Local Voice: Why You Should Visit Vermont

A local gives her advice on the best things to see and do in Vermont

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Travel in Vermont means biking along Lake Champlain. Photo by Vermont Tourism
Travel in Vermont often includes biking along Lake Champlain. Photo by Vermont Tourism

Don’t always believe first impressions. While Vermont, a small, rural state in the northeastern United States, looks quiet and perhaps even uneventful, you’ll be surprised at all there is to do here. Travel in Vermont offers many unique opportunities.

Of course, Vermont means “green mountain” – and the state is an amazing mix of shades of green for seven months a year. If you’re a reader of novels, you will notice that Vermont increasingly represents a beautiful, special place in many of them.

Billboards have been outlawed in Vermont. Most of our downtown areas are still vital; some have no national-brand stores whatsoever. Montpelier is the only state capitol without a MacDonald’s. Many of us still much prefer to shop local than to frequent malls.

Shelburne Farms and their famous Brown Swiss cattle. Photo by Vermont Tourism
Shelburne Farms and their famous Brown Swiss cattle. Photo by Vermont Tourism

Travel in Vermont

Farm fields, barns and silos dot the landscape. The arts, literature, music, hiking and biking, skiing and snowboarding are important. Many of us do yoga, run, dance, ski or snowboard. There’s a lot of good fishing (even ice fishing) and sailing in Vermont, with hundreds (one statistic says 808!) of lakes and ponds.

We take life a little slower than many other places, and that’s the way we like it. And we are a relatively safe state. Vermont offers a warm welcome to people of all races, religions and sexual persuasions.

Although Vermont used to be almost all white, now many Asians, Africans from many countries, people from Central and South America and Mexico, Tibetans and others call our state home. We have welcomed the diversity and have become far more interesting as a destination.

My favorite months in Vermont are May and June (the trees! the flowers!), but many people prefer September and October for our brilliant foliage, primarily maple and oak. Foliage celebrations are held in many towns, including seven in the annual Northeast Kingdom Fall Foliage Festival.

Flowers and fresh produce at the Hinesburg Farmers' Market in Vermont. Photo by Vermont Tourism
Flowers and fresh produce at the Hinesburg Farmers’ Market in Vermont. Photo by Vermont Tourism

What to See and Do in Vermont

Although Vermont farming also includes vegetables, meats and grains, dairy farming is still the top type of agriculture in Vermont. The Agricultural Census recently listed 1,075 farms with dairy cows. Some farms are even now selling raw milk, a new (old) development.

Other important products include maple syrup, Christmas trees, corn (mostly feed corn sold to dairy farmers), chickens, turkeys, and eggs, lamb and wool.

One place to explore a bit of the dairy industry is at Cabot Cheese, in the northeast part of the state, in Cabot. Open since 1919, this is one of the oldest cheese-making facilities in the country, and for the products’ reasonable prices, they are darn good – and earn many awards.

Another cheese, more up-scale, Bayley Hazen blue cheese, of Jasper Hill Farm of Greensboro Bend, was awarded “World’s Best Unpasteurized Cheese” at the World Cheese Awards in 2014.

Farmers’ markets number at least 30 all around the state; some are also held indoors during the winter months. These are generally held sometime in May through sometime in October – check local newspapers for days and times. You will find vegetables, crafts, prepared foods, baguettes, meats, flowers, yarn, cow and goat cheeses, herbs – we are big on organic and local produce here.

Farmers markets are popular in Vermont. Photo by Vermont Tourism
Farmers markets are popular in Vermont. Photo by Vermont Tourism

Burlington, the largest city, has won several awards for the most livable city in the U.S. Because there are four colleges in the immediate area, the feel of the place is young and upbeat.

At approximately 43,000 residents, Burlington is not a large city, but it is situated on Lake Champlain, the largest fresh water lake after the Great Lakes. A notable restaurant on the waterfront in Burlington is Splash, which is open May to October. Splash has a fabulous view and interesting food at reasonable prices.

At three places on the Lake, you can take a passenger ferry, by foot or by car or by bike, to New York State. These board in Charlotte, Burlington, and Grand Isle. Check Lake Champlain Transportation Company for schedules and prices.

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