Visiting Vermont - what to see, where to live?
June 13, 2012 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Hi, We are planning to go on a road trip to Vermont (from Toronto) this summer. Any suggestions what we should do there? Places we must visit, etc. Also, would like to know possibles mode of accomodation in the area. Thanks.
posted by musicgold to Travel & Transportation around Vermont (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Speaking as a native who has entertained family/friends in VT, some of the highlights, in rough order from North - South. (Bear in mind I'm from the southern end of the state, so my knowledge of things to do up North is... hazy.):

- Bread & Puppet Museum/Glover. Really awesome radical "cheap art" and puppet museum. Amazing stuff. Used to have festivals every year until things started going... horribly wrong. In any case, the museum is still around and really great.

- Barton Fair/Barton. This is in August, so this one's irrelevant if you're coming up other times, but it's really awesome. Traditional American county fair with Vermont-y touches like chainsaw carving!

- Shelburne Farm & Museum/Burlington area. I haven't personally been there, but I hear amazing things.

- Ben & Jerry's/ Waterbury. There are certain flavors at the factory that you can't get anywhere else. Good times.

- Quechee Gorge/Quechee. Really beautiful scenery, lovely little town.

- Billings Farm Museum/Woodstock. The whole town of Woodstock is really beautiful and great for taking a walk around. Billings Farm is a really great museum of farming practices and, my husband's favorite, they have cows you can pet. If you're into that sort of thing.

- Grafton Village Cheese Company/Grafton. You used to be able to take a tour of the factory, but since they moved the store into town, I'm not sure of this. Anyhow, I was born in Grafton, so it's always on the list of "places to drag people" and it's a really beautiful spot. And some really amazing cheese.

- Hildene/Manchester. Manchester is popular w/tourists as it's chockablock with outlet stores. Hildene is a gorgeous old mansion built by Robert Todd Lincoln, which really requires no fondness for or familiarity with the Lincolns to enjoy. From time to time there are various craft shows there, but I dunno about the summer schedule specifically. Just walking around the grounds is lovely.

- Bennington Monument/Bennington. Yep. It's a giant phallus.

That's just off the top of my head - I'm sure jessamyn & the other Vermonsters will chime in with 86 things I missed. As for accommodations... that really depends on your budget. I know plenty of really REALLY fancy places and then there are a few Holiday Inns scattered around as well. And also, plenty of camping. Really depends on how much you feel like spending before I could offer you any specific recommendations.
posted by sonika at 11:08 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just remembered!

- Harpoon Brewery & Simon Pearce / Windsor. These aren't related to each other other than that they're on the same property - brewery and glass blowing shops. Both have tours. Harpoon also has a little restaurant.
posted by sonika at 11:10 AM on June 13, 2012

If you like food, you should read up on Hardwick, VT -- The Town that Food Saved is literally the book on the subject -- and check it out. There's possibly the greatest B&B of all time in that town, too.

Outside of Hardwick, the Hillstead Farm Brewery is set miles away from the highway along a long, narrow, winding dirt road. They make small craft beers named after writers and philosophers, and it's some of the best beer I've ever had in my entire life.

If you don't stop by The Museum of Everyday Life, you are missing one of the most off-kilter roadside attractions I've ever seen.
posted by Shepherd at 11:31 AM on June 13, 2012

Also, Hardwick has a fantastic restaurant, Claire's, where Shepherd and I had an amazing meal. In Hardwick, there is also a great small batch vodka/gin distillery, Caledonia Spirits.
posted by Kitteh at 11:53 AM on June 13, 2012

There's a simon pearce in Quechee as well (glass blowing and high-end/fancy restaurant..)
posted by k5.user at 12:01 PM on June 13, 2012

The Magic Hat Brewery in South Burlington is super quirky and fun!
posted by désoeuvrée at 1:04 PM on June 13, 2012

I'm a Georgian, but Vermont is my favorite place in the world to vacation. I've been in all seasons -- summer, stick, winter, and mud! Here are a few highlights:

Essex ... We stayed at The Inn at Essex which is also the home of the Vermont Culinary Institute. The inn is charming and quintessentially "New England." You can also arrange to take a cooking class with a chef ... we took "Soups and Breads" and had a blast (and enjoyed the food at the end).

