Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure
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1003 Electric Rd, Salem, VA • 540-387-9780
About Big City Getaway
Looking for a simple day trip? Just a neat destination to give you an excuse to ride? We bet some days you are. That is what Big City Getaway is all about. There are great roads and interesting destinations all around. Every month we’ll give you one in Big City Getaway.
1302 Main Street, Saint Johnsbury, VT • 802-748-2372
The best museums are not always in the big cities.
Sure you have the Natural History in NYC and the Field in Chicago. Very nice. But we have found many nice Big City Getaways in the smaller towns and in unexpected places. Such was the case with a recent jaunt through Vermont.
We were heading across the Green Mountain State, in the area called the Northeast Kingdom, and were passing through the town of Saint Johnsbury.
This area is often referred to by Vermonters simply as "The Kingdom." Because of its three-county extent, it includes several "gateway" towns; at the southeastern corner, St. Johnsbury, just a few miles from the New Hampshire border; to the north, Newport and Derby, close to the Canada–US border; and to the southwest, Hardwick and Danville. It got its name from Governor and U.S. Senator George Aiken who first used the phrase in a 1949 speech.
It seems to fit well.
Along the wide Main Street in the town you will find a stunningly built stone building created out of sandstone and limestone and laid in wonderful Richardsonian-Romanesque style. Welcome to the Fairbanks Museum…
We found ample parking along the street and first took in the style and charm of the museum. It really is a beautiful building and a worthy place to possess one of the state’s greatest treasures.
The Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium was founded in 1889 by St. Johnsbury industrialist Franklin Fairbanks, who spent a lifetime collecting natural science specimens, and is much more than northern New England’s museum of natural history — it is a place to marvel at the wonders of our world.
Perfect for families, visitors and motorcyclists of all ages, the Fairbanks Museum readily encourages visitors to explore their universe.
If the exterior of the Fairbanks impressed us, what we found inside blew us away! Not only did it have so much to see the interior of the building itself was worth the look. High arched ceilings with two stories of exhibits that were incredibly varied and unique.
The museum holds over 30,000 objects from an eclectic permanent collection, including natural science specimens, historical artifacts, archival photographs and documents, and ethnological treasures.
There were some things to see that you will not see anywhere else on the planet.
The Fairbanks Museum is home to the entire collection of mosaics known as "Bug Art" created by John Hampson. Using thousand of beetles, moths and butterflies, meticulously positioned on wood and lovingly framed, his creations are a unique reflection of this artist's vision and precision.
In addition to being visually exciting, this natural history collection is an important and irreplaceable record of biodiversity in various points in time. Some of the species represented in the collection are endemic and therefore only found in particular regions and nowhere else. Many are now threatened or endangered due to habitat loss or destruction. Some, like the Passenger Pigeon, are extinct. Significant collections include Philippine birds acquired from the reknown collector J.B Steere, which he collected during an expedition in 1874. The Fairbank’s collections include mounted specimens, fluid-preserved specimens, skin and osteological specimens as well as fossils. The museum’s invertebrate collections include insects, mollusks, corals, and sponges, very impressive as well.
The Museum is also home to the Lyman Spitzer Jr. Planetarium, the only public planetarium in Vermont. Here you can journey through the cosmos, guided by one of the museum’s astronomy and weather experts.
We took in a presentation on the planet Venus that was informative as well being presented in a fun and enjoyable way. We have been pointing out the planet almost every night now – Venuvian expert we are.
Another thing that grabbed our eye was the Wildflower Table.
As riders we pass thousand of plants and flower on every ride but rarely know what we are passing or even the plants’ names.
The Wildflower Flower Table at the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium is a living exhibit that reflects the abundance and diversity of flowers, grasses, berries, ferns and evergreens found in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.·It has been part of the Museum since 1903, when it began as a simple arrangement of vases set out by Museum staff. With time, the Flower Table has grown to include some 400 species displayed throughout the year, in both fruit and flowering stages.
There were so may we recognized and now at least have a name to go with the flora.
For the younger ones, or those young at heart you will discover the The Soucy Family Exploration Station which has 14 cutting edge exhibits, many designed in-house, inviting visitors to explore concepts relating to heat, weather, aerodynamics, electricity, and much more. We were surprised that these stations were full of adults – while the kids stood by shaking their heads.
The Fairbanks Museum has something for everyone, young or old, and is a great way to spend an afternoon.