Vermont is famous for its beautiful small towns, back-country roads and stunning fall foliage. If you plan on visiting the Green Mountain State, these are some of the very best places to experience.
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The picturesque town has long been a popular ski destination for Northeasterners, with many of the region’s activities revolving around Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak at 4,393 feet above sea level. But it offers a lot more than pristine powder. During the warmer months of the year, visitors can enjoy miles and miles of hiking trails, with autumn bringing especially spectacular scenery with the transformation of the trees creating a striking patchwork of reds, oranges and yellows across the landscape. The village itself is especially charming with its covered bridges and church steeples set against the lush Green Mountains. It’s also a great place to get those wonderful made-in-Vermont items like maple syrup and cider donuts.
There are lots of reasons to spend some time in Burlington. Just gazing at the view from Waterfront Park is a great way to relax, though few things beat actually getting out on the water. Sunsets here are breathtaking, a time when everything changes to pink and purple as the sun sets over the Adirondacks. In the summer, there’s a different festival practically every weekend, like the Jazz Fest, Brewers Fest and Art Hop, while the Saturday farmers’ market is a great place to stop for lunch, as well as locally-grown produce. Beer enthusiasts will especially appreciate this town, with its relatively high concentration of breweries, including Infinity, Magic Hat and Switchback.
Brattleboro is known for its fantastic farmers’ market as well as its counter-culture thinking. It prides itself on being one-of-a-kind, and when it comes to its name, it lives up to that motto as the only place called Brattleboro in the world. It’s also home to the Crystal Springs Covered Bridge, a pretty covered wooden bridge that’s the only surviving example of that type of bridge in the region. In the downtown area, visitors will find a wide range of shopping and dining options as well as outstanding local theater, live music, and the popular Brattleboro Museum & Art Center that showcases works by regional and international artists.
The historic village of Waitsfield is sandwiched between two mountain resorts in the Mad River Valley. The surrounding area offers awe-inspiring scenery for many different types of outdoor adventures, including horseback riding at the Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm. Visitors here can explore the mountains, forests and meadows on one of the oldest horse breeds in the world, the Icelandic horse, known for its gentle personality as well as tireless, efficient movement that makes it great for riding. In the winter, this is a skier’s paradise, in fact, Waitsfield was voted the best ski town in the East by Outside Magazine.
One of the best reasons to visit Rochester, is the chance to stay at Liberty Hill Farm. It offers a unique farm vacation that seems as if it was taken straight from the pages of a children’s book, with its big white farmhouse, hundreds of Holsteins and other friendly farm animals, along with the quintessential red barn that comes complete with a hayloft. Visitors can take part in all sorts of farm activities, like picking blackberries and sweet corn, milking cows, collecting eggs or gathering apples in the orchard. In the summer, guests can enjoy cooling off by tubing down the white river, and in the winter, hit the slopes at Sugarbush.
This shire town sits on the banks of the Ottauquechee River and exudes lots of New England charm, with its lovely covered bridge, pretty parks, old country farms, a village green and gorgeously restored Greek Revival, Federal and Georgian homes. When the leaves turn in the autumn, it’s especially striking, though it’s beautiful all year round. Enjoy relaxing and taking a peaceful stroll along the streets, checking out the magnificent homes and other structures that look as if nothing has changed in the last 100 years or so. One must-do while you’re here, is to sample the maple syrup and cheese at Sugarbush Farm.
Tucked in the hills of southern Vermont, Dorset is a vibrant historic community founded in 1761. Lined with clapboard homes and divided by a green, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve just stepped into a Thornton Wilder scene. Stop into the Bley House Museum and check out the Marble Gallery with its exhibit that showcases 130 years of quarrying, hauling and finishing marble, all part of the town’s historically significant industry, as well as the paintings by local artists and Fenton stoneware. At the farmers’ market, you can pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, home baked breads, grass-fed meats, artisan cheeses and wine, Vermont crafts and much more, while enjoying live local music and hot prepared foods.
Manchester is especially popular with New Yorkers and New Englanders who are looking to escape the chaos of the city. It caters to shoppers with its famous factory outlets, and also offers the chance to enjoy a variety of activities like hiking and skiing. The village also offers a vibrant cultural scene with galleries, museums, theatrical performances and concerts, in addition to its beautiful scenery and historical allure. You’ll find plenty of restaurants and cafes serving up artisanal fare, the occasional craft fair and the chance to tour some of the interesting old buildings. Don’t miss a tour of Robert Todd Lincoln’s Ancestral Home, a 1905 Georgian Revival summer home with its formal garden – in mid-June more than 1,000 peony blossoms from original plantings fill the garden with brilliant colors.
This lovely Windsor County town represents the Vermont countryside at its finest, with quaint B&Bs, grand New England homes and family-owned country stores making it look as if it’s right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The entire village is considered a historical landmark, and as such, you’ll not only be able to marvel at all of the magnificent historical homes, but you can explore a number of museums. Weston hosts the Vermont Scale Museum, with its antique Vermont scales providing insight into the 19th-century Industrial Revolution; the Old Mill Museum houses one of the finest collections of antique tools and offers milling demonstrations, while the Farrar-Mansur House Museum offers visitors a chance to experience a mid-19th-century Vermont homestead.
Windsor County is also home to Chester, named one of the prettiest “Painted Places” in America, best known for its Stone Village and Chester Village Historic Districts, which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Stone Village is home to many granite houses, while Chester Village is filled with the typical New England-style colonial aesthetic. Tourists are drawn to Chester for its charming Americana character, as well as the antique shops, galleries and romantic inns. In September, they come for the Chester Fall Festival, hosted over a weekend in mid-September, featuring unique handmade crafts, demonstrations, live music and plenty of local fare. There also a number of scenic hiking trails, like the GMUHS and the Lost Mine treks, for exploring the natural wonders of the area.
Montpelier is the smallest state capital in the country. Unlike most capital cities, it offers the charm and character of a small town, with a vibrant cultural scene that provides something for just about everyone, whether you’re a history buff, art lover or outdoor enthusiast. While it’s the smallest capital city, it’s also the largest urban historic district in the state, with exquisite historic buildings like the impeccably restored State House, considered one of the best preserved in the U.S. Other attractions include the Vermont Historical Society Museum, the T.W. Wood Art Gallery and Hubbard Park. As the city also hosts the New England Culinary Institute, not surprisingly, it has a fabulous food scene with lots of locally-owned eateries and cafes.