In 1892, Brattleboro  gained a brief fame as the home of writer Rudyard Kipling, whose new bride was a native of the area. The author wrote Captains Courageous and the Jungle Books at his palatial home, Naulakha (Hindi for “jewel beyond price”), and may have lived there longer if it hadn’t been for a feud with his neighbor and brother-in-law Beatty Balestier.
Eventually the tiff grew so heated that Balestier forced Kipling’s bicycle off the road with his carriage, instigating one of the country’s first celebrity trials. Embarrassed by the publicity, Kipling escaped back to England instead of showing up in court.
Kipling’s former home is not open to the general public, but can be rented out for groups up to eight through the United Kingdom’s Landmark Trust (707 Kipling Rd., Dummerston, 802/254-6868, www.landmarktrustusa.com , $2325–425 per night, 3-night minimum). The home still contains the author’s original furniture, down to the billiard table in the attic.
Also on the outskirts of town, The Retreat Farm (350 Linden St., Brattleboro, 802/257-2240, www.theretreatfarm.com , 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Wed.–Sat., noon–4 p.m. Sun. late May–mid-Oct., $6 adults, $5 children under 12) has a family-friendly petting zoo showcasing dozens more animals, both familiar (rabbits, goats) and exotic (emus, llamas).
It’s a cut above ordinary petting zoos, in both mission and execution, since the 475-acre plot is still a working farm, owned by The Windham Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to preserving Vermont’s rural traditions. Perhaps because of that, the big barn housing the animals is particularly interactive for children, providing not only food to feed the animals, but also brushes and scratchers to help care for them.
Another section with farm implements allows budding farmers to play at being farmer for a day. For kids and grown-ups alike, the foundation recently revitalized a network of hiking trails accessible year-round from behind the farm as well as from other points of entry around town; and also opened a satellite outlet of the popular Grafton Village Cheese Company (also owned by the foundation) next to the farm.