There’s the image of Vermont you probably grew up with: majestic mountains, ski slopes, shelves of maple syrup, and towns that look straight from a fairytale. And while you could spend weeks sampling Ben & Jerry’s or hitting double diamonds at Killington, you’d likely leave wondering a few things. For starters, what’d you miss?
Atypical experiences — like learning a bit of falconry, some moonlight snowshoeing, or even honing your craft skills — can leave you with a deeper set of memories. Dare we say, better? Skirt the tried and true in the Green Mountain State and opt for these more unusual travel moments instead.
Note: Before you travel to Vermont, please review all travel guidance and restrictions currently in place, and contact all locations prior to visiting for the latest on closures and other safety info.
1. Chasing moonlight through the forest
“Icy finger waves, ski trails on a mountainside, snowlight in Vermont” — or so the classic song goes. While this may feel like a world only Sinatra sings about, you can practice it in reality after sunset: A Moonlight Cabin Snowshoe Tour with Umiak Outdoor Outfitters leads you to a hidden sugarhouse in the woods and lets you soak in the forest sounds. For a minute, you might feel you’re in a movie. Or at least a dream.
Dog-sledding tours abound, but they don’t have to be daytime affairs, either. Some operators will take you and the energetic pack on a sled pretty much any time you want, and even after dark. Sync up with a full moon, and you might be surprised how simple it is to navigate those reins.
2. Going on an e-bike tour
A bike ride on shiny wheels is always a thrill, but outfitters like Lamoille Valley Bike Tours — in northern Vermont — can show you a different perspective, with their electric-bike fall foliage tours that whiz past plains, farms, mountains, and a million maple trees. Best of all, the pedaling will be a breeze!
Their “Spokes and Spirits Tour” is for liquor enthusiasts who want to ride the most scenic stretch of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, an in-progress path set to run for 93 miles through stunning Vermont scenery. You’ll pedal to the village of Jeffersonville and Smugglers’ Notch Distillery and even take home a tasting glass.
If you’re more intrepid, make a whole weekend out of biking. On a three-day bike tour from Great Freedom Adventures, you’ll cruise past classic red barns and over charming covered bridges. Most itineraries include dining (or takeout) at legendary-to-Vermont restaurants.
3. Seeing Vermont by air
Soar above maples and mountains! Snap those pictures! This is all part of the philosophy when you take in Vermont from gliders, such as those at Sugarbush Soaring in the Mad River Valley, an area known for its breathtaking peaks.
Hot-air ballooning — especially when the leaves are decked in their fall foliage finery — is another hard-to-top experience. Places like Quechee Balloon Rides offer twice-a-day magical escapes over Quechee (home to Vermont’s deepest gorge) and prove that ballooning can be an elegant — rather than a nail-biting — thrill.
4. Turning to a “monster” to sate your sweet tooth
Little is as synonymous with Vermont as Ben & Jerry’s, which started in an old gas station in Burlington in 1978. Naturally, we can’t leave it entirely off this list. But to make it more than a run-of-the-mill dessert break, take a group of friends to visit the factory store in Waterbury and tackle the “Vermonster” — a large sundae served in a bucket with 20 scoops of ice cream, four bananas, four ladles of hot fudge, brownies, cookies, and more. The factory also offers a VIP Flavor Fanatic Experience for the truly dedicated.
Chocoholics too might feel as though they’re in Willy-Wonka land with the sheer array of vendors across the state, from Lake Champlain Chocolates (one of Vermont’s largest producers) to Laughing Moon Chocolates and its cozy shop in Stowe village. If you’re unsure about where to start, just follow the Vermont Chocolate Trail — your sweet tooth will thank you!
5. Learning the ancient sport of falconry
In Manchester, Vermont — Green Mountains beckoning in the background — there’s a falconry school where owner Rob Waite has been teaching visitors the art of this age-old tradition for over 30 years. Practicing falconry not only gives you a glimpse of another world, but it allows you to slow down and savor the rich landscape around you (home of the late artist Ogden Pleissner, for one, a painter who’s known for his — yep — landscapes).
Another spot to practice is New England Falconry, which operates out of a historic barn in the town of Woodstock. And the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee is a great place to learn about wild bird rescues and rehabilitation. This is your chance to connect with nature in a new way, one your friends will probably be surprised to see pictures of when you get home.
6. Finally learning to bake
Kids and adults alike can take great pleasure in learning breadmaking and more at King Arthur Baking School, which offers virtual and in-person courses. From learning how to make gnocchi from scratch to baking baguettes and breakfast buns, this school is a great way to help your memories of Vermont live on — for as long as you keep up the practice!
At the cozy Sugar Glider Kitchen in Hartford, things are a little sweeter: You can delight in creating delicious eclairs, muffins, pastries, and ganache across various three-hour classes, no Paul Hollywood lurking over your shoulder.
7. Testing your craftiness
Take a turn behind a different type of wheel and delve into some of the many pottery and craft classes offered in the state, including those at the ONE Arts Center in Burlington’s Old End neighborhood. Visitors and tourists stop by all the time — there’s no pressure to pop in for more than one workshop.
For something a bit less messy, hone your printmaking skills at the Shelburne Craft School — it’s been churning out beauties since 1945. The focus is on artisanal crafts, from mugs to furniture. There’s something truly fulfilling about bringing a handmade souvenir back home!
Note: If you’re more of the observer type, watching live wood-cutting demos at Andrew Pearce in Woodstock makes for a good excuse to say, “One time in Vermont, I…”
8. Hopping on a (statewide) distillery tour
Artisanal distilleries that produce small-batch spirits are a refreshing way to sample local flavors. For a true experience, try the statewide distillery tasting tour — that may sound intimidating, but here’s a handy guide, as well as a downloadable passport card, that will keep you organized.
For a few stand-alone suggestions, work your way from the solar-powered Appalachian Gap Distillery in Middlebury — they make a great espresso liqueur — to Saxtons River Distillery in Brattleboro, where they harvest locally sourced saplings to produce their delicious spirits. Bring home a bottle to replenish your cellar (aka your kitchen cabinet?), and sip and savor your memories for months to come.