Vermont See And Do
Kingsland Bay State Park
Ferrisburgh , Vermont
It's called a "folk" festival, but that description doesn't do justice to the bluegrass, blues, Cajun, and Celtic performers that come each August to blast their songs across the waters of Lake Champlain. Bring a blanket (you'll be sitting on the grass), a bottle of wine, and, if you're so inclined, your dancing shoes: The dance tent shakes all weekend long.
Ah, gliding over the snow, lungs filling with crisp oxygen, the smell of wood smoke in the air, and blue skies overhead—the best parts of Nordic skiing. Vermont has 36 dedicated cross-country ski areas, and many of the alpine resorts have attached Nordic centers (see the full list at www.skivermont.com). In northern Vermont, Craftsbury Outdoor Center has more than 80 miles of trails that wend through winter-hushed woods, skirt ice-clogged rivers, and cut through farmers' fields (535 Lost Nation Rd., Craftsbury Common; 802-586-7767; www.craftsbury.com). The area has lodging and meals, and in the summer converts to a sculling and trail-running destination. If you're looking to escape the alpine chaos at Killington, make for Mountain Top Nordic Ski & Snowshoe Center, a 15-minute drive away from the base area (802-483-6089; www.mountaintopinn.com). It offers a pristine 50-mile network of trails and 29 post-and-beam rooms at the Mountain Top inn. It also has a summertime alter ego as a top horseback-riding retreat. And for a true cross-country skiing adventure, the Catamount Trail is the winter equivalent of the famous Long Trail (802-864-5794; www.catamounttrail.org). Beginning at the Massachusetts line and ending at the Canadian border, it stretches the 300-mile length of Vermont, connecting backcountry routes and groomed trails.
From cheddar to beer, lots of good things are produced in Vermont, and some of it is given out as free samples on factory tours. For the cheesiest stuff, find the Cabot Creamery in, naturally, Cabot (Rte. 215, Cabot; 800-837-4261; www.cabotcheese.com). Its annex store near Stowe also offers cheddar galore (Rte. 100, Waterbury Center; 802-244-6334). While in Waterbury, hit Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's for a 30-minute shtick on the company, ice cream tastings, and goofy photo ops (Rte. 100, Waterbury Center; 866-258-6877; www.benjerry.com). Beer lovers might make a stop in Burlington's Magic Hat Brewery (5 Bartlett Bay Rd., South Burlington; 802-658-2739; www.magichat.net), Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury (793 Exchange St., Middlebury; 800-473-0727; www.wolavers.com), or the Long Trail Brewing Co. in Bridgewater Corners (Rte. 4 and 100A, Bridgewater Corners; 802-672-5011; www.longtrail.com).
Across the border, Montréal is full of naughty nightclubs, but Vermont's finest peep show is pure and wholesome. It's also unpredictable, so leaf-peepers should check the foliage report at the official Vermont Department of Tourism site before hopping in the car for a tour of the turning trees (www.vermontvacation.com). If you're making inn reservations, you'll need to gamble by booking months ahead. In the mountains the peak weekend is typically late September, while valley areas often hold on until early October. The best way to see the spectacular display is by driving the 150 miles from Wilmington, Vermont, north to Stowe on Route 100. The rural road climbs and dips through the Green Mountain National Forest, and there are plenty of joints providing roadside sustenance. Do stop at Weston's Vermont Country Store, which brims with hard-to-find soaps, eclectic sundries, and mouthwatering candies.
Vermont is a duffer's dream, thanks to the 70-plus courses that dot its bright green valleys. For those staying in the Northeast Kingdom region, Jay Peak Resort hosts 18 holes ($99 on weekends) by course architect Graham Cooke (4850 Rte. 242, Jay; 802-327-2184; www.jaypeakresort.com). In the Burlington area, the Jack Nicklaus–designed Vermont National Country Club is private but welcomes guests of select city hotels, including the Sheraton Burlington and the Courtyard Marriott Burlington, for $120 each and reciprocal guests for $105 each (1227 Dorset St., South Burlington; 802-864-7770; www.vermontnational.com). Too steep? A former dairy farmer now milks golfers for only $32 a round at the pretty 18-hole Cedar Knoll Country Club (13020 Rte. 116, Hinesburg; 802-482-3186; www.cedarknollgolf.com). Farther south, guests at the Equinox hit the Golf Club at Equinox ($80 to $115 on weekends), now managed by Troon Golf; those staying at the Deerhill Inn can enjoy the Mount Snow Golf Club ($85 on weekends), designed by Geoffrey Cornish, just two miles away (Rte. 100, West Dover; 802-464-4254; www.mountsnow.com).
