On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:Between natural wonders, wildlife and arts and crafts, Southern Vermont is an ideal place to explore with the family. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best things to do with kids in the southern part of the state:
1. Trek Vermont’s little Grand Canyon. Quechee Gorge is perhaps the state’s most visited attraction — you can overlook the impressive gorge and rushing whitewater flowing 165 feet below. Take a short and family-friendly 20-minute hike to the base of the torrents where you can wade into the calm section beyond.
2. Learn science the fun way. The Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich is small but first-rate, designed to be very interactive, educational and hands-on for kids. Most of it is indoors but the outdoor attractions are impressive, especially a scale model of the solar system that inspires kids to grasp the vast distances between the planets by walking the model in pedestrian scale.
3. Live like an early settler. At the Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, life goes on as it would have for farmers two centuries ago — milking cows by hand, churning butter and using period tools to work the land. Children adore this interactive living museum. Bonus: Visitors can even try the freshly made butter.
4. Shop the quintessential general store. Traditional general stores are a vanishing breed — except in Vermont. The most famous is the Vermont Country Store, which is stocked to the rafters with penny candies, oddball devices and things you didn’t know you needed. Two other similar stores of note are Dan & Whit’s in Norwich, carrying everything from hunting boots and cow bells to sushi wrappers, and F. H. Gillingham & Sons in Woodstock, which sells vintage Bordeaux alongside classic wooden toys and fishing gear.
5. Explore the mountain. Bromley ski resort in southwestern Vermont has the state’s largest adventure park open from spring to fall. It has one of the world’s longest alpine slides, mini-golf, bumper boats, Vermont’s longest water slide, a zip line for younger kids, the state’s largest zip line canopy park for older kids, and the Sun Mountain Flyer, a thrilling downhill zip line that reaches speeds up to 50 miles per hour.
On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:This part of the state is home to several picturesque small towns, those that combine the Green Mountain State’s pastoral quaintness with good shopping, dining and cultural activities. Southern Vermont is packed with outdoorsy attractions between towns, making this area ripe for road trips. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors picked the five best things to do in Southern Vermont:
1. Visit the other Woodstock. Not to be confused with New York’s Woodstock where the famous music festival took place years ago, Vermont’s is home to the state’s only National Park, the historic Woodstock Inn & Resort, and is the legacy of onetime resident Laurance Rockefeller who bestowed the town with vast improvements and reserves that keep it quintessentially Vermont. It is full of charming shops and excellent restaurants.
2. Go beer tasting. Vermont was one of the first states to embrace craft brewing more than two decades ago, and is now home to many respected beer makers. Two have excellent visitor facilities with brewery tours and good restaurants — the Harpoon Brewery in Windsor and the Long Trail Brewing Company Bridgewater.
3. Stop by Manchester. Tucked in the state’s southwestern corner near the Massachusetts and New York borders, Manchester is perhaps the most visitor-friendly Vermont town. It has the state’s preeminent resort, The Equinox Resort & Spa, a slew of excellent restaurants, a historic downtown Main Street, a newer area with one-of-a-kind factory outlet shopping, the headquarters and flagship store of retailer Orvis and historic sites including Robert Todd Lincoln’s Hildene estate.
4. See stuff get made. Vermont is all about craft, and in a relatively small region around Quechee, Norwich and Bridgewater, you can see the best of the best at work: famed glassblower Simon Pearce; Charles Shackleton, a renowned fine furniture manufacturer; the bakery and impressive headquarters of King Arthur Flour, well known to foodies nationwide; and cheese and maple syrup producer Sugarbush Farm.
5. Take a Hike. Excellent outdoor adventures can be found all throughout Vermont, but this region is especially rich for hiking: the famed Appalachian Trail enters the state in Norwich on the New Hampshire border, and runs east to west all the way to Killington ski resort. Here the trail is crossed by Vermont’s Long Trail, another long distance route that runs the length of the state from Canada to Massachusetts. Both offer plenty of options for day and multi-day hikes.
