In 2019 – in an attempt to reverse the state’s then-declining population – Vermont was paying people to move there, awarding up to $10,000 as part of a grant program aimed at would-be remote employees of out-of-state companies. Over the last two years, the state has experienced an influx of newcomers relocating there for reasons beyond just a cash incentive (though those grants were still available until recently). In fact, a report this year by a moving company ranked Vermont as the U.S. state with the highest inbound move rate in 2021.
Instead of money, the incentive to move to Vermont is Vermont itself – the same reason people have chosen to vacation here for decades. It’s a peaceful, naturally beautiful place to escape, affording outdoor attractions that range from world-renowned ski resorts to the scenic Lake Champlain, which extends into New York and Quebec.
Vermont also touts its share of charismatic small towns, unique lodging choices such as farm stays and all-inclusive resorts, and distinctive food and drink. This destination is worth a visit for its nationally recognized craft beer, the rich offerings of the Vermont Cheese Trail, the maple syrup – since Vermont produces more than 50% of the country’s supply – and the “creemees,” which are a slightly richer (and arguably tastier) take on soft serve ice cream.
There’s no such thing as a bad time to visit Vermont – even the spring mud season has its offbeat perks – but fall is exceptionally beautiful, with perhaps the most stunning foliage in all of New England. Ever seen an iconic photo of a white church amid trees in hues of red and orange? That’s Vermont (more specifically, Stowe).
Curious to see the Green Mountain State for yourself? If you’re looking for the best things to do in Vermont, these are the experiences that should be on your list.
(Note: Some of the following activities, attractions and locations may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. New policies may be in place, including capacity restrictions, reservation requirements or mask mandates. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of State and local tourism boards before traveling.)
In 1998, Lake Champlain was briefly named one of the Great Lakes after then-President Bill Clinton signed into law a bill in which Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont quietly deemed it as such. Eighteen days – and a heavy dispute – later, the title was rescinded after a determination that, geographically, Lake Champlain doesn’t quite measure up to lakes like Superior and Michigan. But residents and tourists today can still recognize it for the great – not to be confused with Great – lake that it is.
With or without the esteemed title, Lake Champlain is a large freshwater lake that spans 435 square miles of surface water and wows visitors with views of the Green Mountains on one side and the Adirondacks on the other. Dozens of public beaches and boat launches line its shores, so you’ll find no shortage of opportunities for recreation on the water, including boating, fishing, swimming and keeping an eye out for the mythological lake monster named Champ. The lake’s popular island towns such as South Hero offer state parks, farms, orchards, vineyards, and even a few inns and campsites.
Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury Factory Tour and Ice Cream Shop
(Courtesy of Ben & Jerry’s)
Have you even been to Vermont if you don’t take the factory tour at Ben & Jerry’s? At its flagship location in Waterbury (near Stowe), Ben & Jerry’s offers 30-minute guided tours that include a short movie on the company’s history, an overview of the production process, a look at the manufacturing area and an ice cream tasting. Of course, there’s also an on-site ice cream shop and gift shop, and especially charming are the photo ops and Flavor Graveyard, where you can pay your respects to the “dearly de-pinted.” Previous visitors confirm it’s as touristy as it seems, but fun nonetheless.
Note: The indoor facility and gift shop were closed at the time of publication. They are expected to reopen for tours in late June 2022.
Address: 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Road, state Route 100, Waterbury, VT 05676
One of the top things to do in Vermont is spend a day or two in Burlington, where Church Street Marketplace, the centerpiece of town, offers shopping, restaurants (many with outdoor dining) and lodging such as the boutique Hotel Vermont. Of course, this popular waterfront city also boasts a variety of local breweries. Other highlights in Burlington include ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, a science and nature museum; the Ethan Allen Homestead, a historical farmhouse site; and, for those who enjoy quirky attractions, the World’s Tallest File Cabinet. Whatever you do, don’t bypass the Burlington Bike Path, a pleasant paved trail that runs along Lake Champlain and connects beaches, parks and neighborhoods.
