The Ultimate Travel Guide to the “Green Mountain State:” 72 Hours in Vermont
Beautiful landscapes. Fall foliage. Outdoor activities. Maple Syrup.
Vermont has it all!
Never would I have ever thought as a native New Yorker (from NYC) that I would be saying this: You MUST go to Vermont at least once in your lifetime! Vermont in the FALL is the ultimate bucket list, but I hear that Vermont in any season is beautiful. You will not regret it! “But why sis?” was the most common question I was asked for why am I visiting Vermont out of ALL places. Vermont may be a small state, but it has a big offering of things to do!
Keep reading this blog post as I will answer some of the most common questions:
What is the best month to visit Vermont?
Why should I visit Vermont?
What is there to do in Vermont?
What is the number one tourist attraction in Vermont?
What is special about Vermont?
Is Burlington Vermont worth visiting?
Read this guide to find out why
Vermont is such a special place!
Why should you go to Vermont?
Nature: Vermont truly is the greenest state I have seen so far (and I have been to 35 of them!). Its name is perfectly fitting.
Food: The food is also some of the freshest I have had. Vermont is known for its maple syrup production as well as artisanal cheeses. It is super telling when Montpelier (the state’s capital) is the only US state capital that does not have a McDonald’s! Montpelier doesn’t have a Burger King either! I felt so much healthier.
Support local & natural: Vermont is really big on growing and supporting what is local and natural! There are so many farms in the state that many of the businesses (even in the biggest city of Burlington) use goods grown from those farms. As a person who loves to support the locals, this made me super happy!
Nice hospitality: People are SUPER nice! Even though there were few Black people, I felt very welcomed. For more on my experience as a Black American in Vermont, read my blog post!
Did you know?
Vermont is the second biggest maple syrup producer in the world after Quebec.
Vermont gets its name from two French words. They are 'vert' which means 'green' and 'mont' which means 'mountains'. So the state is named after its lovely green mountains! The name was suggested by Dr. Thomas Young in 1777.
It was one of the first states to outlaw slavery.
It is the second smallest state by population (after Wyoming).
It was the first state to join the Union after the original 13 colonies.
Location: Where is Vermont?
Vermont is a northeastern state in the New England region of the United States. It borders the states of Massachusetts to the south, New Hampshire to the east, and New York to the west and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north. Vermont is the only state in New England that does not border the Atlantic Ocean.
Getting to Vermont: How do I get to Vermont?
By Airplane: If you are flying into Vermont, your best bet is to fly into Burlington International Airport (BTV), which is Vermont’s only international airport. Big airlines such as JetBlue, United, American Airlines, and Delta fly there. From New York City, it is just an hour’s flight. However, that is not always the cheapest option. For example, when I was traveling last year, flights were averaging $300+ for such a short distance. Hence, I opted for a different option! Some people fly into neighboring cities such as Albany, NY; Boston MA; , Hartford, CT; Manchester, NH or Rutland, VT, and then drive to their destination.
List of direct flights for Burlington Airport:
Atlanta (ATL) via Delta
Charlotte (CLT) via American Airlines
Chicago (ORD) via United
Denver (DEN) via Frontier and United
Detroit (DTW) via Delta
Newark (EWR) via United
New York (JFK) via JetBlue
New York (LGA) via Delta
Orlando (MCO) via Frontier
Philadelphia (PHL) via American Airlines
Toronto City (YTZ) via Porter
Washington, DC (IAD) via United
Washington, DC 9DCA) via American Airlines
By Car: Depending on where you are coming from, this will be a long, but much cheaper option. For example, it takes 6 hours to drive from New York City to Burlington, a much cheaper option. Since I do not drive, I managed to convince a friend who does drive to join me on this road trip. However, the drive is only 3.5 hours from Boston, MA; 4 hours from Portland, ME; 2 hours from Montreal, Canada.
NOTE: I do not recommend driving at night. When we drove from NYC, the roads were pitch black. There were points where we were the only car on the road and our car light was the only light on the road since Google Maps took us through New York State. Try to avoid that!
