Insider insights: Vermont
What images come to mind when you think of Vermont?
Spectacular rural vistas, iconic New England villages, pristine nature, exhilarating outdoor adventures and cozy retreats?
Let’s explore west of the Green Mountains in the areas surrounding the Village of Stowe and the highest peak in Vermont—the heart of Stowe, Mount Mansfield.
Despite its world-class reputation as a four-season, family-friendly travel destination, Stowe is not just a resort; the town was chartered in 1763 and is home to more than 4,000 year-round residents.
As a visitor to Stowe, you’ll be happy to know it’s also home to a long list of excellent and diverse restaurants featuring locally sourced ingredients.
There’s something for everyone’s taste and budget!
Choose from fireside romantic or ‘60s ice-cream-parlor retro, mountainside or riverside, village or country dining.
Searching for a spot to savor a post-ski appetizer or chow-down a hardy pre-hike breakfast?
It’s easy to find what you want in Stowe or the surrounding areas.
The town is also famous for craft beer and cider from local microbreweries and popular options from around the state.
The recent up-tick in small-batch beer culture has influenced the local music scene, too. A number of Stowe’s new or established watering holes now feature live music, which you can also enjoy at gathering spots in bordering towns to the north and south.
In Morrisville to the north, check out Moog’s Place, a friendly locals’ bar with music every night except Sunday.
There’s great live music at El Toro, too.
Then there’s Doc Pond’s, Backyard Tavern, Cork, Rusty Nail, and the Matterhorn Bar & Grill.
In the Waterbury area south of Stowe, live music emanates from ZenBarn and The Reservoir.
Stowe is well known for its miles of interconnected trails that are maintained for hiking, mountain biking, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.
Others take to Stowe’s famous five-mile, paved Recreation Path that winds its way along the river and over bridges, stretching from the Village to just beyond the pasture that’s home to Gentle Giants Sleigh & Carriage Rides.
Many visitors know that Stowe is also home to the Trapp Family Lodge—some even report that the hills are alive with the sound of music. In fact, there’s music everywhere in Stowe when the festival and farmers’ market season is in full swing.
June is the time for a one-of-a-kind weekend that I can’t keep secret any longer! I discovered this event three years ago. It takes place a few miles from the state capital, Montpelier, with its c.1859 gold-domed Greek Revival State House. ROCKFIRE celebrates the multicultural heritage of central Vermont’s granite industry amid abandoned quarries and granite ruins. The highlight of the event is Firewalk, a three-mile-long procession lit by thousands of candles, luminaries and dozens of bonfires, all leading to a variety of fire-lit art installations and six live-performance stages. This is a truly unique, multi-sensory, magical happening in field and forest, and they’ve added a September edition this year: FALLFIRE. Fall foliage time is “peek season” in Vermont—don’t miss it!
Major ski-related news: Vail Resorts acquired Stowe Mountain Resort, making Mount Mansfield its first east coast asset. Ski and snowboard enthusiasts can now buy a Vail Epic Pass, which offers season-long access to 15 U.S. resorts and also provides limited access to 30 European resorts in Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland. Word’s out, and serious powder hounds are extremely happy.
Is liquid H2O more your thing? Less than 20 minutes from Stowe you can swim, sail, fish and hike at neighboring Lake Elmore State Park or the Waterbury Reservoir. Both locations are waterfront havens for sand and sun worshippers or BBQ connoisseurs. Boat rentals are available and camping is permitted during the season, and you can revel in the realization that Ben & Jerry’s famous ice cream factory is just down the road from the reservoir!
A forty-five minute drive from Stowe will land you on the shores of majestic Lake Champlain, which lies between Vermont and New York State.
Bordering the lake, Burlington is the largest city in Vermont (population 42,260). Its waterfront provides a breathtaking view of New York’s Adirondack Mountains, and is the site of several summertime festivals. Cruising boats ply the waters, giving tourists and locals alike fabulous 360˚ views.
Other special points of interest are the ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center; Shelburne Farms National Historic Landmark (art gallery, museums, gardens, education center, and restaurant in a lakefront mansion); Shelburne Museum, housed in thirty-nine historic buildings on over forty-five landscaped acres; Burlington Marketplace, which features dining, shopping, and original period architecture; a car ferry to Port Kent, New York; and the string of Lake Champlain Islands that border Canada.
The city transforms into a memorable winter wonderland when it hosts First Night Burlington on December 31st, and 2018 will be its 36th year!
[NOTE: In April 2018, the non-profit running First Night Burlington announced it was being discontinued. There seems to be some discussion about reviving it under other management, so stay tuned. But also, check out similar celebrations in Montpelier (the state capital), St. Johnsbury, and Richmond.]
I’ve attended all but two since 1998, with great anticipation. The nonprofit’s website describes the event: “Now in our 35th year as Vermont’s largest, single-day arts festival, providing a healthy, accessible, and affordable New Year’s Eve celebration to thousands of people in our community.”
Performances are held mainly in the numerous churches around the Marketplace pedestrian mall that is festively lit with strings of lights and a giant Christmas tree- all neighborhood restaurants busy and buzzing. The evening culminates at midnight with first-rate fireworks over Lake Champlain. Highly recommended for everyone
If you’ve come to Vermont from afar, or even from nearby, treat yourself—take a side-trip to Canada!
Just one hour from the border (passports are generally required), Montreal’s accent is on French culture. There are so many things to see and do in any city of this size, but my favorites are these two annual city-wide events: Montreal International Jazz Festival (June 28-July 7, 2018: 39th edition) is a huge celebration featuring all types of music enjoyed at many free outdoor stages as well as at indoor concerts where prices vary, held mainly around the city’s fabulous Quartier des spectacles (the dedicated arts and entertainment district).
Montréal en lumiere is a festival that illuminates winter with outdoor activities and food kiosks, a giant ice slide, music, theatre, dance, art, films, culinary events, and many unexpected surprises spread throughout the city—but the highlight of this extraordinary festival is Nuit Blanche (“all-nighter”), which is when “nighthawks who brave winter temperatures…fully experience a singularly wild urban adventure”! Need I say more?
Retreat to Stowe/Vermont, where you can ski, hike, bike, golf, swim, fish, dance…or just plain relax. Without doubt—you won’t want to wait too long to repeat your retreat!
Experience Vermont in an amazing Stowe vacation rental.
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Part-time: gardener, composter, snow lover, editor, writer, detail manager, cross-country skier, hiker...and occasional dreamer.