By size, Vermont is the sixth smallest state in the U.S.; it’s also the second least populated. Technically speaking, for city dwellers, there are very few places in North America that are more of an “escape” than a visit to Vermont. But for us, the draw wasn’t only to escape the city–it was to visit the beer mecca of the world. At the forefront of America’s craft beer scene, Vermont has no less than 40 breweries, one of which was just named the “best in the world.” In our short time there, we made it to ten.
Because of its beautiful and mountainous terrain, Vermont is also beloved by outdoorsy types who are seeking the perfect location for hiking, camping, and water sports during warm seasons; or perhaps what its most popular for, skiing during winter. By the time autumn rolls around, “leaf peeping” season hits full swing, and leaves turn brilliant reds, oranges and yellows. A big part of the reason it’s so scenic in Vermont isn’t just what’s here though–it’s also what’s not: billboards, neon signs, subdivisions, and roadside litter. Strict laws protect its picturesque towns, greens, historic covered bridges and lush Green Mountains.
We began our trip in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont–land of deep snow, enormous pine trees, pristine mountains, lakes, and streams. From there, we traveled down the Scenic Route 100 Byway, which is more of a winding country road than a highway. The northern section passes through the Green Mountains, with incredible views of the mountains. On the south end, travelers pass the Black River, and Lake Rescue, Amherst, and Echo Lakes. The road itself is winding, and very steep at times, bordering and the massive Green Mountains, which are lined with world-class ski resorts. A top to bottom trip takes an upwards of 5-6 hours… if you drive straight through. We’d prefer the laid-back version, stopping to explore the breweries, restaurants, and hikes we picked out–all the while, staying in some of the most unique lodging that Vermont has to offer.
First Stop: The Hygge Hut in Marshfield, Vermont
Our journey began in Marshfield, Vermont where we found Airbnb cabin perfection at Magical Cozy Vermont Cabin & Sauna. We picked this Airbnb not only because it was so damn cute–but also because of its proximity to Hill Farmstead Brewery, which has just been named the best brewery in the world for the second year in a row. The small 144 square foot nordic-inspired cabin is located behind the owners house, but is totally private and comes with exclusive access to the large barrel-like sauna. A fire pit, outhouse, and grill are also nearby. Inside, a fridge and hotplate are provided; a gas stove and lots of blankets will keep you cozy.
About 20 minutes away from the Airbnb, Positive Pie is a laid-back pizza joint and your best bet for a fantastic meal in the area. The pizza–and everything else here–is made from scratch with local ingredients. The beer menu is impressive as well, and was the first place in Vermont we were able to order a can of Heady Topper with dinner. It would be the first of many. (For those who are wondering what Heady Topper is, it’s the highest consistently ranked beer and is made in Vermont.) If you’d prefer to stay at the house and grill, stop at Hunger Mountain Co-op to stock up on groceries on the way to the cabin.
While you’re visiting this part of Vermont, make sure to check out aforementioned “best brewery in the world,” Hill Farmstead. It’s about a 40 minute drive from the Airbnb–but no DD needed, because there’s a two drink limit. Instead, Hill Farmstead is all about efficiency–when you walk in, take a ticket, and wait your turn for a growler fill. Turns out, two beers is perfect for the amount of time you’ll end up waiting for your growler, and before you know it, you’re back on the road with all your delicious beer. Want to try all of their offerings? They also sell bottles at their retail shop next door.
Second Stop: Moose Meadow Lodge in Waterbury, VT
Our second stop was in Waterbury, Vermont to stay at Moose Meadow Lodge. This Adirondack-style log cabin isn’t your ordinary rustic cabin–it’s both massive and luxurious. Inside, four guest rooms are differently themed; we chose the Duck Room, which was like our own little duck-themed cabin within a cabin. It came equipped with a gas stove, a private patio, and bathroom en-suite. The lodge itself is three floors and 4,000 square feet, with two living rooms (read: two fireplaces!), a large open kitchen and dining room, and an indoor hot tub. Each morning, breakfast is served to guests at 9 a.m., where stories and plans for the day are shared over coffee.