Island Line Trail
(Courtesy of Hello Burlington and Local Motion)
The Island Line Trail, an extension of the Burlington Bike Path, crosses the middle of Lake Champlain via a 3-mile marble causeway, allowing you to practically touch the water with your feet in some areas; there’s nothing quite like it. This rail trail begins in Burlington and follows the route of a railbed – the Island Line – built in 1899 by the Rutland-Canadian Railroad to connect New England to the Great Lakes, until moving freight by other means became cheaper around the 1950s. The railbed remained abandoned until it became a path for pedestrians and cyclists in the 1980s, and this rail trail has been one of the most unique things to do in Vermont ever since. To reach the end of the 14-mile stretch, you have to take a ferry, which bridges a 200-foot gap in the causeway, before continuing the short journey to South Hero Island.
To acquire a bike, check out Local Motion, a rental shop and advocacy organization in Burlington. This outpost offers conventional and hybrid bikes as well as e-bikes and kids bikes; trailers or tag-alongs are available for certain rentals. Local Motion also operates the bike ferry and provides an interactive map of the trail. Both bike rentals and ferry rides are available seasonally from May to October.
Experience the sugarhouses
As one of the largest producers of maple syrup, Vermont has thousands of sugarhouses, many of which host Maple Open House Weekends in March with tours and tastings. The events align with sugaring season (and mud season), when oscillating temperatures allow sap to loosen and flow through maple trees for sugar makers to collect. If you don’t want to visit Vermont during mud season but still want to learn about syrup production and history, check out Baird Farm in Chittenden, which offers free tours and tastings year-round (reservations required). Previous guests rave about the staff’s hospitality here.
Try out a delicious creemee
Creemees are essentially soft-serve ice cream, but there’s no real consensus on where the name came from. Perhaps the moniker derives from the fact that Vermont used to make its soft serve higher in butterfat content and, hence, creamier. Either way, the creemee’s most iconic flavor is maple, but you can’t go wrong with any flavor at places such as Canteen Creemee Company in Waitsfield, The Village Scoop in Colchester and Al’s French Frys in Burlington, all of which come recommended by locals and visitors alike. If you’re looking for plant-based options, head to Offbeat Creemee in Winooski.
Breweries and beer trails
If you like craft beer, chances are Vermont is already on your list of places to visit. Featuring some of the top-rated breweries in the U.S., Vermont is home to The Alchemist in Stowe, whose Heady Topper IPA has a cult following, as well as Freak Folk Bier in Waterbury and Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro. If you really want to immerse yourself in the craft beer scene, follow one of the Vermont Brewers Association’s beer trails (available online or on an app where you can take the Vermont Brewery Passport Challenge). Cyclists may want to check out the bike-friendly Burlington Trail, where you can imbibe highly rated beers at Foam Brewers. Pet owners can take advantage of the Dog Friendly Beer Trail to drink alongside furry friends, while the Tiny Trail will take beer enthusiasts exclusively to nano breweries.
Vermont Teddy Bear
What started as a Burlington street cart in 1981 has grown into a full-fledged store and experience in Shelburne, Vermont. At Vermont Teddy Bear, visitors can take a tour of the factory where the now-famous plush bears are made, including the Bear Hospital, where injured or sick teddy bears are lovingly repaired by the resident bear doctor. For an additional fee on top of the tour cost, visitors can make their own teddy bear to take home or gift to someone they love. It’s the perfect way to commemorate a trip to Vermont for visitors of all ages. You can also check out the on-site Bear Shop to browse the selection of bears and Vermont-made products.
Address: 6655 Shelburne Road, Shelburne, VT 05482
Simon Pearce Flagship
Another item to immortalize a trip to Vermont (albeit more expensive than a teddy bear) is a handcrafted piece of glassware or pottery from the Simon Pearce store in Quechee, the namesake studio of a legendary Irish-American entrepreneur and artist who resides in Vermont. Located in a renovated historic woolen mill that’s hydroelectrically powered by the Ottauquechee River – an attraction in itself – the artist’s flagship store includes a workshop where you can watch craftspeople blowing glass pieces that are sold on-site, in addition to fine dining at The Mill at Simon Pearce, which overlooks a waterfall and covered bridge.
