White River Junction
Across the river from Hanover and Dartmouth, turn-of-the-20th-century White River Junction (pop. 2,286) used to echo with the sounds of some 50 trains a day traveling over five separate rail lines. The demise of the railroads and arrival of the Interstate cloverleaf on the outskirts of town effectively mothballed the downtown area, but like good vintage clothing, the photogenic historic center has been rediscovered by an art-smart crowd that doesn’t mind the holes and missing buttons.
Freight trains still rumble through White River Junction a few times a day (and night!), and Amtrak stops here on its mainline Vermonter route along the Connecticut River from New York City. Apart from the trains, the main signs of life here are at breakfast and lunch. The stylish Tip Top Café (85 N. Main St., 802/295-3312, closed Sun.-Mon.) offers delicious soups, sandwiches, and an ever-changing variety of bistro-style meals at lunch and dinner.
If you’re looking for lodging with more character than the chain motels along the Interstates, consider downtown’s Hotel Coolidge (39 S. Main St., 802/295-3118 or 800/622-1124, $89 and up). In business since the 1920s, it has a nice café downstairs. It is clean, friendly, and definitely a good value. The hotel also offers bare-bones HI-hostel bunks and rooms (around $45 and up per person).