Start your exploration of Montpelier with a visit to the gold-domed State House at 115 State St. (tel. 802/828-2228), guarded out front by a statue of Ethan Allen. Three capitol buildings have risen on this site since 1809; the present building retained the portico designed during the height of Greek Revival-style in 1836. Modeled after the temple of Theseus in Athens, it's made of Vermont granite. Self-guided tours are offered whenever the capitol is open, Monday through Friday (except holidays) from 8am to 4pm. Free guided tours are offered every half-hour between July and mid-October, Monday through Friday from 10am to 3:30pm and Saturday from 11am to 2:30pm. The informative and fun tour is worthwhile if you're in the area, but not worth a major detour.

A short stroll from the State House is the Vermont Historical Society Museum, 109 State St. (tel. 802/828-2291; The museum is housed in a replica of the elegant old Pavilion Building, a prominent Victorian hotel, and contains a number of artifacts, including a gun once owned by Ethan Allen. It's normally open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm (also May-Oct Sun noon-4pm). Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students or seniors, and $12 for families. There's also a store on the premises.

Hope Cemetery: Written in Stone

For a poignant display of a nearly lost art, head to Barre's Hope Cemetery, located on a hillside in a wooded valley north of Barre on Route 14 (from the middle of town, follow Maple Avenue north). The cemetery, established in 1895, is filled with columns, urns, and human figures carved from the fine-grained local granite; more than just a memorial park, it's also a kind of outdoor museum celebrating the remarkable talent of local stonecutters.

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