Address: 1760 Quechee Main St., Quechee, VT 05059
Hit the ski slopes in Stowe and beyond
(Courtesy of Stowe Mountain Resort)
Vermont is a world-renowned destination for skiing, with more than two dozen public ski areas on offer. Among them is Stowe Mountain Resort, nicknamed the “Ski Capital of the East” and considered one of the best places to ski in the U.S. This resort touts 485 acres of skiable terrain that cover Spruce Peak and Mount Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont. Just as good as the skiing and snowboarding is the town of Stowe itself, where shops and restaurants line Main Street and hotels such as Topnotch Resort and The Lodge at Spruce Peak offer luxury accommodations and amenities.
Check out other notable ski resorts such as Killington, the largest ski area on the East Coast, and family-friendly Smugglers’ Notch, where winter activities include ski lessons for kids as young as 3, snowshoe scavenger hunts and a winter carnival. On any summer voyage to Vermont, don’t overlook resorts such as Okemo, where you can ride what’s essentially a flying couch – skiers will know it as a bubble chairlift – and hike to a historic fire tower for 360-degree mountain views.
Trapp Family Lodge
One of the hotels that make Stowe a popular place to stay is the Trapp Family Lodge, owned by the von Trapp family (yes, that von Trapp family). After the Trapp Family Singers toured the U.S. in the early 1940s, they decided to settle on a farm in Stowe, which reminded them of their home country, Austria. In the summer of 1950, the family opened a 27-room lodge. Later destroyed by a fire, the Trapp Family Lodge was rebuilt with a variety of accommodations, activities and on-site dining, now including von Trapp Brewing, where you can drink in the resort’s history, mountain views, and a craft beer or two.
Address: 700 Trapp Hill Road, Stowe, VT 05672
Vermont Cheese Trail
All roads lead to cheese on the Vermont Cheese Trail, composed of more than 45 award-winning cheesemakers including Cabot Creamery. Some farms provide tastings and/or tours, while others simply sell their best products. Check out an online map of the Vermont Cheese Trail to see each cheesemaker’s location and offerings.
Wondering where to begin your cheesy commute through Vermont? If you like aged cheddar, stop at Grafton Village Cheese or Shelburne Farms. For goat cheese, try the chevre varieties at Blue Ledge Farm. You also can’t go wrong with the offerings at Consider Bardwell Cheese. No matter where you go, the products made by Jasper Hill Farm, whose cheeses rank among the best in the world, are more than worth a taste. While its location in the Northeast Kingdom region isn’t open to the public, the farm’s artisanal cheeses can be found at local grocery stores (and at select stores throughout the U.S.).
Liberty Hill Farm
(Courtesy of Liberty Hill Farm)
For a look at where the cheese process begins, Liberty Hill Farm offers tours and overnight accommodations. Guests of this dairy farm’s cozy bed-and-breakfast enjoy a farm-fresh morning meal, afternoon cocoa and cookies, and a hardy dinner each day of their stay – with ingredients including Cabot Creamery cheeses. The biggest draw of a visit to Liberty Hill Farm, however, is the opportunity to feed and milk the resident cows. Even if you don’t decide to stay at the inn, you can still book this activity through Airbnb Experiences. When you aren’t doing kid-approved farm chores or meeting the animals, you will find plenty to do in the surrounding area. Previous guests, especially families with young children, say their farm experience was enriching, adding that the home-cooked meals are exceptionally good.
Address: 511 Liberty Hill, Rochester, VT 05767
For all things Americana and Vermont, take some time to browse a kitschy general store or two. The Vermont Country Store is the most famous, of course, with several locations throughout the state. Here you can buy everything from candy and gifts to clothing and kitchenware. But even more interesting is the F.H. Gillingham and Sons store in Woodstock: One of Vermont’s oldest general stores still run by the same family, it’s owned by descendants of Frank Henry Gillingham, who opened the general store in 1886, and Franklin Billings. Its original customer guarantee, “Your money’s worth or your money back,” is still honored today. Previous patrons love the vintage vibe of this store, with some calling F.H. Gillingham and Sons a mandatory stop in Woodstock.