On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:The best alpine skiing in Northern Vermont is at the Jay Peak, Stowe and Sugarbush resorts. These spots, recommended by Forbes Travel Guide editors, offer varied terrain and usually good snow conditions. Mad River Glen has a loyal following who loves its hardline refusal to embrace grooming or snowmaking, but skiers should be aware of the tricky conditions — part of its mystique as an expert’s mountain is simply bad snow rather than good terrain. Bolton Valley has some very unique off-camber terrain advanced skiers will enjoy, and Smugglers’ Notch is a great family choice. For Nordic skiing, the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Craftsbury offers an excellent variety of trails, while Stowe is home to three different but interlinked Nordic facilities including the Trapp Family Lodge, which offers rare snowmaking on its cross-country trails.
On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:The most popular souvenirs you can bring home with you from Vermont all share one important trait — you can eat them. Cold Hollow Cider Mill, near Stowe, sells fresh apple cider and a slew of apple-related products that are easy to bring home, such as apple butter or preserves. Head to Cabot Cheese to pick up award-winning cheddars made from a cooperative of local dairy farmers. (Try the Vintage Choice Cheddar, which is cellar-aged for 24 months.) Other edible favorites include local artisanal maple syrups, honeys, and pancake mixes that can be found in most boutiques across Northern Vermont.
On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:Vermont takes both the production and consumption of food very seriously, with a focus on the natural, organic, artisanal and chemical free. The five best dining experiences recommended by Forbes Travel Guide in Northern Vermont are:
1. A breakfast with lots of maple syrup. Vermont is famous for its maple syrup, and nearly any breakfast will do the trick. Order up pancakes, waffles or French toast and pour liberally.
2. A visit to A&W in Middlebury. Head to this A&W Root Beer outpost — the last of its kind — where the drive-in eatery has car hops deliver hooked trays directly to your window. It is only open from spring to fall, so make sure to head over in warmer months.
3. An ice cream tasting. Some say Vermont has more cows than people, making ice cream de rigueur. Ben & Jerry’s is headquartered in Waterbury and visitors can tour and taste their way through the factory. Got a hankering for more? Visit Strafford Organic Creamery, Leonardo’s Gelato or Island Homemade Ice Cream.
4. An apple picking experience. Growing apples is a passion in Vermont, especially the heirloom varieties. In the fall, many orchards offer pick-your-own apples and apple pies. Head to Cold Hollow Cider Mill outside Stowe, where you can watch apple pressing, sample hot and cold ciders or chow down on fresh apple donuts.
5. Cheese. Vermont has more cheese makers per capita than any state, as well as the nation’s largest cheese aging cave. Cabot Cheese, a cooperative of Vermont dairy farmers, earns awards for best cheddar and has a large public tasting room just outside of Stowe.
On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:For the most active nightlife in Northern Vermont, Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend you head to Burlington where several schools, including The University of Vermont, create a bustling bar scene year-round. The Church Street Marketplace is a pedestrianized area that has a slew of bars, pubs and clubs, plus many of the area’s restaurants serve late into the night. For a rowdy night on the town, head to Red Square, which features live music and a fun crowd. Stowe also has a lively nightlife scene during ski season, when the après folks heads to local watering holes such as The Rusty Nail to warm up with a stiff drink.
On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:To see the best of Northern Vermont in one day requires a lot of driving and a plan. Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend sticking around the ski resorts for après ski shopping and dining during the winter; summer and fall visitors will want to explore the natural beauty of the area. Visit the historic covered bridges and charming city streets of Stowe, a ski town full of specialty boutiques and country stores — we love Harvest Market for its fresh breads and sandwiches. Grab enough for a mountaintop lunch and head to Stowe’s Pinnacle Summit, a nearby hike (about two hours both ways) that offers sprawling mountain views. To see a bit more Northern Vermont, head southwest through the towns of Waitsfield and Warren to Shelburne, where you can visit the Shelburne Museum on your way west to the coast of Lake Champlain. Finish your day with a spin through the beautiful University of Vermont campus and a dinner in one many restaurants on Burlington’s Center Street.
