It’s somewhat ironic that for a state known for its maple syrup, cheddar cheese, craft breweries and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream – not exactly the breakfast of champions – Vermont is a four-season adventure lover’s paradise. But from skiing at one of the state’s numerous resorts, to kayaking or sailing on Lake Champlain, to simply taking a Sunday drive to observe the striking fall foliage, there’s no shortage of outdoor options. And while it may not offer big city life or high fashion (unless your sense of high fashion includes flannel shirts and cargo pants), you can certainly find culture, shopping and fine food throughout the state.
In addition to the countless outdoor attractions, Vermont has a certain spirit that sets it apart from the other states in New England. There’s a very independent yet communal feel here, where some of the counter culture mentality from the 1960s lives on. It’s home to the Bread and Puppet Theater Company, known for decades for its politically charged performances to support social change and to protest the Vietnam War, and it’s also where the jam band Phish—carriers of the Grateful Dead’s torch—hails from. It’s a place where billboards are illegal and where locals led the charge in having input on where cellphone towers are placed. It’s home to the country’s only self-proclaimed democratic socialist Senator, Bernie Sanders, and it’s where local town meetings are still a vital and active part of politics. There’s also a strong homesteading movement here – people focused on living self-sufficiently, growing their own food and using renewable energy – in both urban and rural environments. Home to hundreds of organic farms, it seems every restaurant here features locally grown, farm-to-table food, in addition to samplings from local breweries and distilleries.
For a small New England state with the second smallest population in the country, Vermont is an easy place to get away from it all. That lack of development means incredible scenery – from the fjord-like Lake Willoughby to swimming holes and covered bridges throughout the state. The northeast corner of the state, known as the Northeast Kingdom – or simply ‘the Kingdom’ to locals – is particularly remote, where it often feels like you’re more likely to run into a moose than a person. Make sure to stop by the country’s smallest capital (and the only one without a McDonald’s), Montpelier. You can explore quaint villages like Manchester, Newfane, Grafton and Middlebury, or drive scenic route 100 from north to south. Or take a little road trip from Brattleboro over to Bennington and on to Arlington. It’s largest city, Burlington, is on the shores of Lake Champlain in the far northwest.
The winters here can be intensely cold and the days short, but it attracts skiers and snowboarders from all over, with some of the best snow in the country in recent winters. Vermont is home to dozens of ski areas offering alpine, backcountry, and Nordic skiing, including Killington Resort, known as the “Beast of the East” for being the largest resort east of the Mississippi River. The town of Stowe also makes an ideal base for skiers, next to Stowe and Smuggler’s Notch ski areas, and with a large variety of apres-ski bars and restaurants to choose from.
After such a long winter, by the time spring rolls around, Vermonters are chomping at the bit to get outside – on even mildly warm spring days it seems like the whole population is out and about. As spring stretches into summer, even with the sun setting later, it can seem that there aren’t enough hours in the day to fit everything you want to do – hiking, sailing, kayaking, climbing, mountain biking … the list goes on and on.
So the biggest question, really, is not whether to visit Vermont, but When to Go (see this section in the yellow bar above).
Depending on what you want to do, your first decision should be when you want to go. Summer (June through mid-September) in Vermont offers the most variety of activities – and the long days enable you to stay outside later and fit more in. Burlington sees the most visitors in the summer, when you can enjoy all the outdoor restaurants on Church Street, relax on the waterfront or one of the Lake Champlain beaches, enjoy one of the many food or music festivals, or take a day trip to go for a hike or hit a swimming hole.
Fall (mid-September through November) is great for hiking (make sure to bring some blaze orange attire if you plan to hike during hunting season, which usually takes place during the second half of November). The autumn also brings the spectacular fall colors, so it’s a great time to take a road trip through the state, stopping to explore some small towns or photograph the covered bridges.
Winter (December – March) obviously brings the snow and short days, but is the time for downhill, backcountry and cross country skiing, as
well as snowshoeing, ice skating and just about every other winter activity you can think of. But be prepared for some bitter cold temperatures and short days – sunset in December is a little after 4 p.m.
