Are you thinking about visiting New England this year? Here are some of the very best places to visit in Vermont that are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation experience.
There is a duality to Vermont. On one hand, the state is widely known for its scenery. Picture serene sunkissed meadows filled with black and white cows, rustic hillsides, and a beautiful tapestry of maple trees. Magnificent covered bridges evoke a feeling of tranquility and calm. However, this is only one aspect of Vermont.
There is a different side to Vermont that emerges in all of its glory in places such as Burlington and Manchester. Here, natural landscapes are replaced with the dynamic energy of modern cities and close-knit towns. With such dynamic contrasts, one thing is always certain: when checking out the best places to visit in Vermont, there’s never a dull moment.
A while back, I made a list of 33 fun things to do in Vermont. Now it’s time for a more focused look at the most essential can’t-miss experiences that the Green Mountain State has to offer. Below you’ll find a quick rundown of 12 of my favorite Vermont activities and attractions.
12 Places to Go in Vermont for a Fun New England Vacation
Vermont combines natural beauty with historical landmarks and local attractions. It truly is an ideal vacation destination, regardless of which time of the year you decide to visit.
What’s more, there’s no shortage of unique Airbnb rentals in Vermont. Instead of staying at a cookie-cutter hotel, you can experience New England’s one-of-a-kind personality up close and personal. It’s the perfect way to relax in style between visits to the following Vermont vacation spots.
Not to be confused with the famous music festival in New York, Woodstock is a quaint little mountain town that has practically elevated tourism to an art form. If you’re looking for the classic New England getaway, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to go in Vermont.
There are dozens of cozy bed-and-breakfasts as well as luxury resort accommodations in the area. Additionally, Woodstock has a famous equestrian venue at the Green Mountain Horse Association, offering all kinds of fun events and trail rides. Other popular activities include biking, golfing, shooting, fishing, and visiting the local working farms. Don’t forget leaf-peeping; Woodstock’s lush foliage makes it one of the best places in New England to see the fall colors!
During winter, you can add downhill and cross-country skiing, sledding, skating, and snowshoeing to the list of things to experience in Woodstock. The town is also home to a few exceptional art and historical museums. Historic sites like the cherished Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park offer tours to curious visitors, too.
2. Lake Champlain
Undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Vermont is Lake Champlain. This splendid lake stretches across 120 miles. It’s also located smack-dab on the border of Vermont and New York, with its northern edge extending all the way to the very edge of Canada.
Among the reasons why Lake Champlain is one of the best places to visit in Vermont are its many historical sites and landmarks. These include Mount Independence and the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Here, visitors can learn the lake played an incremental role during the American Revolution.
Another major draw for Lake Champlain visitors is the abundant wildlife residing in and around the lake. There are currently 318 bird species and 81 fish species living in the area. Notably, Lake Champlain’s watershed encompasses more than 8000 square miles.
As a resting stop for thousands of migrating snow geese every year, Lake Champlain (along with its neighboring shores and wetlands) is protected by a number of wildlife reserve organizations. That doesn’t mean visitors can’t enjoy a wealth of outdoor activities, though. Lake Champlain is an especially popular destination for canoeing, kayaking, and sailing.
3. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory Tour
Just about everybody loves ice cream. Even if you’re one of the few who don’t, the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory Tour should still be at the very top of your Vermont travel itinerary.
As the premier ice cream brand in the world, Ben & Jerry’s has built their reputation on being fun and welcoming to everyone. That inviting attitude comes through loud and clear during this tour. This fun attraction provides insights into the ice cream-making process that are both entertaining and enlightening.
Not surprisingly, kids and families especially tend to adore this fun 30-minute tour. Visitors get to taste some exclusive flavors. For longtime fans, there’s also a gift where you can purchase Ben & Jerry’s merchandise. If you want to take some ice cream home, you can also do that, too, thanks to the specially insulated carriers they offer.
A phenomenal mountain retreat to visit during the fall, the town of Stowe is a picture-perfect example of Vermont’s natural beauty. The pastoral landscape of Stowe looks like something rights out of a movie. The grandeur of Mount Mansfield only adds to the appeal. It’s no surprise that Stowe is home to some of the most popular cabin rentals in Vermont.
