Get ready for lots of flannel, a weird obsession with ice cream, and a boatload of fun.
Vermont has more than just maple syrup and that woman who knitted those infamous mittens worn by United States Senator Bernie Sanders. The Green Mountain State is chock full of small-town charm with a huge amount of hospitality. Vermonters are known for their welcoming attitude and their laid-back personality.
In almost every place you will visit, you’ll see exactly why that is.
Because it’s hard not to be relaxed in such breathtaking beauty. The changing leaf colors blanket the state every autumn and it is something to behold. Make sure you stick around for a little while and find a basecamp for all of your adventures throughout the state.
1. Explore the Green Mountains.
Unlike its neighboring state’s iconic White Mountains, Vermont has the Green Mountains. Just like the White Mountains are named after the rock that encases most of its summits, the Green Mountains are named due to the greenery that sits atop of them.
Most summits, except for some higher altitude ones like Mount Mansfield, have lots of trees at the top. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be views and, in some cases, there are even fire towers that you can climb to get 360-degree vistas! For some great options for a Vermont day hike, check these out.
2. Take a drive through a kingdom.
Seventy-five percent of Vermont is forested with hundreds of backroads and scenic byways. There is truly an endless list of beautiful roads to check out all the fall colors. Some of the best scenic drives are on this list but for the best peak autumn colors, head to the Northeast Kingdom Byway.
Not only is it fairly remote and much less touristy than other drives, but it also takes you through some of the most pristine forest. Leave the more crowded roads, like the Green Mountain Byway (Route 100), to those unsure of an adventure.
Pro tip: a hike up Mount Pisgah is a must-do if you’re making this drive. You won’t regret the gorgeous views and the way Lake Willoughby reflects the beauty of the oranges, reds, and yellows of the changing leaves.
3. Make a pit stop at The Vermont Country Store.
Notice the capital “T” in “the.” This place isn’t just your average country store — it’s THE country store. No trip to Vermont is complete without meandering through the shelves of The Vermont Country Store.
You will feel as if you are transported back in time when penny candy was actually a penny. Although, believe it or not, the penny candy at The Vermont Country Store is still a penny!
There are two branches that you could potentially visit: one in Bellows Falls and one in Weston. Both are full of Vermont flare including flannels for the whole family, endless maple syrup, and lots of trinkets and toys that will bring a smile to even the grumpiest person. Old-fashioned games are brought back anew and waiting for you to purchase them.
Pro tip: the homemade chocolates are sinfully delicious so don’t miss out on them. Also, feel free to hang about and try your hand at a game of checkers.
Related read: 10 Magical Glamping Destinations in New England
4. Go to Church — but not that type of church.
Instead of getting your rosary beads out, head to Church Street in downtown Burlington. The Church Street Marketplace is an award-winning pedestrian mall — who knew that was a thing?
It was designed by the same architect that built the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colorado and is just as magnificent. In the fall, the trees that line the walkways burst into color and provide the perfect backdrop for all your shopping and dining needs.
Pick from the various restaurant and dining establishments that are peppered (pun intended) throughout the brick walkway. For some Mediterranean-style eats, head to Honey Road. Both the front and back of the house is led by women and Cara Tobin, the executive chef, slams every one of your taste buds with fervor. For a favorite local eatery, make your way to Leunig’s Bistro and Café and pass the time by people watching.
After you’ve eaten, meander along the pedestrian-only sidewalks into the diverse array of shops. Grab everything you’ll need for an outdoor adventure at the Outdoor Gear Exchange or take your dessert to go at Lake Champlain Chocolates. There are shops for everything you’ll need!
5. Head to Woodstock.
It’s not named after Snoopy’s bird pal or where the famed hippie concert happened in 1969. Woodstock is simply a small town in northern Vermont that has equals parts charm and beauty.