The Appalachian Trail? The Continental Divide and the Pacific Crest? Sorry, but they're all whippersnappers when compared with the Long Trail, the oldest long-distance footpath in the country. And nearly 100 years after trail-breaking in 1910, the Long Trail still whups hikers with 270 miles of scrambles, summits, and sunsets along the spine of Vermont from Massachusetts to Canada. (Find maps and information at the Green Mountain Club, 4711 Waterbury-Stowe Rd., Waterbury Center; 802-244-7037; www.greenmountainclub.org). For a weekend sample of the LT, consider the Monroe Skyline, a 12.2-mile hike along the ridges of the central Green Mountains, near Warren and the Pitcher Inn. Other high-elevation hikes include the 7.4-mile trip up and down the 4,083-foot Camel's Hump, and the myriad trails (from 6 to 8 miles, round-trip) winding around Mount Mansfield, at 4,393 feet Vermont's highest point. Both are a short drive from post-hike pedicures and pinot noir at Stowe's Topnotch Resort and Spa.
U.S. states have official flowers, birds, and songs, but some sap gave Vermont an official flavor: maple. Sugar makers produce a half million gallons of the amber liquid each year, tapping their sugar maples (Vermont's official state tree, natch) during the spring thaw and boiling up batches of syrup in sweet-smelling sugarhouses. Many makers, including Sugarbush Farm in Woodstock (591 Sugarbush Farm Rd.; 802-457-1757; www.sugarbushfarm.com) and Morse Farm in Montpelier (1168 County Rd.; 802-223-2740; www.morsefarm.com), open their sugarhouses to the public; the best month to visit is March. A full list of places and events can be found at www.vermontmaple.org.
One of the world's best places to mountain bike is the Northeast Kingdom, a royally unspoiled and forested corner of Vermont that kisses the Canadian border and the Connecticut River. Here, the Kingdom Trails Association maintains a 110-mile network of multi-use trails that twirl through the woods (802-626-0737; www.kingdomtrails.org). Rent bikes and purchase passes at East Burke Sports (802-626-3215; www.eastburkesports.com), and lay your head at Lyndonville's Wildflower Inn. Other fat-tire options can be found at Millstone Hill, a 30-mile-plus web of trails around abandoned granite quarries—some filled with Caribbean-blue water—in Barre (www.millstonetrails.com). Outside the Kingdom, several Vermont ski resorts, including Sugarbush (1840 Sugarbush Access Rd., Warren; 800-537-8487; www.sugarbush.com), Killington (4763 Killington Rd., Killington; 800-621-6867; www.killington.com), and Mount Snow (Mount Snow Rd., West Dover; 802-464-2151; www.mountsnow.com), offer lift-served, downhill mountain biking for all ability levels throughout the summer. Bring Band-Aids, though—it can get pretty rough.
1611 Harbor Road
Shelburne , Vermont
Tel: 802 985 8442
The luckiest animals in the world live at Shelburne Farms: These 1,400 acres on Lake Champlain represent Vermont's most prime piece of real estate. Sure, the moo-makers and oinkers have to endure the squeals of schoolchildren on field trips. But there's the chance of scraps from the Inn at Shelburne Farms, whose restaurant serves locally grown produce from the site's own Market Garden. The Brown Swiss cows produce the milk that will eventually become tasty aged Cheddar. All of the animals—and the humans who visit here when it's open, May through October—have William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb to thank for Shelburne Farms. In 1887, they founded the property as a model agricultural estate and built magnificent breeding, dairy, and coach barns to match the 36,800-square-foot mansion, which is now a 24-room inn (rooms, a bit heavy on the chintz, start at $245 with en-suite bath). The farm continues to educate visitors about sustainability and to host myriad concerts and events, including summer's impressive Mozart Festival. Guests seeking quieter pursuits will enjoy the walking trails meandering through the woods and meadows. Shelburne Farms is a must-see.
Open daily 10 am to 4 pm, mid-May to mid-October.
U.S. Route 7
Shelburne , Vermont
Tel: 802 985 3346
Bring your walking shoes. This 45-acre marquee Vermont attraction—founded by the late Electra Havemeyer Webb in 1947—includes 150,000 works of art housed in 39 buildings, the 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga, a prefab Kalkin House (made from three transoceanic shipping containers), an 1871 lighthouse, and a two-lane covered bridge. The collections range from 4,000 tiny circus figures to Monet paintings to a 1950s kitchen. Aim to visit in mid-May, when hundreds of lilac bushes are in bloom, or bring a picnic to one of the summer concerts held on the splendid, rolling green, with the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain as a backdrop. Willie Nelson, Michael Franti, and Melissa Etheridge have all played here.
Open daily 10 am to 5 pm, mid-May to late October.
Vermont has a total of 5,700 acres spread across 17 alpine resorts, with up to 300 inches a year. And when Mother Nature plays coy, there are plenty of guns 'n' hoses to keep you covered; 70 percent of the lift-served terrain has snowmaking.