The highest peak in all of Vermont, the summit of Mount Mansfield is a whopping 4,393 feet above sea level. Unsurprisingly, this makes Stowe a popular destination for ski-lovers. Every year, Stowe experiences more than 20 feet of snowfall, enabling tourists to get in all the skiing and snowboarding they could want. The peak season for these winter sports lasts from November to April.
Apart from skiing and snowboarding, visitors can also enjoy ice-skating, dog sledding, sleigh-riding, snowshoeing, snowmobile ride, ice-fishing, and many other fun activities. It’s not an overstatement to say that Stowe is the go-to place for winter adventures in Vermont.
But if Stowe is fun in winter and beautiful during autumn, it is absolutely incredible during spring. First, you’ll be able to witness the region’s traditional maple syrup-making celebrations. Also during the spring and summer, thrillseekers can engage in such activities as zip-lining, fly-fishing, and golfing.
For some reason, I rarely see Brattleboro featured on other bloggers’ travel itineraries. It absolutely should be, though, as this is truly one of the most special Vermont vacation spots in New England.
Primarily famous for its huge farmer’s market and a tilt toward counter-cultural quirkiness. That makes Brattleboro a perfect place for tourists with a soft spot for homegrown food and hand-crafted artworks. The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center is famous for displaying the creations of both regional and international artists.
That’s not to say Brattleboro doesn’t offer cozier, more classical pleasures as well. If you’re in the area, you should definitely visit the Creamery Covered Bridge. This ornate lattice-style wooden bridge was built all the way back in 1879 and is Brattleboro’s last surviving 19th-century covered bridge.
Tourists also flock to Brattleboro’s downtown. This area is home to several top-notching dining and shopping spots, as well as a number of distinguished local theaters and live music venues. In other words, there’s something for everyone, easily making this one of the very best places to visit in Vermont!
6. Shelburne Museum
Visitors won’t soon forget their first trip to the open-air Shelburne Museum. This unique complex comprises a number of fully restored historic buildings, preserved exactly as they would have appeared more than a century ago.
Shelburne Museum celebrates the history of Vermont’s people, along with New England’s diverse folk art traditions. Here you’ll be able to walk through a generations-old barn full of vintage carriages and wagons. Or you can sit in on demonstrations of turn-of-the-century print shop techniques.
You can also browse stunning collections of meticulously carved wooden antiques. Or take selfies in front of the Ticonderoga, a decommissioned early-20th century steamboat. There are plenty of prime opportunities for souvenir snapshots, making this one of the best places to visit in Vermont for history buffs and Instagram addicts alike.
To get a glimpse of rustic New England life in a more modern context, the nearby Shelburne Farms make a great addition to any list of things to see in Vermont. With over 1400 acres of fertile farmland, visitors can take a tour and even sample some delicious cheeses made on-site. Or, stop by the Shelburne Orchards for one of the best apple-picking experiences in Vermont.
7. Smugglers Notch State Park
Enveloped on all sides by lush vegetation and jaw-dropping scenery, Smugglers‘ Notch State Park is another incredible scenic destination. It not only ranks as one of the best places to go in Vermont but also one of the most beautiful public parks in the entire country.
Vast stretches of this park are fully open to exploration, including countless small footpaths and trails that go all across the park. Watch out for the 1,000-foot cliff drop-offs, though. As cinematic as the views they provide may be, it’s important to watch your footing.
For adrenaline junkies, the park offers a plethora of fun outdoor activities to try as well. Examples include bouldering, cave exploration, and ice climbing. Even if you are not an active adventure addict, you can still enjoy the multitude of camping, hiking, and biking opportunities. If you want to experience everything Smugglers’ Notch State Park has to offer, try visiting the park between mid-May and mid-October.
With a live-in population of just over 8,000 residents, Montpelier is the smallest capital city in the United States. During the week, however, the daytime population grows to more than twice that number due to how many people commute there for work. Montpelier offers the best of both worlds: the hustle and bustle of an economic hotspot, along with the rest and relaxation of a small town.
