This is your perfect fall Vermont vacation guide. A no stress guide to seeing all the pretty sights without having to stick to a schedule.
Visiting Vermont in the fall has been on my vacation wish list for forever! Growing up in the midwest I was always crushing on the beauty of New England. In fact when I was a kid I was sure I was going to move to the east coast when I grew up. While my dream to live in Maine is still a dream I did make it as far as New York. While not technically New England (seriously don’t call it New England unless you want a bunch of people correcting you) it’s still close enough.
Finally after a few years of hinting to my husband that I wanted to hit up Vermont in the fall (and him not getting it….) I planned a trip for us both. For his birthday I bought him tickets to see one of his favorite comedians in Burlington and I went and planned the rest. I didn’t want a jam packed “scheduled” vacation so I did a little investigation on things to do and left it lose. Plus my anti type A personality doesn’t really work with scheduled vacations. I like the freedom to linger and randomly go where the day may take me. Yes, this does mean several times while driving I turned down random roads just because I thought they were pretty.
If you’re looking to get away for a few days (we did an long weekend) you’ll love this guide. It’s a simple little roundup of places to stay, things to do and obviously what to eat.
Where to stay?
We were guests at The Essex (Vermont Culinary Resort and Spa!) and LOVED it! It has a nice quaint feel but still has everything you need – 2 restaurants, cooking classes, spa, fresh baked pastries and super comfortable rooms. Speaking of rooms, ours totally rocked. It was HUGE I’m not even kidding. I’m pretty sure that hotel room was bigger than my first apartment. Another totally random thing I loved – they brought me a fan. I’m a total weirdo and love having a fan for sleeping and when I called down and asked if they had one they brought it up right away. How is that for service?
There is plenty to do on the property of the hotel (tennis, walking paths, outdoor fire pit, spa, cooking classes, swimming pool…) and they even have a vegetable garden and cute little chickens.
Even though it was pretty chilly while we were there I found time each day to walk around the property and just take it all in. I’m not about to go on vacation and not explore! Plus on Saturday there was a wedding. I couldn’t resist looking at the happy couple taking pictures. Gotta love a wedding…am I right?
I also had the pleasure of dining at their restaurant Junction. The food is local, fresh and out of this world tasty. I didn’t really get the chance to photograph our dinner (it’s a little awkward to take pictures of your food in a nice restaurant) but I had the most amazing Hudson Valley duck with black mission figs, crispy baby Brussels sprouts, beet paint and braised red cabbage. It was basically everything I have ever wanted out of a fall inspired meal.
What to do?
I know it’s pretty “touristy” but I actually had a lot of fun at Ben and Jerry’s. Since it was fall (and a Friday) it was actually not too packed. The tour is short but informative and you get some free ice cream at the end of the tour. The flavor of the day when we visited was cotton candy. I was actually a little disappointed since I’m normally not a fan of super sweet ice cream but boy was I wrong. It was actually pretty darn good!
I was also pretty psyched to hit up the flavor graveyard. Why would they ever get rid of White Russian? Mr. Lebowski would not be thrilled.
The gondola ride was totally unplanned. We were driving around and when I saw them I squealed with delight. Well, I squealed with delight until I got into the gondola and then realized I’m not a huge fan of gondolas that go up to the top of a mountain. I still totally recommend it because after my nerves calmed down the view was pretty spectacular.
You can also zipline from the top of the mountain but that was a BIG FAT NO. Especially since it was foggy at the top of the mountain and you would have to zipline into the fog. That sounds like the beginning of a scary movie to me. However, if that is your sorta thing I say go for it!
Once you get to the top of the mountain you can get back down via hiking, zipline (we already talked about that) or taking the gondola back down. Plus there is a restaurant up at the top so you can grab a quick bite to eat. We opted to stop and have a bowl of soup and enjoy the snowy weather. Yep, that’s right. It snowed while we were up there!
One of my favorite drives was right after we left the gondola ride. We drove up Smugglers Notch and it was impressive! During the winter they shut down the road to traffic and the only way to get around up there is snowshoes or skis.
There were several places to pull off and I took every opportunity to snap a few pictures.
Cooking Class at The Essex
One of my favorite things we did while we were in Vermont was taking a cooking class at The Essex. We were signed up for the bistro favorites cooking class and it was a blast! While my husband and I sometimes get into the kitchen and cook this was a whole new experience. We were led by an awesome chef who helped my husband and I (plus 7 other fine folks) cook all things French food.
We made French onion soup, steak with red wine shallot sauce, gratin dauphinois, baby carrots and creme brûlée. We learned how to time everything correctly so it was all done at the same time and we prepped and cooked the whole thing. All the men got put on steak duty and it was a blast seeing the hubs doing some cooking while I sat back and drank some wine. Beside learning basic skills it was also fun to just get into the kitchen with a bunch of strangers and get our cook on.
The best part of the night? Getting to use the blow torch. Obviously.
Apples + Cider + Donuts
Listen, if you’re going to go to Vermont in the fall you best stop for apples, cider and donuts.
I’m pretty sure Art and I stopped every chance we got for goodies. Two places that we stopped were Cold Hallow Cider Mill (donuts were hot and fresh!) and Shelburne Orchards. We actually picked a few pounds of fresh apples for the road and indulged in a few more donuts and hot cider.
Finally, just drive. Pick a pretty road and go down it! If you see something that looks nice just pull of the road and give it a go. I stumbled across 2 covered bridges and hidden corn maze just by pulling off the side of the road and taking it all in.
Plus it’s kinda fun to direct your husband to “OMG TURN LEFT RIGHT HERE IT LOOKS SO BEAUTIFUL!”