By Train: If you are coming from the Northeast area, Amtrak is also a feasible option. There are two Amtrak trains that run through: the Vermonter & Ethan Allen Express. The AMTRAK Vermonter goes from Washington, DC to St. Albans (a 14-hour ride in total), Vermont with major stops in New York City, Albany, Springfield, MA, Amherst Brattleboro, White River Junction, Montpelier, Waterbury, and Burlington/ Essex Junction. The Ethan Allen Express is a 5.5-hour ride between New York City and Rutland, Vermont. This may not be the most cost-effective option (it depends if you buy on a discount!), but it definitely is the most scenic option.
NOTE: Since March, Amtrak has not been operating through the state of Vermont because of the pandemic.
By Bus: Greyhound or Vermont Translines buses run from New York City, Montreal, Hartford, CT, and Boston, MA with connections to these Vermont cities and towns:
White River Junction
The Megabus also runs buses between New York City, Boston, and Burlington, VT. Burlington's bus terminal is at the Burlington International Airport.
NOTE: Since March, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Vermont Translines suspended all service until further notice.
By Ferry: From late May through mid-October, Lake Champlain Ferries can take you and your car across the lake between Burlington VT and Port Kent NY in about one hour.
NOTE: The Burlington—Port Kent ferry doesn't run in winter, but ferries between Charlotte VT and Essex NY operate from mid-April through January 2, and those between Grand Isle VT and Plattsburgh NY operate year-round, 24 hours a day.
How do I travel around Vermont?
Your best bet is by car! Unless you are staying in and exploring the main city center of Burlington alone, everything is far apart in Vermont. Very often, we were driving 30-40 minutes, to get to a different major city. In the main city center of Burlington, there are local buses. However, I am unsure of how far they go or how frequently they run.. You can also take Ubers, but they were not very cheap rates when I did look at the costs compared to other cities I have traveled to in the USA.
Lodging: Where to stay when visiting Vermont?
This depends on what you want to do. If you are looking for a more natural scene, Stowe, VT is a good place to go. If you want to be in a centralized location, South Burlington is a good place to stay without paying the SUPER expensive pricing to stay in Burlington (and it is only a 7-10 minute drive from the main part of Burlington). Even in South Burlington, rates are not cheap. When we went in the Fall, we paid an average nightly rate of $135.15 for 3 nights, totaling about $450. When I looked at a hotel in Burlington, they were at least $300+ per night.
Biggest Attractions in Vermont
What Are The Main Points Of Interest?
Keep reading as I explain:
Top 4 Places to Visit
Top 5 Things to Do
Top 4 Places to Eat
PLACES TO VISIT:
This is a MUST, especially for any nature or fall foliage lover! The scenes are truly unmatched. Smugglers Notch refers to a narrow winding road through the Green Mountains of Vermont with activities such as a campground, hiking trails & rock climbing. Because it is so narrow and winding, it is usually only open in the summer and Fall (example: in 2020 it is open June 26 - October 12 for camping). Typically, it is open from mid-May to mid-October.
#HISTORYNERDFACT: Aside from epic Fall views, this place has a unique history! In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson passed an embargo act that forbade American trade with Great Britain and Canada. This was a huge economic hit to those living in Northern Vermont who traded with markets in Montreal that were closer than most markets in the USA. End result: Many locals continued to trade illegally with Canada, smuggling cattle and goods through this winding passage or “Notch,” hence the name “Smugglers Notch.” Later on during the USA's Prohibition years in the 1920s, liquor was smuggled from Canada.
There is a BLACK history not commonly told of this location, but you must read my blog post ____ to find that out!
TIP: Just drive! Stop! Take it all in! The road is long and winding (we did not even drive to the end) because it seemed to go forever. Therefore, we just pulled over to a couple of open spots and walked around.
2. Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace
When I think of Vermont, I think of Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace. Maybe it is because of the towering white-topped church, which is actually the oldest remaining place of worship established by white settlers in Burlington, Vermont dating back from 1816. Maybe it is the concentration of cute shops and restaurants in the 4 block car-free walkway. This 4 block-stretch between Main and Pearl Streets has so much to offer -- it is actually considered to be a pedestrian mall!
TIP: Just wander! You can spend hours in this downtown area watching people, sipping on some fresh hot chocolate from a local coffee shop, watching a street performance, shopping in the boutique shops, or exploring a gallery. There is a waterfront nearby!
