To experience the heart of soul of New England, simply enter the realm of Vermont. Progressive and pastoral, this postcard-worthy state has almost as many cows as humans. Its largest city, Burlington, has fewer residents than many university campuses, but that doesn’t mean Vermont is thin on culture, craftsmanship, or outdoor fun. This tranquil place is a step back in time to when towns had village greens and suburbs were farms.
The extreme version of Vermont ruralism is found in the beautiful Northeast Kingdom region. But even in lively Burlington, a small town vibe prevails. Vermont excels at maintaining its virtues, having banned advertising billboards on highways and having been the first to sign same-sex marriage into law. Its quaint, 18th-century villages like Woodstock and Middlebury are its highlights, backed by extraordinary outdoor recreation at every turn.
Vermonters have a deserved reputation for being proud, independent folk. They make things themselves and consume locally. They like their land to be devoid of flashy shopping malls and sprawling developments, and welcome anyone who shares this ideology. Eating in Vermont in always a treat because almost every restaurant embraces the farm-to-table philosophy. All in all, this state offers excellent value for money. If you want a luxury room in a historic inn or a humble motel along a country road, you can find it here.
Surrounding every Vermont town is something natural. From the Green Mountains to Lake Champlain, and all the little nooks in between like Mad River Valley, there are public spaces to hike, bike, boat, and fish. The skiing here is easily the best in New England and the fall colors are arguably the most stunning in America. You have everything, from the social to the natural, within arms-length of each other here, which is perhaps the real allure of Vermont.
Without a vehicle of your own, however, you won’t see anything at all in Vermont. This state is best experienced by slowly and deliberately driving its country roads, stopping off at maple syrup sugarhouses and little country stores in 300-year-old villages. Every inch of road in Vermont is pretty, so be sure and rent a car during your stay. The best deals are usually gained by renting for a full week instead of day to day. Car rental companies are available at Burlington’s airport and in most of the large towns.
- Spend a night in a colonial-era inn where men like Ethan Allen once lived in towns like Middlebury or Manchester
- Rent a car and explore the little hamlets of the Northeast Kingdom, the corner of Vermont that truly feels lost in a century from the past
- Check out the big city of Burlington and its inspiring Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian haven for shopping and snacking
- Ski the slopes of big resorts like Killington or historic spots like Snow Mountain, where towns like Stowe provide the perfect New England village atmosphere
- Visit Middlebury, the ultimate mid-size Vermont town, overflowing with history, academia, and a magical river that cascades through the heart of town
- Hop on a ferry from Burlington to New York for a cheap and scenic afternoon cruise across the mighty Lake Champlain
- Visit a genuine sugarhouse to see where and how maple syrup (Vermont’s top product) is created