Best of Vermont | 2023 Summer Travel Guide

With an eye on what’s new for 2023, Yankee’s editors round up the best attractions, eateries, and hotels in top Vermont travel destinations.

By Yankee Editors

Apr 29 2023

Best of New England Vermont 2023

Best of Vermont 2023

Photo Credit : Luke Moore Photo

With an eye on what’s new for 2023, Yankee’s editors round up the best attractions, eateries, and hotels in top Vermont travel destinations. Headed to the city? Check out our spotlight guide to Burlington, Vermont.

Bakery, Bread | King Arthur Baking Company, Norwich

Bake 100,000 baguettes each year, and you probably have it figured out. But there’s more to the Norwich retail store of New England’s favorite flour company than those classic long thin loaves. A crusty French batard lends character to sandwiches, fresh puffy rolls make any dinner a holiday feast, and the bakery’s “Just Bread” … isn’t.

Bakery, Sweets | Grandma Miller’s,South Londonderry

In a big red barn on a scenic stretch of Route 100, third-generation baker David Nunnikhoven and his crew turn sweet doughs and fine fruit and nut fillings into a delicious array of pies, cookies, horns, bars, buns, loaves, and much more. These treats may be purchased “for later,” but more than a few travelers wind up driving along with lemon square or Linzer heart crumbs in their laps.

Cocktail Spot | Au Comptoir, Woodstock

When it opened last year in a century-old cottage across from the Woodstock Welcome Center, Au Comptoir immediately stood out for its polished look and homey feel—a combination that will surprise no one who knows the owner, Zoe Zilian, aka the cofounder of Farmhouse Pottery. Zilian’s sensibilities can be seen everywhere from the decor (weathered brick, bare wood, white marble) to the thoughtfully curated menu of classic cocktails and small bites. The fresh floral arrangements, too, are a lovely touch.

Destination Brewery | Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Waitsfield

The liquid here is beer—the kind to rival cheese and maple as Vermont’s star commodity. In the heart of the Mad River Valley, where cyclists and skiers work up a mighty thirst, Lawson’s cozy taproom serves a heady array of IPAs, Pilsners, stouts, and porters with light fare to match, and a side of jazz, blues, and folk. Check the schedule for occasional beer-themed dinners and the ever-popular oyster and Irish stout Thursdays.

Foodie Experience | Esmeralda, Andover

Esquire, The New York Times, the James Beard Foundation—rarely does this kind of media attention surround food made at home, but Boston restaurateurs Maria Rondeau and JuanMa Calderón have created something truly special at their rural Vermont residence. Operating on select dates in summer and fall, Esmeralda brings Peruvian recipes and traditions to life in a setting that feels more like a dinner party than the estimable (and by-reservation-only) culinary experiment that it is.

Pizza | Pearl Street Pizza, Barre

The sight of split logs heaped alongside a tiled dome oven means just one thing: Vermont’s most Italian city has the pizza it deserves, with crusts that balance chewy and crisp, kissed with the fire’s light char. Here’s the classic Margherita, made with tomatoes grown in the shadow of Vesuvius; there are also veggie, white, and pan-style pies, along with a full bar and Italian wines. Dine indoors or feast Naples-style at tables along pedestrians-only Pearl Street.

Thai Restaurant | Saap, Randolph

Randolph knew it had a hidden restaurant gem but never suspected it would be discovered quite so spectacularly. Last year’s James Beard Award for best chef in the Northeast went to Saap’s Nisachon Morgan, who introduced Vermont palates to the cuisine of her native northern Thailand, with its complex flavor profiles that rely on ingredients like lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaf, galangal, and pickled vegetables. Don’t forget the sticky rice!

Wine Bar | Brix, Rutland

Peppered among the expected French, Italian, and California offerings at this cozy, brick-walled Merchants Row bistro are an Austrian red, a white from Spain’s Galicia, and a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Beer? The requisite Vermonters share space with Mexican quencher Pacifico and mighty Czech Pilsner Urquell. Match your glass with wild boar salami, Vermont cheeses, flatbreads, pasta, and steak. Other draws: live-music nights with prix fixe dinners; sidewalk seating.