Aside from being super woke AF when it comes to Black Lives Matter and gender equality, Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory is a cool place to visit when in Vermont. You can book a tour and see how ice cream production works from start to finish. You will have the opportunity to try a unique flavor not offered at their shop. FYI: It was quite tasty and you get more than a spoonful. If there are leftovers, they allow you to take extra. Of course, you can also stop at the shop to buy one of their creative, uniquely named flavors. There is even a “gravesite” you can visit for all the flavors that did not last. I also loved that I got to meet people from all over the country and the world -- I met a family originally from Norway who came from visiting Montreal.
#HISTORYNERDFACT: Ben and Jerry’s opened their first ice cream shop at a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont!
TIP: Arrive when they first open to book a tour. I was able to walk in and get a ticket to the first tour they offered. I have heard of tours selling out later in the day, which I believe because, by the time my tour started, it was filled to capacity. After my tour ended, it was super packed and several times were sold out.
This place is the epitome of all things Vermont Fall. When you search top things to do in Vermont, this place is guaranteed to be on that list. And clearly, I am putting it on my list as well. Coming here, you will get your fall fix for the year. Although they are most known for their cider donuts, this place has so much more to offer. It is HUGE -- filled with so many Vermont produced goods. Whether you are looking for an assortment of maple syrups, jams, mini maple, and cider pies, or a cheesy souvenir, they have all of this and MORE!
TIP: Stay focused on what you came here for! I say this because it is super easy to walk out with a bunch of unnecessary items that catch your eye (which I did). There are literally thousands of things containing maple and apple cider there. Focus on those warm cider donuts and also get yourself a hot cider drink while you are there for a perfect accompaniment.
THINGS TO DO:
1. Wine tasting at Boyden Valley Winery
I don’t know about you, BUT I love to find a winery when I travel! This one is located on an 1875 carriage barn of a 5th generation farm - the perfect place for Fall views while sipping wine or cider and eating Vermont produced chocolates and cheese on the patio. They allow you to taste 7 different wines while giving you an extra 2 tastings for FREE!
TIP: Get the mulled wine! It doesn’t get any better than sipping some warm, spiced mulled wine while sitting outside in fresh, crisp fall air surrounded by nature.
2. Take a Lake Champlain Sunset Cruise
Looking for a scenic way to experience nature without a hike? Then this is the activity for you! You get GREAT sunset views during this 2.5-hour cruise aboard the spirit of Ethan Allen.
TIP: This cruise is only available from mid-May to mid-October, especially since the sun sets earlier here than other parts of the Northeast and it is super chilly in October. Fortunately, we were there the last Saturday that this cruise was being offered.
TIP: Buy tickets ahead of time online. Tickets can sell out weeks earlier, especially on weekends. I would not recommend buying a ticket with a meal as there are too many good places to eat in Burlington as an alternative.
3. Ride the Champlain Valley Dinner train
Another scenic-non-hike alternative is this relaxing three-hour round trip train ride from Burlington to Middlebury with views of lakes and hills. The best part of this train is the 3-course gourmet dinner that is included. This is the ultimate bougee experience that is soooo worth it.
SIDENOTE: If you are young and/or a person of color, you may feel out of place since most people on the train were middle-aged white folks. With that being said, however, we were treated well throughout the entire experience!
TIP: Make sure to order one of their fall cocktails and charcuterie plates with various Vermont cheeses. It is not included in your dinner train ticket, but it is well worth the purchase!
TIP: Make sure to buy your ticket several weeks in advance as this sells out quickly!
4. Watch a comedy show at Vermont Comedy Club
Sometimes the best gems are the ones you stumble upon. This is definitely the case with the Vermont Comedy Club. We were not ready to settle in after our Champlain Valley Dinner train. Therefore, some Google searches led us to come across a comedy show at the Vermont Comedy Club. When we went there, there was a comedy battle between students from two local colleges. Great way to end the evening with laughs!
TIP: Sadly, because of COVID-19, they have been forced to close their venue. However, they are currently offering comedy shows and classes online.
