Vermont

Best of Vermont | 2017 Editors’ Choice Awards

Looking for dining, lodging, and top-notch attractions in Green Mountain State? Here are nearly 40 of our editors’ picks for the best of Vermont.

By Yankee Magazine

Apr 11 2017

grafton inn vermont sign

The historic Grafton Inn in Grafton, Vermont.

Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
Need a reason to travel this summer? From dining and lodging to attractions that are well worth the drive, here are nearly 40 of our editors’ picks for the best of Vermont.
Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, Vermont.
Billings Farm and Museum| Best of Vermont
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker

BEST OF VERMONT 2017: ATTRACTIONS

ADVENTURE PARK: Killington Adventure Center

From a tranquil chairlift ride to a 30-mph two-seater zip-line dash 100 feet above the ground, the big ski mountain serves up a variety of outdoor diversions. The 4,800-foot Beast Mountain Coaster hurtles carts on rails through corkscrew loops; the Skye Ropes Course presents a four-story obstacle challenge; and climbers can tackle a 30-foot tower—then bungee to the ground. For the less adrenaline-driven, there are guided tours by ATV or Segway, and kids can enjoy an Old West–themed sluice mining treasure hunt. Day passes or individual ride tickets are available. 4763 Killington Road, Killington. 802-422-6201; killington.com

ART MUSEUM: Fleming Museum of Art

Refreshed by an extensive 2016 renovation, the art and anthropology museum of the University of Vermont houses the state’s most broad-ranging collection of painting, sculpture, decorative arts, and cultural artifacts from civilizations ranging from antiquity to the contemporary U.S. The cache of some 20,000 objects includes African masks; an Assyrian bas-relief; works by Corot, Goya, Rodin, Homer, and Warhol; and an Egyptian mummy in its coffin. The book-filled museum shop also has a pleasant café serving snacks and desserts. 61 Colchester Ave., Burlington. 802-656-0750; flemingmuseum.org

BIKE TRAIL: Lamoille Valley Rail Trail

The route of the old St. Johnsbury and Lake Champlain Railroad is the focus of Vermont’s most ambitious rails-to-trails project, and two sections so far have been finished with a tamped fine-gravel roadbed. The 17-mile stretch from Morrisville to Cambridge mostly follows the farm and village landscapes along the Lamoille River, and the trailside beer garden at Morrisville’s Lost Nation Brewery is a nice European touch. Rent bikes at Power Play Sports or Chuck’s Bikes in Morrisville. lvrt.org

BIRD-WATCHING SPOT: Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area

Don’t let the name fool you: This 2,800-acre state property just east of Lake Champlain is alive with more than 200 species of birds (the fall migrations of Canada and snow geese are spectacular) in an environment of open water and cattail marsh created by a series of impoundments on a sluggish tributary of Otter Creek. A boat ramp on Route 17 is ideal for launching canoes and kayaks, and an onshore viewing area is nearby. Rte. 17 W., Addison. 802-759-2398; vtfishandwildlife.com

CHILDREN’S MUSEUM: Montshire Museum of Science

Kids (and their parents) can walk on distant planets, examine a bee colony, hibernate with a bear, and explore more than 140 hands-on indoor and outdoor exhibits that open windows onto the worlds of nature, physical sciences, and technology. Outside, in the David Goudy Science Park, you’ll find 100 acres of trails and exhibits that focus on wind, water, and the ecology of the Connecticut River Valley. Don’t forget to pack bathing suits and towels—some of the most popular exhibits are also ones that get kids the wettest. 1 Montshire Road, Norwich. 802-649-2200; montshire.org

CRAFT GALLERY: Fiddlehead at Four Corners

While the stately marble building at Bennington’s downtown crossroads still looks like a bank, today it overflows not with cash but rather with carefully selected glassware, ceramics, jewelry, paintings, and fiber works from throughout North America. Take a break from browsing to play a few free games on a vintage pinball machine, pound out a tune on the 1936 baby grand piano, or unleash the kids’ imaginations with chalk and blackboards in the Graffiti Vault, once the bank’s walk-in safe. 338 Main St., Bennington. 802-447-1000

