If Vermont nightlife sounds like an oxymoron, well, sometimes it is. After all, the state's dairy farmers call it quits right around dusk so they can be up before dawn. And the active types around here also like to get an early start for climbing up to the top of Mount Mansfield or paddling across Lake Champlain. But recently, urban escapees have also turned Burlington bars—and plenty of gems outside of the Queen City—into groovy locales for catching a band and dancing under the disco lights into the wee hours.
To maximize the partying potential at Vermont bars, start early—as in 3:30 pm, when après-ski hot spots such as Killington's Wobbly Barn, Waterbury's Alchemist, or Stowe's Matterhorn roll out the happy hour specials for the slope-schussers. Keep in mind that these bars are usually further than walking distance from hotels, so either designate a driver or make use of a local taxi service. (There are plenty in ski towns.) When the snow's not flying, a night owl's best bet is to stick around Burlington. The highly concentrated cluster of colleges and the University of Vermont has helped to foster a number of worthy bars and pubs, with standouts including Red Square and Nectar's (the provenance of Phish and the place for late-night gravy fries). Music fans will find local acts regularly playing at such offbeat spots as Montpelier's Positive Pie 2; for the biggest names, you'll want to head to Higher Ground or the Pickle Barrel. And for true Vermont nightlife, consider unrolling a sleeping bag and watching the stars overhead.