Vermont Holiday Planning Guide
Known for its autumn foliage and maple syrup, Vermont is one of the country's smallest states in terms of both population and geographic area. Despite its small size and mostly rural character, the state boasts many picturesque places to visit, including Lake Champlain, one of the nation's largest freshwater bodies. Split in half by the Green Mountains--a popular holiday destination for hiking and skiing--Vermont features a rolling landscape dotted with farms and quaint towns known for their family-run inns, antique shops, and restaurants. Be sure to explore the state's many wild areas while on your Vermont vacation, but beware of the so-called "mud season," a period of a few weeks when the state's unpaved roads become undrivable due to spring thaw.
Places to Visit in VermontStowe
: Situated in a valley between two of Vermont's most enchanting forests, this small town's hiking trails, gorges, waterfalls, and mountain slopes make for plenty of outdoor fun, while wholesome restaurants and shops provide ample opportunity to browse and recharge.Burlington
: The birthplace of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, this verdant city perched on the shores of majestic Lake Champlain charms with its elegant architecture, community vibe, and culinary sophistication.Hartford
: Known as one of Vermont's "Connecticut towns," this historically significant area contains five unincorporated villages and counts gorges, nature centers, and state parks among its main attractions. Manchester
: A favorite of New Yorkers seeking relief from big-city life, this fairytale shire town offers mountain views and dainty buildings that help transport visitors back to a simpler time, while its stores give great value on designer fashion goods.Woodstock
: Blending dreamily into the pastoral landscape, this old town's Americana aesthetics are a treat for the imagination, and there's plenty of delicious local produce for foodies to sample.Shelburne
: Steeped in local history, this farming suburb peppered with tranquil inns and wide fields catches the eye of those who want easy access to Vermont's budding urban scene, as well as its natural landscape.Ludlow
: A popular destination for winter vacations in Vermont, Ludlow remains a great place for enjoying outdoor sports, like skiing, sledding, and ice skating.Killington
: Home to a well-known ski resort, Killington serves as an ideal base for active Vermont holidays throughout the year.Brattleboro
: A college town often praised for its bohemian vibe, Brattleboro features streets brimming with theatres, galleries, and bookstores, playing host to endless artistic events over the course of the year.Waitsfield
: A ski resort in central Vermont, the little town of Waitsfield offers plenty of good accommodations and eating options, which make it a good option for family Vermont trips.
Things to Do in Vermont
Popular Vermont Tourist AttractionsShelburne Museum
: Spanning four centuries and over 150,000 works of art, this immersive cultural labyrinth's variety and scope make for an incredible exhibition at one of Vermont's best museums.Stowe Recreation Path
: Particularly popular among cyclists and hikers, this scenic woodland trail provides plenty of spots ideal for working up an appetite, enjoying a picnic, or simply marveling at the rolling hills and snow-capped mountains of Vermont's countryside.Killington Resort
: Spectacularly positioned in the mountains, these family friendly slopes cater to beginners as well as experts, and their huge scale and diverse range of activities place them firmly among top destinations for winter vacations in Vermont.Church Street Marketplace
: A major draw for bargain hunters, this open-air mall overflows with independent stores, street performers, and alternative dining spots, as well as popular chain retailers.Vermont Country Store
: With its aisles piled high with hard-to-find, classic and retro stock, this cavernous shrine to the past evokes a sense of childlike nostalgia in even the most time-hardened shopper.Mount Mansfield State Forest
: Vermont's highest mountain presides majestically over acres of lush terrain, and you can reach its peak in comfort with a stunning gondola ride through the air before inhaling the soul-cleansing vistas.Burlington Bike Path
: Formerly a railway line, this popular trail encompasses many miles of bucolic and urban scenery, including a thrilling causeway along Lake Champlain and a stretch along the city's waterfront.Mount Snow Resort
: Easily accessible from urban areas in this part of the country, this large retreat situated in the mountains presents a suitable base from which skiers of all abilities can explore the snowy tracts.Okemo Mountain Resort
: Located in a former mill town, this hugely popular Vermont holiday destination offers fantastic scenery and renowned facilities, not to mention a rollercoaster and an 18-hole golf course.Quechee Gorge
: A 13,000 year-old masterpiece of nature, Vermont's deepest gorge carves gloriously through the forests of the local state park.