Burlington ... Vermont's biggest "city," but with a very young vibe because of all the colleges there. There is a great walkable downtown are with shops and restaurants. The lakefront (Lake Champlain) is beautiful. I would suggest one restaurant -- The Daily Planet -- it's tucked away on a little alley.

South of Burlington - A few miles south of Burlington is the Shelburne Museum. The "museum" is really a collection of buildings (old churches, barns) and other items (boats, trains) that have been preserved/restored. A few miles further south is the college town of Middlebury -- it's charming, but there are lots of charming towns in Vermont, so it's only worth a visit if your friends like to see college campuses (I'm a nerd and I like that kind of thing).

South and East of Burlington along I-89 - The best exit to take is Exit 10 (Route 100). If you travel north, you'll pass the Ben & Jerry's factory -- small fee, quick tour (30 minutes), and free ice cream at the end!

If you continue traveling north, you'll get to the resort town of Stowe (quaint and beautiful). Stowe has a community walking path that I imagine would be beautiful in October - it starts behind the church (there is only one church in town).

Near Stowe, there is a road that goes over the mountain at Smuggler's Notch (this road is closed in the winter, but should still be open in October unless they've had an early snow). It twists and turns, but the views are incredible.

Driving all of Route 100 from the north to south would be great -- and there are also several waterfalls along this route as well. Our favorite restaurant -- Hen of the Wood -- is right off this exit in Waterbury.

The next exit to take would be Exit 9 (Middlesex, VT). You take this exit for one reason only -- Red Hen Baking Company. A great place (it will look like nothing special) to stop for fresh bread, pastries, and coffee -- or for a delicious lunch (soups, sandwiches).

Then...Exit 8 is Montpelier -- the smallest state capital in the USA! The capitol building is beautiful (and will be even more so set against the vibrant colors of the mountains). There are really only two main streets in Montpelier -- there is a parking deck at the intersection of the two streets. LaBrioche Bakery would be a great place in Montpelier to have lunch -- soups and sandwiches prepared by students from the Culinary Institute.

Finally...Exit 1 (Quechee, Woodstock, White River Junction). This is where we have spent most of our time. Take Route 4 in one direction (north?) to White River Junction -- another charming older town with a great restaurant (Tip Top Cafe) and, for some odd reason, several theater companies that do good work.

Also nearby in Norwich is the King Arthur Flour factory/store - it's fun for a visit and for buying a few treats. Also in Norwich is Dan & Whit's General Store -- it is pure Vermont (grocery store, deli, post office, hardware store all combined). Take Route 4 (south?) through Quechee, stopping at the Quechee Dam/Gorge to enjoy the views (and hike to the bottom of the gorge if they are feeling up to a challenge).

Continue south to Woodstock, one of the most beautiful of the old Vermont towns. You could spend an entire day walking the town, looking at houses, visiting the art galleries, having a coffee in the public square. Definitely stop at the Woodstock Farmer's Market for a fresh-made sandwich (or to buy some authentic Vermont cheeses).

A couple of other things to consider, but they didn't really fit into my geographical tour ... visiting the Cabot Creamery in Cabot, VT. It's a bit more removed from the main roads, but the drive would be beautiful -- and who can resist cheese samples? Another stop might be the Boyden Valley Winery (if they are into wine) -- you get a quick tour of the winery and then free samples of wine. The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont (Newport is the main town) is very remote, but the drive to and from would be nice.

We usually stay at a friend's house in Quechee when we go, but we have stayed in a few other places over the years, so here are some suggestions ...
- renting a cottage at Windekind Farm in Huntington (probably a 10 mile drive into the town, though)
- Green Mountain Inn in Stowe (rooms in the oldest part of the inn are charming, but tiny - it's a true New England experience)
- Phineas Swann Bed and Breakfast in Montgomery Center - great inn in a tiny town (very remote) ... if they should stay here they have to also eat at Bernie's -- it looks like nothing from the outside, but the food is incredible and cheap (each night is a different style of cuisine - Italian Night, Mexican Night, etc).
posted by tmharris65 at 3:56 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Newport is awesome. I am there at least once a month because it's forty-five minutes from our house in Quebec (I am also a Georgian!)
posted by Kitteh at 5:46 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

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