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Rabbit Hill Inn

Plan the Perfect Leaf-Peeping Trip

 

Avoiding traffic may be a crapshoot, and gauging temps may be a guessing game, but planning a trip for maximum fall color is surprisingly simple with the Vermont Foliage Forecaster. Consult the map and sign up for weekly foliage reports before hitting the road — you’ll get an email each week updating you on fall’s colorful progress, as Vermont’s forests explode in scarlet, orange, and gold. (Handy!) Different regions reach peak color at different times, but a good rule of thumb is northern areas and higher elevations get their autumn foliage first. Then the color creeps southward and downward into the valleys below.

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Vermont loves its festivals, so combine a well-timed trip with a fall-centric event, like the Northeast Kingdom Fall Foliage Festival. It’s a multi-day affair that stretches across Vermont’s northeastern reaches. Seven towns, seven days, seven festivals, much to do, from live music and chicken pie suppers to ghost tours (and of course all the fall color you could want). Stay right in the Kingdom region at Rabbit Hill Inn, a romantic B&B with mountain views. Mornings come with candlelit breakfasts filled with seasonal goodies, from apples to maple syrup. After a day of leaf peeping along winding northern roads, return to the inn and sink into a soothing, bubbling hydro-massage tub.

Or, if you’re sticking closer to Stowe, pop into the annual Stowe Foliage Arts Festival, combining original art, craftwork and photography from some 150 artists — and, this being Vermont, plenty of local craft beer — in one outside space, surrounded by autumn leaves.

 

 


 

Deerhill Inn

Tour Scenic Byways

 

This is a state for touring and exploring — and the drive itself is the draw. Whether climbing tricky switchbacks in freshly fallen snow or one-lane country roads threading through the woods, you’ll see much of Vermont best by car. Ten designated byways, from 14 to 400 miles in length, unspool across the state, from farmland and forest to village and back.

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A brilliant start is Route 100. Often called Vermont’s Main Street, or simply “the most scenic drive in New England,” this byway leads you through many of the state’s best sights and sounds and ski resort towns. Start south and head north along the edge of the Green Mountains. Spend a pre-drive night in West Dover at the Deer Hill Inn, a luxe B&B that faces Mt. Snow and stocks L’Occitane bath amenities and plush robes. Wind your way through dense forests and towns complete with church steeples, farm stands and tumbling brooks. Stop in Ludlow, where the Okemo ski resort offers all-season activities and the lodge restaurants serve up hearty lunches. Explore Killington and Rochester, driving through Instagrammable farmland crisscrossed by rivers. Dip into the Mad River Valley for a night at Waitsfield’s Wilder Farm Inn, a historic lemon-yellow farmhouse where guests can borrow inflatable tubes and snowshoes for outdoor adventure. Take a sweet detour to Ben and Jerry’s, no matter the season, for the ice cream graveyard and monster-sized sundaes. Stop in elegant Stowe for shopping, then continue north along 100 through ever-more mountainous towns, finally ending in sleepy farmland villages dotted by dairy cows. (If you head much further north, you’ll be in Quebec.)

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Download the Gypsy Guide to Vermont Route 100 for helpful commentary for your trip, or choose one of the other scenic byways Vermont has to offer.

 

 

 


 

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… or Explore Covered Bridges Instead

 

While other states have them, Vermont has the most per square mile — covered bridges, that is. No other state manages to pack in so many in such a small space, yet Vermont has over 100. All over its roads you’ll find examples of the trussed and roofed spans, from the near-ruins of the 19th century to the white-steepled marvels straight off a postcard. Among Vermont’s many covered bridges is the longest in the US, the 465-foot-long Cornish Windsor Covered Bridge connecting Vermont to New Hampshire, spanning a river and offering plenty of photos ops along the way. The bridge alone makes the town of Windsor a worthwhile stop, and its Windsor Mansion Inn is well suited for the night, a Gilded Age manse whose suites are filled with antique writing desks and clawfoot tubs right from the covered-bridge era.