Nestled among the rolling mountains beside the Winooski River, the city is famous for its downtown area, where one can find vibrant boutiques, independent shops, and wonderful restaurants and bars. Montpelier is also well-known for its eccentric nightlife, where you can enjoy mouth-watering delicacies and energic live music performances from local artists.
Of course, many tourists are lured to the city by the gleam of the gold-domed Capitol building, which hosts several art installations that should be high on anyone’s list of things to see in Vermont.
The gorgeous Greek Revival structure is often home to community events and festivals, so time your visit accordingly. With numerous renowned galleries, musical venues, live theaters, and even a free summer concert series, there’s always fun to be had in Montpelier.
Undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous and best places to visit in Vermont, as well as in the entirety of New England, Grafton visitors often say that a trip there feels like a trip back in time. This is in large part due to the many carefully restored and preserved centuries-old buildings in the area.
Among the most popular attractions is the Grafton Inn hotel, which has been in operation since 1801. There’s also the Grafton Village Store, which stocks an enticing selection of locally sourced goodies. Last but not least, check out the picturesque White Church, constructed in 1858 and renowned for its exceptional acoustics.
An interesting factoid for trivia-loving travelers: the town was originally called “Thomlinson.” The right to rename it was auctioned off in exchange for $5 and some rum. The person who eventually won the bid ended up naming the village after his hometown of Grafton, Massachusetts.
Otherwise known as “the Lincoln Family Home,” the history and legacy of Hildene make it a place well worth the time of any traveler passing looking for unique things to see in Vermont. Hildene was built in 1905 by Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of the beloved President Abraham Lincoln.
Located on a 300-foot promontory overlooking Vermont’s scenic Battenkill Valley, Hilden’s estate comprises 412 acres of land. That includes some truly beautiful meadows and wetlands. Even more impressive is the elaborate and colorful garden designed to resemble a cathedral’s stained-glass window. Among its many annual and perennial flowers is a collection of over 1,000 herbaceous peonies.
In addition to this one-of-a-kind achievement in floral cultivation, Hildene showcases several private belongings of President Lincoln. These include his signature stovepipe hat as well as an antique thousand-pipe Aeolian organ.
If you enjoy touring the historic homes of iconic American figures, Hildene is just one of many. There are numerous other lovingly preserved houses located in Bennington County, Vermont. Personal favorites include the Park McCullough Historic Governor’s Mansion and the Robert Frost Stone House Museum.
11. President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site
Among all the historically relevant and naturally stunning places in Vermont, this one holds a special meaning. This site was built to pay tribute to what was the lifelong home of the 30th President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge.
Coolidge took the oath of office in August 1923, under nothing more than the light of a kerosene lamp. President Harding had just died, and Coolidge took his place just hours after his demise. He led the country during a time of extreme struggle when the nation was reeling from the turmoil of the 1920s.
The President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site preserves the home in which the beloved American leader lived during his formative childhood. That alone makes it one of the best places to visit in Vermont for patriots and history buffs alike.
12. Church Street Marketplace
More than just an outdoor shopping mall, Vermont’s famous Church Street Marketplace attracts thousands of tourists every year and is located smack-dab in the middle of the Burlington’s Church Street Historic District, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.
This downtown attraction stretches across four city blocks. It offers a wide range of unique shopping and dining options. It also incorporates an open-air event space for festivals, performances, and other fun activities. The vibrancy and liveliness here are enough to warm tourists’ hearts in even the chilliest of Vermont winters.
During the summer, the place is even more bustling with energy, as everyone is out and about. Just make sure to bring your wallet, as well as a camera. In addition to lovely sidewalk cafes, boutiques, and restaurants, there are plenty of public art exhibits to feast your eyes on, making this one of the very best places to visit in Vermont.
Explore the Many Sites and Attractions of New England
Vermont isn’t the only New England state worth visiting this year. There are countless adventures waiting for you in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
Check out more of my favorite travel destinations in the blog posts below!