Planning a Vermont Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Vermont with Kids
As suggested by its "Green Mountain State" nickname, the charm of Vermont owes much to the stunning alpine scenery that draws hordes of tourists every year. Skiing and other winter sports constitute the main attraction, but there are many more family adventures to be had in this friendly, small state. Though certain towns might prove a little too dozy to entertain younger children on a Vermont trip, quaint communities like Stowe
provide welcoming bases from which families can explore the many excellent state parks, farms, and activity centers dotted around the neighbouring countryside. If you find yourself yearning for hustle and bustle, fear not--the artsy town of Brattleboro
and its abundance of museums, theatres, and cafes provide more than enough stimulation for one day, while the laid-back city of Burlington
combines urban convenience with the possibility of water sports and scenic bike rides.
Things to Do in Vermont with Kids
Although ski resorts constitute the bulk of Vermont tourism, the state's rugged natural beauty, rural culture, and artistic flair make for a wealth of child-friendly activities ideal for short family breaks. A trip to the Ben & Jerry's
offers an informative guided tour replete with free ice cream for all, and sweet-toothed kids (or adults) can enjoy a similarly indulgent time tasting the maple syrup produced at Sugarbush Farm
. For outdoor fun, head to Adams Family Farm
, where children can pet and feed the friendly sheep, horses, and pigs before embarking on a magical woodland sleigh ride, while the wondrous Lake Champlain
provides a wide range of water sports. If time allows, pay a visit to the sea animals on display at ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain
, picnic at one of many splendid locations along Stowe Recreation Path
, or sample quirky culture and food at Church Street Marketplace
Tips for a Family Vacation in Vermont
Though Vermont's reputation as a place of unspoiled forests and sleepy small-town life might not immediately appeal to younger children, the state's many popular outdoor activities coupled with the vibrant culture found in its urban centers provide plenty of amusement for visitors of all ages. If you want your Vermont holiday to incorporate natural landscape without boring the kids, choose activities that can be enjoyed by both adults and children, such as water sports at Lake Champlain
and epic rides along Burlington Bike Path
. If bad weather forces you inside, the many museums in Vermont present immersive, interactive educational experiences, with the depth and variety of Shelburne Museum
worthy of special note. If traveling with teens, explore the colourful streets of Church Street Marketplace
or a spot of live music in one of many bohemian venues in Brattleboro
. While train and bus links connect Vermont's urban zones, its more rural areas are best explored with a private car.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Vermont
Cuisine of Vermont
Many of the main flavours in everyday Vermont cooking derive the food of its 18th-century British settlers--that means plenty of roast meat, potatoes, vegetables, and hot apple pies. The future of Vermont's culinary identity is revealed in the cafes and restaurants of off-beat urban areas within Burlington
. Elsewhere, cozy establishments in Waterbury
showcase local ingredients in imaginative ways--if you feel like something truly indulgent, try the herb butter-oached Maine lobster. Many of this part of the world's main food exports hint at its farming culture, and family-run establishments like Sugarbush Farm
present a great setting in which to sample homemade cheese and jams, in addition to the locals' world famous maple syrup. The state also contains a huge selection of craft breweries, so consider capping off your Vermont sightseeing experience with a trip to Hill Farmstead Brewery
, a utopian destination for beer connoisseurs.
Shopping in Vermont
Vermont's largest city, Burlington
makes the most obvious destination for shoppers. Away from standard mall culture, Church Street Marketplace
stands out as the most interesting souvenir-hunting district, where you can stroll through a pedestrianized promenade sprinkled with busy stalls and colourful awnings of shops selling everything from handmade trinkets and Vermont cider, to everyday household items. Fashionistas might enjoy a day of retail therapy in Manchester
, where a series of designer outlets offer outstanding value on trendy clothing. No Vermont holiday seems complete until you have perused a small town's wares, and the quaint, family-run crafts, furniture, jewelry, and speciality food stores that abound in Stowe
warrant an afternoon's browsing.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Vermont
History of Vermont
The first step in the history of modern-day Vermont was taken in 1609, when French explorers built a fort on an island in the still-popular Lake Champlain
, named after their leader Samuel de Champlain. In the 18th century, the area played host to numerous military squabbles between the French and the British, finally falling into the hands of the latter at the end of the French and Indian War in 1763. Significant wartime forts can be found just past Vermont's western border.
Although they lost out to the British, the influence of the French lives on--Vermont takes its name from the French "verts monts" (green mountains), and almost a quarter of its population are of French or French Canadian ancestry. In 1777, the town of Bennington
played host to one of the key battles of the American Revolutionary War, and it remains an excellent place to visit for any tourists interested in the state's colonial history. Vermont became the 14th American state on March 4, 1791.
