Part bustling college town, part peaceful outdoor retreat, Middlebury, VT, is a quintessential New England getaway.
By Cathryn McCann
Aug 29 2022
Guide to Middlebury, VT | Middlebury FallsPhoto Credit : Heather Marcus
Please note that many establishments throughout New England have modified their hours and/or operations in response to COVID-19. Always check for the latest information before making travel plans.
Located in the western part of the state, the college town of Middlebury, VT, serves as the commercial and business center for its region while maintaining plenty of small-town charm. Home to the liberal arts institution Middlebury College (c. 1800), it offers an array of attractions and diversions — including a three-screen movie theater, two historic inns, and great shops and restaurants. Outdoor recreation is readily available, too, as the town is bordered by Otter Creek to the west, Chipman Hill to the north, and the foothills of the Green Mountains to the east. And waterfalls are a centerpiece of the village. So whether it’s a bustling town or a peaceful retreat you’re after, Middlebury serves up plenty of quintessential Vermont experiences.
If you’re a fan of vineyards and breweries, you’re in for a treat in Middlebury, which has a five-mile “trail” of vineyards, breweries, and distilleries. Start your tour at Lincoln Peak Vineyard, a family farm since 1981 that offers refillable wine growlers, tastings paired with local cheese, vineyard tours, and events. The second stop is the widely popular Woodchuck Cidery, where visitors can enjoy tours, tastings, and 20 ciders on tap. Other stops include Stonecutter Spirits, Appalachian Gap Distillery, Otter Creek Brewing Co., WhistlePig Whiskey, and Drop-In Brewing Co.
For every made-in-Vermont item you can imagine, from cheese and coffee to lip balm and home goods, head to Vermont’s Own Products on Main Street. Danforth Pewter on Seymour Street has beautifully crafted metal items including ornaments and jewelry to lamps and vases. Maple Landmark on Exchange Street doesn’t sell syrup, but it does make its wooden toys, games, and gifts from the maple tree; tours of the workshop are offered twice daily during the week. Visit Vermont Soap on Exchange Street to peruse organic, locally made cleansing products (you can even buy soap by the pound) or to tour the Soap Museum.
Visit the UVM Morgan Horse Farm, home to 40-plus horses that are all decedents of the Colonel Joseph Battell horse registry from 1878, when he saved the breed from extinction; the site also hosts educational events and activities for the public. Hikers and walkers can tour the town on the Trail Around Middlebury, a 16-mile footpath that encircles the village, or easy access to the Long Trail or Green Mountain National Forest trails. Five Lake Champlain Bikeways pass right through Middlebury, and in the wintertime the Rikert Nordic Center offers 26 miles of cross-country skiing trails, while alpine skiing can be had at the Middlebury Snow Bowl. Indulge in some waterway recreation on the many surrounding lakes, rivers, and streams.
Get your Vermont history fix at the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, which claims the title of oldest community-based museum in the country, having welcomed visitors since 1884. Tour the 1829 Judd-Harris House, a preserved depiction of small-town life in the 19th century; peruse the archives at the Stewart-Swift Research Center; and view rotating exhibits at the Walter Cerf Gallery.
Art lovers shouldn’t miss Middlebury College’s Mahaney Center for the Arts, home to local, national, and international artists’ work. The MCA, with its studio theater, dance theater, and recital hall, also hosts events and performances throughout the year. And make sure to visit the Town Hall Theater, whether to view the Jackson Art Gallery or to attend a concert, theatrical production, or class.
Located on the bottom floor of the 19th-century Frog Hollow Mill building, the Storm Café offers seasonally changing cuisine made with local ingredients and paired with a lengthy cocktail and wine menu. In the summertime, get some fresh air with your meal by sitting on the deck alongside Otter Creek.
Given that its name was inspired by a Robert Frost poem, you know you’ll be served the best of Vermont cuisine at Fire & Ice. While you enjoy your meal, check out the historic decor, including an original 1921 Hackcraft motorboat, World War I wooden airplane propellers, vintage photos, and antiques. You can also get a full meal or a quick drink at the restaurant’s Big Moose Pub.
It doesn’t get more homey than a meal at American Flatbread, located in the historic Marble Works District of Middlebury. Here, the all-natural pizza is baked in a primitive wood-fired earthen oven. You can take your meal in the gallery room or outdoor courtyard, each of which seats up to 50 people in a casual setting.
If you’re looking for a fun dining experience in a modern and eclectic setting, head to the Lobby in downtown Middlebury. Showcasing local produce and meats, the dinner menu features a snack board, soups and salads, small and large plates, and pub fare. Burgers are a favorite among diners, and the specialty cocktails are tempting. Or, come on the weekend for a delicious “artisans” brunch.
Almost everything at this small café and bakery is made in-house, including stocks, sauces, soup, pate, mayo, dressings, and small-batch baked goods. Plus, there’s a full menu of coffee options utilizing locally roasted beans to pair with your meal or breakfast item.
This full-service country inn encompasses three historic buildings and four acres of lawns and gardens. Plus, it’s a conveniently short walk from the village center. Each of the 20 unique rooms is eco-friendly and outfitted with modern amenities. Feel the luxury with your own private bath and whirlpool tub, wood or gas fireplace, and sitting area. Jessica’s Restaurant is a favorite spot for locals and guests alike.
Settle in at the Middlebury Inn and drink in the view of the town green from the front porch. Just a walk, bike ride, or short drive from a number of Middlebury attractions, the c. 1827 building has 71 elegant guest rooms, plus farm-to-table food and drink available at Morgan’s Tavern.
This stately bed-and-breakfast is located on the village green, just steps from popular shops and restaurants. The c. 1803 house features 11 lovely room and suites with modern amenities, and it offers “breakfast in bed” each morning, with an assortment of breakfast goodies delivered right to your room. Bicycles are available for transportation, or just spend some time relaxing on the lawn in one of the Adirondack chairs.
Situated at the base of the Green Mountain National Forest, the Waybury Inn has been a Vermont escape since 1810. Its location is close to a beautiful mountain drive, hiking trails traversed by the likes of Robert Frost, and skiing destinations such as the Rikert Nordic Center and Middlebury Snow Bowl. The inn is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it maintains a bygone-era charm while providing comfortable accommodations and modern food and drink at the pub or recently renovated Pine Room.
Have you ever been to Middlebury, VT?
This post was first published in 2018 and has been updated.