Though we only visited for a week, we traveled hundred of miles each day searching for the best things to do in Vermont. I believe we found them! Here are our favorites across the Green Mountain State.
TOUR MULTIPLE COVERED BRIDGES
Vermont is known for its covered bridges, red barns and towering steeples. You can usually see the barns and the steeples from the main roads, but you might have to hunt the covered bridges, like we did. This is Emily’s Bridge (aka Gold Brook Covered Bridge). There are a number of legends about this one, but the one we heard repeatedly is that a young girl, Emily, killed herself here in the 1800s, a la Romeo and Juliet…and she still roams the creek and bridge here.
Other bridges that we visited in about a 2-3 hour radius include Martin Covered Bridge (from 1890), Coburn Covered Bridge (from 1840, featuring beautiful wood trusses), Stony Brook Covered Bridge (from 1899 and just a stunning piece of work. mimicking the red barn feel of Vermont), and Slaughter House Covered bridge (from 1872 and only a short drive from Stony Brook.)
If (when!) you head to the Jenne Road Farm (see below) then be sure to also stop at Taftsville Covered Bridge, which is one of the oldest remaining covered bridges in the United States.
TAKE A CRUISE ON LAKE CHAMPLAIN
Lake Champlain in a humungous fresh water lake that sits between Vermont and New York, and even peaks into Canada. It’s 14 miles from state to state, and the lake runs 107 miles long at the longest point. With 587 miles of shoreline, we certainly didn’t see it all…but visiting at the marina in Burlington was one of the highlights of our trip. It’s just stunning.
Of course, the best way to explore the lake is by making your way out onto the water…not just seeing it from the shoreline. For that, we recommend taking a tour with the Spirit of Ethan Allen. There are so many options…from the affordable narrated scenic cruise to multiple dinner cruises (Lobster, Comedy Night, Harvest Moon and more!) Kids are welcome on all the cruises, and food and drink services are available.
STROLL ALONG CHURCH STREET MARKETPLACE
Church Street Marketplace is a precious pedestrian shopping area just a few blocks east of the Lake Champlain marina. You’ll find dozens and dozens of shops and restaurants, plus a fantastic seasonal farmers market.
Here are a few of our favorite stops: Lake Champlain Chocolates for yummy desserts, multiple street murals, Outdoor Gear Exchange for hiking gear, Ben and Jerry’s (the factory tour is not here – it’s a bit farther down the road in Waterbury). Golden Hour Gift Company is a fantastic stop for candles, and the plants had me crying for joy.
The parking here is relatively easy (even in our huge dually) so plan to spend a few hours, grabbing lunch or dinner and strolling along the water. Try the duck confit poutine at Leunig’s Petit Bijou or the pappardelle at Pascolo Ristorante.
THINGS TO DO IN VERMONT: CHASE A FEW WATERFALLS
What’s fantastic about Vermont’s waterfalls is that they fall into two camps: Those that are right off the roadside and those that require a good hike. It’s the balance of both that make chasing them so fun. We’ve covered 11 of our favorite Vermont waterfalls already, but I’ll share a few sound bites from that story here.
If you only visit one, make it Moss Glen Falls in Stowe (not Granville…though we love that one, too. Just be aware there are two waterfalls with the same name!) is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state of Vermont with a total drop of about 125 feet. Bartlett Falls is considered one of the top 10 New England waterfall swimming holes, so pack a lunch and plan to spend all day. Warren Falls is another great swimming hole for those visiting in the warmer months.
Be sure to see our post on the 11 best waterfalls in Vermont, complete with a map to help you explore.
VISIT THE SKI RESORTS – EVEN IN SUMMER!
The ski area at Stowe Mountain Resort is one of the most popular areas for fun in winter (and it’s on the Epic Pass!) 13 lifts, 116 trails and 3 terrain parks make this a Vermont favorite. My husband grew up in New Jersey and spent his winters snowboarding here and at Killington. Even if you’re not a fan of hitting the slopes, the little Alpine village is the perfect place to connect, relax, and embrace the winter magic.