FARM VISIT: Billings Farm and Museum

Frederick Billings’s model farm, established by the railroad magnate when he returned to his native Woodstock in 1871, still showcases champion Jersey cows, Southdown sheep, and magnificent draft horses. Visit the 1890 farm manager’s home and creamery, learn about farm work of yesteryear and today, and climb aboard for horse-drawn wagon and sleigh rides. Interactive farm programs change with the seasons. 69 Old River Road, Woodstock. 802-457-2355; billingsfarm.org

FARMERS’ MARKET: Brattleboro Farmers’ Market

Southern Vermont’s premier farmers’ market, located near the covered bridge on Route 9, attracts more than 50 vendors every Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., early May through late October. There’s a huge variety of locally grown foods, handicrafts, and ethnic fare from around the world, as well as live music at lunchtime. Kids love the giant sandbox at the center of the market. The market is also held on Flat Street from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays from the end of May until late September. 570 Western Ave. (Rte. 9), Brattleboro. 802-254-8885; brattleborofarmersmarket.com

FLEA MARKET: Waterbury Flea Market

Over the past half century, Waterbury’s weekly flea-for-all has grown to comprise 10 acres of antique and used furniture, household utensils, books, records, glassware, and jewelry. You’ll find everything from a vintage eggbeater to a brand-new canoe paddle to whole apple pies; meanwhile, count on low vendor fees to keep the selection both reasonable and eclectic. The market is open weekends from early May to late October, and while some vendors open up before 7 a.m., most open between 8 and 9 a.m. and pack up between 4 and 5 p.m. 2201 Bolton Road, Waterbury. waterburyfleamarket.com

GENERAL STORE: Warren Store

Perched on a ledge above the Mad River, this deli-bakery offers an easy stopover for a breakfast burrito or a midday meal. For lunch, grab a hefty sandwich stuffed with local smoked turkey and bacon layered between slabs of house-baked bread, or warm up with the daily soup. Browse crafts and clothing by local artisans in the boutique upstairs, then head home with a bottle of wine or fresh IPA from hometown brewery Lawson’s Finest Liquids. Staying nearby? The store also offers catering to go. 284 Main St., Warren. 802-496-3864; warrenstore.com

HISTORICAL EXPERIENCE: President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site

Presidential birthplaces abound, but Vermont preserves an entire presidential birth town. Tiny Plymouth Notch is where Calvin Coolidge was born, and he was visiting as vice president when word arrived of Warren G. Harding’s death in 1923. Coolidge was sworn in by his father by the light of a kerosene lamp, in a house opposite his birthplace. A visit takes in both homes, the general store once run by the elder Coolidge, and exhibits on Coolidge’s presidency. The president and his forebears rest in the village graveyard. 3780 Rte. 100A, Plymouth. 802-672-3773; historicsites.vermont.gov

MINIATURE GOLF: Essex Family Fun & Entertainment Center

While there are no little windmills to navigate, these 18 holes aren’t as easy as they look, thanks to twists and turns and rolling greens you sometimes have to “read” (hole 8 can be especially exasperating). There’s also a driving range, plus batting cages that let you try your hand at slow-pitch and fast-pitch softball and baseball. 48 Upper Main St., Essex. 802-872-8858; essexfamilyfunandentertainmentcenter.com

NATURE EXPERIENCE: Vermont Institute of Natural Science

Eagles, falcons, owls—the Vermont Institute of Natural Science gives a new lease on life to injured birds of all sorts while offering a unique window onto their world. The center’s 47-acre campus features 17 state-of-the-art raptor enclosures, and visitors can watch rehab specialists at work and see live bird programs daily. Try to plan a visit to the songbird aviary at feeding time. Bring a picnic, shop at the Nature Store, and stroll the three-quarter mile’s worth of interpretive trails. 6565 Woodstock Road (Rte. 4), Quechee. 802-359-5000; vinsweb.org

