Tour books of Vermont will immediately hone in on the industriousness of its independent citizens, who live encircled by mountains in rural splendor. Such things are true about Vermont. But if you’re visiting the Green Mountain state and hoping to peel back the layers to see its unique cultural heritage, we’ve got you covered with our 20 favorite attractions.
If covered bridges are on your list of must-sees then you could do no better than those in Vermont’s Bennington County, where every stream crossing seems to be under wooden eaves. Most are in the state’s southeastern corner, including the 88-foot-long Silk Road Bridge, which spans the Walloomsac River and dates from 1840.
Their ubiquitous presence in gas station walk-ins and bodega freezers may make you think Ben & Jerry’s has always been around, but this iconic ice cream maker started in Vermont in 1978. The tour tells the story of how the founders met, conceived their dream and built their ice cream empire. Samples of whatever the factory is making at that moment are available, as are fresh cones. Afterwards you can tour the flavor graveyard, where retired concoctions are put to rest.
Billings Farm & Museum and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park
It’s easy to sing the praises of Vermont’s dairy and Billings Farm is a living reminder of how it got there. A practicing commercial cow operation, the farm is fun for kids, while the nearby national park offers scenic hiking and cross-country skiing trails through the state’s backwoods for adults.
Speaking of dairy pedigrees, Vermont’s Cabot Creamery—in operation since the close of the First World War—has been a household name in the world of cheese for generations. Although the creamery tours are no longer being offered, you can still sample scores of cheeses, sour cream, and dips, from store-shelf classics to hard-to-find, aged cheddars at the visitors’ center.
The Coolidge Homestead pays homage to the lifelong home of America’s 30th president, who took the oath of office in August 1923. Sworn in as commander in chief in the light of a kerosene lamp just hours after President Harding’s death, Coolidge was famed for his taciturn manner (nicknamed “Silent Cal”) and thriftiness, symbolizing stability during the social upheaval of the Roaring Twenties. Today you can visit his boyhood home and the estate’s buildings, considered traditional even for the times.
At 165 feet deep, Vermont’s glacier-carved “Little Grand Canyon” draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year to take in the breathtaking views. Quechee Gorge—a narrowing of the Ottauquechee River—once created employment for hundreds of wool-mill workers, and today offers hiking, camping, and fishing opportunities.
More complex than a single museum, Shelburne hosts some of the country’s most diverse examples of paintings, folk arts, quilts, and textiles dedicated to eclectic Americana. From glass canes to carriages and Impressionist paintings, there are more than 150,000 works spanning 39 buildings at the museum—as much a display of art as a testament to Vermont’s natural beauty and cultural history.
One of the world’s largest quarries, Rock of Ages put Vermont on the map as the premiere source for granite. The size of the quarry is hard to grasp: though exposed rock extends for hundreds of feet above the turquoise waters, the shafts plummet still some 600 feet below. Still operated, you can see the quarry and take a tour of the granite plant, where huge chunks of stone are moved, hewed, cut, polished, and engraved for gravestones.
Built to commemorate the 1777 Battle of Bennington—considered the turning point of the Revolutionary War—the monument is a 306-foot stone obelisk and also the tallest structure in Vermont. While the actual battle may have occurred some 10 miles away in New York (the stone comes from New York too), don’t let history spoil the views from the observation level at 200-feet, reached by elevator.
The Lincoln Family home may have only been the summer retreat for Todd (the president’s only offspring to survive childhood) and Mary to escape the heat of Washington D.C., but it’s no less stunning for that. The mansion is furnished with the family’s furniture, containing artifacts from Todd and his father. Outside the building, visitors can stroll the stately gardens, which overlook the Battenkill Valley, or walk through hundreds of acres of meadows and wetlands.
Started as a tavern in 1793, today’s Woodstock Inn was one of the first buildings in the town and remains one of its stateliest. The building’s classic design and elegant historical preservation give it a timeless feel, perfect inspiration for exploring the town’s charming shops and restaurants. Room rates vary whether the suite comes with amenities like fireplace (perfect for banishing the chill after skiing the nearby slopes), and the inn has a restaurant and on-site spa.
Established in 1878, this working horse farm gave the world Morgan horses, one of the first breeds exclusively developed in the U.S. With the vast majority of Morgan horses owing their lineage to this 215-acre ranch located just outside Middlebury, the farm is open to the public and is a must-visit for horse-lovers looking to experience living history.
This 38-drawer monument to organization may be one of several such structures claiming to be the world’s tallest, but located just outside funky Burlington, it’s a must-see for fans of odd attractions. Built in 2002 by a local artist, each drawer in the structure represents the number of years of paperwork that the artist gathered while designing it. The piece is a commentary on the bureaucratic mess associated with a 50-plus year delay to a roadway meant to link downtown Burlington with the interstate.
A trip to the Green Mountain State without visiting the eponymous tectonic features would be incomplete, so trek to Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s tallest. In addition to hiking, there’s great views of Lake Champlain and New York’s Adirondacks, alpine ecosystems and great skiing from a number of resorts.
Also known as the Rudyard Kipling House—the same man who wrote The Jungle Book—Naulahka is a shingle-roof, three-story house that’s been converted into a vacation rental with room for eight. Kipling in fact wrote The Jungle Book in his library here, and the house is named after a precious Indian jewel, which was the source of inspiration for another one of his works. After a falling out with his neighbor, Kipling left in 1896, and the home was eventually sold to a preservation trust.
Lake islands, shoreline, sunsets, sailing, camping, fishing and beaches. For generations Vermont has lived on the shores of its largest lake, which stretches from New York to the west and north to Quebec. Cyclists from Burlington stride headlong along a disused rail corridor above its waters, the sixth largest in the nation, while regular ferries from Burlington and other points offer hours of fresh air.
Like the rest of Vermont, this elegant Greek Revival structure in Montpelier, home to the state’s lawmakers, seems to suddenly pop from the mountainous woods surrounding it. Vermont’s State House, the third such building on the same site, was built in the late 1850s and is one of the nation’s oldest and best-preserved capitol buildings. You can walk around yourself or take seasonal guided tours offered daily except Sunday. Highlights include period portraits, stained glass bearing the state’s coat of arms, and original furnishings, still in use.
No trip to Vermont is incomplete without a stay in Burlington, its biggest (but not capital) city. With a well-deserved reputation as the epicenter for the offbeat and independent, Burlington is an artistic nerve center for the state and entire northeast. Walking around pretty Church Street shows that funky feeling in full force, from Vermont’s farm-to-table restaurants to its craft beer concoctions and artisans selling their wares.
Perhaps America’s most famous poet, at the height of his celebrity Robert Frost lived in Vermont, calling the Green Mountain state home for four decades. Much of his verse was written while Frost lived in a log cabin on a 150-acre farm in Ripton, where visitors today can tour the National Historic Landmark. Elsewhere in Shaftsbury, Bennington College owns the Robert Frost Stone House, a museum dedicated to the home where Frost won the first of his four Pulitzer Prizes. And Frost is buried in the cemetery at the Old First Church in Bennington, where his tombstone reads, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”
No visit to Vermont would be incomplete without a stop to sample its legendary brews, and no brewer enjoys as much fame perhaps anywhere in the country as the Alchemist. Inexplicable to the uninitiated, this mecca to suds has inspired a fervent following, and the brewery’s signature beer, Heady Topper, is considered perhaps the best example of an IPA in the world and alone draws thousands of visitors every year for a can, only sold in-state.