Vermont was one of those states that had been on my bucket list of places to visit for years. Every picture I had seen of the state looked beautiful. Quaint small towns, with adorable houses, friendly people, and the beautiful landscape of nature and trees everywhere. In August 2023, I was finally able to visit the state and it did not disappoint. Mountains with trails begging to be explored, small villages that you could stroll around all day, and the lack of billboards (not allowed in the state); made me feel like it was time to slow down and enjoy life.
We stayed in Stowe, thanks to our dear friends Bob and Val; who invited us to come with them. Bob's family has a vacation home there and has been visiting the area for years. While the town does have some resorts that are used heavily in the winter for things such as skiing; we are so glad our first visit was in the summer. Here were some of the favorite things we did and recommend.
Vermont is a state for those who love the outdoors. Biking is very popular, and you can find several places to rent a bike and numerous trails to enjoy. We prefer to hike, and there are lots of options at varying degrees of length and difficulty. We did one longer one, and a few shorter hikes. The longer hike we did is the Sterling Pond. You will drive up the twisty road towards Smugglers Notch (an area to look into more). There is a parking lot and the trail is directly across. Its rated moderate in difficulty and is about 1.5 miles of rocky terrain to get to the pond that sits on top of this mountain.
The other two trails we did are pretty short but involve waterfalls, so of course I had to visit. The first is Moss Glen Falls. We visited this first before doing the Sterling Pond trail as its along the road to Smugglers Notch. Its not a long trail (like half a mile) but is a little steep towards the bottom.
Bingham Falls was the other one. It also a only about .5 miles to this waterfall and is over flat land. There are some boardwalk planks and the ground can be muddy, so wear shoes you are ok getting dirty. There is a slight up a climb uphill at the very end for the best view of the falls, but worth it.
There are numerous other hikes in the area worth researching. Time and weather did not allow us to do any other ones.
2. Stroll Historic Stowe
The town of Stowe is laid out over a few miles, with various activities, stores, and restaurants; but there you can sort of see the main downtown historic area when you enter. There are some really cute stores and museums that its worth taking a couple hours to explore. There is also a recreation path that you can take a walk to really see the beauty of the countryside.
3. Eat Breakfast at Butlers Pantry
Vermont takes the farm to table food approach seriously and offers lots of wonderful dining options. However, my favorite meal was breakfast at Butlers Pantry. Located in the historic downtown Stowe, they serve up an amazing breakfast and at a reasonable price (dining out does adds up quickly). They are open Thursday-Monday from 8-12. You can get on their waitlist that day through Yelp, which I recommend. Stop here before you take your stroll around the town, and make sure to try the orange juice.
4. Shelburne Museum & Burlington
The state's biggest city of Burlington is about an hour drive away and worth a day trip. It has the more city feel for those who like cities, but still maintains that Vermont charm. You will find more of your chain restaurants and stores here. Church Street Marketplace is a popular attraction for most visitors. Its a street lined with shops and restaurants. The place felt a little hyped to me, but glad we stopped. If we were to visit again, I would want to dedicate more time to exploring stuff to do around Lake Champlain.
About a 30 minute drive from Downtown Burlington is the Shelburne Museum. I highly recommend adding this to your itinerary. It is a unique open air museum with interesting exhibits throughout the grounds. There is a steamboat you can explore that used to travel along Lake Champlain. There is a barn with old carriages and sleighs. There are historic buildings with works of art including Monet's and Manet's to see. Even a carousel you can ride. Admission is good for 2 days entry to the museum.
5. Day Trip to Woodstock
Its about a 1.5 hour drive, but go and visit the Woodstock area. Its not that famous Woodstock, but instead is the quintessential picturesque Vermont town. It has some shops, some higher end; but one of my favorites featured local artists and was reasonably priced. I personally just loved walking around and looking at all the historical homes and buildings. The nearby town of Taftsville has a beautiful red covered bridge that is worth a quick stop. Also close by is Quechee Gorge; which the hiking trial was closed due to flooding when we visited. We did take in the views from the bridge. Finally, we visited Sugarbush Farm (closer to Quechee). This place makes delicious maple syrups, and they have some amazing cheese. Stop by and get your free samples.
6. Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory
I read on a USA Today Poll recently that this place ranked high as a tourist trap. While I can sort of see that, I still think its worth a visit. The tours are only $6 and do sell out. I recommend booking online and several days in advance. The tour is only about 30 minutes, but I found it informative. At the end of the tour, you get a free sample of an ice cream test flavor. Finally allow some time before or after your tour to visit the Flavor Graveyard. The graveyard contains tombstones of past flavors that failed; complete with an epitaph to their ultimate demise (one below).
7. Waterbury Area
Waterbury is the next town over from Stowe and where you can find the previously mentioned Ben & Jerry's. The historic downtown area offers some cute places to explore and dine. I recommend lunch there then head to Ben & Jerry's area in the afternoon. Before or after your ice cream tour stop by the nearby Cabot Farmer's Store. There you can sample and purchase some delicious Cabot products. Also in the same parking lot is Lake Champlain Chocolates. They had some unique and tasty chocolates for chocolate lovers. Their is also a distillery next door that does samples, but neither of us are big spirit drinkers, so we did not stop. Finally, visit nearby Color Hollow Cider Mill. They have a big gift store filled with tons of Vermont goodies; but you can also taste their apple cider or try one of their famous apple cider donuts. I personally think the apple cider donuts we can get here in PA are better, but for a $1 it was worth a comparison. Hard cider is also available in the building next door, and we did sample a flight.
8. Try a Maple Creeme
A creemee is just a Vermont word for soft serve ice cream. I personally love soft serve ice cream and maple is the flavor to try in this state. I was a little nervous at first that it would be too sweet, but it wasn't at all. The flavor is subtle but adds a nice depth to the ice cream. My favorite came from Woodstock Scoops while visiting Woodstock, complete with the maple sprinkles. However, in Stowe I got a twist of maple and black raspberry at Stowe Sweets that was also yummy. It tasted like waffles with a fruit topping.
9. Tasting Trail
Vermonters love their craft beer and ciders. You will find some wine mixed in, but its not as big a the other two. In the Stowe area you will find Stowe Cider, Idletyme Brewery, The Alchemist, and Von Trapp Brewing. Those just a few, and you can look up lots of options. We enjoyed a lunch one day at Backyard and noticed they had a good craft selection; as a lot of restaurants in the area do.
10. Drive Around
It may make me sound like a senior citizen, but just hop in your car and go for a drive. Covered bridges are popular in the state and you could plan a day driving around to see those. I had mentioned Von Trapp Brewing above, but further up the road from the brewery is the Trapp Family Lodge. The Trapp Family is the family that inspired the Sound of Music who ended up living in Vermont. They built an Austrian style hotel that you can book a stay. If not staying on site there is a gif shop you can visit or restaurants you can dine. We just stopped by to admire the property and the views.
The Vermont landscape offers gorgeous views and vistas in surprising places. You never know what little gem you may find when you explore. You may even get a wonderful sunset like the one pictured below we encountered during an after dinner drive.
All picture's on this post taken by me during our vacation.