On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:For the widest variety of shops, the quaint mountain town of Stowe is your best bet, according to Forbes Travel Guide editors. Main Street is the central artery through town, and you can find a slew of fine art galleries featuring works by local artists. Stop into Main Street’s Laughing Moon Chocolates for a sweet treat, and then head to nearby Mountain Road, where Stowe Craft & Design has locally made jewelry, sculpture and ceramics. The charming streets of Stowe have even more to offer, from ski, fish and bike outfitters to kitchen shops and upscale pet stores. Clotheshorses might not find much here — if you’re on the hunt for hipper duds, head to Church Street Marketplace in downtown Burlington.
On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:With natural beauty, museums and a buzzing farm culture, Vermont is an ideal destination to explore with the family. Forbes Travel Guide editors chose the five best things to do with kids in Northern Vermont:
1. Tour the Ben & Jerry’s factory. The Waterbury flagship has a great factory tour — even for those without kids. Taste a few free samples and then attempt to tackle the Vermonster, a 20-scoop sundae topped with hot fudge, bananas, brownies and whipped cream.
2. Explore the Shelburne Museum. A museum for folks who don’t like museums, the diverse Shelburne has something for everyone. Laid out like a college campus, it has numerous buildings and sites, including impressionist art exhibits and a landlocked ship, the Ticonderoga steamboat. Kids will love walking through the antique train and covered bridge.
3. Play at the Pump House. Northern Vermont’s newest family attraction is the 50,000-square-foot indoor waterpark at the Jay Peak resort near the Canadian border. It’s open year-round, but the roof retracts in nice weather for alfresco enjoyment of the wave pool and slides, including one that drops six stories.
4. Ride the Stowe gondola. The enclosed ride to the top of Stowe Mountain Resort offers one of the most scenic views in New England, plus the chance to get out and walk around at the top before riding back down.
5. Visit the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium. Built in 1889, this classic Natural History Museum is chock full of tools, fossils, antiques and taxidermy, including more than 75,000 specimens. It is home to the working weather station of Vermont Public Radio and is the state’s only planetarium.
On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:This part of the state is home to the best ski resorts in the Eastern United States, and besides the obvious attraction of skiing, the resorts provide year-round outdoor and cultural activities. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best things to do in Northern Vermont:
1. Go skiing. You won’t find better skiing on the East Coast than at the big mountains of Stowe, Sugarbush and Jay Peak. Smaller Burke and Bolton Valley have rugged character and plenty of charm.
2. Get out on the water. Lake Champlain is Vermont’s answer to the Great Lakes, and its many islands can be explored by ferry. Landlubbers can enjoy tranquil drives along its shores, which stretch all the way to Canada. Be on the lookout for Champ, Vermont’s Loch Ness-style monster.
3. Go for a ride. Open spring through fall, the narrow and twisting pass through Smugglers’ Notch is one of the more memorable drives in all of the state, and even more memorable on a bicycle.
4. Hit the big city. OK, it’s not really a big city but Burlington is as close as it gets in Vermont. It’s the departure point for ferries on Lake Champlain and home to the University of Vermont, beautiful waterfront parks and the downtown, pedestrianized Church Street Marketplace.
5. See Stowe. If you can visit only one Vermont town, make it Stowe. Stowe is Vermont’s top ski resort, but the town is even busier in summer with almost non-stop weekend festivals and some of the best assortment of eateries and lodging in the state.
On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:The Kentucky Derby is more than just a horse race – it is a two-week festival that kicks off with the world’s largest fireworks display, Thunder over Louisville, then features a marathon and half-marathon, parades, social galas and charity auctions. Things really heat up on Kentucky Oaks Day, the day before the Derby itself, which is always held the first Saturday in May. Oaks Day is the more feminine version of the Derby, with just as elaborate hats and dresses, all with the goal of raising money to fight cancer. Locals love Oaks Day and it is nearly as crowded as the Derby, especially since all the official ticket and travel packages sold by Churchill Downs include both days. There are galas the night before the Oaks (Taste of the Derby), the night of the Oaks (the Julep) and the next day is the Derby. Racing starts at 10:30 a.m., the Derby is the 11th race of the day, around 6 p.m., and is always preceded by a celebrity singing of the national anthem (Mary J. Blige in 2012), and the University of Louisville marching band playing the state anthem, My Old Kentucky Home. The entire affair is filled with pomp and circumstance and tradition, and then comes “The most exciting two minutes in sports,” the Winner’s Party and more mint juleps. It is like the Super Bowl merged with Mardi Gras.