The tree-lined streets are vivid with color once autumn comes around and not to be missed. You can meander down the main thoroughfare to dine and shop. Make sure to pop into Vermont’s oldest general store, F.H. Gillingham and Sons, as well as The Yankee Bookshop, Vermont’s longest running independent bookstore.
You can also find several covered bridges around town including Taftsville Covered Bridge, Middle Covered Bridge, and Lincoln Covered Bridge. Only the Middle Covered Bridge can be visited within walking distance of downtown, though. While you’re on your walk, make sure to end your day at the Long Trail Brewery. It’s technically in Bridgewater but just southwest of Woodstock.
Related read: 9 Beautiful Spots to See Fall Colors in Maine
6. Smuggle your way up through the Notch.
You don’t really have to smuggle anything when you drive through Smugglers’ Notch. If there is one thing that you do when visiting Vermont in the fall, its to head up the winding road to the “Notch” as locals lovingly call it.
The narrow and steep scenic byway surrounded by trees lends for a spectacular autumn display. Unfortunately, everyone else usually has the same idea. On any fall weekend, the traffic heading up to the Notch will most likely be at a standstill so be prepared to wait. When you get to the top, Sterling Pond is a great hike for all ages.
Pro tip: go early! Like really early. Think 6 am early.
7. Grab a scoop.
Sure, some might think ice cream isn’t exactly the thing that comes to mind when you dream of autumn. Despite it being mostly a summer treat, a favorite fall pastime is to visit the headquarters of Ben & Jerry’s in Waterbury. You can take a full tour of the factory or just grab a scoop at the (you guessed it) Scoop Shop while you peruse the Flavor Graveyard outside.
But what makes Ben & Jerry’s so good no matter the time of year you visit, is their values. As quoted on their website, they “love making ice cream – but our business to make the world a better place gives our work its meaning.”
And they show it. They are constantly financially supporting several grassroots programs and are staunch supporters of people using their voice to create action. And Vermonters love it!
Related read: 10 Best Spots to See Fall Colors in New Hampshire
8. Take your pick of apple cider donuts.
Move over pumpkin spice latte and make way for fall’s number one requested food item: apple cider donuts! Although Starbucks will stick with the PSL until the day it dies, apple cider donuts are becoming the most requested thing in the autumn months. Apples are at their ripest and orchards are more than willing to tempt their visitors with some delicious treats.
There are several good options to pick some apples as well as try cider donuts like Shelburne Orchards, Champlain Orchards, and Hackett’s Orchard. But a crowd favorite is the Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, just up the road from Ben & Jerry’s.
Not only do they have their famous apple cider donuts among other pastries, but they also serve hard cider in their tasting room. You’ll need to get yourselves a dozen donuts to make sure you can soak up all the alcohol you might consume before heading on your way.
9. Chuck a pumpkin.
This isn’t some sort of euphemism. If you want to work out some anger issues or simply want to unleash your inner child, head to the Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin Festival.
Every year in Stowe, a few teams compete to take home the title of “best pumpkin chuckin” through the various devices that they designed. Thousands of spectators watch as each team tries their hands at chucking pumpkins as far as they can. This might not be the largest festival in the state, but it’s, by far, the funnest.
Related read: 10 Best Things to Do During Fall in Connecticut
10. Get lost in the largest corn maze in New England.
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No joke, the corn maze in Danville, VT is insanely huge. Spanning 24 acres, the hike to get around the Great Vermont Maze takes a whopping three hours. It’s recommended for most adults and children accompanied by adults. They make it very clear on the website that 90% of teenagers will NOT enjoy the maze and most quit within 20 minutes.
The maze changes every year with a new design. In 2020, they honored all the medical staff that had to deal with the stress and panic of the pandemic with the standard symbol of Caduceus. Other years include a dragon breathing fire, velociraptors, and mountain gorillas.
Even though it takes around three hours to complete the trek, there are several “emergency trails” to get you out if you need a break for food or the restroom. Then you can hop back on the trail without having to start back at the beginning.
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