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Must-See Vermont Attractions

The 12 Best Things to Do in VT

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Vermont is so much more than a place to ski three or four months of the year. With cities that feel more like towns and a working landscape that both enchants and nourishes visitors, Vermont attractions honor the state's natural bounty and agricultural traditions. Foodies, photographers and families find Vermont a particularly fascinating state to explore. And for travelers planning a first visit to New England, Vermont holds all of the attractions and enticements they've envisioned. This guide to the best things to do in VT will inspire you to visit season after season.

1. Ben & Jerry's Factory Tour

Ben and Jerry's Factory
Raffi Asdourian @zaffi flickr.com Creative Commons License
Even if you're lactose-intolerant, a tour of the Ben & Jerry's Factory in Waterbury, Vermont, is a must. You'll be charmed from the start as you view a moo-vie about the company's incredible history, which began in 1978 when junior high pals Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield split the cost of a $5 ice-cream making correspondence course. From their first scoops--served from an old gas station in Burlington, Vermont--the duo grew an international business that still adheres to community-minded principles. Tours include a chance to view the plant in operation and to taste the flavor of the day. Head to the Scoop Shop afterward to sample dozens more--including several flavors of dairy-free sorbet.

2. Billings Farm and Museum

Billings Farm
© 2008 Kim Knox Beckius
Located in Woodstock, Vermont, Billings Farm and Museum is a picturesque working dairy where kids experience farming chores first-hand, and grown-ups gain an appreciation, too, for the evolution of agricultural practices and Vermont's leadership in sustainable land use. Established in 1871, the farm is still home to more than 60 Jersey cows. A variety of special events tied to the seasons add to the attraction's appeal. Purchase a combination ticket, and you can also visit the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park across the street. Industrialist Frederick H. Billings, who founded the farm, purchased the estate from George Perkins Marsh, America's first environmentalist. The mansion is filled with impressive works of art, collected by the home's final owners, Laurance and Mary Rockefeller, who donated the property to the National Park Service.

3. The Dog Chapel

Dog Chapel Vermont - Stained Glass
© 2002 Kim Knox Beckius
If you have ever loved a dog--and especially if you are traveling in Vermont with your four-legged best friend--be sure to include a stop at the Dog Chapel in St. Johnsbury on your itinerary. Crafted by the late Stephen Huneck in tribute to his own beloved canines, the chapel features dog designs in its pews, stained glass windows and other architectural features. Even if you're a cat person like me, you'll be moved by the letters from dog parents posted on the Remembrance Wall. An on-site gallery sells a variety of gifts featuring Huneck's paintings, and the 150-acre Dog Mountain property is idyllic for both humans and dogs to explore, especially in the fall.

4. Covered Bridges

Picture of Vermont Covered Bridge - West Dummerston Covered Bridge
© 2010 Kim Knox Beckius
There are more than 100 covered bridges in Vermont: the densest concentration of these photogenic structures in any U.S. state. If you're the "go big, or go home" type, head straight to Windsor, VT, where you can drive across the Windsor-Cornish Covered Bridge--the longest single-span covered bridge in the country--and find yourself in New Hampshire. There are five covered bridges in Bennington within a short drive. Scenic Route 30 north of Brattleboro is another fine destination for a covered bridge adventure.

5. Cabot Creamery

Cabot Creamery Vermont Photo
© 2002 Kim Knox Beckius
On a radio call-in show about reasons for dumping a love interest, I once heard a young woman respond: "Because he didn't like cheese." Totally valid. Who doesn't like cheese?! Vermont is a cheese lover's paradise, and if you only have time for one stop, head straight to Cabot: the remarkably successful farm cooperative that put Vermont cheddar on the world cheese map. Tours of the Cabot Creamery in Cabot, VT, allow visitors to appreciate the entire process from cow to consumer.

6. Lake Champlain Ferries

Lake Champlain Ferry
© 2010 Kim Knox Beckius
To truly appreciate Vermont's storied Lake Champlain, you need to get out on the water. Lake Champlain Ferries' trips across the lake to New York State are an ideal way to experience Champlain's majesty affordably, and views of the Adirondack Mountains will take your breath away on the westward voyage. Your car or bike can make the trip, too. Ferries depart from Grand Isle, Burlington and Charlotte, Vermont. Keep your eyes peeled for Champ: Vermont's own Loch Ness Monster. The lake creature is likely a legend, but there are many believers.

7. Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages Vermont
© 2005 Kim Knox Beckius
The world's largest deep-hole dimension granite quarry is otherworldly looking enough that Rock of Ages in Barre, VT, served as a filming location for the 2009 Star Trek movie. On guided tours of this industrial site, you'll see how massive blocks of granite are harvested, cut and carved by artisans and even have a chance to sandblast your own stone souvenir. The grounds at this unique attraction are not only a showcase for the company's memorials and statuary, they are home to the world's only granite bowling alley, where you can bowl a few frames for free.

8. President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site

Calvin Coolidge Site VT
© 2008 Kim Knox Beckius
The only U.S. president born on the Fourth of July hailed from the rural town of Plymouth Notch, Vermont. The President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site not only preserves the 30th Commander in Chief's humble birthplace but the entire surrounding village including the general store his father ran, a tavern, schoolhouse, church, barns, a cheese factory and the homestead where the family moved when Cal was four... and where he was sworn in following the assassination of Warren G. Harding. The site provides a fascinating glimpse of New England life and American politics in the early years of the 20th century.

9. VINS Nature Center and Quechee Gorge

Quechee Gorge
© 2008 Kim Knox Beckius
The Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS) Nature Center in Quechee, Vermont, is a fascinating place to come face-to-face with eagles, owls, falcons and other raptors and to observe these birds of prey feeding and stretching their wings. This kid-friendly attraction features a variety of indoor and outdoor interactive exhibits. Be sure to walk the trail to Quechee Gorge: This spectacular spot on the Ottauquechee River is one of Vermont's most photogenic natural wonders.

10. Pump House Indoor Waterpark

Jay Peak Pump House Water Park
Photo courtesy of Jay Peak Resort.
Exhilarating recreation isn't weather-dependent in Vermont since the 2012 opening of the Pump House Indoor Waterpark at Jay Peak in Jay, VT. The ski area's 50,000-square-foot water park operates year-round: a retractable roof lets the sun in on shiny summer days. This is no ordinary indoor pool: The complex features water slides, hot tubs, a Big River to float on and even a Double Barrel Flowrider with waves vigorous enough for surfing and boogie boarding.

11. Shelburne Museum

You can experience many facets of Vermont all in one place: the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT. In addition to its vast collection of American folk art and Americana including quilts, carriages, paintings, toys, tools and circus memorabilia, the 45-acre museum complex is home to more than 20 gardens, a dozen historic buildings, a covered bridge, a lighthouse and the restored steamboat Ticonderoga.

12. Bennington Battle Monument

Bennington Battle Monument
© 2003 Kim Knox Beckius
Ascend to the top of Vermont's tallest structure for outstanding 360-degree views and perspective on one of the most pivotal battles of the American Revolution. Standing at 306 feet, 4-1/2 inches over the town of Bennington, VT, the Bennington Battle Monument commemorates the victory of New England's ragtag militia over Britain's professionally trained soldiers at the Battle of Bennington, fought nearby to protect an arsenal at the spot where the granite tower now stands.

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