Vermont has picture-perfect scenery: fields dotted with white and brown cows, red barns and covered bridges, stone walls and country roads. But it is also great for hiking, skiing and boarding, maple syrup and ice cream, romantic weekends and family breaks.
Like a spine running down the state, the Green Mountains run north-south for 160 miles (255km). Rolling rather than craggy, the ‘Greens’ boast five peaks rising to more than 4,000 feet (1,219m), with Mount Mansfield the tallest at 4,393 feet (1,340m). Two of America’s best-loved hiking routes are here: the Long Trail (the oldest long-distance trail in the USA) and a section of the 2,178-mile (3,500-km) Appalachian Trail. Outstanding views, pristine ponds, alpine bogs, hardwood forests and swift streams: all are on offer. If you prefer to drive, follow scenic Route 100 to the east of the Green Mountains, through classic villages such as Ludlow and Stockbridge. Equally scenic is Route 7 to the west, linking Bennington, Manchester, Rutland, Brandon and Middlebury. During fall foliage season, Vermont is busy weekends; try to visit midweek.
Far from the sea, this large lake is New England’s "west coast." Stretching for 120 miles (200 km), from Massachusetts up to the Canadian border, it is just 12 miles (20 km) across at its widest point. The main hub is Burlington, Vermont’s largest city and buzzing with college students. In town, browse the one-of-a-kind shops and galleries along historic Church Street Marketplace or go on a Burlington Brew Tour. Highlights at the Robert Hull Fleming Museum include works by Winslow Homer, Sol LeWitt, and Andy Warhol. Take a narrated cruise on the lake, go kite surfing, take in a free lakeside concert, or visit ECHO, a waterfront aquarium and science center. Or, rent a bike and pedal along the Lake Champlain Bikeway.
It’s the best free show on earth. When the leaves on the trees in Vermont change color in the fall (autumn), the world comes to ooh and aah. Seeing the tapestry of scarlet, gold, purple and orange is easy, just follow a scenic byway — and keep your camera handy. Favorite routes include the Connecticut River Byway, Green Mountain Byway, Lake Champlain Byway, Mad River Byway, Stone Valley Scenic Byway, and Molly Stark Byway. Or, watch the scenery pass by while you relax aboard a train, such as the Green Mountain Flyer. Explore Vermont’s many charming and historic towns: Stowe, Woodstock, Weston, and Bennington. Visit a classic Vermont country store, check out galleries that showcase local craftspeople, or make a picnic from fresh produce and specialty cheeses.
Boarding was born in Vermont; America’s first ski lift was built at Woodstock in 1934 - so skiing and boarding really are a way of life in the Green Mountains. With 20 alpine resorts and 30 cross-country touring centers, there is room for everyone from advanced downhillers to training toddlers. The ski schools are amongst the best in the US, so visitors quickly learn how to enjoy moguls and cross-country excursions, or snowshoeing — fast-growing in popularity. This winter wonderland offers winter resorts with full-service restaurants, spas and entertainment, as well as picturesque villages, with cozy bed & breakfasts, where you can cross-country ski right from the back door into the idyllic woods.
Vermont is the United States’ No 1 producer of maple syrup and discovering more about this liquid gold is easy. Stop to talk, taste and buy; find out about the four different grades; buy maple syrup fudge and other goodies. Vermont’s sugar maple trees turn bright scarlet every fall; 'sugaring', the making of maple syrup, takes place in March, when the Vermont Maple Open House Weekend celebrates this tradition. Learn about sugaring year-round at Dutton Berry Farm & Stands or Dakin Farm.
Say Ben & Jerry’s and everyone knows you are talking about the world’s favorite ice cream. Yet another Vermont success story, Ben & Jerry’s started here in 1978. The best place to get the scoop on your favorite flavor is in Waterbury, where you can tour the factory, then taste the flavor of the day.
Abraham Lincoln was famous for his stove pipe hats. One of only four left in the world is on show at the family home in Manchester, in the quiet Shires region of southern Vermont. In the beautiful Georgian Revival mansion, built by the president’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, the self-guided tour includes the 1,000-pipe organ, believed to be the oldest of its kind in the country. With its beautiful gardens, the hillside estate offers breathtaking views. In October, during Foliage Art & Craft Festivals, more than 150 juried artists and artisans exhibit one-of-a-kind-creations.
Step back a century to see a late-19th century farm in action, complete with Jerseys, sheep, horses, oxen, and chickens. Just outside Woodstock, one of America’s prettiest towns, Billings Farm & Museum is a reminder of Vermont’s rural heritage. Next door, explore the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park — Vermont’s only national park. Tour the mansion and gardens, or walk along the miles of carriage trails under sugar maples and 400-year-old hemlocks.
When it comes to good food and great restaurants, Vermont offers both. Thanks to the Vermont Fresh Network, farmers, food producers and chefs work closely with each other. The result is the country’s highest per-capita sales from farmers direct to consumers — five times greater than the national average. This adds up to outstanding culinary experiences, with many menus naming local producers of, for example, salad greens, meat, fruits and cheeses. A special treat is the Vermont Cheese Trail, linking the producers of artisan cheeses throughout the state. To dine on some of Vermont’s finest produce, try Michael's on the Hill in Waterbury Center; the fine cuisine prepared at the Essex Inn (a culinary resort and spa); or the Belted Cow Bistro in Essex Junction, given the "2010 Best Use of Local Flavor in Vermont" award by Yankee Magazine.
Covered bridges are romantic reminders of the past, when the roofs protected the woodwork, rather than pedestrians, from rain and snow. Amazingly, Vermont still has 106 covered bridges, spread throughout the state: walk through them, cycle through them, even drive through them. Learn about how covered bridges were designed and made at the Vermont Covered Bridge Museum in Bennington, and visit the five covered bridges, that are just minutes away.
Learn about more travel adventures in Vermont: www.vermontvacation.com