Editors’ Picks: Best Places to Stay in Vermont in 2023

Green Hotel | West Hill House B&B, Warren

At just nine guest rooms, West Hill House may be small, but it’s thinking big about global warming. All the electricity at this renovated 1850s residence comes from solar power, which also helps to cover two-thirds of the property’s water heating. (There is complimentary EV charging, too.) Other eco-friendly touches abound, including coffee from the nation’s first roastery powered by 100 percent renewable biogas.

Hotel Spa | Topnotch Resort, Stowe

Ask Vermonters about their favorite waterfall, and some might mention the one that cascades onto their shoulders above the Topnotch hot tub. Other water features at the spa are an indoor lap pool and two outdoor pools, one heated. Inside are saunas and steam rooms; yoga, pilates, and aqua aerobics; and more than 30 private rooms offering deep tissue, reflexology, CBD, and other massage services. Afterward, enjoy men’s and women’s lounges with fireplaces.

Luxury Suite |Farmhouse Suites at Twin Farms, Barnard

Whether you’re splurging or merely dreaming of staying in the lap of rustic luxury, take a look at Twin Farms’ Farmhouse Suites. Your mind couldn’t conjure a more stunning, all-inclusive country retreat: The only thing lacking is the option to never check out. These four, 1,000-square-foot sanctuaries share a stonework terrace and hot tub and a library with a two-story fieldstone fireplace. You can reserve one, but gathering friends will save you the chore of finding words to describe how unforgettable it all was.

New Hotel | The Brattleboro, Brattleboro

Chad Tinti and Ross Little left Boston to go all-in on turning a rundown house into an upscale microhotel with a Miami-meets-Vermont vibe. DIY renovations completed, they opened in September with three serene rooms. Plans call for more, plus a restaurant and spa. Go now, though, while you’ll feel as if it’s all for you, whether you’re sipping handcrafted cocktails in the hot tub or by the pool or rediscovering calm during a guided forest immersion in the surrounding 32-acre wood.

Romantic Overnight | Four Columns Inn, Newfane

The ideal romantic stay marries lodging and location. Serene Newfane, with its Federal-style homes, stately 1825 courthouse, and handsome inn, sets the standard. Stroll woods and gardens, then retreat to an exquisitely appointed room such as the third-floor Sugar Maple, with its fireplace and vast arched window topping the eponymous columns and framing the village green. Inn restaurant Andrea’s Table offers French-accented cuisine; the cellar brims with French wines and champagnes.

Stay & Play | The Tyler Place, Highgate Springs

Keeping everyone happy on a family vacation can be tricky, but not at this all-inclusive resort on Lake Champlain’s northern reach. Settle into a cottage or suite, then venture out according to age and interests onto 165 acres of indoor and outdoor fun: pools, tennis, bicycling, basketball, archery, and skeet, plus watercraft on the big lake. Families can breakfast together, but kids eat early so their parents can enjoy buffet-style meals … as adults.

Editors’ Picks: Best Things to Do in Vermont in 2023

Animal Encounter | Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Quechee

Take a walk through a 100-foot-high forest canopy, learn about Vermont’s snakes and turtles, meet songbirds in a stroll-through aviary, and get up close with raptors (eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, and other birds of prey) at the woodsy VINS campus. Expert-led presentations feature 40 resident “raptor ambassadors,” rescue birds incapable of living in the wild but indoor stars at showing off their swoops, dives, and keen focus.

Dog Excursion | Dog Mountain, St. Johnsbury

Since it opened in 2000, no place in America—and likely the world—pays greater homage to the bond between dogs and humans than these 150 mountaintop acres created by artist Stephen Huneck and his wife, Gwen. Though the Hunecks have both passed on, their legacy continues. Leashes are optional as dogs romp across fields and swim in ponds. Be prepared: The tiny dog chapel adorned with photos and remembrances of pets will bring both wonder and tears.