 

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For a more in-depth exploration of bridge engineering, visit Bennington’s Covered Bridge Museum, where you can view exhibits on bridge lore and even design and test your own (on computer, of course). The area around Bennington boasts five of its own covered bridges for before and after your museum tour. The West Arlington Bridge is a classic beauty, a red-painted bridge tucked into a Rockwellian landscape of village green and rolling hills. Perched on one of those hills, overlooking the town, is the West Mountain Inn. Pop in for a delicious dinner between bridge visits, or bed down for the night. It’s a perfect home base for your Battenkill River adventures, including river tubing, a Vermont pastime made extra special by all the covered bridges you’ll zoom right under.

 

 


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Pick Your Own — Wait, What?!

 

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Reach high into an apple tree aflame with fall color, part the branches and pluck the finest, shiniest — iPod? One way Vermont puts a unique spin on that old fall tradition of apple picking is its ever-popular Apples to iPods experience. Pick an orchard from a number of top PYO spots and spend a glorious fall day gathering apples. Find a wooden apple hidden among the leaves and you win an iPod or iPad. This annual event, now in its tenth year, brings an element of surprise to a much-loved Vermont tradition. Even if you don’t uncover a prize-winning fruit, we think a bushel of New England’s best apples is a pretty sweet consolation prize.

Find more details about the event and pick a participating location. Need trip inspiration? We’re in love with Champlain Orchards, one of the oldest continuously operating orchards in Vermont, prettily situated on the shores of Lake Champlain. With over 100 individual apple varieties to choose from plus a hard cidery, Champlain makes for a pretty well-rounded destination. (It also features family-friendly wagon rides and live music on weekends.) Stay nearby at the Swift House Inn, a graceful Victorian whose rooms feature fireplaces and hot tubs — perfect for chilly autumn nights. The eco-friendly inn is located right near Middlebury College and most of the village’s attractions.

 

 


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Eat All of the Cheese. All of It.

Vermont takes its cheesemaking seriously. Its 45 or so producers rack up awards for diverse cheeses ranging from classical blues and eccentric tommes to the knife-sharp cheddars often considered among the world’s finest. There’s an entire trail devoted to Vermont cheese, leading lactose-addled travelers to dairy farms, cheese companies and shops all throughout the state. These include the three popular Cabot retail stores and the visitors center in Cabot itself, where visitors can embark on a factory tour and sample a smorgasbord of cheddar. While intensely, almost prohibitively crowded with weekenders, the Cabot shops are still well worth your time. And no cheese lover should overlook the small rural producers that churn out some of Vermont’s most magical cheeses, like Consider Bardwell Farm nestled deep in the Champlain Valley. The award-winning farm’s cheeses show up in Michelin-starred kitchens in New York City, but, in very Vermont fashion, the owners still run a small self-serve farmstand and tasting room year-round.

True cheese believers can get in deep with a stay on a working dairy farm like Rochester’s Liberty Hill Farm. Home to some 270 cows and a member of the Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Liberty Hill offers accommodations and plenty of family-friendly, real-life farm adventure. Daily activities include milking the award-winning dairy cows, bottle-feeding baby calves and playing with the barn kittens that roam the grounds, plus tucking into farm-to-table dinners featuring — naturally — Cabot cheese and creamery butter.

 

 


 

… or Maybe Chicken Pie Instead

Chicken pie is longtime staple of church dinners, a forever-favorite as the chill of September and October sets in. While not quite as synonymous with the state as maple syrup, or nearly as well known as its dairy traditions, Vermont’s chicken pie is a historical harvest tradition that even predates Thanksgiving turkey. The delicacy is an ode to colonial thriftiness, an easy way to dispatch an old farm hen. Unlike a typical single- or double-crusted pot pie, Vermont’s veggie-free version is crowned with flaky biscuits, served with pitchers of light golden gravy and the requisite dish of butternut squash. Few dining opportunities offer a heartier meal, a cheaper deal or a better cause than a chicken pie fundraiser. While they’re often not publicized widely, these events take place at schools, churches and community centers around the state, advertised on town bulletin boards and in general stores. Put a feeler out on Facebook or grab a local paper; some chicken suppers are even listed online nowadays. It’s just the thing after a day of sightseeing and leaf peeping, and locals gladly welcome tourists to the feast. (Note that, like any hot ticket in town, you’ll probably need a reservation … but at least you won’t have to deal with a snooty maitre d’.)

 

 

 

 

—by Dara Continenza


 

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