Not visiting in winter? Don’t let that stop you from heading to the mountain. If you’re looking for epic views from the top of Mt. Mansfield then consider the Auto Toll Road for the fastest trip to the top. You can’t bike or take the RV. Heck, we couldn’t even do it because no dually trucks are allowed. So what then? No worries. The Gondola SkyRide will also get you to the top. There are also a plethora of day hikes around the mountain base, and up Mt Mansfield.
HIKE THROUGH SEVERAL STATE PARK FAVORITES
QUECHEE GORGE AT QUECHEE STATE PARK
Quechee Gorge is often called Vermont’s “Little Grand Canyon”. 13,000 years ago a glacier cut through the bedrock on its way to the ocean, leaving a 165 ft deep crevice – Vermont’s deepest gorge. The bridge from the top allows you to look down at the Ottauquechee River. The gorge trail is an easy 2.7 miles.
GREEN MOUNTAIN NATIONAL FOREST
Green Mountain sits in the Southwest section of the state with well over 100 great hiking trails. Elevations range from just under 600 feet to over 4,000 ft high. If you’re lucky you’ll spot a peregrine falcon, or – from a distance – black bears, moose, or coyote.
The most popular trail here is Lye Brook Falls, a moderate 4.4 mile out-and-back. Killington Peak is another popular hike, but it’s a steep climb along 7.2 miles and is considered a difficult trail. If you can make it, you’ll be rewarded with views of the Green Mountains, as well as the Adirondacks of New York, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Our final recommendation is Haystack Mountain – it’s a great hike for fall! Just check the forecast; you’re going to want to avoid a foggy day for the best views.
CAMEL HUMP STATE PARK
Camel Hump is a beloved icon in the skyline; visiting the state park is a must. 14 trails are great for hikers and runners. The most popular is the 6-mile climb to the summit with a 2500 ft elevation gain, making it a doozy. Looking for something a little easier with great water views? Try the Long Trail North. Not that on AllTrails this is marked as a point-to-point so the mileage is actually 5.4 round trip.
MOUNT PHILO STATE PARK
Mt Philo is the oldest park in the state and fantastically beautiful. The Western Loop is just under 2 miles round trip and pretty easy with only about 550 ft gain, and beautiful views.
THINGS TO DO IN VERMONT: TOUR A MAPLE SYRUP SUGAR HOUSE
Did you know it takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make 1 gallon of pure maple syrup? Visiting in the April timeframe will allow you to see Vermont’s famous maple syrup being made (photo above)…but you can still celebrate the sugar anytime of year by visiting one of the many sugar farms in the state. Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks in Montpelier is a popular year-round option, and we also enjoyed Bragg Farm in the same area.
Be sure to pick a place that lets you see some of the sugar making production, even if it’s off season. We really enjoyed the maple syrup tasting at Bragg…they talked to us about the different “types” of maple. We noticed the color changes and distinct flavor differences. We picked up a sampler of types so that we could share the differences with our family back home, selected several maple candies for the boys, and of course delighted in maple creamees.
Creamees? They’re like maple soft serve ice cream that is amazing. Now, don’t call it soft serve to a Vermont resident…they’re likely to take offense. It is definitely more creamy that crystalized. Definitely delicious. And definitely a MUST when you’re in vermont.
MAKE A CHARCUTERIE FROM WITH CABOT CHEESE
If you’re not familiar with the world above the Mason-Dixon line (raises hand) then you might think Wisconsin is the only “cheese sate”, but we learned on our trip that Vermont is decidedly cheesy as well. And I mean deliciously cheesy; it’s home to Cabot Creamery.
There are a few ways to visit. 1) Take the Cabot Farm Trail thru Vermont and the surrounding states, 2) Visit the Quechee General Store, or 3) which is our favorite, stop at the the annex in Waterbury Center. You can sample cheeses (my new favorite is bacon cheddar) and more. I love that they also have a collection (photo above) of non-Cabot cheeses that are made locally by Cabot milk farmers.
We picked up TONS of Cabot cheese, Cabot-farmer cheese, a few crackers, some salamis, an orange-ginger spread and a bottle of wine….perfect for a picnic we had at a covered bridge later that day.
Want to try ALL THE CHEESES? Take a ride through the Vermont Cheese Trail – which also includes several Cabot farmers.
