Ideas for Small Town Vacations in Vermont

White River Junction is the first of our Vermont vacation ideas. It's a village of just a few thousand souls, but it represents the best in small towns of America. How many towns have a Center for Cartoon Studies offering a two year study of contemporary cartooning? This Center is further connected to a strong artistic community which has many studios, workshops and a wide variety of artistic expression.

How many villages are a major stopping point on the Amtrak rail system as it connects Washington DC & New York City with Northern Vermont? What small town has three major skiing areas conveniently nearby? Many of the local buildings are architecturally diversified and worth study and appreciation.

White River Junction VT
White River Junction VT

Every fall the village celebrates the Annual Glory Days Festival which is a fun day of celebrating their roots in railroading. Part of this celebration includes a day long round trip train ride to the Norwich Montshire Museum of Science.

Look, I know you wouldn't base your vacation on one small town with only a museum for excitement. But Vermont’s, Shelburne Museum (in Shelburne, of course) has one heck of a museum. If your vacation takes you anywhere near Shelburne, take a day at their museum and you won’t be sorry. There is something for everyone in the family.

First off, they have an old steamboat named The Ticonderoga. There are only a few of these iconic boats left and this one has been awarded the status of National Historic Landmark. The story of how the Ticonderoga was moved overland from Lake Champlain is fascinating for young and old.

Do you like dolls? The Shelburne Museum is a fun idea. You will find hundreds of antique dolls here. Or how about hand-carved miniature circus figures and loads of circus memorabilia. There’s a huge collection of old horse-drawn carriages and sleighs. From artwork to hooked rugs and historic house to old duck decoys, the Shelburne Museum is chock full of interesting things.

Woodstock, Vermont and environs has some interesting things happening. Just be alert to the fact that in locations with four distinct seasons not all happenings are year round. The Billings Farm Museum is the most unusual museum that you will ever find.

It’s a working farm where you can get up close and intimate with the cows, chickens, lambs and a few other farm animals along with some excellent hands-on programs for adults and children alike. The farmhouse itself is of 1890 vintage which makes it a museum within a museum.

In nearby Quechee you will find a grand old mill transformed into a showroom for the famous Simon Pearce’s Irish glass and pottery. Not only can you see and purchase this excellent work but you can watch the glass blowing and clay molding as it happens.

This same old mill houses the Simon Pearce restaurant which is cantilevered out over the top of a water fall and that’s no exaggeration. Now that sounds like a great place to lunch or maybe a moonlit summer evening - maybe even an “enchanted evening“.

Burlington, Vermont and it’s surroundings are an endless year-round wonderland for vacation bound tourists. Just pick your month and you’ll find an activity that fits. Located on the shores of Lake Champlain, you will find a wealth of fishing, sailing and even kayaking. Summer is filled with these water based pleasures plus great food at the Church Street Marketplace, which you’ll find right in downtown Burlington. The market place has every kind of shop imaginable and perhaps a street performer or two.

Of course biking and hiking are super three season sports and there is plenty of room for enjoying these pastimes in the Burlington Region. This region is also blessed with a plethora of good skiing locations, so if you visit in the winter you’ve just got to bring your skis. Now if you can’t find a place for good skiing in the Burlington environs, you just aren’t looking hard enough.

This area is also blessed with two excellent museums. First, there is the Birds of Vermont Museum in nearby Huntington. You will see hundreds of wood carvings of native birds and watch live birds via a glass enclosure, plus many walking trails around the museum. Secondly, the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in nearby Vergennes emphasizes the marine history and archaeology of the area including the many ship wrecks on the Lake.

The state of Vermont has some very interesting gems hidden. The gems I talk about are those out-of-the-way places to visit, the many quaint small towns, that turn out to be fun vacation ideas in Vermont.

The Rutland region is gem #1. Starting with the Norman Rockwell Museum with it’s very large collection of his art. The body of work includes originals, over 2,500 magazine covers and illustrations in many advertisements. Mr. Rockwell’s art is really a beautifully subtle history of America. The Vermont Marble Company in the nearby town of Proctor does not manufacture little round marbles for children to use in games. No, they are nationally known for their high quality marble for buildings, sculpture and decorative items.

For many years their local museum has been a bright light in showing the history of the use of marble. That light will shine even brighter in the summer of 2010 with the opening May 31st of a new exhibit honoring the marble sculpture of the Tomb of the Unknown soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. The museum is quite large with many examples of marble in use. The most exciting display, however, is the “Hall of Presidents” where you’ll find a bust in marble of every U.S. president.

Here are some reasons to visit the small town of Barnard nestled in the beautiful hills of Vermont. Barnard is:
  • Near epicenter of first environmental awareness -- maybe in the world.
  • Right on Silver Lake for boating (no engines) and swimming; ice fishng skating, hockey in winter.
  • Near Barnard Inn -- one of best restaurants in region.
  • Thriving country store that hosts regularly scheduled community chats; meet and chat with the locals over coffee every morning.
  • Only 6 miles from Appalachian Trail.
  • 12 miles from Woodstock, Vt's galleries, shopping, fine architecture.
  • Un-gentrified community -- very natural.
  • Visible exhaling when folks discover this tiny quiet village of 800.
  • Excellent accommodations at The Fan House, Inn at Chelsea Farm, Maple Leaf Inn.
  • Home of Twin Farms that gets $1400 a night all-inclusive for folks who can afford luxury vacation ideas.

Don't stop now! Here are some more great vacation ideas to check out.
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