Best of Vermont 2021 | The Outdoors Edition

Yankee editors pick the top Vermont attractions, dining, and lodging that highlight having fun in the New England outdoors.

By Yankee Editors

Apr 26 2021


Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, VT | Best Apple Orchards in New England

Photo Credit : SP Reid/Courtesy of Champlain Orchards
TRAVEL NOTE:Before setting out to visit any of our Best of New England winners, please contact them or check online for updates on hours and operations this summer.
Best Apple Orchards in New England
Champlain Orchards in Shoreham is our favorite Vermont pick-you-own fruit farm.
Photo Credit : SP Reid/Courtesy of Champlain Orchards

Best Vermont Outdoor Attractions

DRIVE-IN THEATER Sunset Drive-In, Colchester The only thing better than a family night at the movies is when the big-screen fun also includes a mini-golf course and a playground. Opened in 1946, the Burlington area’s sole drive-in theater flickers to life every night in summer with double features on four giant screens. Just next door, the Starlight Inn offers movie-themed rooms for those who’d like to extend the cinematic spell. sunsetdrivein.comFARM ANIMAL FUN Retreat Farm, Brattleboro Scan a QR code for up-to-date “dirt” on where animals are pasturing, then explore the farmyard and trails that loop through 500 free-to-visit acres that have nourished bodies and minds since 1836. Each creature has a job: Goats gobble invasive plants, pigs till soil, cows contribute fertilizer. Tramp through the echo-y cow tunnel under Route 30, and you’ll see fields that produced 10,000 pounds of crops for food banks in 2020. retreatfarm.orgOUTDOOR FLEA MARKET Waterbury Flea Market, Waterbury Since getting its start in 1975, Waterbury’s weekly flea-for-all has grown to comprise 10 acres of antique and used furniture, household utensils, books, records, glassware, jewelry, and more. Count on low vendor fees to keep the selection both reasonable and eclectic. Weekends from May to October. MUSEUM Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes Explore New England’s most storied lake from every angle—even from a hand-built wooden longboat, which your family group can power on a rowing tour. Outdoor exhibits on three acres have been expanded, and you’ll have the rare chance this summer to see Philadelphia II, a replica of Benedict Arnold’s 1776 gunboat, out of the water for maintenance. In a historic development, the museum will be admission-free for the first time this year. lcmm.orgPUBLIC GOLF COURSE Green Mountain National, Killington At the state’s only municipal course—which has been cared for by the same superintendent for nearly a quarter century—the fairways are narrow, the woods are close, and glacial boulders abound, but with views as special as the ones you see from the 16th tee, you may be tempted to stop swinging and take photos. Hours spent here are a true respite—one made even sweeter on summer days when a beer cart with local craft brews stops by. gmngc.comPYO FRUIT FARM Champlain Orchards, Shoreham Famed for its apples and ciders, Champlain Orchards is also your place to pick immune-boosting elderberries; red, black, and gold raspberries; apricots; cherries; red and pink currants; blackberries; peaches; nectarines; and Asian and European pears and plums. Check the online PYO Tracker for what’s popping.

