To cheer up the winter, I’ve asked a few friends to share their favorite vacation spots (and help give us ideas for summer trips). First, Liz raved about Stinson Beach, and now my friend Ashley from Hither & Thither recommends taking a Vermont road trip, below…

By Ashley Muir Bruhn

It’s hard to imagine a place more idyllic than Vermont (in any season, that is, except the spring—often nicknamed “mud season”). Much of the small state can be covered in a week, but you’d do well to slow down and choose a base or two from which to explore.

We took a trip there a few summers ago, and those memories of freshwater swimming, cheese-tasting and coverered-bridge spotting stand out among those from even the most far-flung destinations. It’s the sort of nostalgia-inducing trip I can imagine repeating summer after summer, compelling our children to vacation with us in our golden years. And it’s as ripe for young lovers camping out of their Westfalia and humming Simon & Garfunkel tunes as it is for young families who can recite Blueberries for Sal from memory.

Which towns to choose as your base: We chose Woodstock and Manchester as our two bases. Woodstock struck me as completely quintessential: a 120-something-year-old general store, riverside apple pie, a town crier, and a covered bridge just off the village green. The Kedron Valley Inn had a spring-fed pond in the back for swimming and a large covered porch on which you can eat breakfast—but having been the setting for the most famous Christmas Anheiser-Busch commercial in history, I’m guessing it looks pretty in the winter, too.

Manchester, on the other hand, is a little bit more cosmopolitan with its outlet malls and wider streets. Still, the latter was a perfect base for canoeing down the Battenkill river, swimming in the Dorset Quarry, and filling buckets with with blueberries. There’s a great local bookstore—the Northshire—and a nearby farmland center—Merck—where you can meet the sheep whose wool went into making you a beautiful MacAusland blanket.

Where to stay: In Woodstock, we stayed at the Kedron Valley Inn. (If you can swing it, the nearby Twin Farms also looks beautiful.) In Manchester, we stayed at the Palmer House. It felt like a converted motor lodge, but there were some perks: an indoor swimming pool, croquet on the lawn, walking-distance to dinner (and Ben & Jerry’s!). But if we were to go back, I might look at VRBO, Homeaway, or Airbnb for rental homes and cabins in the Dorset/Manchester region. Or you could hike in and camp in the Green Mountains National Forest, which is right outside Manchester.

Getting around: Drives are made more pleasant by the absence of billboards (a state law prohibits off-site advertisements). A GPS or good map will let you veer down back roads willy-nilly in the name of adventure, without the fear of unintentionally ending up in neighboring New York or New Hampshire.

Eat: Order a grilled cheese at the Farmer’s Diner, have Irish Brown bread overlooking the falls in Quechee at the Simon Pearce Glassblowing Mill, go gourmet at the Red Rooster at Woodstock Inn, and fill up on blueberry pancakes at Up for Breakfast and seasonal dishes like fresh-off-the-cob corn risotto at Little Rooster in Manchester.

Drink: Stop for a beer at the Harpoon Brewery in Windsor (or visit any one of the 27 breweries on the Vermont Beer Trail).

Learn a skill: Take a bread-making class at the flagship King Arthur Flour campus in Norwich—or just stock your pantry at this mecca for bakers. Take fly-fishing lessons at the Orvis headquarters in Manchester.

Tip: Cultivate a quest. It could be for the prettiest barn or the best swimming hole, but I’d go with food: pick the best blueberries, find your favorite aged cheddar, bring home the best maple syrup, decide who makes the tastiest apple pie (with cheddar, of course), and judge towns by their farmer’s market or handmade ice cream.

Looks amazing. Thanks so much, Ashley!

P.S. More vacation ideas…(Photos by Ashley and Aron of Hither & Thither)