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It was a dream of ours to visit New England on a fall road trip. The colors of autumn make the forests, majestic mountains, and maple trees light up with hues of oranges, yellows, and reds. It was a sight as dreamy as it sounds.
Vermont is a state with so much to offer. It’s known as the ‘Green Mountain State’ because of how naturally stunning it is, and it’s also where foodie fans will love sampling all the fresh organic produce and delicious maple syrup. There are so many things to do in Vermont, you will never be bored.
But since many of the top places to visit in Vermont are nature spots, it’s best to explore the area by car. This is why a New England road trip is such a good idea. You can explore all the incredible scenery without worrying about public transport and finding a place to stay nearby.
It’s a good idea to rent a car beforehand, as prices tend to rack up if you leave it to the last minute. Check out RentalCar, a price comparison website where you can find the best deals.
If you’re not sure which are the best destinations to visit in Vermont, then read on, as these are all the best spots to visit on a Vermont road trip.
Places to Visit in Vermont
When started living in Raleigh, we made sure to make Vermont high on our list of places to explore. We’re so glad we did, as you are about to see why. These are all the top places to see in Vermont.
1. Manchester & Green Mountain National Forest
Our introduction to New England was the quaint town of Manchester VT in the valleys of the Green Mountain National Forest.
We stayed in Manchester Vermont for three nights and did our best to chase the leaves all over the Green Mountain region, using Manchester our base to explore southern Vermont.
There are so many things to do in Manchester that make it an exciting place to visit in Vermont. One of our favorite attractions is the Skyline Drive to Mt Equinox.
The drive is the longest privately owned paved toll road in the USA at 5.2 miles long, and the elevation increases to 3,235 feet.
We kind of messed up on this drive by doing it in the middle of the day when the lighting is at its harshest, so my tip is to do the drive in the morning or later in the afternoon for sunset.
You also need to remember to pay a toll fee. The fees are $15.00 car and driver, and an extra $5.00 per passenger.
There are a lot of hiking trails in the Green Mountain National Forest. We only had time for one hike so we chose to do the Prospect Rock Walk Trail, as it seemed family-friendly and offered good views over the Manchester Valley.
It is an uphill 3.1 mile return walk, but going up was fairly gentle depending upon your fitness level, but our kids aged 10 and 6 managed it no problems.
The trail winds along a mountain brook before departing into birch-beech forest on a wide and open logging path, and criss-crosses the Appalachian Trail and Long Trails.
Once at Prospect Rock, you get beautiful views of the Manchester Valley with Mount Equinox to the west.
Another popular hiking trail in Manchester is around Emerald Lake State Park, which is a great place to do some kayaking.
Manchester VT is a lovely town to explore on foot or bicycle.
But Manchester is a great place to explore in its own right. Downtown Manchester is full of exciting attractions and places to see.
The charming Main Street splits Manchester into two sections, and we began by exploring Manchester Village, which is where you’ll find many of the white-columned mansions and Victorian-era inns.
There is a gorgeous church and in the fall you’ll get golden pops framing the spire.
The popular and luxurious Equinox Hotel, built in 1769, is the centerpiece of the village.
Manchester Center is where the more unpretentious stores are – one of the most famous being the Northshire Bookstore. There are a few arts and crafts shops and restaurants here as well.
For breakfast the cafe Up 4 Breakfast is a popular spot – our kids loved their pancakes.
Where to Stay in Manchester: Wilburton Inn
One of the highlights of visiting Manchester VT was our stay in a cozy cottage at Wilburton Inn, a historic inn on a 30-Acre hilltop estate.
The property was built in 1902 but has been independently owned for 30 years by the Levis family.
There is plenty to do on the beautifully maintained 30 acres of property – biking and walking paths as well as tennis courts and a swimming pool (in season).
The Wilburton has inn rooms, suites and vacation villas ranging from 2-bedroom cottages to a 15 bedroom mansion.
We stayed in the Inn keeper’s cottage with unobstructed views of the Green Mountains.
The cottage was first built for the original innkeepers. It’s a two-bed, two-bath cottage that can sleep up to 6 people making it a great place to stay in Vermont for families.
