Vermont is so much more than a place to ski three or four months of the year. With cities that feel more like friendly towns and a working landscape that both enchants and nourishes visitors, Vermont's attractions honor the state's natural beauty and agricultural traditions. Foodies, photographers, and families find Vermont a particularly fascinating state to explore.
And for travelers planning a first visit to New England, Vermont holds all of the attractions and enticements they've envisioned. This guide to the best things to do in Vermont will inspire you to visit season after season.
There are more than 100 covered bridges in Vermont, the densest concentration of these photogenic structures in any U.S. state. If you're the "go big or go home" type, head straight to Windsor, Vermont, where you can drive across the Windsor-Cornish Covered Bridge—the longest single-span covered bridge in the country—and find yourself in New Hampshire.
There are five covered bridges in Bennington within a short drive. Scenic Route 30 north of Brattleboro is another fine destination for a covered bridge adventure.
If you have ever loved a dog—and especially if you are traveling in Vermont with your four-legged best friend—be sure to include a stop at the Dog Chapel in St. Johnsbury on your itinerary. Crafted by the late Stephen Huneck in tribute to his own beloved canines, the chapel features dog designs in its pews, stained glass windows, and other architectural details. An on-site gallery sells a variety of gifts featuring Huneck's paintings, and the 150-acre Dog Mountain property is idyllic for both humans and dogs to explore, especially in the fall.
Even if you're lactose-intolerant, a tour of the Ben & Jerry's Factory in Waterbury, Vermont, is a must. You'll be charmed from the start as you view a "moo-vie" about the company's incredible history, which began in 1978 when junior high pals Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield split the cost of a $5 ice cream making correspondence course.
From their first scoops—served from an old gas station in Burlington, Vermont—the duo grew an international business that still adheres to community-minded principles. Tours include a chance to view the plant in operation and to taste the flavor of the day. Head to the Scoop Shop afterward to sample dozens more including several flavors of dairy-free sorbet.
Located in Woodstock, Vermont, Billings Farm and Museum is a picturesque working dairy where kids experience farming chores first-hand, and grown-ups gain an appreciation for the evolution of agricultural practices and Vermont's leadership in sustainable land use. Established in 1871, the farm is still home to more than 60 Jersey cows.
Purchase a combination ticket, and you can also visit the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park across the street. Industrialist Frederick H. Billings, who founded the farm, purchased the estate from George Perkins Marsh, America's first environmentalist. The mansion is filled with impressive works of art, collected by the home's final owners, Laurance and Mary Rockefeller.
Who doesn't like cheese? Vermont is a cheese lover's paradise, and if you only have time for one stop, head straight to Cabot: the remarkably successful farm cooperative that put Vermont cheddar on the world cheese map. Tours of the Cabot Creamery in Cabot, VT, allow visitors to appreciate the entire process from cow to consumer.
To truly appreciate Vermont's storied Lake Champlain, you need to get out on the water. A Lake Champlain Ferry trip across the lake to New York State is an ideal and affordable way to experience Champlain's majesty, and views of the Adirondack Mountains will take your breath away on the westward voyage. Your car or bike can make the trip, too. Ferries depart from Grand Isle, Burlington and Charlotte, Vermont. Keep your eyes peeled for Champ, Vermont's own Loch Ness Monster. The lake creature is likely a legend, but there are many believers.
The only U.S. president born on the Fourth of July hailed from the rural town of Plymouth Notch, Vermont. The President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site not only preserves the 30th Commander in Chief's humble birthplace but the entire surrounding village including the general store his father ran, a tavern, schoolhouse, church, barns, a cheese factory and the homestead where the family moved when Cal was four—and where he was sworn in following the assassination of Warren G. Harding. The site provides a fascinating glimpse of New England life and American politics in the early years of the 20th century.
The Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS) Nature Center in Quechee, Vermont, is a fascinating place to come face-to-face with eagles, owls, falcons, and other raptors and to observe these birds of prey feeding and stretching their wings. This kid-friendly attraction features a variety of indoor and outdoor interactive exhibits. Be sure to walk the trail to Quechee Gorge: This spectacular spot on the Ottauquechee River is one of Vermont's most photogenic natural wonders.
You can experience many facets of Vermont all in one place: the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT. In addition to its vast collection of American folk art and Americana including quilts, carriages, paintings, toys, tools, and circus memorabilia, the 45-acre museum complex is home to more than 20 gardens, a dozen historic buildings, a covered bridge, a lighthouse, and the restored steamboat Ticonderoga.
The world's largest deep-hole dimension granite quarry is otherworldly looking enough that Rock of Ages in Barre, VT, served as a filming location for the 2009 Star Trek movie. On guided tours of this industrial site, you'll see how massive blocks of granite are harvested, cut and carved by artisans and even have a chance to sandblast your own stone souvenir.
The grounds at this unique attraction are not only a showcase for the company's memorials and statuary, but they are also home to the world's only granite bowling alley, where you can bowl a few frames for free.
Ascend to the top of Vermont's tallest structure for outstanding 360-degree views and perspective on one of the most pivotal battles of the American Revolution. Standing at 306 feet, 4-1/2 inches over the town of Bennington, VT, the Bennington Battle Monument commemorates the victory of New England's ragtag militia over Britain's professionally trained soldiers at the Battle of Bennington, fought nearby to protect an arsenal at the spot where the granite tower now stands.
AddressRock of Ages Granite Quarry, Barre, VT 05641, USA
Exhilarating recreation isn't weather-dependent in Vermont since the opening of the Pump House Indoor Waterpark at Jay Peak in Jay, VT. The ski area's 50,000-square-foot water park operates year-round: a retractable roof lets the sun in on shiny summer days. This is no ordinary indoor pool. The complex features water slides, hot tubs, a Big River to float on, and even a Double Barrel Flowrider with waves vigorous enough for surfing and boogie boarding.
Driving the scenic Vermont roads during fall is one of the top things to do when you visit Vermont. Foliage typically begins to change in mid-September, and areas of fall color remain through mid-October. Of course, this depends on the weather. Current fall foliage reports are available online throughout the season. The post "peak foliage" season still offers great scenic driving and you may be able to snag a late-season deal at a resort, B&B or hotel.
Vermont has a number of picturesque ski resorts and hotels where you can get away from it all and go skiing, boarding, or even tubing.
Families will enjoy the Trapp Family Lodge which is owned and operated by the Von Trapp family of Sound of Music fame. The Trapp Family Lodge, in a scenic setting reminiscent of Austria, has a fantastic old-world look.
For those who want a luxurious ski vacation, Stowe is the Vermont destination of choice. You'll find guest rooms furnished with furniture made of Vermont wood, marble-tiled bathrooms, deep soaking tubs, fireplaces LCD flat-screen televisions, and stunning views of the mountains. There is an on-site spa and fine dining.
We've all heard about Vermont syrup—it's purity and good taste. Vermont's Green Mountain Sugar House has won numerous awards in local, state and international contests for its maple syrup. You can buy this award-winning syrup and many other local Vermont products when you stop at their shop on Route 100 North in Ludlow. They're open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
During February, March, and April, they may be boiling in the sugar house so you can take a tour, and watch some of Vermont's syrup being made.