5. Try a Vermont Cremee
When searching how best to describe a Vermont Cremee, I came across this, “Soft serve is to cremees as soda is to pop” Creemees are essentially soft serve ice cream. It’s ice cream pumped through a machine to make it more airy and soft. Two spots that I tried Vermont Creemes were at Quarry Hill Farm (which we stumbled upon) and Al’ French Frys (which is a local fast food place that had great cremees!). Burlington Bay Market & Cafe is highly recommended by many people. However, I did not get a chance to try it there.
#HISTORYNERDFACT: In the past, ice cream in Vermont was made with a higher butterfat content, which gave it a creamier texture. Hence the name "creemee", referring to "creamy."
TIP: Order a Maple creemee, which is unique to Vermont!
TIP: Do not request soft-serve ice cream! Apparently, you will be judged. Everywhere calls it a cremee.
Places to Eat
This diner is a Burlington landmark for good reason! Located in Downtown Burlington, this diner has been serving home-cooked food including all-day breakfast, since 1925. This was a great first meal: I am still thinking about those warm pumpkin pancakes with natural maple syrup and bacon.
TIP: Arrive before 11 am as it gets super crowded very quickly. Most people seem to head there late morning for breakfast, so we managed to get seated within 10-15 minutes.
2. August First
This is a locally owned Burlington bakery and cafe serving breakfast and lunch. They view themselves as “fast-casual” where you order at the counter and then they call your name when it’s ready. It gave me hippie vibes. I will say that I was taken aback (in a good way) on their friendliness beyond a hello. I am talking about having a whole convo and remembering your name the next time you come. Yes, I loved it so much that I came here twice during my short trip! Beyond the tasty breakfast, they also are very charitable. For example, they have donated over $90,000 to local nonprofits in cash, gift cards, and food. Recently, they donated 1% of their sales to local groups that support equality, justice, liberation, and opportunity for BIPOC community members including Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington.
TIP: Order the Vermont Maple Biscuit toasted with butter. You will NOT regret it. I am craving that biscuit as I type this! '
Interestingly, we ended up here because the original place we wanted to go had a super long wait! However, everything happens for a reason and this ended up being a great spot. This warm & cozy spot serves wood-fired Neapolitan pizza with farm-fresh cheese. OMG! I am talking about SUPER fresh!
The most shocking and best part: This restaurant is 50% Black-Owned by Black female Leslie McCrorey Wells. All about supporting a Black-owned business!
TIP: If you check-in on Yelp, they will give you a free plate for fresh mozzarella with bread. That was a delicious start to a more delicious dinner!
If you are in Stowe, Vermont (even if just passing through as we were), this is a great spot to come for outdoor dining. If you are a beer lover, then you will love it even more. Even as a non-beer lover, I appreciated this spot because of its massive outdoor space, delicious food, and exceptional service. Did I mention people in Vermont are really nice? They truly love to chat it up! Here you will find both tourists and locals. You know it is good when many locals frequent the place.
#HISTORYNERDFACT: This spot has a long history starting off as a blacksmith shop in 1830, eventually turning into a cider mill, then youth hostel to Idletyme Camp and Shed Restaurant. Now it is a brewing company.
TIP: Order the creamy mac-n-cheese and make sure to add bacon crumbles and truffle oil. It is the ultimate indulgence. However, you will not regret it. The best part is that it includes Vermont Cabot cheddar cheese.
Keep in mind before traveling to Vermont...
Hotels are expensive AF. Even hotels that are not the best quality are expensive!
If you are visiting in the Fall, bring extra layers. Like a legit winter jacket. Because Vermont is so far up North, it gets colder much sooner. I had the layers but still was not mentally ready for the lower temperatures.
There are parts where there is little cell phone signal -- for example some parts of Smugglers Notch or near our hotel.
Things can be REALLY cheap or REALLY pricey. For Vermont products, more often than not things were pricey.
Take into account that things are far apart driving wise when planning your itinerary. You will not be able to fit as much as you think you can. Therefore, try to aim for no more than 2 main activities a day.
Many outdoor activities stop at the beginning or middle of October because of the weather and sunset times. As a result, if you are looking to visit for Fall activities, there is a small window for you to travel. Check all the websites for activities you want to do before deciding on a weekend to travel to Vermont.