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Vermont

Richmond, Vermont's Round Church is actually 16-sided.
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Richmond, Vermont’s Round Church is actually 16-sided.

Dairy farms, cozy cabins, majestic mountains, covered bridges, and pure maple candy that melts in your mouth are but a few images of the Green Mountain State. It’s a place to kick back and relax, browse quaint antique shops and country stores, and savor a healthy way of life and Old New England charm.

Named for the French words vert and mont for green mountain, Vermont is a vacation state for all seasons. Whether to escape the summer’s heat, enjoy spectacular fall foliage on a crisp autumn day, experience world-class skiing on one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, or simply relax and watch snowflakes fall, a trip to Vermont will leave you rejuvenated and longing to return.

Exemplifying its spirit with its motto “Freedom and Unity”, Vermont, our 14th state, took its time in joining the original colonies, and was the first state to abolish slavery. There are no billboards and Vermont is our only state without a McDonald’s in its capital.

It’s a great place to do your own grazing, particularly along “Enticement Alley” on Route 100 between Waterbury and Stowe. Free samples of the flavor of the day at Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory are included in the popular $3 tour. You can sip cider and munch legendary cider donuts at Cold Hollow Cider Mill, taste test the cheese voted “Best Cheddar in the World” at the Cabot annex store then top it off with some Lake Champlain Chocolates and Green Mountain Coffee, in the same complex.

Four-fifths of all our troubles would disappear, if we would only sit down and keep still. 
Calvin Coolidge

Vermont is the birthplace of Presidents Chester A. Arthur and Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge, who, while vacationing at the family homestead in Plymouth Notch, learned of President Garfield’s unexpected death and took the oath of office as 30th President from his father, a notary public.

Stowe

At the base of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, New England’s renowned ski capital and mountain resort destination is best known for Alpine and Nordic skiing, and the Trapp Family Lodge, owned by the family made famous by the 1965 movie The Sound of Music.

Foremost among Vermont’s quintessentially quaint towns, the shops and businesses are locally owned and operated. Lodging ranges from luxurious resorts to charming B&Bs. There’s a flourishing cultural community, and over 50 different restaurants.

For pampering, the Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa, family owned over 40 years, offers a spa deemed one of the top ten in the country. Seeking a romantic weekend with a fireplace and oversized whirlpool tub? Stoweflake’s accommodations also feature the spa’s sensuous rosemary mint products, and Stone Hill Inn, a luxurious B&B for couples, named one of the top 12 B&Bs in North America by Forbes.com, has nine individually decorated guestrooms. Fine dining? Try Michael’s on the Hill, Waterbury Center.

Outdoor recreational opportunities abound—from the thrill of exciting adventures to tranquility amidst spectacular natural beauty. Hiking, bicycling, fly fishing, tennis, tubing in a river, hot air balloons, alpine slides, and the 5.5 mile Stowe Recreation Path are but a few choices. On Umiak Outfitters’ most popular trip, the River and Spirits Tour, kayak downstream on the gentle Lamoille River to the Boyden Valley Winery, in a restored 19th century carriage barn that is part of a fourth generation farm, to sample unique and award-winning wines made from locally grown fruits.

At Spruce Peak, a new alpine neighborhood is being developed with an 18-hole Bob Cupp golf course and a transfer lift connecting to Mount Mansfield.

Lake Champlain Valley area 

New England’s only inland state is home to the 6th largest lake in the United States. Named for explorer Samuel de Champlain, it is nestled between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondack Mountains of New York.

Basin Harbor Club, Vergennes, Vermont
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Basin Harbor Club, Vergennes, Vermont

On the shore of Lake Champlain, in tiny Vergennes, one of the oldest and smallest cities in the US, is the Basin Harbor Club, a luxury resort with quiet paths, colorful gardens, and brightly painted Adirondack chairs. Well-appointed guest houses and cottages overlook the lake and mountains.

It is casual by day, with myriad resort activities—including an 18 hole golf course, water sports, tennis, nature trails, children’s programs, classes and entertainment. While casual meals are available in their Red Mill Lodge, such traditions as proper attire in the formal dining room after 6 p.m. during the social season, July and August, are maintained. The bounteous breakfast buffet features a full range of well-prepared hot and cold selections, and dinner is traditional New England fare skillfully prepared and graciously presented, all with top-notch fresh local foods.

It’s a place families return to year after year, often for “their” cottage. Bring your pet, watch for wildlife, or try to catch a glimpse of the lake’s monster, Champ. Family-run since 1886, when Ardelia Beach took in summer boarders arriving by rail to ride the ferry boats on Lake Champlain, siblings Pennie and Bob Beach are now fourth generation hosts. It’s a tranquil blend of natural beauty, comfort, wholesome fun, refinement, and history with a view that hasn’t changed for centuries.

The Spirit of Ethan Allen III is a floating restaurant that offers scenic cruises of Lake Champlain.
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The Spirit of Ethan Allen III is a floating restaurant that offers scenic cruises of Lake Champlain.

