Vermont beckons exploration. From its mossy, bubbling brooks to windswept wintry lakes, the Lake Champlain and Green Mountains regions offer wide open spaces ready to fill you with awe, as well as back-roads ripe for a contemplative cruise. A certain wanderlust is both born and satiated in these spaces; they inspire travelers with the desire to learn more, do more, see more.
It’s only fitting that the creator of the wildly popular “Choose Your Own Adventure” book series was intrepid traveler and Vermonter R.A. Montgomery. “The books that captivated children throughout the 80’s and 90’s began with a warning and all-caps emphasis: “You and YOU ALONE are in charge of what happens in this story.” This phrase reminded young readers of their active participation in crafting a narrative…” PBS’s Joshua Barajas wrote.
But of course, you need not be a child to have a youthful outlook on adventure, and Montgomery is not the only writer in Vermont who has encouraged travelers to forge their own story… otherwise said, to choose the path less traveled….
Here are a few travel ideas to get you started as you choose your own adventure, but ultimately “You and YOU ALONE are in charge of what happens in this story.”
Happy travels and here’s to more adventures in Vermont!
ON THE WATER
Pack some power snacks – you’re in for an invigorating weekend of outdoor recreation and arts aplenty! Lake Champlain, the nation’s sixth largest lake has hundreds of miles of waterfront adventures – and 71 islands to admire. From Burlington, explore the waterfront along the paved recreation path. Take a segway tour with Burlington Segways or rent a bike at Localmotion and head out to Colchester. Here, you can rent a boat or paddleboard at Bayside Park in Mallett’s Bay, or head to the Colchester Causeway, a gorgeous gravel path that “lands” you literally surrounded by water of the lake where it meets Mallett’s Bay – a sight to see! During the warmer months, generally late May to October, cyclists can take Localmotion’s Island Line Bike Ferry across “the Cut”, a 200-foot gap separating Colchester and South Hero, entering into the Champlain Islands. From there, exploring local vineyards, state parks and historic sites are readily accessible… though you may want to spend a a few nights at an inn or campground so you have time to take it all in before catching the ferry back to Burlington!
If two wheels aren’t enough, at Waterfront Park, you can also watch talented skateboarders – or try out the new Waterfront Skate Park yourself. Or, if you seek a social scene, there’s often a concert or festival on the weekends at Waterfront Park. The Community Sailing Center offers sailing lessons for youths and adults. There’s also a variety of paddling, yoga and adaptive sports offered by their expert teaching staff.
Accessible by water, rec path or road, North Beach is just a few miles north of Waterfront Park. Visitors dock and swim, plus rent paddleboards or kayaks onsite – and there’s tent and RV camping available too. If you’re seeking something quieter, stroll north to Leddy Beach, a more secluded beach that also “sports” an ice area.
A little A&E along the lake is also easy to enjoy. See the latest exhibit or catch a show at Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center. Take a cruise aboard the Spirit of Ethan Allen; options range from educational tours, themed dinners, sunset, dancing, and even murder mysteries while afloat. Back on the mainland, head for a localvore’s delight; savor a crepe and a Vermont brew, often to the the tune of live music at Skinny Pancake – just a frisbee’s throw from the water.
ON THE FARM
You’ve seen the postcards and tasted the difference. Come hungry, because sampling comes with the territory! The region is rich in fertile soil and a variety of agriculture. Farm visits and tours are a superb way to connect with the land and the people who work to nourish us.
Home to the most cheese makers in the country, a “cheese trail” tour is highly recommended. Oenophiles won’t mind sipping and savoring the local flavors, either. Plus, in Vermont, you can be a picky eater; pick-your-own is encouraged at a number of berry farms and orchards! Explore “the field” at several farm locations, tours, inns & events:
Adams Apple Orchard & Farm Market in Williston offers delicious local produce and a beautiful family-friendly apple orchard in the fall, with events and festivals on the weekends. Plus, the market offers all the fixins’ well into the winter holiday season.
Allenholm Farm in South Hero is a seventh generation Vermont apple orchard. Meet friendly farm animals in the “Petting Paddock,” explore the children’s recreation areas, and treat yourself to a maple creemee! They grow 25 acres of apples, plus raspberries, blueberries and tart cherries.
Breakaway Farm in Grand Isle offers horse boarding, training, lessons, camps and trail riding, plus an indoor arena. They’re also home to a mule rescue operation and a few Scotch Highland Cattle.
In Cambridge, Boyden Valley Farm and Winery’s restored 1875 carriage barn serves as the hub for tastings, tours, special events and festivals. With 8000 grapevines and 100 acres of maple trees, the Boyden family has focused its last 100 years on traditional winemaking and sugaring.
In Colchester, Claussen’s Florist, Greenhouse & Perennial Farm has specialized in flowering annuals, perennials and seasonal flowering plants for more than 40 years. Take a stroll through tropical greenhouses, browse the garden center, and enjoy the wonderful smells of fresh floral arrangements.
For more than a decade, East Shore Vineyard has been cultivating its 11 acre estate in South Hero; its Landon Farm location is newly open to the public for tastings. Sit by the fire, have a snack and enjoy the wine where it is grown and made.
Hackett’s Orchard in South Hero welcomes visitors to its picnic and play area, and to pick-your-own apples in season. The farm store has apples, maple syrup, freshly baked pies, doughnuts and many other fine Vermont products.