STATE PARK: Smugglers’ Notch State Park

Straddling a sharply ascending corkscrew of a road sentineled by 1,000-foot cliffs, one of Vermont’s most popular parks draws hikers, campers, and those who simply want to navigate the notch by car, narrowly squeezing through towering boulders. The Long Trail crosses the road at one point, and even those who are hiking-averse may be tempted to stroll the quarter-mile path to spectacular Bingham Falls. The steep, mile-long Sterling Pond Trail, which begins at the crest of the notch, summits at the eponymous jewel of a pond, one of the state’s highest bodies of water. 6443 Mountain Road, Stowe. 802-253-4014; vtstateparks.com

SUMMER THEATER: Weston Playhouse

This season marks 80 years since a renovated church on a classic village green became the Weston Playhouse, now Vermont’s oldest professional theater. The church was lost to fire in 1962, but its stately Greek Revival replacement is home to talented equity companies that bring drama, comedy, and musicals to Weston with six productions each summer. 703 Main St., Weston. 802-824-8167; westonplayhouse.org

USED/ANTIQUARIAN BOOKSTORE: Hermit Hill Books

Every college town should have a good used bookstore, and Poultney—home of Green Mountain College—is where Homer, “the literary corgi,” and his fellow canine and feline staffers welcome browsers to a collection of more than 30,000 used, rare, and collectible volumes. Specialties include history, poetry, nature, Vermontiana, and modern first editions, shelved in the aisles and alcoves of the snug Main Street shop. Can’t find the title you’re looking for? Owner Patty McWilliams will be happy to search for it. 95 Main St., Poultney. 802-287-5757; hermithillbooks.com
grafton inn vermont sign
The Grafton Inn | Best of Vermont
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker

BEST OF VERMONT 2017: LODGING

BOUTIQUE INN: 506 On the River Inn

Just a few miles from the center of Woodstock, along the scenic Ottauquechee River, the area’s newest lodging combines the best features of a small resort with those of an intimate inn. At guests’ disposal are river-facing rooms and suites with balconies and rocking chairs, an antiques-filled bistro and bar, a game area for young adults, a toddler playroom, an indoor pool and sauna, and a sweeping lawn dotted with lounge chairs, tiki lamps, and fire pits for evening s’mores. 1653 W. Woodstock Road (Rte. 4), Woodstock. 802-457-5000; ontheriverwoodstock.com

CHEAP SLEEP: The Shire

Plain facade notwithstanding, the Shire is no ordinary motel. The 44 rooms at this downtown institution are large and tastefully decorated, all feature refrigerators (microwaves on request), and most overlook the Ottauquechee River. Several even have gas fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. The adjacent River House offers more private, upscale accommodations. The porch in back is a wonderful place to relax while time and the river roll by. 46 Pleasant St., Woodstock. 802-457-2211; shirewoodstock.com

CITY HOTEL: Hotel Vermont

This rare independent hotel in downtown Burlington offers bright, modern accommodations featuring wood and stone accents from Vermont forests and quarries. Locally sourced ingredients are the rule at Juniper restaurant; other hotel dining options include a satellite location of the James Beard Award–nominated Hen of the Wood and seafood-oriented Bleu. 41 Cherry St., Burlington. 802-651-0080; hotelvt.com

FAMILY LODGING: Mountain Top Inn & Resort

A lofty aerie among Vermont’s resorts, the Mountain Top boasts 350 scenic acres hugging the shore of the Chittenden Reservoir within the Green Mountain National Forest. Accommodations range from rooms and suites in the main lodge to spacious cabins to larger guesthouses, all furnished in traditional “great camp” style (massive fireplaces, wrought iron and rough-hewn timber, big leather armchairs). Canoe, kayak, swim, or take a guided pontoon boat ride on the reservoir, or take a dip in the heated outdoor pool. Other activities include tennis, trap shooting, a full equestrian program, and a kids’ adventure camp. 195 Mountain Top Road, Chittenden. 802-483-2311; mountaintopinn.com