TOUR ROCK OF AGES (OR OTHER QUARRIES IN THE AREA)
There are dozens of granite and marble quarries in Vermont, Rock of Ages being the most famous. I’ll admit that we skipped this one because due to time limitations, but it didn’t stop us from visiting a few others on our hiking adventures. Why is Rock of Ages so popular? You can take a tour of the factory, see the manufacturing process, and catch a glimpse of the 600 feet deep mine — it is the largest operating deep-hole, dimension granite quarry in the world! Don’t forget to roll a ball down the outdoor granite bowling lane that became a prototype in the mid 50s.
The photo above is one we found on a hike thru Barre Town Forest. It’s a great place to see the colors turn in fall, and a swimming hole for the locals in summer. The Dorset Quarry is one of the cities most popular quarry swimming holes, with cliffs about 20 feet tall welcoming jumpers.
EXPLORE SHELBURNE FARMS
Shelburne Farms is one of the most popular Vermont attractions. A beautiful historic site with guided tours, hiking trails, and Inn and Restaurant, a farm store, and multiple events to keep you busy year-round.
In the 1700s there were multiple farms dotting the new town of Shelburne, and in the late 1800s two families combined 32 farms into the sprawling 3,800-acre agricultural estate you see today. The building and grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted – you know, the guy who designed Central Park, Biltmore Estate, Stanford University and more. It was opened in the 1970s to the general public as an education center.
Today it’s a 1,400-acre working farm focused on sustainability and celebrating the Winooskik band of the Abenaki – the natives was land was stolen by the original English settlers to build Shelburne.
If you’re not taking one of their many classes or workshops, you can also enjoy the farms by wading or kayaking in Lake Champlain, take on a game of croquet, badminton, bocce ball on the lawn, play a game of pool on the 19th century pool table, saunter the 10 miles of trails or roam the Formal Gardens, enjoy dinner at the restaurant or take a complimentary guided tour of the Olmstead-designed property.
THINGS TO DO IN VERMONT: ENJOY COLD HOLLOW CIDER MILL
With so many apple orchards in Vermont, one of the must-do tourist attractions is to visit in Vermont is a cider mill. We selected Cold Hollow Cider Mill because it worked for the adults and the kids. We watched them pressing apples into cider (see the calendar for times) and even sampled the wares! We picked out a peck of apples, and grabbed a few “world-famous” apple cider donuts from the gift shop.
While the kids ate their apple donuts and played some corn hole in the picnic/garden area, the adults headed to the adjacent building for hard cider tastings. From sweet to dry…the flavors were fascinating. And if you sample a few too many, just extend your stay by visiting the on-site restaurant, with amazing from-scratch English muffin sandwiches, plus paninis, wraps and an affordable kids menu.
SNAP A SHOT OF THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED FARM IN VERMONT
The cluster of buildings off Jenne Farm Road in Redding, VT is thought to be the most photographed farm in all of New England, and you can see in the photo above just why that is so. Click here to find directions and read more about the story of how it became famous.
If you want to drive toward Woodstock just for the photo, no one would blame you. But if you’re up for making a day of it, let me suggest the following: Sugarbush Farm for maple and cheese tastings, Sleepy Hollow Farm for another iconic farm photo op, Woodstock Middle Covered Bridge which is the oldest covered bridge in the US, Billings Farm & Museum – a lovely outdoor living-history museum, Quechee Gorge and Village for shopping and lovely hiking trails, and Simon Pierce Glassware for lovely gifts for the holidays.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO VERMONT:
- VERMONT WATERFALLS: 11 Vermont Waterfalls and Swimming Holes (+ a Helpful Map)
- BURLINGTON: 13 Things To Do In Burlington For A Guaranteed Good Time
- MORE TO DO IN VERMONT: 31+ FUN THINGS TO DO IN VERMONT [2 DAY ITINERARY INCLUDED]
- VERMONT ROAD TRIP: 45 PLACES TO STOP ON YOUR ULTIMATE VERMONT ROAD TRIP
- STOWE: 16 Things To Do In Stowe VT For Year-Round Fun
WHERE TO STAY IN VERMONT
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