In the 1800s, Vermont resumed its leading role in opposition to slavery, contributing 34,000 men to the Union cause during the American Civil War. The state attracted large numbers of Celtic and Italian immigrants, whose descendants continue to populate the area.
Though the early 20th century passed in relative peace, the people of Vermont faced a series of natural disasters. Anyone interested in this period should visit the boyhood home of Calvin Coolidge, America's 30th president.
In recent times, Vermont has taken an ardent stand in favour of gay rights, becoming the first state to introduce both civil unions in 2000 and same-sex marriage in 2009. An excellent place to learn more about all of these topics, Vermont Historical Society Museum
deserves a place on your Vermont itinerary.
Landscape of Vermont
Fans of natural beauty might feel a touch spoiled by Vermont's blend of mountains, valleys, forests, and lakes. One of the first things people associate with this part of the world, the boundless tracts of untamed forest found in Brandon
look out across the peaks and house a variety of wild plants, insect, and animals. The sheer size of a 10,500 hectare (26,000 acre) forest in Groton offers a sense of solitude rarely available to city-dwellers, as well as a chance to camp under the stars and fish any of several lakes. The state's famous green mountains are especially breathtaking, so if you have a head for heights, venture up Mount Mansfield State Forest
, home to Vermont's highest peak. You'll find many astounding natural aquatic sites, often surrounded by unspoiled woodland, and although Lake Champlain
tends to steal the show, lesser-known waterfalls and stream-filled gorges are just as worthy of a place on your Vermont itinerary. Intrepid wildlife watchers can stop by one of many available wildlife refuges for a day of careful moose watching.
Holidays & Festivals in Vermont
In addition to nationwide federal and religious holidays like Martin Luther King Day, Independence Day, and Christmas Day, two holidays unique to Vermont take place every year. On the first Tuesday of March, state employees and some private company workers enjoy time off due to Town Meeting Day, so consider another date for your museum trips or train rides. On August 16, Vermont commemorates a key victory over British forces during the American Revolutionary War in 1777--this represents the ideal time to visit Bennington Battle Monument
. If you take this opportunity, try and stick around for the local history foundation's battle re-enactment.
Should a festival experience figure strongly on your preferred Vermont trip planner, bear in mind that the time of year influences the themes of planned events. Both Stowe
host snow-laden winter carnivals showcasing the talents of local musicians, ice-carvers, artists, and performers of all kinds. In late April, Saint Albans
comes to life with the arrival of its maple festival, which centres around the state's famous maple candy and syrup, but also includes antique shows, cooking demonstrations, and performers. In a summer overloaded with impressive events, Burlington
deserves attention for the scale and intensity of its international fishing derby, while the hot air balloon festival taking place in (or above) Woodstock
offers the chance to see Vermont from the air. Come mid October, Cabot welcomes its Apple Pie Festival as the perfect tonic to the shortening days.
Vermont Travel Tips
Climate of Vermont
Vermont vacations have a well-deserved reputation as one of the best Winter holiday options in the United States. While the country's seventh coldest state may not be prime sunbathing territory, the reawakening of nature in spring, warm summers, and magical autumn colors make it a year-round favorite. Conditions vary considerably from region to region, but in northern areas temperatures can drop to around -16 degrees Celsius (4 degrees Fahrenheit) during the mid-winter ski season, when high altitude areas invariably lie deep in snow. Snowfall sometimes continues into April, and once melted it leaves behind a beautiful but muddy spring landscape. Many tourists prefer to plan their trip to Vermont for autumn, when its famed red and orange foliage decks forests, creating a glowing backdrop for outdoor activities like hiking and cycling. As the weather in Vermont tends to change quickly, vacationers should pack a few extra layers even if the forecast predicts uninterrupted sunshine.
Transportation in Vermont
As a state accustomed to coping with sudden droves of tourists during the ski season, Vermont offers plenty of ways for you to get around during your holiday. Two Amtrak train routes and a range of regular bus services link the region's biggest cities and serve individual counties, providing stress-free alternatives to driving. In addition, scenic ferry trips over vast bodies of water often greatly shorten journey times. Nevertheless, given the unspoiled condition in which much of the state remains, car rental represents the most convenient option for most visitors wanting to explore every urban nook and rural cranny of the state. Having your own vehicle allows access to off-the-beaten track gems, plus freedom to dictate the timing of your Vermont itinerary. State parks, walking paths, and urban areas can be traversed on foot or with the aid of a rented bike.