Surprisingly, the most sought after room at the Moose Meadow Lodge isn’t inside the lodge at all–it’s the treehouse. A short walk from the main lodge, the two-story cabin is held up by two pine trees, overlooking a mirror-like fishing pond. Inside, the treehouse is like a mini-version of the lodge, filled with taxidermy, live wood details, Adirondack-style furniture, cozy bedding, and a gas stove. Outside, at one end of the wrap-around porch, is one of our favorite features in any property–an outdoor shower–also overlooking the pond.
Though the treehouse books very quickly, and therefore private, all Moose Meadow Lodge guests can enjoy the great outdoors here. The owners (who are really fun people and amazing hosts) have 86 private, wooded acres with trails that you’re free to roam; maps come in every room. Make a point to hike to the Sky Loft, a glass-encased gazebo with a magical view of the mountains. Though it’s only .75 miles from the house, the hike is pretty steep and takes about 40 minutes to complete. Once you’re there, unpack your well-earned picnic and take in the view.
Moose Meadow Lodge is located just 15 minutes from downtown Waterbury, where there’s lots of options for great food and craft beer. The highlight of the area is definitely Hen of the Woods, where you should make dinner reservations the second you book your stay; the small dining room is often booked up to a month in advance. Both the food and service is incredible–with a exclusive but cozy atmosphere. During warm months, glass doors open up to a rushing waterfall which once powered the mill that’s been transformed into this wonderful little restaurant.
If you forgot to make reservations at Hen of the Wood, or you can’t, don’t worry–there’s some other great food in Waterbury. Check out Prohibition Pig, a two-building establishment, one a gastropub and the other, a brewery. Their beer is available in both spaces, along with other Vermont local brews like Alchemist, Lawsons, and Fiddlehead. The two spaces are pretty similar–the only real difference being that the brewery has a smaller food menu, and you order from a counter instead of table service. Their signature BBQ is served in both locations. Across the street, stop into Craft Beer Cellar Waterbury who has a really great bottle, can, and growler-fill selection of craft beer. Last, the Reservoir (aka “the Res”) is another great little pub with good food, and an even better draft beer selection–actually, the best we saw in all of Vermont! We spent an evening kicking it with some super friendly locals at the bar and playing pool under their Heady Topper pool lamp.
Third Stop: Waitsfield, VT for a Scenic Drive Up Through the Appalachian Gap, and Tacos
Just 20 minutes south of Waterbury is Waitsfield, a little town set the foot of the mountains and the scenic Appalachian Gap. For an epic overlook of the region, take Route 17 west from Waitsfield to the Appalachian Gap, with a designated overlook (and a parking lot) over the Mad River Glen ski area and the Lake Champlain Valley. On a good day, you can also the Adirondack Mountains. On your way back down, Moss Glen Falls is quite literally on the side of Route 100 in Granville. There’s a parking lot with a short 5 minute walk through the woods with a patio overlook to the foot of the falls, perfectly built for photo-ops.
If you’re in the area for lunch or dinner, absolutely do not miss Mad Taco with the best, most authentic Mexican fare in all of Vermont. The taco joint works closely with local farmers and producers to provide the freshest, healthiest, most delicious meals possible, including their own in-house smoked meats. (Their vegetarian options are also fantastic, including sweet potato tacos; or sub seitan for any meat taco.) The tacos wash down quite well with the awesome beer selection here, including lots of Vermont locals like Heady Topper and Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine.
Fourth Stop: Pitcher Inn in Warren, VT
Our fourth stop was in Warren, Vermont to stay at the Pitcher Inn for what was probably the most luxurious hotel we’ve covered on Escape Brooklyn. Aside from the pretty extravagant accommodations, the staff here is what makes this place so special, who go above and beyond to make sure your stay is perfect–whether it be starting a fire in your fireplace, the guy who delivers the printed weather forecast with truffles every night, or even reserving a case of Heady Topper. (And by the way, that’s no easy feat.)
The historic inn has nine beautiful and rooms, and multiple suites. with different themes–ranging from fly-fishing or skiing, to a room with floor to ceiling murals that are made look like you’re inside a firetower on top of a mountain. Though they’re all very different, each room is a nod to something local–whether its the history of the area, or the range of all-season activities in the Mad River Valley. Speaking of the outdoors, the Pitcher Inn is just three miles from Sugarbush and 15 minutes from Mad River Glen, home of some of the best skiing in the East.
