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Destination Recreation: The Barns at Lang Farm 

click to enlarge The Barns at Lang Farm in Essex Junction - KRISTEN RAVIN
  • Kristen Ravin
  • The Barns at Lang Farm in Essex Junction

As anyone who has taken a day trip with a toddler knows, getting a squirmy tyke in and out of a car seat can be challenging, especially when making multiple stops. Three businesses located at the Barns at Lang Farm in Essex Junction offer a one-stop, family-friendly destination for food, play and retail — without the back-seat battles.

My 1-year-old daughter, Virginia, and I began a late-January day at Sweet Alchemy Bakery and Café, a small eatery located at the pastoral venue, which hosts weddings and other events. The weather was cold, but the vibe inside was warm, with sun-soaked tables, decorative succulents and sitar music on the speakers. After scanning the menu — coffee, tea, smoothies and all-day eats such as "super tuber tacos" and multigrain waffles — I ordered from the pastry case, which boasted vegan and nut-, gluten-, and soy-free options. Virginia scarfed down her maple-glazed doughnut ($2) while I savored my toaster pastry ($3.50). Then we headed one door down to Wildflowers Studio.

click to enlarge Enjoying a donut at Sweet Alchemy Bakery - KRISTEN RAVIN
  • Kristen Ravin
  • Enjoying a donut at Sweet Alchemy Bakery

Owned by long-time educator Lyndsy Blais, the creative play studio is a space where kids can get hands-on with art supplies, sensory activities and tinkering. In addition to its robust schedule of camps, therapeutic groups and after-school programs, Wildflowers offers Open Studio each weekday morning. For two hours, young children can independently explore four learning areas filled with materials, from paints and chalk to blocks and tools, known in the studio as "invitations to learning."

click to enlarge Virginia plays at Wildflowers Studio - KRISTEN RAVIN
  • Kristen Ravin
  • Virginia plays at Wildflowers Studio

When we arrived, Virginia and I met Blais, who was on hand to facilitate the fun. She warned me to be on the lookout for choking hazards (the marbles set up to roll down wooden ramps, for example) and assured me that, aside from a marked storage area, nothing in the room was off-limits.

Caregivers are encouraged to act as engaged observers, and it was refreshing to let Virginia guide her own exploration. She sat at a desk and played with stamps, stood at a light table and drew with washable markers, and plopped down in a rowboat filled with sand. Older kids hammered golf tees into Styrofoam blocks and pushed miniature tractors through blobs of paint. Virginia spent most of her time in front of three plastic bins of soapy water, where she scrubbed toy dump trucks with an oversized sponge. (She also soaked her shirt; it's a good idea to bring extra clothes.)

The studio changes its focus every six weeks, but the activities change weekly. During our visit, the theme was Artful Science; Past themes include Natural Beauty, Color Lab and Community. I had to pry Virginia away from a pile of pinecones and tree branch-inspired blocks for our final stop.

click to enlarge Boho Baby - KRISTEN RAVIN
  • Kristen Ravin
  • Boho Baby

We walked next door to Boho Baby, a recently opened boutique offering gently used, locally made and fair-trade clothing, accessories and toys for babies and kids. Secondhand items hung by size while local brands — like Essex-based Morado Designs, which makes eco-friendly clothing, totes and bibs — had their own displays. Locally produced pieces were generally priced higher than pre-owned items, giving the option to browse on a budget or splurge on something special. (I did both, snagging a secondhand smock for $4 and a handmade toddler dress by another Essex brand, Maple Frosting, for $26.)

As I left the store, owner Lisa Golding nodded to Virginia. "Is she going to sleep in the car?" she asked me.

"She is definitely going to sleep in the car," I replied.

I'll take a car-seat nap over a car-seat tantrum any day.

The Barns at Lang Farm , Upper Main Street, Essex Junction

Make a Day of It

  • Sweet Alchemy Bakery and Café is open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Find more info at facebook.com/sweetalchemyvermont.
  • Wildflowers Studio offers an open studio most weekday mornings from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and on most Sundays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Admission is $15 for families with one child and $5 per additional child. Find a detailed schedule at wildflowerstudiobtv.com.
  • Boho Baby is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Go to bohobabyvt.com for information about consigning and selling clothes.


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