Best Vermont Outdoor Dining

CITY PATIO DINING Brick, Burlington The lush alfresco dining room behind the Hotel Vermont comes with its own outdoor kitchen and a wood-burning oven that serves up excellent pizzas made with local Jasper Hill Farm cheeses, as well as sandwiches, charcuterie, salads, and a well-curated beer, wine, and cocktail list. BREWERY Hill Farmstead Brewery, Greensboro Bend Nearly since its start in 2010, this has been a place of pilgrimage for beer geeks. Some of the best-loved brews are named after founder Shaun Hill’s forbears, including double IPA Abner, while the Philosophical series includes the popular maple-infused imperial stout Beyond Good and Evil. Mediocrity has no place here, as evidenced by the awards and accolades Hill Farmstead hauls in, year after year. hillfarmstead.comFARM STAND Hudak Farm, Swanton While Hudak Farm’s greenhouses might be what lures folks here in spring, they return to the farm stand throughout spring, summer, and fall to stock up on vegetables picked that day, as well as farm-raised pork and seasonal treats such as fresh-pressed apple cider and house-made maple syrup. hudakfarm.comICE CREAM STAND Vermont Cookie Love, NorthFerrisburgh Founded in 2007, Vermont Cookie Love runs a year-round shop and production facility that sells fresh-baked cookies and frozen cookie dough, but it’s the maple creemees, sold from the seasonal walk-up ice cream, that make this place a summertime rock star. Also on offer is Vermont’s own Wilcox Ice Cream, topped with house-made whipped cream, hot fudge, and salted caramel or sandwiched between two cookies in a chewy, creamy pièce de résistance. vermontcookielove.comMOUNTAIN-VIEW DINING The Cliff House, Stowe There’s mountain-view dining, and then there’s mountain-top dining. For the latter, take the gondola from Stowe Mountain Resort to the summit of Mount Mansfield, where the Austrian chalet–style Cliff House awaits. The panoramic Green Mountain views, stunning in any season, add extra flavor to whatever you order. On a summer day, grab lunch out on the deck. DINING Waterworks, Winooski Nearly every table in the high-ceilinged space of the former Champlain Mill has a gorgeous view of the Winooski River. Serving lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, Waterworks specializes in American comfort food—think burgers, flatbreads, and pasta—often made with signature Vermont ingredients. Wash it all down with help from a well-chosen lineup of locally brewed beers. waterworksvt.comWINERY Lincoln Peak Vineyard, NewHaven After nearly two decades of experimentation, Lincoln Peak winemaker Chris Granstrom has zeroed in on the grapes that grow best in the Champlain Valley. He uses hybrid varieties like Marquette and La Crescent to make award-winning wines that express the distinctive terroir of this part of the state. When summer rolls around, sample them in the casual tasting room overlooking a pond, or pair with your own picnic and lay a blanket on the big lawn.

Best Vermont Lodging: The Outdoors Edition

FARM STAY Fat Sheep Farm & Cabins, Hartland Before they owned 59 acres of woods, fields, and sheep-grazing grounds, Todd Heyman and Suzy Kaplan sketched their dream farm on graph paper. That vision, including five sun-filled cabins with fully outfitted kitchens, is now a real rural escape, where you can collect eggs, milk sheep, or simply porch-sit and allow magical mountain views to stir dreams of your own. Three cabins are dog-friendly; stalls are available for visiting horses. fatsheepfarmvermont.comHOTEL PORCH The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa, Manchester Add porch-hopping to the list of outdoor pursuits you’ll want to sample during an action-packed Equinox getaway. Snag coffee and a coveted rocking chair on the columned front porch, and watch the village awaken. There’s more Main Street hubbub to observe over lunch on the Marsh Tavern porch. Later, sip a maple syrup–sweetened old-fashioned by the slate fire pit on the porch de résistance: the Mount Equinox–facing Falcon Deck. equinoxresort.comISLAND INN The North Hero House, North Hero North of Burlington and running straight up toward Quebec, the Champlain Islands transport visitors to a landscape that takes their breath away. Walter Blasberg, who has been coming to the islands since his boyhood, has managed this gem of a 26-room inn and restaurant for more than two decades. The classic experience is to dine here and then fall sleep to the splash of waves against the dock. Request a lakeside room, and be sure to ask about biking to the nearby great blue heron rookery, where you can listen to bird calls that seem to come from ancient times. northherohouse.comWILDERNESS LODGE Mountain Meadows Lodge, Killington It’s the first summer since this rustic-chic, 26-room retreat was made over by new owners known for intimate properties that honor their settings’ uniqueness. The lodge sits on Kent Pond, with woodlands all around and the AT running straight through, so you can devote hours to hiking, kayaking, and casting for trophy fish. A farmhouse and a 180-year-old barn with exposed original beams and contemporary lodge decor are where you’ll decompress, dine, and dream.

See More: Best of New England 2021 | The Outdoors Edition