Jay Peak in the Northeast Kingdom attracts packs of powderhounds due to a weather pattern that dumps snow on its flanks while leaving other areas dry (Rte. 242, Jay; 800-451-4449; www.jaypeakresort.com). The mountain also has excellent tree skiing and a loosey-goosey backcountry policy that sends skiers and riders whooping into the woods. Slope-side lodging and dining facilities are a bit dumpy, but you're here for the snow, the 76 trails, and the low lift prices. Also in the Kingdom, and a ten-minute drive from the Wildflower Inn, you'll find Burke Mountain Ski Area, a low-key peak with 45 trails, most of them intermediate (223 Shelburne Lodge Rd., East Burke; 800-626-4124; www.skiburke.com).
No Vermont ski area is more storied than Stowe Mountain Resort, which epitomized the heyday of Bogner-clad ski bunnies and long-planked show-offs in the '60s and '70s (5781 Mountain Rd., Stowe; 800-253-4754; www.stowe.com). It hasn't changed much since then—with the exception of a $400-million sprucing up and a new gondola between the advanced trails of Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak, the beginner area. Adding to lodging options such as Topnotch, a few miles away, the swanky Stowe Mountain Lodge will open at Spruce in spring 2008. On the other side of Stowe (but a 45-minute drive away, thanks to winter road closings) is Smugglers' Notch, which is geared toward families (5323 VT Rte. 108, Smugglers' Notch; 800-451-8752; www.smuggs.com). Still, the 78 trails and 2,610 feet of vertical keep grown-ups happy, too, including the only triple black diamond on the East Coast.
If you're looking to hit the slopes in the southern half of Vermont, drop down Route 100 from Stowe and you'll find Mad River Glen, one of only four American ski areas that still ban snowboards; it also pooh-poohs snowmaking and grooming (Rte. 17, Waitsfield; 802-496-3551; www.madriverglen.com). The result is a raw, refreshing, and highly rewarding ski experience, especially when you ride the famous single chair, which deposits only 450 skiers per hour on the narrow, vertiginous trails. If you can handle the moguls on Chute or the tight tree lines of Lynx, you can handle any run in the world. Nearby Sugarbush, which has 16 lifts and 508 skiable acres, welcomes boarders (1840 Sugarbush Access Rd., Warren; 800-537-8427; www.sugarbush.com). The southern peak, Lincoln, has a ritzy new base village but can be especially crowded on holiday weekends; for more solitude, try Sugarbush's Mount Ellen, also known as "North."
Further south in the Green Mountain Range lies the behemoth of Killington; go here for the steep moguls on Outer Limits, the sheer variety of terrain, and the après scene around town (4763 Killington Rd., Killington; 802-422-3333; www.killington.com). Okemo's 117 trails are known for their impeccable grooming and consistent snow (77 Okemo Ridge Rd., Ludlow; 802-228-4041; www.okemo.com). If you're staying at the Deerhill Inn, you'll ski Mount Snow, which has 107 trails and 590 acres (Mount Snow Rd., West Dover; 802-464-3333; www.mountsnow.com). And in the Manchester area sits the trio of Stratton, which hosts the snowboarding U.S. Open each March and has 90 well-maintained trails (Rte. 30, Bondville; 802-297-2200; www.stratton.com); Bromley, a sunny, southern-exposure resort (3984 VT Rte. 11, Peru; 800-865-4786; www.bromley.com); and Magic Mountain, which is a small but tough area that often has powder (Rte. 11, Londonderry; 802-624-5645; www.magicmtn.com).
Stowe , Vermont
Winter carnivals are a dime a dozen in snowbelt states, but few achieve the elevated status of Stowe's celebration of cold each January. Ice-carving demonstrations, snow golf and volleyball, and even a Super G ski race down Mt. Mansfield help ensure a hungry crowd at the annual chicken pie supper.
More than 800 lakes and ponds and 7,000-plus miles of rivers and streams give the Green Mountain State plenty of blue spots to play in. Canoeists might consider taking on part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a collection of waterways that runs 740 miles through parts of Vermont and forges Lake Champlain on its way from Maine to New York (802-496-2285; www.northernforestcanoetrail.org). For flat-water kayaking, Lake Champlain offers 435 square miles of mountain-surrounded splendor and numerous put-ins around Burlington; a recently developed Paddlers' Trail links campsites and other services (802-658-1414; www.lakechamplaincommittee.org). The lake is also a top sailing spot, and landlubbers can take lessons from Burlington's Community Sailing Center (1 Lake St., Burlington; 802-864-2499; www.communitysailingcenter.org). Whitewater around Vermont is relatively scarce compared to, say, Maine, but there are some good kayaking holes on the Mad River near Waitsfield and Warren; daredevils might take on Otter Creek Falls in Middlebury.