Get Outta Town: Plan a Getaway to Windsor County and Stowe, Vermont

A tranquil visit to the Green Mountain State involves lots of food and craft beer (and maple creemees!), swimming holes, hiking and nature.
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The Vermont Country store in Weston.

Every summer, my family and I rent a cozy cabin in the woods of New Hampshire or Vermont. We figure we have access to Rhode Island’s beautiful beaches all summer long, so an escape to the Green or White Mountains yields a different kind of landscape with rivers, lakes and hidden swimming holes, plus hiking trails and even more craft breweries and ice cream to love (make that maple creemees!). This year, we headed to Weston and Stowe, Vermont, for a family getaway with our soon-to-be nine and six year old children.

The cabin (which looks like a treehouse inside) was just a mile from downtown Weston, where there is the famous Vermont Country Store with rooms upon rooms of candy, locally made food products, linens, kitchen tools, clothing and toys. During a tour, we learn that the Vermont Country Store originated from a popular 1946 catalog (the original online shopping!) that sold beautiful, durable local products. Loyal customers eventually demanded a retail space to shop for items. Walk through the rooms and guests are treated to a trip back in time through a museum-like display of antiques, including sleds, cameras, artwork, signs and an ice box, plus a collection of early-model toasters to admire while shopping. Across the street is the Weston Village Store with even more Vermont cheese, fudge, maple syrup, candles and more for sale, as well as the holly-bedecked Weston Village Christmas Shop, open all year. I imagine the place looks like a real-life Norman Rockwell Christmas village painting when covered in snow.

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Candy inside the Vermont Country Store.

The picturesque town is home to the Weston Theater Company where actors put on great plays throughout the fall. The theater is a former church that was renovated for the town’s dramatic club. Its first theater season launched in 1937, and it lives up to the mantra – the show must go on – after surviving a fire, multiple floods and the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently showing is Steel Magnolias through September 4 and then Woody Sez from September 28 to October 23.

What I loved most about this area of Vermont is the vast number of honor system farm stands. The cabin where we stayed was located next door to a farm, and I could pop into the barn anytime to purchase tomatoes, peppers, meat, eggs and more. Thank goodness we were staying at a cabin with a full kitchen so I could test out my farm-to-table cooking skills (I passed, according to the fam). Many farm stands even have bottles of maple syrup for sale; bring cash and just look for a sign with a maple leaf on it and drive on up. It’s a good thing because you’re going to need it for breakfast, and super markets are hard to come by.

 

Day Trip Destinations

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Fishing at Camp Plymouth State Park.

From our Weston hideaway, we planned several day trips to see other parts of the area. Our first adventure was to Camp Plymouth State Park on Echo Lake, where my daughter swam all day while my son fished off the dock with my husband. He caught a couple of little sunfish and threw them back, while my daughter demonstrated that she is part fish, dog-paddling around in the water. After a full day of outdoor activities, we headed to the Green Mountain Sugar House in Ludlow for simple-but-spectacular maple creemees – soft serve ice cream mixed with Vermont maple syrup – at the red-roofed waterfront sugar house. It’s best to eat these sweet treats as quickly as you can because they melt almost immediately in the sun. You can also purchase Vermont maple syrup, maple candy, penny candy and all kinds of Vermont souvenirs inside the gift shop. Another great stop is Singleton’s General Store in Proctorsville, where you can score Vermont craft beers, last-minute groceries, and order terrific sandwiches made with their unmatched smoked meats. Scope out the hunting gear, clothing and boots while browsing the goods. Absolutely do not leave without stocking up on packages of their maple-smoked bacon, sausages and chourico. It’s the best bacon I have ever had. We usually buy in bulk and freeze the packages to use all year long (but the stash never lasts more than two months).

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Maple creemee at Vermont Maple Sugar House.

The next day, we headed to Bromley Mountain to ride the alpine slide and conquer the Treetop Adventure Course complete with ladders, balance beam crossings and ziplines through the tops of the trees on the mountain (Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the rest of the season). Participants must wear a harness and complete thirty-minute ground school training, before setting off on the course.

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The Treetop Adventure Course at Bromley Mountain.

Getting the Double Play Pass is definitely worth it for older kids to allow them to complete the treetop course, followed by unlimited rides on the alpine slide and access to all the other activities from a basketball game, trampolines and a water slide to a giant swing and inflatable slide. For younger kids (under forty-eight inches), the Mountain Adventure pass is good enough, and includes unlimited alpine slide rides as well as all the other attractions (except for the treetop adventure). We headed to the town of Manchester Center for dinner at Gringo Jack’s, which serves excellent tacos and margaritas in a beautiful garden patio setting.

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For our third day out, we took a ride out to Ascutney Mountain for hiking. I have hiked this entire mountain with a friend (six miles round-trip and you can kiss the mountain as you hike up the summit, that’s how steep it is). But with my kids in tow, I opted for a shorter route. We decided on a one-mile hike each way to Gerry’s Falls. The uphill hike was fairly easy for me, but pretty strenuous for the kids. Once we reached the falls, the kids realized the effort was worth it. In the summer, the waterfall is dried up, but in fall and spring, you can expect some decent cascades. The kids still had fun exploring the craggy spaces, playing in the pools and discovering a giant millipede.

