Every year, I try to play tourist in my own backyard and explore new-to-me places in Vermont as much as possible. There are so many hidden gems in the Green Mountain State that I’ve found it helpful to prioritize my adventures in the form of a Vermont bucket list. Whether you’re a local or visiting Vermont on vacation, here are some ideas for experiencing the quirkiness, deliciousness, and beauty that defines Vermont. (In case you missed it or are in need of even more adventures, check out my Vermont bucket list for 2016 here.)
Experience a Vermont Craft Beer Festival. Waiting in line for beer in Vermont is a rite of passage. With some of the very best brewers, breweries, and craft brews in the world, it’s no surprise we have a variety of beer festivals in every season. The Vermont Brewers’ Festival is by far the largest with the most (and best) breweries participating; the event is hosted on the waterfront in Burlington, which makes it even better (try to book an evening session for stunning sunset views out over Lake Champlain). Tickets go quickly (we’re talking in minutes), so you need to plan ahead. SIPtemberfest, a smaller beer festival at Mad River Glen in Waitsfield is a fall tradition, with the leaves just beginning to pop at the base of the mountain.
Do Something Other Than Ski or Snowboard in Winter. Sure, Vermont has some of the best ski destinations in the east, but winter in Vermont doesn’t mean you’re bound to the mountain. Try going for a dog sled ride with Eden Dog Sledding in Eden Mills, snow tubing at Smuggler’s Notch or Okemo, or snowshoe through the Notch on Route 108 (yes, the same road where countless tractor trailers get stuck in the warm months on the windy road). Not a fan of the cold? Explore Jay Peak’s pump house for indoor pools and water activities.
Go to a Drive-in Movie. There’s something oh-so-special about going to the drive-in, which for many people outside of Vermont, is something you can’t experience these days. Lucky for us, Vermont has three drive-in movie theaters: Sunset Drive-In in Colchester, Vermont, Fairlee Drive-In in Fairlee, Vermont, and The Bethel Drive-In in Bethel, Vermont (previously the Randall Drive-In). Bring your Vermont-made treats and enjoy a movie on the big screen, an experience that will take you back to simpler times.
Take a Covered Bridge Tour of Vermont. With over 100 covered bridges in the state of Vermont, you can see some of Vermont’s charming small towns and explore some roads less traveled when visiting Vermont to admire our covered bridges. There’s an interactive map with all of the covered bridges in Vermont to help guide your way. The Chiselville Bridge in Sunderland and the Taftsville Bridge in Taftsville are two of my very favorites.
Commit to Finding the Very Best Cider Donut in the State. You haven’t truly lived if you haven’t gotten your hands (and mouth) on a Vermont cider donut. Every year at the beginning of apple season, I literally begin salivating. There are many roadside stands and orchards throughout the state that offer their own take on cider donuts. Some are cakey and sugar-covered. Others are chewy sans sugar. Here are some hints as to where you might find some of the Vermont’s best cider donuts: Happy Valley Orchard in Middlebury, Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury Center, and Chapin Orchard in Essex.
Swim in a Marble Quarry. Swimming holes throughout Vermont provide a respite from the summer heat (yes, it does get to 85 or 90 degrees on occasion). One of the very best swimming holes in Vermont is in Dorset and in a marble quarry. The Dorset Quarry opened in the 1780s and was the largely commercial marble quarry in the US. Rumor has it the equipment still is in the bottom of the quarry at 60 feet deep! There are areas where you can wade into the water, and there are marble “cliffs” up to 40 feet above the water for the dare devils and thrill seekers among us.
Experience a Vermont Fair. From the Champlain Valley Fair, to the Addison County Fair and Field Days, to the Tunbridge Fair, summer fairs in Vermont are a unique experience. Sure, there are rides and typical fair food, but Vermont fairs are special due to their focus on agriculture and education. The tractor pulls and demo derbies are especially fun to watch with Vermonters typically taking the events quite seriously. At many fairs, you can also find a maple tent with everything from maple cotton candy to maple fudge to maple creemees, of course. P.S. Don’t miss the racing pigs. Utter cuteness.
Follow Vermont’s Cheese Trail. Wine trail? Brewery passport? Done and done, but how about following Vermont’s lesser known cheese trail? Eat your way up and down the state and get an in-depth education on the art of cheesemaking. There are more than 40 makers of cheese in Vermont with over 150 cheese varieties. Be forewarned that at many of the facilities, you’ll need to call ahead for an appointment. Make sure to stop by Blue Ledge Farm in Salisbury, Plymouth Artisan Cheese in Plymouth, the Cabot Annex Store in Waterbury Center for ample samples or the Cabot Visitor Center in Cabot to view for yourself how cheese is made, and Grafton Village in Grafton – all of which are easily accessible and open to the public.
Learn How to Make Maple Syrup. Maple syrup is part and parcel of the Vermont brand, but do you have any clue how Vermont’s signature product is made and why it’s literally liquid gold for the state? Vermont’s Maple Open House Weekend is March 25-26, 2017, in Vermont is a must-attend event where maple sugar makers throughout the state open the doors to their sugarhouses and welcome guests to experience the process. If you see steam rising and smell a distinct sweetness in the air in your travels during sap season, make sure you stop! There’s something seriously delicious about warm, woodsy, fresh maple syrup. For another Vermont experience, get your hands on your sugar on snow, a simple Vermont sweet treat.
Need even more ideas for visiting Vermont? Check out my 2016 Vermont bucket list. What adventures are on your Vermont bucket list? What are you go-to recommendations for people who are visiting Vermont? Share in the comments below to keep the conversation going!