Visit the former house and grave of Robert Frost
If you’ve ever enjoyed Robert Frost’s poetry, head to the southwest corner of the state to learn more about the time he spent there. The first poet laureate of Vermont lived in a house in Shaftsbury in the 1920s that has since become the Robert Frost Stone House Museum; visitors can see the room where in 1922 Frost wrote his renowned poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snow Evening.” Explore the poet’s life through letters, writing drafts, notes and other documents at this house museum, which is open seasonally from May through October.
Less than 5 miles away, you can make a pit stop at a historic cemetery in Old Bennington, located next to the Old First Church, to visit his grave, which is etched with a line of his poetry: “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” This burial ground is near the also visit-worthy Bennington Battle Monument, a storied structure that happens to be the tallest in Vermont.
Hang your hat where Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and other well-known figures once hung theirs. You’ll see those names and the names of other famous guests in the cozy lobby of this inn, a member of the Historic Hotels of America. Grafton Inn offers individually (and beautifully) furnished rooms, suites and guesthouses on top of top-notch dining. The 1801 Tavern also houses Pine Room Bar, and the Phelps Barn Pub offers live music on select evenings. On-site activities include hiking, mountain biking, disc golf and pond swimming in the summer months, as well as cross-country skiing, snow tubing, snowshoeing and sleigh rides in the winter. There may not be tons to do in the village of Grafton itself – it’s a small town with a cheese shop and a mercantile or two – but that’s the allure.
Address: 92 Main St., Grafton, VT 05146
(Courtesy of Shelburne Museum)
The Shelburne Museum has a little bit of everything, with attractions and activities located both indoors and out: The 39 buildings housing its collections are scattered across 45 acres. One popular exhibition can be found in the Circus Building, where you can ogle the fantastical, miniature Arnold Circus Parade, a hand-carved display that nearly runs the length of the 518-foot building. This unconventional museum also features historic Vermont structures, including a rare two-lane covered bridge from 1845, a Lake Champlain lighthouse from 1871 and the 1906 Ticonderoga, a restored 220-foot steamboat and National Historic Landmark that visitors can freely explore. Reviewers say the admission cost may be a bit steep but assure you’ll understand why once you see just how special this museum is. Note that the Shelburne Museum is open seasonally from May to October.
Address: 6000 Shelburne Road, Shelburne, VT 05482
If there’s one place that captures the spirit of Vermont, it’s Basin Harbor, a resort whose repeat guests span generations – a true testament to the vacation experience at this lakefront lodge. Tucked into the woods of Vergennes, this enchanting resort offers pet-friendly cottages on the water as well as hotel guest rooms, and a variety of on-site dining options that include al fresco cookouts and lobster dinners on the North Dock. Lake Champlain activities range from narrated cruises and shipwreck tours to tubing and paddleboating, while land-based fun includes hiking, biking, tennis, croquet and badminton. Families especially love knockerball, a game similar to soccer where players are encased in inflatable spheres, as well as the Kids Club, with age-specific groups and activities. Bonus: The resort offers a variety of meal plans, including a Full American Plan that includes three meals daily.
Address: 4800 Basin Harbor Road, Vergennes, VT 05491
The Tyler Place Family Resort
Did you know there are all-inclusive resorts in Vermont? Perhaps the most well-known option is The Tyler Place Family Resort in Swanton. This classic resort offers a variety of cozy accommodations such as cottages with screened porches and kitchenettes – but not kitchens, since breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in nightly rates. Speaking of meals, The Tyler Place has a unique setup for dinner: Adults are encouraged to enjoy a quiet meal while children – who get to eat earlier – play with the newfound friends and counselors they meet via the resort’s award-winning programs for kids. Together, families enjoy a seemingly endless array of activities, from banana boating and water skiing on Lake Champlain to biking around the property and exploring the gardens.
Note that The Tyler Place is open seasonally and, with the exception of Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, requires a Saturday-to-Saturday reservation. Families rave about their stay at the resort, noting that it provides the perfect balance of alone time and family time.
