Vacation Idea: Vermont Roadtrip

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)

  1. I will be in Vermont the first week of October and was wondering if I stay in a place in the middle of the state will I be able to see both north and south from there? We like backroads and dirt roads and spend our days exploring. Any ideas where to stay, hopefully a quiet spot, would be appreciated.

  2. Legendary pictures! Vermont is a place i need to see! You ought to come visit the smoky mountains you would love it! Come write a post on Cades Cove

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Looks like you guys had a great time. Vermont offers tons of great vacation homes for affordable prices. Glad you guys enjoyed yourself!

  5. If we go for a trip I always pack baby wipes in the small packs even though I no longer have
    babies. They are great for sticky tables, icecream, coke spills.

    Vacation Club

  6. OMG, we totally stayed in a beautiful inn right down the road from that covered bridge. Snapdragon Inn in Windsor–a perfect, quiet, real New England town. The inn was beautifully renovated set on a really pretty nature reserve perfect for strolls, bird watching, and picnics.

    Things to check out in the area: Harpoon Brewery, The Sustainable Farmer for local cheeses, and the Simon Pearce store. There’s a really cool sculpture garden called Path of Life that’s right against the Connecticut River and was one of our favorite things we did. They have a fun hedge maze that we almost didn’t get out of. By then, it was time for dinner and we didn’t feel like driving far so we headed back into Windsor and got take out from an African restaurant, Mariam’s and took our delicious samosas back to the Lake behind the Snapdragon and had a picnic as the sunset. It was an amazing day. We only stayed one night so didn’t even get to explore Woodstock & Hanover ( just 20 minutes up the road) because we had so much to do in Windsor.

    A few things we want to do on our next trip to the area:
    Blueberry picking
    Rafting down the Connecticut
    Hike Mount Ascutney or bring our mountain bikes back up

  7. I’m a Vermonter and it was so great to see a post about my home state! The next time you go you really should try going to Burlington! It’s super quirky and the food is out of this world. I Waitressed at a fun burger place with the best burgers in town called Sky Burgers and there are tons of other phenomenal places like American Flatbread (their medicine wheel flatbread is to die for as so are their bloody mary’s! Flatbread for brunch may sound so strange but it’s so satisfying!) I hope you get to go back soon!!

  8. it is very beautiful snaps, i love this place and i am very excited to know more about this place. Can you please tell me about these place? Pictures of woodstock and manchester are very wonderful and full of natural beauty.

  9. I’d love having the option of printing out some of these guides for my own reference but it’s too difficult. Just a suggestion, if something can be done :) Thank you for these great reads!

  10. We have 5 kids, and we always keep them occupied with audiobooks for the ipods. There’s a ton of sites where you can download them, but we use this one a lot because the stories are free and original. This is the link, if anyone is intereted.

  11. Hah! I live in Manchester! What a sweet post–so glad to see Up for Breakfast here!

  12. Pictures are so stunning & beautiful. You had a great trip……
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  13. This is fantastic! I live in a little town called White River Junction, Vermont, right on the border of New Hampshire and Vermont. I’m quite close to Quechee and Woodstock, but have been to Manchester as well. It’s such a fun state to explore! And should absolutely be visited in the summer as well as winter for skiing.

  14. this is awesome… i grew up on annual family ski trips to vermont, and for a few summers in a row we did a week in vermont as well. this post really brought me back to our summer trips, especially the jumping into the lake picture! now i am married to a vermonter and every time we go up to visit family and friends the state grows on me more and more…. cork, the amazing wine bar in waterbury… the prohibition pig for delicious dinner in waterbury… ben and jerrys ice cream… stowe bike path… burlington (everything about it)… shelburne farms… SIGH… i am nostalgic and looking forrward to our next visit!

  15. Vermont is great (I know from living there for my 24 years)! Quechee is another great little spot to visit! There’s a beautiful gorge with some nice hiking or you can walk across it on the bridge. There’s a little strip with a few shops a little further down the road. They sell Cabot cheese, maple goods, among many other things. There’s also a carrousel and a little train to ride. Not to mention Simon Pierce where you can watch them blow glass and talk to the artists as the do it. There’s a fancy restaurant there as well. And if you go on Father’s Day weekend there’s an hot air balloon festival where you can walk right onto the field as the balloons inflate and take off (one of my favorite things to do as my family has been part of a chase crew since before I was born).

  16. Yeah, Vermont! I have lived here all of my 27 years and it truly is the best place on earth. It is very unique; whenever I go away I so, so miss home. For a different kind of trip head up to the Canadian border and visit the Northeast Kingdom. Totally wild, desolate, beautiful. In my opinion it’s the most gorgeous part of the state!

  17. Thank you so much for having me, Joanna! It was great fun reminiscing!

  18. Coming from southern Vermont, reading this makes me very happy!! Don’t forget to check out Grafton Village Cheese in Brattleboro, VT on your way up through! Also, you wouldn’t regret watching a sunrise or a sunset from Putney Mountain in Putney, VT! Walker Farm, in Dummerston, has some of the best organically grown produce around and they also have a great little play area for the kids. And I may has a bias, but I’m pretty sure Harlow’s Sugar House has the best maple syrup and blueberries! Happy Travels!