FARM STAY: Cold Moon Farm

Although it’s just a half hour’s drive from Manchester’s factory outlets, this family-friendly working farm with five lovely guest rooms and suites feels a world away. Guests young and old can help do farm chores, spend an afternoon fishing and canoeing on the pond, or enjoy a yoga class in the meadow. When the kids are ready for bed, the owners will arrange for babysitting services so that parents can slip away for dinner. 251 Pratt Bridge Road, Jamaica. 802-297-3258; coldmoonfarm.com

GOLFING GETAWAY: Lake Morey Resort

Tucked along the north shore of forest-rimmed Lake Morey in the Connecticut River Valley, this resort has been home to the Vermont Open Golf Championship for more than 50 years. Amateurs also enjoy the challenges of the meticulously maintained 6,024-yard course, where a relatively level front gives way to a rolling back nine. Not a golfer? Choose from tennis, volleyball, an indoor pool, paddling on the lake, and a 5-mile hike or bike ride around the shore. More than half of the 130 rooms and suites offer lake views, and three cottages accommodate six to 14 guests. 1 Clubhouse Road, Fairlee. 800-423-1211; lakemoreyresort.com

HISTORIC INN: Brandon Inn

Overlooking Brandon’s town green on a site occupied by inns since 1786, this gambrel-roofed treasure is more small hotel than country inn. The Victorian character of the airy public rooms carries throughout the 37 guest rooms and two suites on the three floors above, all with private baths. Rates include a full breakfast, and you’re in luck if your morning’s fare includes owner-chef Louis Pattis’s scrambled eggs, the creamiest you’ll ever taste. 20 Park St., Brandon. 802-247-5766; brandoninn.com

LAKESIDE LODGING: Willoughvale Inn & Cottages

Lake Willoughby is the deep blue jewel of Northeast Kingdom lakes, and Willoughvale is perched invitingly on its shores. Accommodations include 10 handsomely furnished inn rooms and suites, some with fireplace and Jacuzzi, along with four lakeside and four lake-view cottages. Guests can use the inn’s canoes, kayaks, and bikes, and the swimming beach features a water trampoline. Gil’s bar and grill (dinner only) overlooks the lake, and continental breakfast is included for guests. 793 Rte. 5A S., Westmore. 802-525-4123; willoughvale.com

ROMANTIC GETAWAY: Stone Hill Inn

Luxury is the hallmark of this couples-only retreat nestled on nearly 10 acres in the heart of Stowe. Each of the nine rooms has a king bed, Jacuzzi tub for two, and bedroom/bath fireplace. Couples are seated at private tables in the sunlit breakfast room and can enjoy a stroll around the manicured grounds before settling in for massages in the comfort of their own guest rooms. Have a food allergy or restriction? The inn gladly accommodates gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, and other dietary requests. 89 Houston Farm Road, Stowe. 802-253-6282; stonehillinn.com

RUSTIC RETREAT: Sterling Ridge Resort

Situated on 370 acres above scenic Smugglers Notch, the resort’s 23 cabins and three larger units seamlessly blend rustic style with full modern amenities. Choose from studio, one-, and two-bedroom cabins, or stay in the luxe log home with soaring two-story stone fireplace that was featured in Field & Stream magazine. Guests can hike the resort’s private trails, fish in the 14-acre pond, swim in the heated pool, ascend Mount Mansfield via the nearby Long Trail, or follow the twisting Notch Road to the attractions at the Smugglers’ Notch and Stowe resorts. 155 Sterling Ridge Dr., Jeffersonville. 802-644-8265; sterlingridgeresort.com