Address: 175 Tyler Place, Swanton, VT 05488
Woodstock Inn & Resort
(Courtesy of Woodstock Inn & Resort)
The Woodstock Inn & Resort was purchased by Laurance and Mary Rockefeller in 1967, but its history traces back to a small tavern built in 1793. Today this inn is one of the best hotels in Vermont. The historic inn offers lovely guest rooms and suites (including pet-friendly options) that combine the Rockefellers’ love of nature and historic preservation. Guests can also enjoy its distinct restaurants, including the award-winning Red Rooster, and a top-rated spa. The hotel also offers an activity center where you can arrange off-site excursions such as Orvis-endorsed fly fishing and mountain biking. Nearby, guests can visit the Billings Farm & Museum, enjoy winter sports at the Suicide Six ski area and stroll the quaint village of Woodstock.
Address: 14 The Green, Woodstock, VT 05091
Referred to by locals as the Northeast Kingdom for its natural splendor, this region in the northeast corner of Vermont borders Canada and is more remote than most places in the state (if you can believe it). In addition to its beauty, this area boasts charming dining and lodging options alongside opportunities for agritourism and ecotourism.
Explore the many vacation destinations along the Northeast Kingdom Byway, a 51-mile corridor that makes for a scenic driving tour. In the town of Burke, you’ll find Lake Willoughby, Mount Pisgah and Burke Mountain Resort. Animal lovers may want to check out Saint Johnsbury, which has a lively downtown area and the one-of-a-kind Dog Chapel. Newport, a small city with lots of water activities on Lake Memphremagog, is another potential stop in the Northeast Kingdom. Not quite along the byway but still worth a visit is the town of Jay, home to Jay Peak Resort and the Pump House indoor water park (the only one of its kind in Vermont).
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park is the only national park in Vermont as well as the nation’s only national park dedicated to conservation history and the evolving nature of land stewardship in the U.S. Both self- and ranger-guided tours of the park allow visitors to explore an on-site mansion featuring esteemed landscape artwork. You can traverse trails that lead to the Pogue, a 14-acre pond, and take in unparalleled views of the village of Woodstock and the surrounding countryside. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch. The park also offers Junior Ranger programming for kids.
Address: 54 Elm St., Woodstock, VT 05091
(Courtesy of Twin Farms)
If you’re looking for a romantic getaway in Vermont, book a stay at Twin Farms, one of the best Vermont hotels. At this intimate, all-inclusive hotel tucked into the countryside, guests have a choice of guest rooms, suites, cottages and the Farmhouse (whose four suites can be booked individually or together for groups), all of which are equal parts luxurious and cozy. Select cottages allow up to two dogs, with beds, blankets, treats, bowls and waste cans included in the additional pet fee.
Unique activities include bee tours, ax throwing and archery when the weather is warm; in the colder months, guests can enjoy options like ice fishing and skating. Of course, the Bridge House Spa (complete with a glass-brick steam room) is perfect any time of year, as is the seasonally inspired food and wine program. In fact, Twins Farms places an emphasis on the dining experience, with premium meal options including gourmet picnic lunches and private dinners in the on-site wine cellar. Previous guests can’t say enough good things about Twin Farms, noting the service is beyond compare.
Address: 452 Royalton Turnpike, Barnard, VT 05031
The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa
(Courtesy of The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa)
The Essex is a culinary resort, which means you’ll not only get to eat some of the best food you’ve ever had, but you’ll also get to prepare it. At the resort’s Cook Academy, hands-on classes – designed for all skill levels – span cake decorating, curated dinners, brunch, sushi rolling, and Vermont beer and cheese pairings. Of course, The Essex also offers phenomenal dining options, notably Junction: an interactive, award-winning restaurant. Other highlights of the resort include a spa, pool and championship tennis courts. Reviewers say they enjoyed their stay at The Essex and also appreciated its close proximity – about 10 miles – to Burlington.
Address: 70 Essex Way, Essex, VT 05452
The Coffee Roost
Wake up to the smell of fresh coffee beans at The Coffee Roost, an Airbnb located above a working coffee roaster. The modernly furnished apartment, which is accessible via a private entrance, features a cozy queen bed and a spacious, fully equipped kitchen with bar seating. Guests appreciate the uniqueness of this Airbnb, along with its close proximity to Stowe and Waterbury.
Address: 11 Cabin Lane, Waterbury Center, VT 05677
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