At Huntington River Vineyard at Galloping Hill Farm, former hayfields and cow pastures are now growing grapevines and housing ponies and horses. In the hills of Huntington, the farm’s focus is on riding and training horses as well as tending to the growing vineyard. Come for pizza nights, vineyard dinners and their many seasonal festivals.
Burlington’s Intervale, a vast community garden space has new farm incubation, public tours, multiple learning programs, festive events, gleaning, a Conservation Nursery, Abenaki Heritage Garden and miles of hiking and biking, and in the winter, ski trails.
J & M Ladd Families Farm in Alburgh is a certified organic, brother/sister partnership that milks 60 cows and farms 200 acres overlooking Lake Champlain. They welcome visitors and milk twice daily: 4:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., and in the summer months, crop haylage and dry hay.
A 1400 acre working farm, Shelburne Farms is also a National Historic Landmark and nonprofit environmental education center. Explore gardens, maple sugaring and a children’s area with young farm animals and a dairy operation with cheesemaking – and sampling – onsite. From the visitors center and shop, hop aboard a tractor tour or walk the miles of trails through forests, fields and along the lake.
At Shelburne Vineyards, pack a picnic and stroll through the vines. Take a tour or enjoy a wine tasting on the patio or within the eco-friendly, artisanally designed winery, also a host to regular live music and arts exhibitions.
Vermont’s oldest vineyard, located in the Champlain Islands town of South Hero, Snow Farm Vineyard & Winery opened in 1992 and along with its vines, has flourished as a tasting center, plus an active arts, music and special events space since.
A family dairy farm overlooking Lake Champlain, at Starlight Farm in Alburgh, you can also find farm-fresh eggs, honey, pears, apple cider, sweet corn, pumpkins, squash and other seasonal vegetables.
A farm that “grows” whiskey too? Of course, Vermont’s got that. In Shoreham, WhistlePig Farm has 1300 acres that are growing, harvesting, barreling and bottling. While the farm is not open to visitors currently, head to their Tasting Room at the Danforth Pewter Workshop in Middlebury.
And for pure immersion, tune into the local Farm Fresh Radio 102.9 FM while out and about!
Open Farm Week offers a behind-the-scenes look at Vermont’s statewide working landscape, at 80+ locations, August 15-21.
At the Annual Tour de Farms in September, bike 30+ miles of Addison County’s rolling hills to dozens of farms and restaurants.
In Burlington, the Edible History Tour offers a walk back in time to when Burlington was a bustling village and farm-to-table was a way of life; learn and dine at multiple restaurants committed to serving farm-fresh foods.
ON THE TRAIL
Vermont has thousands of miles of trails in addition to the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the nation, the Long Trail. In the Lake Champlain Valley, a robust variety of scenic hikes and walking trails are easy, accessible and open for year-round exploration, by sneaker or snow-shoe. Head into the nearby Green Mountains for more vigorous terrain with increased vertical elevation and expansive views. The state’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield and one of the most recognizable peaks, Camel’s Hump, are excellent day hikes in the area.
Niquette Bay State Park‘s 553-acres offer 4700 feet of scenic rocky and sandy shoreline along the bay. The park was a farm pasture through the 1800’s and is mostly forested today. Three interlocking “loops” offering a variety of hiking combinations and the complete loop is 3.5 miles.
Vermont’s oldest state park created in 1924, Mount Philo, is a 237-acre park at 968′ elevation. It overlooks the Lake Champlain Valley and the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Hiking trails and a steep road provides visitors access to the top of the mountain by foot or by vehicle. The mountaintop picnic area offers spectacular views of the lake, valley, and mountains to the south and west.
Red Rocks Park in South Burlington offers a quieter pace for beach picnicking and families; there’s also scenic overlooks and 2.5 miles of wooded trails for hiking and jogging.
The Catamount Outdoor Family Center is on the national Register of Historic Places as the “Giles Chittenden Homestead,” and has been home to the McCullough family since 1873. Forest, pasture, and cropland make this 500 acre property a superb outdoor venue – with vistas of the Green Mountains, Winooski River Valley, the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain. With 20 miles of trails for all ages and abilities, Catamount offers ample hiking but is best known for its trail running and mountain biking – weekly events “run” from spring through fall.
Shelburne Bay is a 104 acre park with trails for walking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Visitors can choose an easy stroll on a gravel path or a challenging run through a forest trail, all with great views of Lake Champlain.
With 10 Vermont State Parks in the Lake Champlain Islands, there’s plenty of hiking to do. There’s also biking, boating, swimming, fishing, interpretive walks and programs. Stay awhile: camp in tents, RVs, leantos or cabins.
For guided hikes in the Greens, head to the resorts for group hikes or in the winter, snowshoe or Nordic ski treks. Bolton Valley, Jay Peak, Stowe Mountain, Smugglers’ Notch and Sugarbush Resorts serve as a great starting point and some offer varying excursions, from beginner level day hikes with meals provided and chair-lift or gondola rides down to wilderness training’s and botany walks.
Want to pick up the pace? Check out Run Vermont for trail runs and running events like the Vermont City Marathon. Plus, visit Burlington Segways for motorized touring along the waterfront and throughout the Queen City.
Happy trails! Visit our website to help plan your next visit.
Written By: Jen Butson for Experience Burlington 2016/2017