On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:The most popular Louisville souvenirs you can take home fit neatly into three categories — and fairly neatly into your suitcase. Horse racing related gifts from Churchill Downs, especially dirt encrusted horseshoes that have been run on the track; all manner of Kentucky bourbons and accessories like silver-plated mint julep glasses; and personalized bats from Louisville Slugger. Before you leave, be sure to stop by the Louisville Slugger Factory & Museum, where wooden bats are painstakingly custom made for most Major Leaguers. You can see the process, view historic bats, take a few swings of your own in batting cages, and even get a personalized bat branded with your own name (or the name of someone who’d appreciate the gift).
On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:Louisville combines the flavors and traditions of Southern cooking with the meat-centric Midwestern diet, and throws in some unique celebratory twists of its own. Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ suggest these five dining experiences to try when in Louisville.
1. The Hot Brown. Invented at the Brown Hotel, which still serves the best, this is an open face sandwich of toast points covered with turkey, smothered in Mornay sauce (a cheesy béchamel), then garnished with grated cheese, bacon and tomatoes, all cooked until sizzling in an oven safe pan and served as a one pot dish. It is Louisville’s signature meal, created in the roaring 20s to feed a late night dance crowd, and found today at many restaurants.
2. Mutton and Burgoo. Western Kentucky, especially Owensboro, has developed a highly regionalized style of barbecue based not on pork or beef, but rather mutton. This is served chopped, sliced or in burgoo, a gumbo-like, mutton stew. These dishes are uniquely Kentuckian and can be found throughout Louisville as well, especially at BBQ places like Mark’s Feed Store.
3. Derby Pie or Kentucky Pie. No Derby party is considered complete without this signature dessert, a sort of walnut version of chocolate pecan pie. A local bakery, Kern’s, holds the trademark on Derby Pie, so you can get it from them or at a handful of authorized restaurant resellers. Otherwise, everyone has the dish, but calls it Kentucky Pie.
4. Urban Bourbon Trail. Louisville is the heart and soul of bourbon country, and has created an Urban Bourbon Trail, passport and all, featuring nine bars with among the country’s finest selections of domestic whiskies. You can get the passport at the Visitors Center, but highlights are Proof on Main, the Brown Hotel Bar, Jockey Silks and the Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge.
5. Breakfast bonanza. Locals are crazy for breakfast – there is no other way to describe it. From an Elvis tribute of peanut butter and banana stuffed French toast at Toast on Market to the BLT home fries and cinnamon granola pancakes at Lynn’s Paradise Café, wacky, creative – and huge – breakfasts abound.
On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:The biggest concentration of nightlife options in Louisville is Fourth Street Live, a pedestrianized zone in downtown that includes a comedy club, bowling alley, and plenty of bars, restaurants and clubs. It is important to note that this area is a bit touristy and you are not likely to encounter any actual locals here. For a more authentic taste of Louisville, the pubs of Bardstown Road in the hip Highlands neighborhood tend to feature live music and lively atmosphere.
On September 19, 2012Larry Olmsted answered the question:To see the best of Louisville in one day requires a car or cab, but parking and getting around is easy and the distances between the three key areas are short. Park anywhere in downtown near Main Street, and you can easily explore “Museum Mile” on foot, including the Muhammad Ali Center, Louisville Slugger Museum, 21c Museum Hotel, Frazier International History Museum and Louisville Science Center. If you are staying in a downtown hotel, you can do this part entirely on foot. From here it is a short hop over to mile-long Bardstown Road, known for its boutique shops and bookstores. Park anyplace and explore Louisville’s hippest neighborhood, the Highlands, on foot, stopping for lunch anywhere that suits your fancy. Next, head over to Churchill Downs to see the famous race track and its Kentucky Derby Museum.