What are the best things to see and do in Northern Vermont?

Larry Olmsted

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, 2012
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where is the best skiing in Northern Vermont?

    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, 2012
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What is the best thing to bring home from Northern Vermont?

    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, 2012
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best Northern Vermont food experiences?

    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.
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  • On September 19, 2012
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where is the best nightlife in Northern Vermont?

    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, 2012
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What is the best way to see Northern Vermont in one day?

    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, 2012
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where is the best shopping in Northern Vermont?

    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, 2012
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best things to do with kids in Northern Vermont?

    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, 2012
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best things to see and do in Northern Vermont?

    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 July 25, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to eat in Northern Vermont?

    The stiff culinary competition in Northern Vermont keeps standards high. Eateries eagerly embrace the farm-to-table concept, using local meats, organic vegetables and artisanal cheeses. Check out Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best places to eat:
     
    1. Solstice. The fine dining restaurant in the Stowe Mountain Lodge takes local produce to a new level, with extremely selective sourcing of every ingredient and a seasonally changing menu that reflects the yield of the current time of year.
     
    2. Pistou.
     This American bistro opened in late 2011 in Burlington and received a James Beard nomination for Best New Restaurant soon after. Pistou features local, inventive dishes inspired by both Vermont goods and high-end Manhattan eateries.
     
    3. The Kitchen Table Bistro. This charming restaurant is about 20 minutes east of Burlington in Richmond. Housed in an 18th-century building, The Kitchen Table Bistro has several different cozy dining rooms and specializes in fresh, regional cuisine.
     
    4. A Single Pebble. Twenty years ago, this was the hottest restaurant in Vermont when it opened with next-generation authentic Chinese food. It has since moved to Burlington and has become even more ambitious, serving haute Chinese cuisine with a farm-to-table emphasis.
     
    5. Inn at Shelburne Farms. The historic inn has an elegant restaurant and an impressive menu that revolves around seasonal ingredients grown locally — some are even grown on the property’s farm. Tip: Get there early to enjoy a cocktail on the expansive terrace for scenic views.
  • On July 25, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in Northern Vermont?

    From bed and breakfasts to luxury ski-in, ski-out hotels and full-service resorts, Vermont has a huge array of lodging options for its size. The editors at Forbes Travel Guide managed to cull the list down to the five best places to stay in Northern Vermont:
     
    1. Topnotch Resort and Spa. The Stowe favorite combines a nostalgic feel with a full slate of amenities, including the state’s most impressive tennis center, a full-service modern spa, Nordic ski center and an excellent restaurant, Norma’s.
     
    2. Twin Farms. This secluded Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star resort is 90 minutes southeast of Burligton in Barnard and is located on 300 acres of land (and even has a private ski hill). But this is no rustic experience — the 10 guestrooms and 10 cottages are luxuriously appointed and the personal service and all-inclusive cuisine is some of the best you’ll find on the East Coast.
     
    3. Basin Harbor Club. This resort features private cottages, a waterside location and feels like an upscale summer camp. You can kayak, canoe or jetski on the lake, or opt for an activity on shore, like tennis, golf or art classes. Cozy rooms, gardens and jazz music on the beach make this place a gem of a retreat.
     
    4. Stowe Mountain Lodge. As a ski-in, ski-out property, this new luxury hotel offers direct access to the new gondola in winter, and access to the otherwise private Stowe Mountain golf club in summer. Its rooms are state of the art, it has a large spa, and its Solstice restaurant is has an exceptional locavore-focused menu.
     
    5. The Essex Resort & Spa. The Essex has the type of luxe amenities that make it a destination unto itself: spa, pet-friendliness, fine food, tennis, cooking classes and terrain for rock climbers.