Can you believe we're already post Labor Day with autumn breathing down our necks? How did this happen? Technically summer's not over, but still: How was the rest of your "summer"? We recently took a mini vacation to western Vermont for the long weekend. Armed with ample tips and suggestions from my aunt, we used Burlington as our home base and hopped around to nearby Middlebury, Shelburne, Lake Champlain islands North and South Hero and Grand Isle, and Vergennes, home of Button Bay State Park. Here are some snaps and notes if you'd like to see!
Our first stop was Middlebury, one of those perfect small towns that looks like a painting with its rolling green hills, impeccable store-and-cafe-lined streets, and fly fishermen-dotted creeks (shown above). Robert Frost famously taught at Middlebury College for over 40 years. I couldn't resist buying a few souvenirs at Clementine, a gorgeous stationery, baby, and home goods store on Main Street run by my new friend Emily Blistein, filled with many American and even local-made goodies. We grabbed lunch across the street at the Storm Cafe, which overlooks Otter Creek, and although we didn't get to try them out, Emily raved about the milkshakes at Middlebury Chocolates, so if you're ever up there, you'll have to report back!
We stopped at Button Bay Sate Park in Vergennes for an awesome nature walk out to the point, which jutted out onto Lake Champlain and made us feel like we were practically walking on water (see pic at top of post). You can also camp and boat there.
I can't say enough good things about Hotel Vermont in Burlington, which just opened in April of this year. It was so thoughtfully designed and I loved the rustic modern vibe. Because the rooms didn't overlook Lake Champlain (ours overlooked Macy's), the hotel designer tacked up the pretty landscapes photographs you see below to the bottom quarter of each window so that when you were lying in bed, you had a pretty "view."
Rooms on the top floor are stocked with goodies from local brands to use during your stay, like blankets from Johnson Woolen Mils, bathrobes from Vermont Flannel, an iPad sleeve from Queen City Dry Goods, and Vermont Soaps to keep. There's a Keurig machine outside the elevator on each floor, and every afternoon, they set out snacks like fruit and cookies.
We lucked out because we had no idea that, literally next door to the hotel, is one of Vermont's best restaurants Hen of the Wood. Everything we ordered was special, but the cheese plate filled with cheeses sourced from local farms, like the Roquefort from Jasper Hill Farm (insane!), and the butter cake we ate for dessert topped with homemade blueberry swirl ice cream, really stood out. Tip: Make reservations in advance! We ended up getting a table in the bar area, but the restaurant was packed.
We drove over to Vermont's "West Coast," AKA islands on Lake Champlain that can be accessed by car, including North Hero, South Hero and Grand Isle. Nearly everywhere we went, there was the glittering lake and the Adirondack Mountains serving as a dramatic backdrop. And if we didn't see the lake, we saw something so beautiful we had to pull over, like a field of sunflowers, an antique store, or a billboard-less, long and winding road (Vermont amazingly bans billboards!)
We didn't hit up a ton of antique stores, but we checked out Tinker Barn on South Hero, which was well-stocked but pricey. I loved this window filled with antique fishing lures.
We had better luck in Grand Isle at Vallee's Den of Antiquity. The rule is that if you spend enough time talking to an eccentric antique store owner, in this case R.A. Vallee, you'll continue to spot more and more things you (probably don't) need over the course of your visit, and the pile will grow larger and larger and suddenly you're buying five records and a tiger-print espresso cup. But it was worth it: if you're ever up there, stop by for a fun chat with R.A.
The broad, sandy public beach at Alburg Dunes State Park on North Hero was awesome and we enjoyed watching a group of paragliders. As you can see by the chop, it was a crazy windy day.
One of the absolute highlights was a visit to Shelburne Farm, a 1,400-acre working farm, forest, and "National Historic Landmark." We got to stroll alongside brown dairy cows, watch cheese being made in the farm barn, and skip rocks on Lake Champlain.
We also checked out the Inn at Shelburne Farms, which was originally the 19th-century country home of Dr. William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb, so you can imagine the furnishings and wallpaper were stunning. It was fun to sit outside under the veranda on rocking chairs overlooking the lake, watching a wedding party mill about.
The last day, we drove up to the top of Mt. Philo. It was a bit hazy, but we could still see the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains in the distance.
A few things we wanted to do, but didn't have enough time:
Shelburne Museum, covered bridges, and the Vermont cheese trail. I guess we'll just have to visit again soon! I hope you enjoyed, and definitely consider a trip up there this fall. There will be ample leaf peeping opportunities starting sooner than later (we were already starting to see the tips of some trees turning yellow over Labor Day). Here's a fun interactive foliage chart if you're interested.