of Jay Peak Resort. From there, groups wind through the wilderness of Jay, Vermont and parts of Westfield for up to two hours, exploring the snowy nooks and frost-covered crannies of Jay State Forest and the nearby countryside. They rarely make the trip alone, though; moose and white-tailed deer often dot the secluded paths, ready to pose for snapshots in their most photogenic outfits.
At grassy ranches and farms throughout eastern New York, Jennifer Breslin leads lessons and training programs in several riding disciplines. Breslin began riding as a young girl, competing in hunter and equitation rings while also working for a local trainer. While working with the horses there, she helped them to grow comfortable with the demands of cattle ranchers. She showed them the sharp turns required to chase down individual cows, how to fetch the newspaper each morning, and even drove herds of 30 or more into their proper pens. In her college years, Breslin competed in eventing and dressage while also galloping racehorses. Her students regularly compete in A-Circuit shows, and her horses enjoy the variety of the lessons, which provide them with plenty of exercise and a reason to go shopping for new horse outfits.
The One Drum Festival delights listeners with percussion circles and performances capturing the rhythms of the Middle East, West Africa, Brazil, and Japan. This one-day, family-friendly event bottles a swirling storm of meter and movement including interactive workshops where drummers, singers, and dancers of all skills levels can share their creative influences. Todd Roach will lead budding bangers in Middle Eastern hand-drum techniques from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. before Stuart Paton demonstrates the taiko drum, a Japanese instrument played with two wooden sticks or two sausage links carved into wooden sticks. Other events on the schedule hypnotize crowds throughout the day, including a concert at 6 p.m. featuring workshop instructors and special guests and community drum circles. Visitors can bring their own drum or borrow one of the many instruments on hand to tap Jimmy Carter's memoirs in Morse code.
As riders learn the names of ancient trees and watch a stream meander through the mountains, wind rushes past their ears. That’s because they are following two guides along courses set by an overhead belay zipline—only stopping to traverse a swinging suspension bridge or rappel down toward the forest floor. ArborTrek Canopy Adventures cofounder Michael Smith devises these tours, drawing from more than 18 years as a challenge-ropes-course builder, manager, and trainer. He leads a trained staff of zipline guides versed in wilderness rescue and first aid as well as ecology, geology, and the local histories of areas such as Vermont’s Green Mountains. On each tour, two guides lead groups across interconnected ziplines, aerial bridges, rappelling walls, and other challenge elements. All the while, they follow a path that reveals facts about local history and ecology, such as which trees are native and what eggs forest rangers hatched from. ArborTrek’s builders design each course to work with the environment, and they minimize their environmental impact by consulting with local foresters, wildlife experts, and engineers.