Downtown Bennington is only a 30-minute drive from Manchester and has the quintessential Main Street feel with shops, sidewalk cafés, art galleries, and museums.
There’s also a Riverwalk, a farmers market, and a thriving community center with a rich history, stunning architecture, and small-town hospitality.
Like Manchester, there are many things to do in Bennington, such as explore the Bennington Battle Monument.
This is one of the best places to visit in Vermont with family for a bit of Revolutionary War history.
The Bennington Monument was built to commemorate the Battle of Bennington, which occurred on August 16, 1777 and is considered to be the turning point in the Revolutionary War.
For $5 you can take the elevator to the top of the Monument (306 ft high) which offers a pretty birds eye view of the Bennington area, including where the battle was fought and all the way to New York state and Massachusetts.
This monument was definitely one of the most interesting things to see in Vermont.
Another popular place to visit in Bennington is Covered Bridges Drive. Vermont has more than 100 covered bridges and there are several of them in Southern Vermont.
We learned that covered bridges are also called kissing bridges for the lovers who’d linger as they passed through, and we explored five of them from Manchester to Bennington.
Some bridges we suggest you check out are Chiselville Bridge, which is near Roaring Branch.
Slow down so you can see the sign upon entry, and so you don’t get a fine. As the sign says, it’s a $1 fine for driving too fast across it!
Another bridge to slow down for is West Arlington Bridge, which is just two miles from the New York border and spans the Batten Kill River.
It was built in 1852 and it sits on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s one of the most known, and photographed in Vermont.
Wilmington is a vintage Vermont Village nestled in the mountains and the nearest Vermont skiing destination for major East Coast cities (Mount Snow, Timber Creek, and The Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain).
Take a stroll around town with a dozen eateries on offer, we grabbed a bite to eat at Anchor Seafood House & Grille, then nearby there are miles of woodland hiking trails.
Sadly Wilmington was badly hit by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and many of the beloved historical buildings have been badly damaged by flooding, but it’s still a town worth visiting.
The Hurricane bought the town’s people together and you can really feel the community spirit as you wander the streets.
It’s also a mountain village, which means it’s the perfect place to visit in Vermont for outdoor adventures. There are many hiking trails and lakes nearby, and if you drive along the backroads you’ll see some beautiful foliage and natural landscapes.
From Wilmington, jump on the Vermont Route 100 North and head to Weston.
Weston is another one of the cute towns in Vermont and is home to Vermont’s oldest professional theater company.
Stop in at the famous Vermont Country Store, an impressive art gallery, and the popular Bryant House.
We had lunch at Bryant House Restaurant, it’s popular so book ahead or arrive early – we sat at the bar in the 1885 bar room as we were in a hurry.
The menu is pure New England fare with classics like Yankee Pot Roast and Chicken Pie.
It was at Bryant House that we had our first taste of hot apple cider – a Vermont specialty – absolutely delicious and something we seek out now!
5. Vermont Route 100
One of the prettiest drives in all of New England is the Vermont Route 100, also known as “Vermont’s Main Street” and “The Skier’s Highway” as it connects some of the best Northeastern winter skiing and riding.
Route 100 Vermont is a North – South state highway running through the center of the state and is 216.59 miles long and is a great way to take in the Vermont fall foliage.
Once we left our base in Manchester and finished exploring Southern Vermont, we took this route north to Stowe and the Vermont fall colors were on show.
It’s a lovely drive that runs along the eastern edge of the Green Mountains with photographic opportunities along the way.
Out of all the places to visit in Vermont in October, Stowe was our favorite. Stowe VT is a small USA town in the northern part of the state near Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont.
Around town, you have 60+ unique shops and 40+ restaurants, and the church steeples and colonial-style houses dusted in snow make Stowe look like it sprung out from the pages of a children’s Christmas story.
Stowe’s proximity to the mountains means it offers endless opportunities to enjoy hiking, biking, and skiing adventures. So you can enjoy the outdoors any time of the year!
One of our favorite places to go biking is the Bike the Stowe Recreation Path.
The Stowe Recreation Path begins behind the community church in town and winds for 5.5 miles alongside the West Branch River, through forests and open farmland.
The trail crosses the creek over wooded bridges at 10 different places, and for us, the fall colors were sparkling. The route takes you through spectacular views of the mountain and the chance to experience a little local flavor.
