A central Vermont city with a small-town vibe, Rutland sits on the western edge of the Green Mountains. Beginning in the mid-1800s, rich marble deposits drove this region's development for more than a century—but the quarries became extinct in the last few decades of the 20th century. Now, diverse opportunities for outdoor recreation (including winter skiing at Killington and Pico Mountain) and a blossoming arts scene are shaping Rutland's identity. Checking off these top things to do in the Rutland area will take you to the city's historic downtown, as well as to nearby villages where traditional Vermont industries, like cheesemaking, thrive.
Drills whirr, dust flies, and visitors are mesmerized as sculptors transform big hunks of marble into smoothed and chiseled works of art at the Carving Studio & Sculpture Center. On the grounds of a former quarry, resident artists have freedom to experiment, and workshops offer opportunities to explore a variety of media. The former Vermont Marble Company store is the hub of activity, and visitors are invited to admire fresh works in the gallery and encounter enormous sculptures as they wander the grounds.
Just over 30 minutes from Rutland in Mount Holly, Vermont, America's oldest still-operating cheese factory will impress you with its old-school, all-natural, originated-in-America cheeses. Depending on the schedule, you may even get to observe the cheesemaking process, which has changed little since 1824. Tiny samples aplenty await, so you can choose and shop for your favorites (don't forget to bring a cooler bag along). Creamy, garlicky muffaletta; sage cheddar; and maple-smoked cheese are among the favorites. You'll love nibbling your way through the full range of handcrafted, aged cheddars, from Mild to XX Sharp and even Unusually Sharp. Although traditional cheesemaking and recipes are at the heart of this enduring business, current owner Galen Jones is introducing an innovative new line of A2 milk cheeses that are more easily digestible for those with dairy intolerance.
Rutland's Paramount Theatre has been a fixture on Center Street since it was built as "The Playhouse" in 1913. Back then, the stage played host to traveling vaudeville troupes and minstrel shows. The artfully appointed theatre even brought Tom Thumb, Will Rogers, and Harry Houdini to town. Abandoned in the mid-'70s, the Paramount was restored to its former glory in 2000 and now serves as a cultural hub. Get tickets to a classical or contemporary music concert, or see a movie or live simulcast event on the big screen. Even if you haven't planned ahead, check at the box office for last-minute availability. There isn't a bad seat in the house.
You might not be up for hiking the entire 2,200-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail that crosses 14 states—but while you're in Vermont, make time to hike the stretch that passes near Rutland. The Green Mountain Club maintains all 150 miles of the AT within Vermont's borders. Park your car at Gifford Woods State Park; from there, it is easy to hook up with the Appalachian Trail for a day hike. Detour off the Appalachian Trail onto the moderately challenging Deer Look Overlook Trail, and your exertion will be rewarded with incredible views. Right in downtown Rutland, the Hikers Hostel provides affordable, dorm-style lodging for those who are passing through on foot. Rides from the trail into town are provided on request.
With wood and stone decor straight out of "The Hobbit," a warming fire, fresh-baked breads, and the yummiest pastrami sandwich this far north of New York City, the Yellow Deli would be a notable find even if it wasn't the rare restaurant in these parts that's open around the clock. Here, the food is fresh and satisfying, and you'll be glad you stopped in for the Insta-worthy photo ops.
If you're a record collector or even just a music lover, you'll love Rick & Kat's Howlin' Mouse record store. The bins filled with classic albums aren't the only thing here that's retro. The shop's owners go above and beyond to locate what you're looking for, and you'll feel appreciated as a customer throughout your shopping experience. A stage in the middle of the store hosts everything from metal bands to storytelling events and open mic nights.
A true grassroots effort brought this hands-on museum to life in 2013, and the affordable admission price—just $5 for all visitors ages one and up—makes it an ideal family outing. From engineering LEGO vehicles and robots to testing flying creations in a wind tunnel and role playing at a farmer's market, the museum engages kids of all ages in playful, imaginative learning. A dedicated infant and toddler space even allows parents to introduce freshly hatched children to the joys of museum-going.
A summer-fun tradition since 1846, the annual Vermont State Fair features five days of entertainment, exhibits, animals, competitions, carnival rides, and of course, fair food. It is one of the oldest state fairs in the nation and an opportunity to appreciate Vermont's enduring agrarian culture and well-known products, like maple syrup and milk. From horse shows and country music performers to a demolition derby, the line-up of events features all of the nostalgia you'd expect from a long-running country fair.
A turreted Victorian is the epicenter of artistic activity in Rutland. You'll find juried art exhibitions to view—plus classes in everything from drawing and painting to yoga and ukulele—at the Rutland Area Art Association's Chaffee Art Center. The organization is best known for its annual Art in the Park Fine Art & Craft Festivals, which have been held in Main Street Park twice a year for nearly 60 years.
Rutland is the western starting point for the 50-mile, east-west scenic route known as the Crossroad of Vermont Byway or, more simply, U.S. Route 4. Fall foliage season is the pinnacle time to drive this historic highway west through the towns of Killington, Woodstock, and Hartford. Stop to enjoy the aerial views from the Killington K-1 gondola, visit Vermont's only national park, photograph covered bridges, sip craft beer at Long Trail Brewery, and watch glassblowers at work at Simon Pearce.