A stroll through Rutland's historic downtown delights architecture buffs. Look for the detailed marblework on many of the buildings, such as the Opera House, the Gryphan's Building, and along Merchant's Row. Note especially the fine marble exterior of the Chittenden Savings Bank at the corner of Merchants Row and Center Street. Nearby South Main Street (Route 7) also has a good selection of handsome homes built in elaborate Queen Anne style.
Shoppers can look for small finds at a variety of unique downtown shops tucked under awnings here and there. Among those worth seeking out is Michael's Toys, 64 Merchants Row (tel. 802/773-3765; www.michaelstoys.com), which will leave young kids wide-eyed. It's located at the head of a creaky Dashiell Hammett-esque stairway in a second-floor workshop filled with rocking cows, wooden trucks, and hand-carved wooden signs. (All it lacks are Santa's elves.) The shop is generally open Monday through Saturday, 9am to 5pm.
Another stop worth making, especially as a rainy-day diversion, is the Chaffee Art Center, at 16 S. Main St. (tel. 802/775-0356). Housed in a Richardsonian structure dating from 1896, with a characteristically prominent turret and a mosaic floor in the archway vestibule -- this building is on the National Register of Historic Places, with glorious parquet floors restored to their original luster -- the center showcases the abundant local artistic talent concealed in Rutland and the hills beyond. While it owns no permanent collections, the center does feature changing exhibits of local work, much of it for sale. It's open daily except Tuesdays from 10am to 5pm (Sun noon-4pm); admission is by donation.
Outside of Town -- A worthy detour from Rutland is to the amiable town of Proctor, about 6 miles northwest of Rutland center. (Take Rte. 4 west, then follow Rte. 3 north.) This quiet town is nestled in the folds of low hills; some of its homes and bridges are made of local marble, appropriate since this was once a noted center for quarrying the fine-grained local marble (which found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Lincoln Memorial, and other important structures).
In 1991, the quarries closed and the factory shut down, but the heritage lives on at the expansive, popular Vermont Marble Museum (tel. 800/427-1396 or 802/459-2300; www.vermont-marble.com), which touts itself as the world's largest marble exhibit. View an 11-minute video about marble, walk through "Earth Alive" displays about local geology, see a sculptor working in marble, and explore the Hall of Presidents, with life-size bas-relief sculptures of all the past presidents. The sheer size of this former factory is impressive. The gift shop has a great selection of reasonably priced marble products.
The museum is open daily from Memorial Day through October from 9am to 5:30pm, and closed the rest of the year. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for students 13 to 18, and free for children 12 and under. (Prices are $1 cheaper if you book them in advance by phone.) Look for signs to the exhibit from Route 3 in Proctor.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.