Our research is editorially independent but we may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Vermont offers it all for a family-friendly summer vacation. It’s home to Ben & Jerry’s where you can take a factory tour and enjoy samples, as well as postcard-perfect towns and spectacular nature as the “Green Mountain State.” With so many lakes, the summer season is great for water sports, including swimming tubing, boating, and water-skiing, while cozy bed and breakfast accommodation options make you feel right at home. The hard part is deciding which city to choose, but this list of some of our favorite spots for a family summer vacation in Vermont will help make it easier.
Burlington, located along the eastern shores of Lake Champlain, offers lots of family-friendly activities, from picturesque Waterfront Park where you can relax and enjoy the scenery or get out on the water. It’s also a great place to watch stunning sunsets with pinks and purples splashed over the Adirondacks. Summer brings a different festival nearly every weekend and the Saturday farmers’ market is a great place to browse and enjoy lunch. You might want to rent bikes to ride the 26-mile Island Line Trail which stretches north all the way to the Canadian border and explore the ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain.
Nestled in the hills of southern Vermont, Dorset is a picturesque historic community that was established back in 1761. Its streets are lined with clapboard homes and divided by a green, looking as if it’s part of a Thornton Wilder scene. Take a dip in the “secret” swimming hole in Cutler Park, check out the shops in the village, and visit the farmers’ market. It’s an ideal place to pick up ingredients for a picnic, including fresh fruits and vegetables, home-baked breads, grass-fed meats, artisan cheeses and wine. It also offers some great Vermont crafts, live local music and hot prepared foods.
Manchester is not only a top getaway in Vermont, but it’s also a popular destination with New Englanders and New Yorkers who want to escape the city, offering outstanding shopping with its famous factory outlets, along with a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking in the warmer months of the year. The village has a vibrant cultural scene with museums, art galleries, theatrical performances, and concerts, in addition to beautiful scenery and historical allure. If you’re here in mid-June don’t miss visiting the Robert Todd Lincoln’s Ancestral Home, a 1905 Georgian Revival summer home with a formal garden that showcases 1,000 peony blossoms that will be in bloom.
The city of Newport sits on the southern shore of Lake Memphremagog in northern Vermont near the Canadian border. Here you can take a cruise in a comfortable powerboat or enjoy a sightseeing ride on the Northern Star, a luxurious two-story inland waterway steamer. Bicycles can be rented in town to explore the surrounding countryside, and you can also visit the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center or Butternut Mountain Farm, a Vermont company that’s world-renowned for its award-winning maple products featured in specialty stores like Williams Sonoma. The retail shop is filled with all sorts of maple treats.
Bennington lies on the Walloomsac River at the western edge of the Green Mountains in southwestern Vermont. It’s home to Lake Paran, a popular spot for swimming and soaking up the sunshine. A two-mile trail will take you to the Robert Frost Stone House Museum, and if you’re up for a hike, head to the summit of Bald Mountain for a panoramic view of the city and its tranquil surrounds. The Bennington Museum is one of its most popular attractions, hosting the world’s largest public collection of Grandma Moses paintings and Bennington pottery, along with a rich array of Vermont paintings, decorative arts and folk art. You can also tour the pottery works and historic buildings at Bennington Potters, and displays, activities, and, if you’re here in early August, performances at the annual summer Bennington Arts Weekend.
Middlebury is located between the Champlain Valley and the foothills of the Green Mountains in western Vermont. Rent a bike and ride the 16-mile loop that encircles the town or the multitude of trails in the 400,000-acre Green Mountain National Forest like the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail. This one-mile loop is easy and peppered with quotes from Frost’s work. In season, there are blueberry fields at the far end of the trek too. The park next to the town office hosts free movies and concerts all summer long, and you can also go berry picking at one of the many farms in the surrounding area.
Montpelier is the smallest capital city in the U.S., but unlike most, it offers the charm and character of a small town with a population of only around 8,000. It boasts a vibrant cultural scene with something for just about everyone and 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, which is sure to be a hit with the kids.
The town of Grand Isle lies on its namesake island Lake Champlain in northwestern Vermont. It’s home to Grand Isle State Park which offers a nature center and sports facilities as well as rowboat and kayak rentals. Nearby is Alburg Dunes State Park which has a large beach along with trails for hiking and biking that wind through gorgeous dunes and wetlands.
The Jay Peak area is located in northern Vermont not far from the Canadian border. While it’s a popular skiing destination, it provides even more options in the summer for enjoying the outdoors. It’s a great place for active families with opportunities for paddling, hiking, biking and so much more. At Jay Peak Resort everyone will love cooling off in the pools with multiple slides, splashing in the Big River, soaking in the hot tubs, and more. There’s also an arcade, climbing wall, and snack bar. The Pump House Indoor Waterpark boasts the only indoor AQUALOOP in the U.S. or Canada, while its Double Surfer Wave is the place to master standing and surfing or boogie boarding.
The historic village of Waitsfield is tucked between two mountain resorts in the Mad River Valley. The surrounding area is incredibly scenic and offers all 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.