Mid-August we made our annual trek to Vermont to visit family. I think it was our best trip to Vermont since Zip was born. The boys are finally old enough that I didn’t feel like I was constantly having to monitor them, which means I actually was able to relax! And somehow we captured that magical, elusive balance of having just the right amount of stuff to do and being there for just the right amount of time.
We didn’t overplan, yet there wasn’t a day that we weren’t off doing a little something fun. We’d hike in the morning, have a picnic lunch, then head back to Grammy’s for naps. Or we’d wander to her neighbor’s to catch crayfish in the pond and then grab a creemee after dinner. It was just what we needed to turn around our summer-gone-astray and end it in a blaze of summery glory. And when it was time to head back to Pennsylvania, we were ready.
If you are wondering what there is to do with kids in the Green Mountain State over the summer months, this post is for you!
1. Take a hike – Vermont, of course, has a ton of gorgeous places to hike. As a kid, I remember hiking Mount Mansfield and Mount Philo with our family. On this last trip, we took the boys to Cady Hill Forest and the Moss Glen Falls Trail, both in Stowe. If you are concerned about your child’s ability to stay away from precarious cliffs, you may want to think twice about hiking at Moss Glen, or at least stay on the far side of the trail. Otherwise, it is a gorgeous place to hike and wade in the brook. We had been on the trail all of 10 minutes before spontaneity beat out practicality and the boys were in the water, shoes and all. We had a fabulous time, picnicing and splashing at another water spot we found above the falls. Cady Hill Forest is a meandering trail uphill through the woods and at the top we were rewarded with a super-cool swing made of an old ski lift chair. So Vermont!
2. Take advantage of programs at one of Vermont’s state parks – Several of the parks have a “Junior Ranger Program” with an activity book to complete and offer a full schedule of family-friendly programs. Even if you are not camping at the park, programs are open to visitors. Zip and I went to one-hour the “Tracks, Skins, & Skulls” program at Little River State Park, where Zip had a blast examining animals bones and making a plaster mountain lion track.
3. Walk or bike on the Stowe Bike Path (Stowe) – This is a paved 5 1/2 mile recreational trail for biking, walking, or running. parts of which follow the West Branch River. We stopped at West Branch Gallery’s sculpture park along the way, where the kids were enthralled with the fact one of the horse statues is, um, anatomically correct.
4. Eat cider donuts at Cold Hollow Cider Mill (Waterbury Center) – The mill’s famous cider donuts are best enjoyed while still warm, along with a cup of cider. If the mill is pressing cider when you visit, self-guided tours are available. This is also a great place to pick up Vermont-made souveniers.
5. Visit the Ben & Jerry’s Factory (Waterbury) – Ben & Jerry’s really needs no explanation. Eat ice cream. Take a tour to watch ice cream being made. Eat some more ice cream. My mom lives just a few minutes away, so we do this a lot. That’s probably why I gain 5 pounds every time we visit!
6. Spend an afternoon at Shelburne Farms (Shelburne) – The Children’s Farmyard here is one of my boys’ favorite places to visit when we are in Vermont. They can try their hand at milking a cow, eat lunch from the farm cart while hens mill about, watch cheese being made, and hang out in the chicken coop. The whole setting is gorgeous and very child-friendly.
7. Visit the ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center (Burlington) – While ECHO isn’t a big museum, it has plenty of hands-on exhibits, including a space just for little ones, and offers activities throughout the day (Zip and Grandpa participated in an egg drop, and we also watched the frog feeding which was pretty cool). Be sure to take advantage of the on-line coupon – have your answer ready for the “question of the day” and get $1off admission.
8. Jump in the lake – There are several beaches in the Burlington area, along Lake Champlain. We usually visit North Beach or Sand Bar State Park (which is a bit farther away in Milton). Oakledge Park has a small, rocky beach and a treehouse. Or you can do like my boys and enjoy an impromptu swim in your clothes where the boats dock at the Burlington Waterfront. (Heads up: When a Vermonter says “the beach” they probably mean the lake.)
9. Lunch at the Burlington Farmer’s Market (Burlington) – The Farmer’s Market is held on Saturdays. In addition to great food, there are craft booths, face painting, and a random guy with big bubbles to entertain the kids. Then wander over to the Church Street Marketplace. Sure, you may not be able to shop much with the kids in tow, but the marketplace is a traffic-free mall with rocks for climbing (my boys can’t resist) and there are often entertaining street performers.
10. Go to the drive-in (Colchester) – Sunset Drive-in has been around since 1948. I remember going as a kid, and this summer my dad and I took the boys for their very first drive-in experience, which was a huge hit. Sunset has four movie screens, so there is a good chance a family movie will be showing, and I believe during the summer they are open every night. Side note: The playground looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1948. Kinda sketchy.
11. Montshire Museum of Science (Norwich) – This hands-on, child-oriented museum has indoor and outdoor exhibits and is a great place to check out if you are farther south. I’ve never been, but my mom and aunt took the boys last summer and they just raved about it!
12. Enjoy a maple creemee (any town) – I didn’t realize until I left Vermont and headed south for college that creemees are not universally known. “Where do they have creemees around here?” “Creamy what?” A creemee is like soft-serve ice cream, but not exactly – it has more air mixed in and more milk-fat which makes it, well, really creamy. Of course. They are found at road-side creemee stands, although beware that not all creemee stands are created equal – some serve generic soft serve ice cream and call it a creemee, which is just a crime. So ask the locals where to go.
And of course there are a whole host of other activities for the fall and winter. I’ll save those for another time!