Vermont for the non-outdoorsy
February 13, 2017 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Vermont vacation for picky mother-and-daughter?

My mom (71) has been to every state except Vermont and she wants to go this summer and take me, her daughter (34). Help me plan!

These are my questions, with caveats.

1) When should we go?

We want to go in the summer because we don't want to go deep into fall tourist season leaf-peepers (and let's be honest, Asheville takes the cake on fall leaf-peeping anyway, so), but ideally when it's a little cooler because neither of us are keen on sweating. Basically we are looking at July or August. Will the weather vary much during then? Does weather vary a lot by location?

2) Where should we meet and how should she and I get there?

She lives in Asheville, NC and will likely fly out of Asheville, Charlotte, or Greenville, SC. I live in Brooklyn NY, and will either fly, take a train or bus (depending on your suggestions here) to meet her. Her plan is that she would fly up somewhere (she's thinking maybe Albany?) and I would either meet her wherever she flies into if it's convenient for me and to where we are staying, or she will rent a car and drive to meet me wherever is easiest for me to get into (hopefully not more than an hour or so from wherever she flies into).

3) What area should we stay in and where should we stay?

Neither she nor I are very outdoorsy, so we aren't going for the hiking or camping aspect. We mainly want to see some charming towns, stay in a charming inn, see some charming sights or views, go to a local crafty festival type thing. Basically Asheville, but in Vermont, ideally somewhere more quaint? I went to Woodstock, Vermont years ago and totally fell in love with it and I think she would adore it, but we are thinking about maybe a 4 day trip so I'm not sure that Woodstock and its surroundings would keep us occupied for that long. Maybe it would? I do think it would be best to just pick one town to stay in then maybe do some short day trips.

My mom wouldn't particularly enjoy an Airbnb--I think she likes the perceived safety and convenience of an inn or hotel, but I could maybe persuade her if it was somewhere really interesting. She's on the fussy side, likes things done a particular way, likes a plan. But then again, I am the same way. Sigh like mother like daughter, etc.

3) What should we do near where we stay?

See above. She likes historic home/estate tours, pretty drives, old/interesting architecture--just going for old New England charm like in the movies.

Any suggestions welcome. We would like to stay on a budget, so nothing too extravagant please.

posted by greta simone to Travel & Transportation around Vermont (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
1) You can check the historical weather but July is usually okay with some stupid hot days and August is usually hotter. Cooler the further north you get in the state and at the higher elevations. There's a mountain range that goes through the middle of the state with a lot of nifty tourist destinations all over.

2) There is one airport in the state. There are buses from NYC in to VT some of which are nice. I live Ccentral in the state and Dartmouth Coach has a great NYC bus but it's not that cheap and sometimes flying is cheaper. I have, rarely, flown from NC in to Lebanon NH. If there was a cheapie flight for your mom into there and you could take the bus in to Lebanon that would be great but I'm not sure if that would work. The "normal" thing to do would be for her to fly into Burlington and you to bus or train into Burlington (actually Essex Junction). Megabus goes to Burlington and Montpelier and Brattleboro. That said her flying into Albany and you guys meeting and driving from there makes sense.

3) Stowe! If you already went to Woodstock, go here. Quaint town and you'll drive through a lot of other quaint towns to get here. You can take a day trip to Montpelier and still be home not too late. Other options are Brattleboro (after a drive across the state which would be lovely) or Middlebury (very quaint and adorable but maybe on the small side) or even Bennington. You could day trip to Burlington without staying there which will save some money. There are places like the Green Mountain Inn or the Stoweflake resort which will be ok for moms but not that spendy. Check Groupon sometimes they have deals. Other options would be some of the ski areas which can have deals on rooms but may not have enough to do for a four day vacation if you're not hiking.

One big thing when you are looking for places is if you get off the beaten track make sure places have AC. All hotels should but some AirBnB places may not since it's only been recently that things have been really overly hot in parts of the summer.

Ping me when you are coming through if you'd like some other local info, I live in Randolph. Too small for a four day visit for most people but otherwise a cute town.
posted by jessamyn at 4:03 PM on February 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

My mom is in good health, but has back issues which generally means she can't do more than 20-30 minutes of light walking at a time. So no capital H hikes, but a drive to an easy short trail with a nice view would be fine.