  19. I LOVE Vermont and have taken several road trips up there in the past few years. If you are going to Woodstock, a quick side trip is west out the main road out of town to this great market, just a couple of miles away, and then continue 10-15 miles to the Long Trail Brewery. There is also an amazing vintage shop in town where you can get anything from the 1980s to the 1880s.

  20. It’s nice to see pictures of summer right now. I’ve been NH and this trip reminds me of the fun times of NH. The woods, fresh blueberries, yummy food, and great company; can’t wait for summer now.

  21. I loved the “pick a quest? idea. I don’t know why, but it instantly made sense. Instead of going on a mission to see all the guide book mandated sites, I like the idea of a personal quest.

    xo Naomi │ Be Ready Bravely

  22. We got married in Brattleboro, VT… These pictures bring back warm summertime memories. I hope we have a chance to explore Vermont (and Maine!) a little more one day… maybe an anniversary road trip?

  23. We were married in Manchester. Still my favorite area of Vermont, and we live in Burlington!

  24. What a great post! As a New England girl, I would also recommend a getaway to Maine… just like Vermont, but with 4,568 miles of Atlantic coastline! ;)

  25. And when you visit our state of Vermont…I would highly recommend carrying the book: “Vermont – An Explorer’s Guide”. The 13th Edition is a collaboration between authors Christina Tree & Rachel Carter. Rachel’s enthusiasm for quirky, free, and the “best of” what Vermont has to offer is infectious!

  26. My fiancee grew up in Rupert, VT – thats where Merck Forest is! It’s so beautiful in southern VT – we spend many, many weekends in the mountains and in Manchester all year round. We’re getting married on Rupert Mountain this summer!!! I would absolutely recommend Rupert/Dorset/Manchester for a summer vacation – there’s so much to do in the area- the Dorset Farmer’s Market is lovely and is located at William’s store which is a very cool old general store. It’s so easy to eat and buy locally there, especially in the summer – for our wedding we’re having a local bbq vendor cater the reception with VT smoked BBQ and everything is local! from the wood she uses to smoke to the pigs from her farm! If you make the trip with kids i totally recommend heading to merck farm and consider bardwell farm in pawlet is really cool- they have a great farm tour during the summer! There’s tons of places to go berry picking, just follow the signs in the road – and i also hear that the alpine slide at bromley mountain is very fun! YAY VERMONT!!!

    <3 sami

  27. ….And the BEST breakfast spot ever, the Little Rooster Cafe in Manchester!!

  28. My family and I spent every summer of my childhood in Manchester! Such a beautiful place. We spent most of our time outside hiking, playing golf, visiting farms, you name it. The Northshire bookstore is a must– charming little place but with a wide selection of books and often readings by major authors. Also: I remember fondly visiting Hildene, the residence of Robert Todd Lincoln. Enjoy!



  29. I LOVE seeing your pictures of Vermont, one of my favorite places! I live in NYC with my husband and 3 small children and miss going there. I grew up going to VT often to visit my grandparents and every season (except mud season!) was special. It is such a wonderful place with so many things to do and see. My husband and I got married in Dorset, VT and it is like a slice of heaven!

  30. What a great little adventure! My fiance and I are planning a cross-country road trip for our honeymoon, and I could use some more posts like this for ideas! We’re doing the southwest, though. :)


  31. I love the idea of a summer holiday in Vermont, I have only ever been there in the winter to ski, it was beautiful but I’m sure it is so different in the summer months!..xv

  32. As a VT native I highly recommend traveling around. Woodstock and Manchester are beautiful but Shelburne has a museum, Shelburne farms (amazing and great for the little guy) and you can hike near by. Stowe is also amazing.

  33. sold! forwarding this to my husband now. I love living in New England, everything is so close and we have not spent any time in Vermont AND I think those two are the coolest.

  34. I work in Southern Vermont and it is beautiful! The Orvis classes and events are amazing- I highly recommend them!

  35. Oh, Vermont. It’s in a little nook of the world, all on its own. Nothing more idyllic, I so agree!

  36. Aw, so fun to see Vermont (where I live) on here! I always wondered why people from the city don’t venture up to Vermont more often. It’s the perfect weekend getaway! I’d skip Manchester and stick with central Vermont: Waitsfield, Stowe, Waterbury, Montpelier. Dinner at American Flatbread in Waitsfield is a must for a real Vermont experience. Try Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier for awesome beer. Have fun!

  37. Love this post! I’ve lived in Vermont for 4 years now and let me tell you, living here is just as dreamy as vacationing here! It’s such a hidden gem. Northern Vermont is wonderful too…with Lake Champlain beaches in the summer, amazing restaurants (American Flatbread, The Farmhouse, Bluebird Tavern), bike paths and cross country ski trails right in town. So wonderful!