A cruise on the resort’s 40’ boat, Dynamite II, highlights the history, shipwrecks, and geology of the area. One can easily sit back and envision the Algonquins and Iroquois hunting and fishing this land or the naval battles fought here for control of this transportation highway.

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes, Vermont
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Erick Tichonuk, underwater archaeologist, shares his enthusiasm for his work at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes, Vermont.

At the adjacent Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, visitors learn more about North America’s most historic body of water, believed to contain the more shipwrecks than any other lake on this continent. The museum staff is involved with the conservation and preservation submerged finds, and will also show you a model of a horse powered ferry that preceded steamers—an example of how horses “walked on water”.

Vermont is America’s largest producer of maple syrup. Nearby is Dakin Farm, producer of ham, sausage, cheese and maple syrup, with tours, exhibits, and an impressive array of tempting samples. At the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, a customized cuddly companion can be produced before your eyes.

The Shelburne Museum is one of the country’s top showcases of art and Americana, an educational project founded by Electra Havemeyer Webb, who collected a vast array of 17th to 20th century artifacts– folk, fine, and decorative arts, historic buildings, and early American transportation. On 45 acres of gardens and landscaped grounds, with elegant carriages donated by William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb and a centerpiece, Lake Champlain’s 220’ steamship Ticonderoga, it is one of the foremost museums of its kind.

Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont
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Step back into the Gilded Age at the Inn at Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont

In the Gilded Age a hallmarks of wealth was a country estate. Shelburne Farms, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the best, a 1400 acre model agricultural showcase created in 1886 for Dr. William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb, noted for its architecture, landscape design, and agricultural achievements. In its heyday there were 250 workers and 80 teams of horses and mules. Grounds were designed by prominent landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead for sweeping vistas. With the goal of breeding the perfect horse for Vermont farmers, a breeding barn that was then the largest open-span wooden structure in America was built. Today, milk produced by the Brown Swiss cows continues to be used to make cheese onsite, and the farm welcomes visitors as a hands-on environmental educational center. The Webb’s home is now an inn with original furnishings, an opportunity to experience the cultured life of an era of elegance.

Just to the north is Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, on the shore of Lake Champlain. A transportation hub, it prospered by shipping lumber from Canada to New York City on the Lake Champlain canal system, and conveying dairy products from New England to Quebec by rail. Today it is a center of the arts, history, shopping, and entertainment.

The waterfront features a children’s science museum and aquarium, a 9-mile recreational pathway, lake ferries and cruises. The 500 passenger Spirit of Ethan Allen III offers historic narration, views of geological formations between the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains, and brunch, lunch, and dinner cruises.

Frog Hollow on Church Street, Burlington, Vermont
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Frog Hollow in Burlington. Church Street is a blend of history, entertainment, and commerce.

Church Street Marketplace consists of four architecturally-historic blocks lined with cafes and shops like Frog Hollow, with the work of over 200 Vermont artisans. Weekdays, stop for a sample at the Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory Tour on Pine Street. Take a historic walking tour, or visit the campus of the University of Vermont.

Serendipity

West Monitor Barn, Richmond, Vermont
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West Monitor Barn, Richmond, Vermont, is historically significant for its innovative roof design.

For the essence of Vermont, meander the back roads. Richmond is “Home of the Round Church”, the town’s first meeting house, now a popular site for weddings. The nearby West Monitor Barn is one of two erected in Richmond at the turn of the century with an architecturally-advanced “monitor” roof design. With enhanced air circulation and a healthier environment for cows, it is a local historic landmark.

Bob Spear, The Birds of Vermont Museum, Huntington, Vermont
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Bob Spear is shown with a few of his remarkable carvings in The Birds of Vermont Museum, Huntington, Vermont

In Huntington there’s a hidden gem, a museum befitting its founder, with an unpretentious exterior and treasures within. The Birds of Vermont Museum contains the work of one man who has dedicated his retirement years to preserving birds and their habitats with with his biologically accurate and meticulously crafted life-size woodcarvings of birds in action.

The museum is adjacent to the Green Mountain Audubon Nature Center that he founded in 1962.  The mission of the museum is “to educate children and adults about the environment through the study of birds and their habitats.”

Bob Spear’s interest in the environment led to a retirement project that grew to the creation of nearly 500 basswood carvings— endangered and extinct species, nesting pairs in their natural surroundings, hawks with prey, and more, each of which can take up to 600 hours to create. With the unassuming nature that typifies the people of this state, he lives next to the museum and is likely to stop his work maintaining the grounds to discuss his creations with a visitor. With dozens of wetland birds to finish, and then Vermont’s butterflies to carve, he is passing on his knowledge of natural history and mastery of woodcarving to an apprentice.

The beauty of Vermont is showcased its luxurious resorts, sensed in the magnitude of the mountains, experienced on its roads and waterways, and tasted in pancakes dripping with maple syrup, but felt most deeply in a serendipitous moment shared with a Vermonter who understands the delicate balance between man and his environment and spends his days making the world a little better than it was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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