Hanover: Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College is the principal resident of attractive little Hanover (pop. 11,485) and the Ivy League influence shows in the local architecture, fashions, and cultural diversions. When school is in session, the cafés hum with undergraduate discourse, the downtown teems with students, and a varsity air envelops the historic campus and its sturdy neighbors. Between terms, however, the town’s metabolism drops toward hibernation levels, which means there’s no line for espresso.
Standing out from all the Georgian-style brick buildings is Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art (603/646-2808, Wed.-Sun., free), on the southeast side of the green. Housed in a modern gallery designed in part by Charles Moore, the Hood underwent a renovation in 2018.
More contentious art can be experienced at the center of Dartmouth, where, in the Orozco Room of Baker-Berry Library, the walls are covered with a set of politically charged frescoes, The Epic of American Civilization by José Clemente Orozco.
If it’s too nice a day to stay indoors and contemplate society’s ills, rent a bike and ride north to Lyme and back, or rent a canoe or kayak from Dartmouth’s Ledyard Canoe Club (603/643-6709, $10 per hour), located on the river just north of the Route 10A bridge, and play Huck Finn for an afternoon. Or you can take a hike—the Dartmouth Outing Club’s member club Cabin and Trail maintains hundreds of miles of trails, including a part of the Appalachian Trail (AT) that runs right through town. There’s an AT marker embedded in the sidewalk in front of the Hanover Inn, from where the trail runs west across the bridge to Vermont, and east down Main and Lebanon Streets to the town of Etna, before climbing the 2,293-foot peak of Moose Mountain.
Generations of Dartmouth students have survived their college years thanks in part to the generous portions served up at Lou’s Restaurant & Bakery (30 S. Main St., 603/643-3321). Hardly changed since it opened in 1947, and famed for its magical strawberry rhubarb and other freshly baked pies, Lou’s does great big breakfasts, lunchtime soups, and burgers.
For accommodations around Hanover, there’s the stately Dartmouth-run Hanover Inn (603/643-4300, $170 and up) facing the green; for affordable rooms, however, look in nearby West Lebanon or across the river in White River Junction, Vermont.
Day Trip to Vermont
Just uphill from where the Appalachian Trail crosses the Connecticut River, along Route 10A on a broad low bridge from Hanover, you might want to while away an afternoon in Norwich at the interesting Montshire Museum of Science (802/649-2200, daily, $18 summer, $16 fall-spring), which has more than 100 educational exhibits focusing on natural history, as well as aquariums showcasing fresh- and saltwater creatures. The next town the AT passes through is West Hartford, on the banks of the White River upstream from I-91 along Route 14 and just off I-89.
From West Hartford, you can circle around (on unnumbered and rather rough-surfaced country roads) through North Pomfret, Pomfret, and South Pomfret, passing dairy farms and quaint barns, coming in through the back door to upscale Woodstock, where this AT route links up with US-4. From South Pomfret, a quaint little hamlet that’s also home to the Suicide Six ski area, the hikers’ Appalachian Trail heads up into the mountains through a long roadless stretch before crossing US-4 at Sherburne Pass. The only real driving equivalent follows Route 12 south into Woodstock.
South to Lebanon and West Lebanon
Sitting rather quietly a couple of miles south of Hanover, east of the Connecticut River near the point where US-4 gets submerged beneath the I-89 freeway, historic Lebanon (pop. 13,522) has a town green so spacious it seems more like the outskirts of a city park than the center of a town.
Right along the bonny banks of the Connecticut River, three miles or so south of patrician Hanover, the commercial busybody of West Lebanon has everything you probably try hard to avoid: shopping plazas, traffic tie-ups, and familiar fast everything, all clustered around the two local exits off the I-89 freeway.