She's basically Emily Gilmore without the millions and I'm Lorelei Gilmore without the daughter. We butt heads and differ a lot, but both want to find our Stars Hollow in Vermont.

We share a love of wine, so a fun vineyard recommendation could be nice also.
posted by greta simone at 4:03 PM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

The good thing about staying in Woodstock is that you're driving distance from lots of other sights in Vermont. You can get to the Burlington/ Lake Champlaign area quite easily -- Burlington's got shopping, and restaurants, and theaters, etc. You can take the ferry across Lake Champlain, and either do some sightseeing, shopping, etc. there, or just come right back -- my mom and I did that once, and it was super relaxing.

Shelburne Museum! It's great, and sounds right up your mom's alley!

Stowe is a lovely little town for more shopping and dining and relaxing. And, of course, there's Ben and Jerry's in nearby Waterbury! (The Waterbury area is also really nice. Charming inns, a glassblowing studio, art galleries, Cabot cheese...)
posted by sarcasticah at 4:06 PM on February 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

(On reading your edit, I definitely think she'd love the Shelburne Museum. It's big, but not overwhelming to walk through.)
posted by sarcasticah at 4:07 PM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Realistically, I think you should just go to the Burlington area and take day trips. It's the largest town in the state and, for scale, it's a bit over half the size of Asheville. You can likely find an adequately quaint inn or town in Chittenden County if Burlington isn't quaint enough. More importantly, though, it's pretty easy to drive most places from Burlington. The mountains mean that two places that look quite close together may not be all that easy to drive between, but having access to I-89 simplifies things. My mom lives in Middlebury and if she wants to go to Montpelier, the easiest route is actually to drive into Burlington and then over on 89.

Transportation-wise, your best bet is probably for both of you to fly to Burlington (your mom'll probably have to change at LaGuardia/JFK/Newark anyway, though there are a few other possible routes). It costs about the same as Amtrak, but will save you mom having to drive to Plattsburgh or somewhere to meet you. There are basically two main choices for Amtrak: going up the New York side of Lake Champlain (Port Henry, Plattsburgh, etc) or going to Rutland. (There is a train from Penn Station to Essex Junction just outside Burlington, but it goes the long way round and takes eight hours.) Personally, I've opted for Amtrak from NYC to avoid the hassle of flying since it's only about an hour longer for the whole trip, but if your mom is flying, you might as well too. Greyhound does go to Burlington (and Rutland), but it's significantly slower than the train and no cheaper.

Hildene is supposed to be worth it in summer. I've also wanted to go to Justin Morrill's house and pay homage to the Land Grant Act, but Vermont historic sties are all closed in the winter, when I'm usually there. The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is kind of interesting because the part of the Revolutionary War that took place in Vermont is basically ignored. They're also trying really hard to talk up Benedict Arnold, which is amusing. Only parts of it have A/C, though, so don't go if it's hot.
posted by hoyland at 4:10 PM on February 13, 2017

1. Vermont weather in July/August should be lovely and warm, but not oppressive.

2. When Burlington is too expensive, we've had success flying into Manchester, NH. JetBlue/CapeAir have a fairly affordable flight into Rutland, VT.

3. We've enjoyed stays at the Green Mountain Inn in Stowe, The Inn at Essex in Essex Junction, and the Hotel Vermont in Burlington.

4. From Stowe, there are any number of great drives - just get on Route 100 and explore. You should take a tour at Ben & Jerry's in Waterbury or even at the Cabot creamery in Cabot. Another cool place to visit is the King Arthur store in Norwich. A trip to the arts & antiques town of Woodstock would be a great afternoon; the drive through the Quechee Gorge is beautiful. You could even pull off the road in Quechee to visit the Simon Pearce glass factory. An afternoon stroll through Montpelier would also be great. Another great experience would be the Shelburne Museum just south of Burlington.

5. The following restaurants are top notch: Hen of the Wood in Waterbury and the Tip Top Cafe in White River Junction.
posted by tmharris65 at 4:15 PM on February 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

July is definitely better than August, but neither month is hot.

