machu picchu overlook
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colleen and her parents outside the Dartmouth Outing Club House on Occom Pond

I had never even heard of Dartmouth before my daughter added it to her list of college prospects.  But this private Ivy League, tucked away in the little town of Hanover, New Hampshire, won her heart. We probably visited the campus at the worst possible time – a blustery, sub-zero January day.  And while I fought to keep warm during our student-led tour, my daughter decided her fate for the next four years.  Dartmouth resonated with her.  She loved the four-term system, the feel of the campus, the college town, the size of the school, the fact that professors taught classes (not teaching assistants), the plethora of off-campus and study abroad programs available. She noted the absence of a wall or gate separating the school from the town.  The campus spilled into the community.  It wasn’t a gated fortress.  We’d visited other Ivy League schools, but Dartmouth moved to the top of my daughter’s list.  There was something special about this place.  

Now, as my daughter enters her junior year at Dartmouth, I can’t imagine her attending any other school.  Sure, it’s a little farther away from our home than I had hoped her college would be, but Dartmouth is an incredible school and the surrounding area is rich with beauty and activities. Admittedly, during our first few visits, we concentrated our time in Hanover, getting familiar with the campus, taking in events at the Hopkins Center for the Arts (the Hop), and becoming acquainted with the restaurants, cafes, and shops in town.   We’ve come to expect a long line for breakfast at Lou’s (it’s worth the wait) and never miss a chance to dine at Molly’s.  We’ve stayed at Six South Street and the Hanover Inn and LOVE these two local hotels, but we’ve found a charming Airbnb tucked away in nearby Norwich, Vermont, that feels like a second home.

Overlooking the Quechee Gorge in Vermont
  We look forward to walks around Occom Pond and recently discovered the trails in Pine Park.  There are so many hiking trails near Dartmouth – even the Appalachian Trail cuts through Hanover.  The Norwich Farmers Market is a new family favorite, offering local fare as well as live music.  And our daughter introduced us to Tucker Box, a restaurant in nearby White River Junction that offers incredible Turkish food. More recently, we drove the easy hour and a half to Burlington, Vermont, and enjoyed the boutique shops, restaurants and cafes along Church Street and checked out Burlington’s waterfront.  We visited during the peak of fall foliage.  The colors, majestic mountains, and babbling streams took our breath away.
Burlington, Vermont during peak fall foliage
And while winters may be cold, there’s always something to do.  Check out the Dartmouth Skiway.  How many colleges own a ski way?  Even when it was too cold (for me) to ski, I cozied up with a good book near a roaring fire inside the lodge and was perfectly content.  Visit Occom Pond when the pond freezes over.  Students and locals ice skate and cross country ski here.   The first time I visited, I snuggled into a seat near the outdoor campfire.  Shortly after, marshmallows were distributed for roasting and the crowd around the campfire grew.  Students and local families intermingled.  Hot chocolate was available nearby.  I was in heaven! …Okay, so maybe I sound like a cheerleader for Dartmouth.  Surely the school isn’t for everyone, but for my daughter, it’s the perfect place. And it has allowed our active family the opportunity to explore a unique part of the Northeast.
Our family outside Baker Library during first-year parents' weekend
_________________________________________________________________________________________ Linda O'Connor, mother of Colleen O'Connor D'19, is a freelance writer and radio talk-show host from Buffalo, NY. When she's not working, you can find Linda on the ski slopes, sipping hot chocolate, or exploring the hidden gems of the Northeast with her family.