UPSCALE INN: Woodstock Inn & Resort

Crossing the threshold at Woodstock’s best address is like stepping into a sumptuous country home. Many guest rooms feature wood-burning fireplaces; all are distinctively furnished. Local ingredients enrich the menus at the Red Rooster, the inn’s light-filled main dining room, and at the snug, wood-paneled Richardson’s Tavern. The resort offers golf, ski, and spa packages, plus activities ranging from fly-fishing to falconry. Woodstock’s shops, restaurants, and town green are at the inn’s doorstep. 14 The Green, Woodstock. 802-332-6853; woodstockinn.com

VILLAGE INN: Grafton Inn

The venerable centerpiece of the exquisitely restored village of Grafton has welcomed wayfarers since 1801. Furnishings reflect the inn’s long tradition, yet offer all the modern amenities. Menus at the Old Grafton Tavern and informal Phelps Barn Pub draw on locally sourced ingredients, such as award-winning Grafton cheddar. For those looking for more space, kitchens, and a homier environment, the inn offers several private homes in the village. 92 Main St., Grafton. 802-843-2248; graftoninnvermont.com [text_ad]

BEST OF VERMONT 2017: DINING

BREWPUB: Prohibition Pig

This Waterbury storefront had gained a loyal following as the Alchemist brewpub and the original home of Vermont’s iconic canned IPA, Heady Topper. After Tropical Storm Irene flooded that pub in 2011, though, new owners moved in. Now locals line up nightly for smoke-kissed pork and brisket, grown-up cocktails, and one of New England’s most impressive tap lists. Around the corner, a seven-barrel brewery ferments handcrafted brews to complement snacks like tacos and pozole, which are served in view of the brewhouse kettle. 23 S. Main St., Waterbury. 802-244-4120; prohibitionpig.com

BRUNCH: Down Home Kitchen

At some restaurants, brunch is a religion. Steps from the Vermont capitol, Down Home’s “Church of Brunch” sings Sunday praises with a thick, low-country accent. The menu changes weekly but revolves around southern comforts like cheesy grits and girthy buttermilk biscuits crowned with eggs or sausage gravy. Seasonal specials might include fried-green-tomato Benedicts and hot blueberry hand pies. Wake up with artisan coffee, brewed strong, or find an afternoon buzz in a mint julep or a glass of brandied milk punch. There’s live jazz and bluegrass on select Sundays. 100 Main St., Montpelier. 802-225-6665; downhomekitchenvt.com

COMFORT FOOD: Honeypie

Wesley and Chloe Genovart have received several James Beard Award nominations for their South Londonderry restaurant, SoLo Farm & Table. So when they opened up this casual spot under the canopy of a midcentury gas station, everyone knew that the fare would extend beyond the standard frozen-patty-and-fries. Still, their menu is classic snack-attack: Find fried chicken sandwiches with a herb-y buttermilk dressing, chunky lobster rolls smothered in butter, and, for dessert or otherwise, milkshakes thick with house-churned ice cream. 8811 Rte. 30, Jamaica. 802-548-4999; eatathoneypie.com

FRENCH CUISINE: Bistro de Margot

As a young student-chef, Bistro de Margot owner Hervé Mahé trained at France’s elite Ecole Supérieure de Cuisine Française. Then he spent 30 years honing his skills at Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris, London, and Seattle. In Burlington, he carefully crafts each dish—from an exquisite foie gras torchon to a pan-seared cod filet—in a way that’s refined yet approachable. 126 College St., Burlington. 802-863-5200; bistrodemargot.com

HIDDEN GEM: Mike’s Tiki Bar

After a day spent riding the Kingdom Trails mountain-bike network, swing by this East Burke warm-weather watering hole for a sunset brewski. Hyperlocal pours include Covered Bridge Brewing’s easy-drinking Lucky Me golden ale, while darker, malty brews from Kingdom Brewing make regular appearances as well. Starving? Snag a takeout order of poutine across the parking lot at Burke Publick House or a melty panini from the Vermont Food Truck Company’s mobile kitchen, which parks at the bar nightly, May through October. 44 Belden Hill Road, East Burke. mikestikibar.com