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Ascutney Mountain trail.

While we were out there, we stopped in at Brownsville Butcher and Pantry, about a mile down the road. This is a food lovers’ haven with wonderful smoked-in-house meats, maple creemees, scratchmade baked goods, fresh seafood, impressive cuts of local beef and more. We each had a maple creemee that comes in two seasonal flavors at a time. When we visited, it was peach and maple brown butter for a twist on the original treat, made even better. They also have a vast Vermont craft beer section (nab hard-to-find brews from more than a dozen Green Mountain breweries all in one place) and rare and beautiful wines that rival any big city shop. For lunch, it was housemade pastrami and Italian sandwiches and a turkey club, and we brought home a peach pie for dessert later that night. Good thing we took that hike! Later in the evening, we visited Outer Limits Brewing, also in Proctorsville, for wood-fired pizzas and craft beer tastings. Try the Vermonster with Vermont cheddar, apples, maple bacon and maple syrup drizzle with the Milkshake IPA.

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Peach pie from Brownsville Butcher and Pantry.

 

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Peach creemee at Brownsville Butcher and Pantry.

On the Road to Stowe

Having widely explored the Windsor County region of Vermont, we were ready to head north for my first-ever visit to Stowe. Stowe is known for incredible skiing at Smugglers’ Notch, but it’s a great destination for any season since the town is loaded with good food and drink, punctuated by day-long hiking and swimming adventures. It’s a two-hour drive from Weston with no stops, but it was worth taking our time for a detour at a few waterfalls and swimming holes along the way up the winding Route 100 that follows the Mad River. Just look for signs on the road for landmarks and parks where you can stop for sightseeing or a swim, including the Moss Glen Falls in Granville.

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The view at Edson Hill.

Once we arrived in Stowe that afternoon, we checked into Edson Hill Inn, a beautifully restored farm property with a rustic red-roofed barn, farmhouse-style guest houses and luxury suites set back in the quiet woods (check out mid-week stays for more diverse room options and availability). A deer strolled past as we drove into the sprawling landscape complete with its own pond and pool, both suitable for swimming. The boutique inn’s cozy rooms are each decorated in different mountain themes – some have deep tubs, reading nooks or fireplaces – but there are also more upscale suites inside the inn.

Dinner on the patio provided one of the most stunning Vermont landscapes I’ve ever seen, overlooking the pond and elaborate gardens while the sun set. The fine dining restaurant sources from its own gardens, and summer menu items include an apple and asparagus galette, watermelon gazpacho, citrus-spiced seared tuna and pistachio pesto shrimp.

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Apple and asparagus galette at Edson Hill Inn.

The kids sipped Shirley Temples with housemade grenadine and cherries, and happily split the steak frites. For dessert, it was white chocolate torte with a dark chocolate glaze, toasted pistachio and berries, maple vanilla ice cream and strawberry genoise (basically a fancy strawberry shortcake). It was an incredible final dinner for our family getaway.

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A guest house at Edson Hill Inn.

 

Waterfalls and Brewery Tours

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Moss Glen Falls in Stowe.

While in Stowe, it’s necessary to brewery hop. There are so many renowned breweries in town, and it’s easy to check out a few in one visit. After breakfast at the inn (the shakshuka is amazing), and a quick stop to admire the other Moss Glen Falls in Stowe (there are two Moss Glen Falls in different towns!), we started right at noon at the Alchemist. Relaxing in the family-friendly beer garden, the adults sipped the brewery’s famous Heady Topper and Crusher, though Focal Banger was a favorite too. The kids playfully sipped root beer while playing corn hole and running around the grassy area. It’s also fun to see the tanks inside the brewery, as one is designed to look like a giant beer can of Focal Banger.

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The Alchemist.

Our next brewery stop was von Trapp Brewing, another well-known brewhouse specializing in lighter Austrian-style lagers, kolsch-style ales and pilsners (a nice break from hoppy IPAs). We sat in the beer garden and soaked up the mountain views while admiring the digs that were established in 2010.

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Tacos from the Mad Taco.

We wished we had time to hit more breweries, including Idletyme and Stowe Cider right down the road, but we had to head back home to our cat. There is so much to do in this mountaintop town, especially in the fall and winter. After one last stop on the way home for lunch at the Mad Taco in Waitsfield, we vowed that this would finally be the year to take the kids on a ski and snowboarding trip, and we know just the location to do it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our upcoming October issue is all about fall travel and driving distance getaways. Our entire staff embarked on trips to Boston, Cape Cod, New Hampshire, Portland, Maine, New York City and the Adirondacks and wrote itineraries on where to eat, play and stay. If you subscribe to Rhode Island Monthly today for $19.97 a year or $31.97 for two years, you’ll get this issue delivered to your mailboxes, and every month you’ll get a new issue. Here’s a getaway to Vermont to inspire you to subscribe.

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