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Off the Beaten Path In Vermont
Vermont has much more to offer than just fabulous skiing and authentic maple syrup. Many of the ski resorts offer fun summertime activities and there are fabulous golf courses scattered throughout the state, The spectacular scenery is like no other, and historic covered bridges dot the landscape.
The locals in Vermont are friendly, quiet and softspoken. Ask a Vermonter if he's lived there all his life, and he will most likely respond, "Not yet."
Driving through Vermont can be a bit tricky. Road signs are sometimes non-existent. And many of the roads are two-lane windy affairs that are also home to many logging trucks. My advice? If you're driving uphill behind a full logging truck, pass them as quickly as you can. If one gets behind you when you're driving downhill, pull over and let them pass!
Vermont has a number of top-rated ski resorts such as Killington, Stratton and Stowe. You can also tour the Ben & Jerry's Factory where their ice cream is made, visit the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, take the ferry from Burlington across Lake Champlain into New York, and a host of other tourist activities.
If you're like me, you like to find those little out-of-the-way places that tourists rarely find. And no matter what season you are visiting Vermont, there are plenty of places like that off the beaten path.
Vermont Spring and Summer Fun
- Vermont is the world's largest producer of maple syrup, and the sugaring season runs from mid-March until mid-April. During the month of March, if you notice clouds of steam here and there as you are driving, it's just the steam rising from the sugarhouses as the sap is boiled to produce the delicious golden syrup. Just outside Montpelier you'll find Morse Farm which is reputed to have the best Maple Creemee (soft serve maple ice cream, a must-try) in Vermont. They are open year-round and you can visit their country store or museum, or take a tour of their sugarhouse.
- If you like combining breathtaking scenery with fabulous food, then you must take a ride on the lobster bake train. You will board the Green Mountain Flyer, a restored vintage train in Bellows Falls, and travel through the Green Mountains. It will deposit you in Chester where the Fox Chair Mountain Farm will treat you to an authentic New England lobster bake by the river. Life just doesn't get much better than this.
- Whether you're a baby boomer or not, Burlington is a place you have got to visit at least once in your lifetime, despite it being a huge tourist trap. Time stopped moving in Burlington sometime in the 1960s, and peace and love -- and tie dye -- still thrive here. Church Street is the main hangout. It's rimmed with lots of cute little shops, like my personal favorite, Crow Bookshop, and street performers are everywhere. And it's not unusual for groups to put on small, impromptu shows or parades. While you're in Burlington, be sure to stop at the City Market/Onion River Co-op, a 16,000 square foot community-owned food cooperative. There you, and 3,000 other people every day, will find the best local and organic produce available.
Vermont Fall and Winter Activities
- If you are into snow sports and dislike crowds, then head over to Mad River Glen where their motto is "ski it if you can". It's located on General Stark Mountain in central Vermont's Mad River Valley. This is the perfect place for the purist skier or snowboarder, as Mad River Glen is America's only skier-owned mountain. That's right, it's a co-op. For $2,000, you can become one of the owners. And if you can't afford the $2,000 up-front, they will finance it at $50/month. So maybe they don't have the ambiance of Stowe or the luxuries of Killington. Ownership does have its privileges.
- If you've never taken an evening sleigh ride, or any sleigh ride for that matter, then make sure it's on your checklist for your next trip to Vermont. Adams Farm is located in Wilmington not far from Mount Snow. They offer day and evening sleigh rides from mid-December until mid-March, weather permitting. Their two Belgian horses will pull your sleigh through a maple sugar grove and up a mountain ridge until you reach an old log cabin where you will stop so the horses can rest. There, you can sip hot chocolate, play a game of checkers and listen to the player piano before your return to the farm. Blankets are provided, but don't forget the flask of blackberry brandy to keep you warm from the inside out as well!
Places to Stay in Vermont
(I will admit that none of these three Inns are "off the beaten path". They are, however, my long-time favorites and since this is my article, they will remain here!)
- The Woodstock Inn in Woodstock was founded in 1892 by Laurence Rockefeller, grandson of John D. Rockefeller. What you see now is not the original building which was demolished and replaced with the current building in 1969. The Inn itself is a masterpiece with a floor to ceiling fireplace that greets you when you enter the lobby. They also have a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. golf course on the grounds, a racquet and fitness club and "suicide six" ski area. There are six superb restaurants on the grounds also, ranging from the Main Dining Room to the golf course's Tavern. The Town of Woodstock is a preppy, yet picture-perfect place to spend a weekend any time of year. While you're there, be sure to eat at The Prince and The Pauper as well as Simon Pearce, one of the top crystal, glass and pottery artisans on the East Coast.
- Approximately an hour's drive from Woodstock is Manchester, home of The Equinox. The Equinox, which at various times was known as The Marsh Tavern, The Orvis Hotel and The Widow Black's Inn, is steeped in over 200 years of history and has been visited by four U.S. Presidents. As a matter of fact, Abraham Lincoln also had reservations at The Equinox when he was assassinated. The Equinox now is a small collection of Inns that have been acquired over the years, so guests can have their choice of accommodations. And while The Equinox has the obligatory Walter Travis golf course, it is also home to the British School of Falconry and The Land Rover Experience Driving School.
- The Hermitage Inn is located in West Dover, not far from Mount Snow. It's a very small inn compared to The Equinox and The Woodstock Inn, but that just adds to its charm. Each of the guest rooms are loaded with antiques, and each room has its own gas-burning fireplace. The Hermitage has always been known for its extensive wine cellar, and miles and miles of hiking, biking and cross-country skiing trails. They also now have a stocked pond for fishing, a game room, fitness center, and nightly bonfire with a supply of marshmallows to roast and cognac to sip. Oh, and did I mention, I love The Hermitage so much, I got married here!
Vermont Way Off the Beaten Path
- The Haskell Free Library and Opera House is a must-see for those seeking unique places in Vermont. One-half of the library is located in Derby Line, Vermont, and the other half is located in Beebe Plain, Quebec. On top of a great selection of books (some in English and some in French), they have a black line painted down the middle of the library indicating where the border between the United States and Canada lies. Be polite and don't ask them how many people come in every day and just stand there with one foot on the left side of the line and the other foot on the right side!
- It's been years since I've attended, but I used to be a frequent buyer at the Townshend Auction Gallery. At the time, it was more of a social gathering for this very small town, but they still had quite a few antique gems mixed in with discarded household junk. I once walked away with a full-sized antique oak icebox with intricate carvings for a steal! Don't let the name "auction gallery" fool you. Unless they've changed, the place was no more than a large barn with wooden benches for the bidders to sit on. Even if you're not interested in antiques, you'll have great fun here and will get to mix with a lot of locals from Townshend and Newfane.
- If you happen to be in the Bennington area in October, be sure to stop at the annual Moosefest. Through October, Bennington's streets will be alive with life-sized fiberglass moose that have been handpainted my local artists, and mini-moose painted by local schoolchildren. At the end of the festival, each moose will be auctioned off to raise funds for various Vermont charities.