Some popular spots along the trail are the Farmers Market where you can stop for shaved ice and fresh juice, and wander the stalls (the markets are only on Sunday).
You also pass The Alchemist Brewery, which is home to the Heady Topper, voted as the best beer in the USA, someone even told us the world, but I think that’s a difficult contest to judge.
Put this on your list of fun things to do in Vermont.
Here’s a short video of the Stowe recreation path
Another fun thing to do in Stowe is to hike Mount Mansfield. At the toll road checkpoint at the bottom, the lady told us the 2.8 mile round trip hike up to ‘The Chin,’ otherwise known as the summit of Mount Mansfield, would take an hour and a half…one way.
“We’ll start and see how it goes. We can always turn back.”
The locals told us that this was one of the best hiking trails in Vermont with great views over Mount Mansfield State Forest and Smuggler’s Notch State Park, the popular ski region of Vermont.
We pulled into the car park at ‘The Nose,” the start of the ridge walk.
The walk begins through scrubby woods but quickly opens up to be mostly over the rugged mountain peak with fragile alpine vegetation on either side of the trail.
There are views all around of the Green Mountains, Smuggler’s Notch, Lake Champlain, and the Adirondack Mountains, and even out to Canada.
Different trails branch out from the main trail. One leads down to the gondola, which is an alternative way to experience Mt Mansfield.
But the Gondola SkyRide does not go to the top of the summit but to a viewing platform below the summit.
If you don’t want to hike the trail and just want views then the cost of the gondola is $28 for adults and $19 for children (5-12).
I’m glad we decided to complete the ridge walk and at $47 for our family of four to drive up the auto toll road, it was cheaper than taking the gondola. The toll road charges $23 for vehicle and drive and $8 per passenger over 5 years old.
Our girls handled the ridge walk really well, but be prepared for the winds to pick up the closer you get to the summit.
If you’re looking for places to stay near the hiking trails, we hear that Stowe Mountain Resort and the Trapp Family Lodge offer excellent rooms.
Another popular attraction in Stowe is the home of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. However, as you may know, it’s not the cheapest ice cream going around but like most things you pay for what you get.
One experience our kids really looked forward to on this road trip was the chance to visit the home of Ben & Jerry’s in Waterbury, just 15 minutes from Stowe.
Here you can learn all about the story of Ben & Jerry’s.
With a $5 correspondence course in ice cream-making from Penn State and a $12,000 investment, Ben and Jerry opened their first ice cream scoop shop in a renovated gas station in Burlington in 1978.
And the rest, as they say, is history. If you are looking for unique places to visit in Vermont, head over to the “Flavor Graveyard” which is a comical attraction showcasing headstones for past flavors that are no longer in production.
You can take a 30-minute guided factory tour and learn how they make ice cream and how they put their values into action at every step of the process.
Plus, you can enjoy your favorite flavor at their full-service Scoop Shop. It was busy and definitely one of the most popular Vermont attractions.
If ice cream doesn’t take your fancy, then maybe cider will? Vermont is also known for its cider mills, and one that you should check out is Cold Hollow Cider Mill.
Now that we follow a gluten-free diet, we’ve been drinking plenty of cider on our US travels, and the cider in Vermont is the best so far.
The Cold Hollow Cider Mill is one of Vermont’s most popular tourist attractions, and they are a top New England producer of fresh apple cider.
At the mill, they do it the old-fashioned way, making pure cider with a traditional rack and cloth press built in the 1920s.
Explore the vintage mill and see cider being made, then sample jellies and mustards.
And in the bakery section, they make their legendary Cider Donuts — called one of the country’s four best donuts by Gourmet magazine — every day, fresh all day long.
Also featured are Pumpkin Rolls, Mapled Nutty Bars, Apple Turnovers, Homemade Fudge and good old Apple Pie.
For a lovely elevated view of Stowe Village, head up to Sunset Rock, located in the heart of Stowe’s historic village.
To get there on foot, the trail up begins at the end of Sunset Street and takes less than an hour to complete the round trip.
Burlington is the biggest of the Vermont cities and home to the University of Vermont.