  38. My husband and I spent part of our winter honeymoon in Manchester. We loved Up For Breakfast and would go back just for their World’s Best Sausage. Yum!

  39. i have friends from Vermont who always brag about how they are the best State ever. Now, i can see glimpses of why. Making a trip to Vermont soon. :)

  40. Those pancakes look heavenly!!! Vermont has always been on my wish list, especially in the fall to see the leaves change! xoxo

  41. I love road trips and am so in need of one right now! It has to be anywhere warm and sunny, though.

  42. My boyfriend and I have gone on road trips to Vermont for two summers in a row now. It’s beautiful, the people are amazing, the summer weather is idyllic, and the beer and food is local and so good! We love to stay in a hostel in Burlington and then go on day trips to Stowe and Montpellier, both charming little towns. Spending the day swimming and kayaking on Lake Champlain in Burlington is dreamy. As far as breweries go, Harpoon is probably our least favorite. I recommend visiting The Alchemist in Waterbury (best known for their amazing “Heady Topper”) or Hill Farmstead Brewery (this year named the best brewery in the world!). Vermont trips are the best!

    • Unfortunately, the Alchemist is closed! :( It closed after all of the damage from Hurricane Irene. (Waterbury was hit hard, most of the town flooded) But Waterbury is home to Green Mountain Coffee and the train station there was turned into an adorable cafe!

    • True, the Alchemist is closed but the new restaurant that occupies the space is called Prohibition Pig and it is awesome!

    • AJ says...

      The storefront for the Alchemist is closed, but they still operate a brewery and cannery right up the road. They do beer tastings, too. The Prohibition Pig sells Alchemist beer. And yes, they are awesome.

      Another great bbq place in the same area is the Cider House, a little further north on Route 2 from Waterbury but before Burlington. They have great food and a good selection of local hard ciders.

      Warren, VT is also a great place to visit. It’s in the Mad River Valley, complete with covered bridges, great food at the Warren Store, and swimming holes in the Mad River nearby.

      Fourth of July can be a good weekend to visit VT. Lots of small, hometown parades with fairs and fireworks. Waterbury’s parade attracts firetrucks from all the neighboring towns, for those with fire truck loving little ones. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters usually gives out free coffee and Ben and Jerry’s represents with ice cream coupons.

  43. Just makes me want to take a big sigh of contentment. :) My parents packed my brother and me into an old Zephyr station wagon take us on long cross-country road trips. One of the states I remember most fondly is Vermont, for its idyllic rural scenery and wildflowers galore. I like the “quest” idea…that can be done anywhere, and really I apply that to my daily life, haha. (Like, “best hot chocolate” is my current quest.)

    • ZOMG, I totally didn’t read back my comment; it sounds so funny! Meant to say my parents *would pack my bro and me into that old station wagon *and take us on road trips during our summer vacations.

  44. When I was a girl, every winter my grandfather would take me to Canada to see stage plays at old timey theatres in Ontario .

  45. Oops, I ,meant summer!

  46. What a lovely post–Vermont is a wonderful place! Can’t say I understand the problem with accidentally winding up in NH, however. If you go up to Norwich to visit King Arthur (which I highly recommend), you should head right across the river to Hanover (NH) for breakfast (or breakfast for lunch) at Lou’s, on Main Street. It’s just a lovely small town to see in general, if you’re in the area.

    If you feel like heading farther north, Waterbury (home of the Ben and Jerry’s factory) and Stowe (beautiful and fun to visit, even in summer when skiing isn’t going on) are also great places to see. Another great spot in Woodstock, especially if you have small kids, is Billings Farm and Museum. They often have themed weekends, but you can stop by any old time as well!

    • Couldn’t agree with you more. I live in the Upper Valley/Dartmouth region and we go to Lou’s for the best-ever buttermilk pancakes. Stella’s over in nearby Hartland,VT is a great little place for breakfast too. All of their ingredients are local and super fresh.

  47. I spent a summer inMiddlebury, and it looked just like these photos!

    I also love going up to Canada in the Wu,mer, where my husband is from. We go to a cabin the Shuswaps, in the interior of BC. Think cedar forests and giant mountains and a lake. Beautiful!

    Xo Green Gable

  48. I used to spend a week in VT every summer when I was growing up. I miss it every year now. I can’t wait until I can get back there with my kids somehow.

  49. Perfect timing – we’re hoping to plan a Vermont long weekend this summer. Would love to try all the food + drink recommendations.

  50. LB says...

    I loved Blueberries for Sal and other Robert McCloskey books as a kid. Makes me want to go read them now.

  51. If you go to Woodstock,you should absolutely stay at the Applebutter Inn! It is the most beautiful, romantic bed and breakfast I have visited (it has really spoiled any other BnBs for my boyfriend and I), and their breakfasts are incredible! The hosts are incredibly active in the Woodstock community and have all sorts of recommendations for you. It’s just up on the hill from the covered bridge in the pictures. Everything in Vermont is lovely, and this place captures it perfectly!