Spring (April/May – June) can be a tricky season to plan a trip. Northern New England’s fifth season –‘mud season’ – comes with the melting of the snow and varies depending on the amount of snow received during the winter and the length of the season. The State of Vermont closes all trails on state land including those on the state’s highest peaks, Camel’s Hump and Mount Mansfield, from April 15 until the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. But spring can be great for late season skiing without the winter temps, or for observing or taking part in the maple sugaring process.
Summer time sees and array of festivals and events in Vermont, particularly in Burlington. A few of the more notable ones:
Vermont Brewer’s Festival – Held at Burlington’s Waterfront Park the third week in July, this event brings together dozens of craft breweries – last year’s event featured 225 beers on tap. Tickets for the 4 tasting sessions (2 on Friday and 2 on Saturday) go on sale in May and often sell out in a matter of minutes.
Lake Champlain Vermont Maritime Festival is held in early August to celebrate Lake Champlain and the Burlington waterfront area. The event features many free activities, from antique boats to silent auctions. There’s live music during the day and ticketed concerts with well-known bands on the waterfront in the evening.
Green Mountain Film Festival – Held in March in Montpelier, this festival features narrative, documentary and short films, and often hosts
discussions with filmmakers after the screening.
Stowe Wine and Food Classic – Held in Stowe late August, this event draws foodies from all over the northeast and Quebec, and is a great chance to take advantage of the hiking and biking around Stowe while enjoying great wine and food.
Vermont Maple Festival – Held in April in the northern town of St. Albans, this festival is about all things maple. The family-friendly event features a contest for the best maple syrup and maple products, educational displays about the maple syrup making process, and a large craft fair.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We donât want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$ => $16-40 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $41 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$ => Tickets $26 per person
While you can get between the main cities in Vermont via public transportation, really the best way to see the state is by car. Whether you have your own vehicle or rent a car, it will give you the freedom to explore the outdoors and visit small, out of the way towns and attractions.
That being said, if you just want to explore Burlington for the weekend — with some side trips to neighboring towns like Winooski, you’ll be able to get around fine by bus, bike, taxi, or your own two feet.
Air: The only commercial airport in Vermont is in Burlington, which has direct flights to about a dozen cities, including New York and Washington DC. (JetBlue has three daily flights from New York’s JFK). Depending on your destination in Vermont, particularly for destinations in southern Vermont, it might be quicker or easier to fly into Boston or Manchester Hampshire, if it means avoiding a connection.
Visitors – particularly those coming from abroad – should also consider flying into Montreal. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Montreal to Burlington (compared to 3.5 hours from Boston to Burlington). The only catch is that there can be long lines crossing the border, particularly on weekends, which can add to the trip.
Train – Amtrak’s “Vermonter” service runs a daily route starting in town of St. Albans and finished in DC nearly 14 hours later, with stops several Vermont towns including Essex Junction (nearly Burlington) and in New York’s Penn Station.
Bus: Megabus has daily service from Burlington and Montpelier to Boston and New York (with stops in Amherst, MA and Hartford, CT). Trip
from Burlington to NYC takes about 7 and half hours. Greyhound has service from Burlington to Montreal (4 hours), as well as direct service to Boston (5 hours), with connections from there.
Car: The best way to explore Vermont is by car. While there is bus service between the bigger towns and cities, anyone looking to get out and
explore the countryside should look into car rental options – there are about 10 car rental companies to choose from at the Burlington Airport.
Bus: If you’re just going to stick to the bigger towns, you can get around via public transportation. A Burlington City bus will take you from the airport to the University Mall in South Burlington – with limited service to the downtown area from there. Local CCTA buses can also get you around Burlington, as well as to the neighboringtowns of Winooski, Essex and Williston. Commuter buses (weekdays only) are available to Montpelier, Middlebury and St. Albans. A taxi or an Uber from the airport to the downtown area should cost around $15. The GMTA has service from Montpelier to towns such as Morrisville, Barre and Waterbury (commuter service is on weekdays only).
Bike: Bikes are a great option for getting around, especially in Burlington – there are designated bike lanes on several major routes and the Burlington bike path is well worth exploring. In other parts of the state there are several ‘rail to trail’ bike paths – including the Lamoille Valley and Missisquoi Rail Trials. Local Motion in Burlington has rental bikes available, as do several local sporting goods stores such as North Star sports.