Downtown Shopping | Montpelier

Vermont’s capital is an indie-shopping treasure, with two dozen small-scale retailers lining State, Main, and Langdon streets (chains are no-shows). Distinctive women’s wear? Try Rebel Heart, Splash Naturals, or Prana. Buy kids’ togs at Minikin or Zutano, and browse books at Bear Pond. Find vintage vinyl at Buch Spieler, and suit up for sport at Onion River Outdoors. Shopping is hungry work, and Montpelier’s restaurants are as refreshingly offbeat as the retail scene.

Factory Outlet | Johnson Woolen Mills,Johnson

In the beginning there was fleece—and it came from sheep, not recycled plastic. Woolen clothing is a Vermont mainstay, and the folks in Johnson have been making it for 180 years. Tailored on the same premises where the shop itself sits, the coats, jackets, vests, scarves, and famous plaid “Adirondack pants” have seen generations of New Englanders through deep winters in the deep woods.

Historic Theater | Barre Opera House, Barre

Back in 1899, the “granite capital of the world” celebrated a double-decker achievement: a new city hall, topped with a posh opera house. Once welcoming the likes of George M. Cohan and John Philip Sousa but later abandoned, the Barre Opera House has been splendidly restored. It now hosts acts such as French-Canadian folk ensemble Le Vent du Nord and comedian Bob Marley, and it serves as the home of the Vermont Philharmonic.

Mountain Biking Spot | Ascutney Trails,Brownsville

No, Kingdom Trails partisans, we’re not at the wrong end of the state here: Southern Vermont, too, boasts a first-class venue for mountain biking. Thirty-five miles of well-maintained trails thread the base and western elevation of Mount Ascutney, with four trailheads offering access to single- and double-track routes. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced riders will all find challenges aplenty, amid gorgeous forest scenery.

Museum Collection | Shelburne Museum Circus Parade,Shelburne

A perennial favorite among the Shelburne Museum’s eclectic holdings is the Arnold Circus parade, a hand-carved homage to the glory days of the Big Top. The 4,000 figures—animals, clowns, trapeze artists, ringmasters, and their colorful props and wagons, all fashioned in 1/12 scale—prance along the length of a 518-foot, horseshoe-shaped building. Outside, ride hand-painted horses on a vintage carousel.

Stargazing Spot | Spitzer Planetarium, St. Johnsbury

“Stellar” is the obvious word for the celestial projections at Vermont’s only planetarium, situated atop the Fairbanks Museum. But the Spitzer’s state-of-the-art digital presentations also include dome-wide videos on astronomy, weather phenomena, natural history, and NASA’s latest explorations. Special programs are narrated by professional astronomers and weather experts, including Vermont Public Radio’s “Eye on the Sky” team, headquartered at the Fairbanks.

Summer Performances | Farm to Ballet Project, various locations

Born from the idea of bringing classical dance to rural Vermont, Farm to Ballet is a series of joyful outdoor performances starring dancing vegetables, barnyard animals, and even the seasons themselves. Against the backdrop of such beautiful venues as Retreat Farm, Champlain Orchards, and Shelburne Farms, dancers from Ballet Vermont weave together a story that speaks to our relationship to the land. Weekends 7/8–7/29;

Used Bookstore | Brattleboro Books, Brattleboro

For more than 30 years, Brattleboro’s favorite place to browse and buy used and out-of-print books has been this side-street emporium stocking over 25,000 volumes: fiction, nonfiction, local interest and authors, children’s books, mysteries, and plenty more, all in good readable shape and at reasonable prices. Brattleboro Books will buy, too—that’s how they keep up that remarkable inventory—but be sure to call first.

Check out our full 2023 Best of New England Summer Travel Guide to find our current editors’ picks in all six New England states.