There’s a thriving arts scene, good shopping, and a range of outdoor activities in all four seasons due to its location beside beautiful Lake Champlain and the surrounding mountains.
Burlington is only a 50-minute drive from Stowe which enabled us to make an easy day trip.
Our favorite thing to do was cycle the Burlington Bike and Waterfront Park that runs along the Lake Champlain shoreline towards Oakledge Park.
It’s an 8 mile paved Burlington Bike Path popular for cyclists, runners, and walkers, especially during summer, fall and spring, but the truly dedicated even get out there in winter.
We didn’t do the whole path, but being mostly flat and paved this was an easy ride for our kids, with playgrounds and food places to stop at along the path for a rest.
One place we stopped in at was Foam Brewers for a drink, a historic brick building in a great location along the Burlington waterfront.
Take a stroll along Church Street Marketplace, the outdoor pedestrian shopping and dining mall which takes up four blocks of Church Street between Main and Pearl Streets.
There are ample restaurants, cafes, and stores to look in, and historic buildings ranging in style from Victorian to Art Deco.
If you’re in town on a Saturday, the Burlington Farmers Market is popular with locals and tourists.
More than 90 stands are set up in downtown Burlington’s City Hall Park, just off of the Church Street Marketplace offering seasonal produce, artisan wares, and more.
Ahh Woodstock, you may have heard the name before as Woodstock Live Music Festival, but that’s not the Woodstock in Vermont. That festival takes place in New York State. But Woodstock, VT does have its own arts festival with live music!
But actual Woodstock is worth checking out. It’s another quaint small town in America with an old-world charm. You’ll find many boutique stores, cozy coffee shops, and live music on weekends (and yes, some festivals too).
Another reason to visit Woodstock is to visit the Quechee Gorge, the deepest gorge in Vermont. It’s said the gorge was formed by glaciers over 13,000 years ago and is still deepening thanks to the constant stream of the Ottauquechee River that cuts through 165 feet below.
Another top attraction in Woodstock is Billings Farm and Museum. It’s located just a short walk out of the town and is a pleasant day out for families.
It’s a working farm, where visitors can see the live animals in their barns and learn about the operations of the farm. The farm owner created the museum to educate visitors on America’s agriculture.
Located on Lake Champlain, Shelburn is the best place to visit in Vermont in the winter. The town is about 90 minutes from the slopes of Killington Resort, which is under Killington Peak – Vermont’s second highest mountain.
The peak is known as the “beast of the East” because it has the largest vertical drop in New England.
There are 155 trails and slopes that cater to skiers of all levels, from beginners to experts to cross-country skiing.
Another popular attraction in Sherburne is the Shelburne Museum, which has 39 historic buildings showcasing historical artifacts from former years in America. It also has an old, dry-docked steamboat, that you can explore.
Another popular place to visit in Shelburne is Shelburne Farms, a 1400-acre dairy farm. You can take guided tours of the farm and wander around the estate. Vermont is known for its cheese manufacturing, and this is where you can get an inside glimpse into its process.
Montpelier is the capital of Vermont, so it wouldn’t be right to forget about it on this list. It’s home to the largest urban historic district in Vermont, and is famous for its entertainment culture. You can see performances at the local Lost Nation Theater and watch live music and movies at The Savoy arts cinema.
Montpelier has several notable attractions, including the restored Vermont Statehouse, which is known for its gold-domed Greek Revival building. Inside, you’ll find decorative and fine art collections, as well as exhibits on the state’s history.
If you’re looking for more history, the Vermont History Museum is worth spending some time in.
Montpelier, like most towns in Vermont, is surrounded by natural beauty. The wooded Hubbard Park is rich with colorful meadows and a birch grove. It’s certainly one of the best places to visit in Vermont in Spring.m
Before You Go
I hope this guide gave you some ideas and helped with your travel planning to visit Vermont. It’s a gorgeous state and easy to get around in a short amount of time.
So whether you’re looking for a one week or longer Vermont vacation as part of your New England road trip, this state is typically one of the most beautiful places to visit in the fall.
But I am interested in coming back in the summer, and maybe even winter, brrr.
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Can you share any Vermont travel trips? What do you think are the best places to visit in Vermont? Share in the comments.