When you think Vermont, you think skiing, maple syrup, leaf-peeping and covered bridges. And while all those things are alive and well in Vermont, there is so much more to be experienced.
Certainly Fall, with it's chilly weather and colorful foliage and Winter, with it's white blanketed solace are the most popular times to visit, but every season has its perks.
South Eastern Vermont, known as the Shires of Vermont, was our host for a long weekend recently. Actually, The Deming House was our B&B, but we spent time in Arlington, Manchester and Bennington.
Other than just driving around aimlessly, swooning over the green mountains and deep red barns, which of course I highly recommend, here is a breakdown of some things to do in each area.
The most touristy of all three locations, the main draw here are the outlet stores. Not really what I'd recommend for travelers wanting to get-away-from-it-all – but that being said- it is a way to spend an afternoon.
Big names like Orvis, Yankee Candle, GAP, and high-end favorites like Tumi, Yves Delôrme, Gucci, Betsy Johnson, Coach and Brooks Brothers are tucked neatly into the center of town. No escaping the crowds here, so just go with the flow if you're goal is to find name brands at discount prices. Otherwise you can skip it.
If you do happen to venture in, don't miss Depot Cafe, billed as an Anatolian eatery, serving fresh and organic Turkish cuisine. The cafe serves excellent wood-fired brick-oven pizza which is not to be missed. The flat-bread and hummus appetizer is also very good. What makes this place unique is its location in the middle of Depot 62, a home-furnishings store. Odd, but it works.
Though it was closed for our visit, Al Ducci's Italian Pantry also looked like a great place to try. They carry cheeses, homemade Italian food, homemade breads and specialty items. Fans rave about the friendliness of the owners and the meatballs.
Hildene, a Lincoln Family Home, is a beautiful Georgian Revival Mansion estate set on 412 acres of Vermont farmland. Robert Todd Lincoln built it in 1905 and was occupied only by Lincoln descendants until 1975. Now you can tour the mansion, shop in the museum store and wander the beautiful verdant green grounds. Grounds and Mansion tickets can be purchased separately. Check site for details.
Half way between Manchester and Bennington is the little blink-and-you-miss-it town of Arlington. And believe it or not, an East and West Arlington as well. For simplicity sake, let's lump them into one general area.
Arlington is located on the Battenkill river, which is knows for it's trout fishing, but also makes a picturesque setting for canoe rides. Check out BattenKill Canoe if you're in the mood for adventure. Arlington is also home to two covered bridges, one of which was a part of a famous Rockwell painting. And speaking of Norman Rockwell, his old house is now a lovely B&B called The Inn on Covered Bridge Green, just steps from the covered bridge. Want more of Rockwell? You can visit the Normal Rockwell Exhibition for a small admission charge.
East Arlington is a small hamlet which sits on Peter's Brook. An old grist mill, built in 1764, currently houses the Gristmill Antique store, which is certainly worth a visit. In years past, the Candle Mill occupied the space, so I was a bit chagrined they were no longer there, but certainly pleased to see that the historic building was still standing and being utilized. The rest of the town offers a Post Office, a small cafe and The Village Peddler, which is a small gift shop selling homemade fudge, chocolate, jams and jellies and of course maple-syrup products.
Down the road a piece, is the East Arlington Antiques Store, a mutli-dealer shop housed in an old 1930's movie theater. There are oodles of reasonably priced treasures tucked into many rooms that just seem to appear out of nowhere.
Bennington is the biggest city of the bunch. There is a nice historic downtown area that is more than a few city blocks for shopping and eating. A few notable shopping favorites are a Country Store with lots of local products. And a cool multi-dealer art co-op, called Bennington Arts Guild, carries handmade local photographs, pottery, jewelry and other cool items. For a larger selection of handmade pottery, visit Bennington Potters.
And as you stroll around the city there is one unforgettable thing that is hard to miss. Moose. Lot and lots of moose. And no, not real ones, although I'd quite possibly give my right arm to see a live one, but large, artsy, decorated moose. Every year artists participate in Moosefest. Each moose is designed by a different artist and strategically placed around the city for all to see and then auctioned off for charity. How cool is that?
You can follow the yellow moose-tracks to see them all. I have some fun pictures of those in the downtown area which I will highlight in another post.
Museums also abound in Bennington. You can visit the Covered Bridge Museum and the Bennington Museum, whose largest draw is the collection revolving around Grandma Moses, who hails from the area. Another must see attraction is the Bennington Battle Memorial. This 306 foot stone monument is dedicated to the famous battle of the Revolutionary War in 1777. For a mere $2, you can ride the elevator to the top for stunning 360˚ view of the green mountains.
Dining options in Bennington are plentiful. Blue Benn, an old-fashioned diner- reminds me of Mel's Diner- grease and all. Half the menu is printed, the other half-stuffed into sheet protectors and taped behind the counter. The food is cheap and there are many vegetarian options, but go for breakfast – it's the best!. Cash only.
South Street Cafe is a perfect spot for a cup of joe and freshly-baked nosh. Alldays and Onions and Izabella's Eatery are two other great casual options. And for a special dinner, try Allegro Ristorante, a wonderfully cozy Italian restaurant, with reasonable prices and an inventive menu.
If you're looking for something quick, try Powers Market in North Bennington – the oldest country store market in Vermont. Homemade specialty sandwiches, soups, salads, baked goods and desserts as well as wine and coffee are served to-go or at tiny front tables at this neighborhood deli.
So, no matter what time of year, or where you decide to visit, Vermont is not to be missed. So much so, that I'd bet some maple syrup that you'll come back with a stack of
I L♥VERMONT bumper stickers.