A fun thing to do is go to one of the ski resorts. In the summer many of them use the ski lifts to take people to the top of the mountains to have a look around. I did this at the Killington Ski Resort 2 summers ago.

Nthing Ben & Jerry's. I also did an impromptu food trail and got Cabot cheese, apple cider donuts, Green Mountain Coffee . . . mmmm.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:19 PM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

To get there? You could take the train to Brattleboro and she could fly to Manchester, NH (nice little airport with good rates) and she could drive to you. 1 hour 45 minutes of a quiet ride.

Brattleboro is a nice little town with 2 amazing restaurants - TJ Buckley's and Peter Havens.

Now you are in the southeast corner of Vermont and will want to go North. My very top choice? Shelburne museum. The Shelburne Museum is maybe my favorite place in all New England. It is something you will not find in any other place in the country. History, Art, an incredible setting. Walk into a train station that looks like you could buy a ticket to the past. Climb on the preserved train, get on the steamboat that they relocated there.

Shelburne is next to Burlington in Chittenden county which I like but, as Vermonters sometime say "I like Chittenden county, you can see Vermont from there". But you could stay a night at the Inn at Shelburne Farms.

If you like good food and an historic old Inn The Weathersfield Inn is my favorite. Seems like it's in the middle of nowhere but Woodstock is just up the road. It is SO relaxing after a day out sightseeing to have an incredible meal there and then sit on the deck in Adirondack chairs with a fire and getting a nightcap served to you. Love it. Really excellent food.

I love the part of Vermont around Vergennes (and LOVE Vergennes-more great food). The light in the summer somehow is just magical. It's on lake Champlain and not far from Mt Philo. Mt Philo is a great way to get a great vista from mountain top without hiking. You can drive up and it's adorable at the top. Perfect place to bring a picnic lunch.

Even though it's over the border into NH, since your mother likes estate tours I have to mention St Gaudens. It's the estate of the famous sculptor and so beautiful. The gardens, and studio, and view and house! So great. It's like a mile away from VT and on a major route.

I like Montpelier for strolling and shopping and eat. City, yet quaint.
Hildene is wonderful.
Billings Museum I think is pretty great - farm and historic home, etc

For food, I did enjoy Hen of the Wood, Starry night Cafe...

I have been several times to each and don't recommend. Ben and Jerrys (I liked it 30 years ago not anymore) or Vermont Teddy Bear.

A trip to VT in the summer is never complete for us without a visit to a swimming hole. Many are safe enough to stroll to and roll up you pants and watch the locals dive or frolic. Nice way to cool off. will have all the info on whatever is best and closest to you.

If you want to stay on a REAL working dairy farm and have a real farm experience you could do Liberty Hill.

Thanks for this question. I got to dream about summer!
posted by beccaj at 5:40 PM on February 13, 2017

Going to Vermont from NYC? Then you should definitely take the Vermonter. Train travel is much nicer than bus and scenery is lovely. It's not especially fast and only runs once a day, but when I have the option, this train is my choice for traveling between VT & CT.

Seconding several of tmharris65's recommendations:
Quechee Gorge, Simon Pearce (while you're in Quechee check out the Vermont Institute of Natural Science--their live raptor shows are great)
Cabot Creamery, Ben & Jerry's, King Arthur Flour

And I have it on the authority of my friend's entire Vermonter family that you must have a maple creemee while you're there.
posted by carrioncomfort at 6:59 AM on February 14, 2017

Basically Asheville, but in Vermont, ideally somewhere more quaint?
She likes historic home/estate tours, pretty drives, old/interesting architecture

What is a historic home and estate, similar to Biltmore in Asheville but in Vermont, and more quaint? And full of pretty places to drive? And with old and interesting architecture? SHELBURNE FARMS!!!!! You can visit for the day and tour the Inn during afternoon tea, and/or you can stay overnight in the rooms for $160+ (which is probably competitive with other hotels in the area).

I live near Asheville and I love Shelburne so damn much. It's a lot like Biltmore (Shelburne was the Gilded Age "country estate" of another Vanderbilt sibling) but you can actually use the original furniture and sleep in the rooms. It's amazing. It's right on the lake, and there are plenty of easy walking trails and nice places to drive. And the food is great.
posted by witchen at 7:28 AM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

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