INN RESTAURANT: The Parker House Inn

Drawing on her relationships with local farmers, chef Alexandra La Noue-Adler changes her French-inspired menu with the seasons—featuring lamb meatballs glistening with pomegranate glacé one night, and crispy pan-seared duck the next, all served fireside in one of the inn’s two intimate dining rooms. Toward the back of the building you’ll find Bar Irene (so named for the 2011 storm that sent the Ottauquechee River flowing through the inn’s ground floor), where candlelight dances over walls shellacked with vintage posters. Most nights co-owner Adam Adler holds court, greeting guests in a dapper British cadence as he treats them to classic cocktails, mixed strong. 1792 Quechee Main St., Quechee. 802-295-6077; theparkerhouseinn.com

NEW AMERICAN CUISINE: Misery Loves Co.

Steps from the busy Winooski traffic circle, chef-owners Aaron Josinsky and Nathaniel Wade fuel their kitchen with ingredients from dozens of area farms. Sip a glass of wild apple cider with oysters, house-made charcuterie, or buttermilk fried chicken. Adventurous eaters may opt for something outside the standard culinary canon, such as stuffed pheasant, steamed gooseneck barnacles, and whole crawfish. They can do so with confidence: This restaurant’s creative cooking has been praised as among the best in New England by in-the-know foodies at the James Beard Association and Vogue, among other national tastemakers. 46 Main St., Winooski. 802-497-3989; miserylovescovt.com

SHOPPING-DINING DESTINATION: Depot 62

The rare wares at this home fashions shop include Persian carpets, gilt chandeliers, and antique treasures from the Middle East to middle America. Snap up that must-have umbrella urn or vintage beaded pocketbook, then settle into plush chairs around a copper-clad table for wood-fired organic flatbreads and Turkish delights such as spiced lamb kebabs and pita with baba ghanoush. 515 Depot St., Manchester Center. 802-366-8229; depot62.com

THAI CUISINE: Saap

In Thailand’s northeastern region of Isan, food is intense, flavor-forward, and often spiced with enough chilies to set most American palates aflame. From the airy parlor of a Queen Anne Victorian near the Montague Golf Club in Randolph, chef Nisachon “Rung” Morgan serves Isan specialties such as wood-grilled swai fish wrapped in banana leaves with Thai herbs and coconut, and marinated chicken with fragrant yellow bean sauce. Guests seeking more familiar fare can commune over mild, coconut-laced curries and Bangkok-style dishes like pad Thai and crispy spring rolls. 50 Randolph Ave., Randolph. 802-565-8292; saaprestaurant.com

VEGETARIAN CUISINE: Superfresh Organic Café

Snack on cacao truffles dotted with rose petal crumbles or bowls of grains and legumes du jour with house-fermented kimchi and garden greens at this veggie-friendly Brattleboro café. Pass a computer-clicking workday (or board-gaming rainy afternoon) over pots of tea, poured hot into thick stoneware mugs. Feeling drowsy? Wake up with a shot of fire cider—and ask the counter servers about its reputed health benefits. 30 Main St., Brattleboro. 802-579-1751; superfreshcafe.com

WINE LIST: Osteria Pane e Salute

The owners at this eight-table trattoria are the vintners behind La Garagista, the Barnard winery whose wild-fermented wines have won praise in TheNew York Times and Wine Spectator. Find house pours listed with Old World vintages in one of Vermont’s finest restaurant collections of natural wine. Pair a bottle of delicate, cold-climate pét-nat with rustic, Italian-inspired dishes grounded in farm-fresh meats and garden produce. 61 Central St., Woodstock. 802-457-4882; osteriapaneesalute.com

SEE MORE: Best New England Summer Events in 2017Best of New England | 2017 Editors’ Choice Awards