We stayed in the Trout Room, which filled with sunlight every morning, and with the warmth of from our fireplace at night. The tree-trunk bed was difficult to leave–especially with the addition of the Netflix-equipped TV. A desk and chairs created a little reading nook; the desk had everything you might need to build a custom fly. The bathroom had heated floors and a jacuzzi; our private patio loomed over the trout-filled brook below. No doubt, it cost a fortune to build this place–all the antique details are the real deal, and the artist commissioned furniture was stunning.
The hotel also features two restaurants–the first is a tavern called Tracks serving up classic pub fare, with a great drink menu whose focus on is cocktails; the beer menu is small, but superb. Housed in the basement of the building, one side opens to a patio over the rushing creek, a great spot for warm weather drinks. On the opposite wall, a roaring fireplace surrounded by couches is the perfect setting for winter warmer cocktails. A shuffleboard, pool table, and fireplace surrounded with cozy couches create a laid-back atmosphere.
Upstairs, experience fireside fine dining at 275 Main, their à la carte farm-to-table restaurant. The service here was especially memorable–our waiter Mason was not only really knowledgeable and attentive, which you might expect at a place like this–but he was also really witty, and just fun to interact with. The kitchen was flexible to our vegetarian diet, whipping up a dish that wasn’t on the menu so Denny and I didn’t have to order the same thing. Again, this place is all about the amazing service. In the mornings, breakfast is served in the same sunlit space that comes alive with the fireplace. It’s downright serene in the dining room, and we spent upwards of an hour just enjoying the room and reading the paper.
Across from the Pitcher Inn, stop into the Warren Store, a historic building and general store. Over the years, it’s been home to the town library, post office, community dance center, a hardware store, and a country store. These days, it has deli, bakery, and dry goods for locals and tourists alike. Stock up on Vermont craft beer like Heady Topper or Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine–or other local goodies like Carrier Roasting Co. coffee, or Citizen Cider. Warren Store’s deli is also a great pitstop for lunch or casual dinner, using local ingredients for epic sandwiches for both take-out and dining in. During warm months, outdoor seating is plentiful, on their second floor deck or creekside. To venture a bit further for your meals, check out the recommendations above in Waterbury, just 20 minutes away.
Fifth Stop: Woodstock, VT
Our fifth stop in Vermont was in the Woodstock area, though we didn’t stay in Woodstock proper. Instead, we found an Airbnb called Mountainside Retreat Solheim Cabin, just outside of Woodstock in Norwich. The two-story cabin is part of a larger property with several other rentals, at the end of a dirt road (which is hilariously named “Podunk Road,” actually.) It’s equipped with electric, a composting a toilet, a patio overlooking a stream, and wood stove, but no running water. Instead, water is provided in a five gallon jug, which is pretty hard to get through!
Woodstock, Vermont is pretty similar to Woodstock, New York in that it’s a quintessential little mountain town. Covered bridges and historic buildings line its streets; tourists are seemingly everywhere, popping into the little boutiques and restaurants. Our favorite shop in Woodstock is just beyond the main drag at Farmhouse Pottery, offering one-of-a-kind handmade pottery, home decor, gifts and more. The Woodstock-based artisanal potters have developed a really beautiful style in their work, using a dipping technique that covers the upper portion of the piece while the bottom remains natural. Watch through their glass walls to see the artists at work, which is mesmerizing. In all of their work, there’s perfection in their simplicity, allowing them to fit into anyones home style, whether traditional or contemporary. Another must-visit is the Woodstock Farmer’s Market, which is open year-round indoors. The market serves up local community food ranging from take-out prepared dinners to other local food like milk, eggs, fresh meats, produce and meat.
For dining in the area, we had a really great breakfast at Mon Vert Cafe, though we heard Mountain Creamery is where all the locals went. (They weren’t open the day we visited, sadly.) For lunch or dinner, you can’t do better than Worthy Burger, a casual, farm to table eatery in South Royalton. The food at this counter service burger joint is cooked over a wood fire, and they also have a fantastic selection of craft beer. Worthy Burger has a sister restaurant in Woodstock as well, called Worthy Kitchen, that came highly recommended; unfortunately it was also closed during our stay there.
Sixth Stop: Cheese and American History in Plymouth, VT
Vermont is best known for its maple syrup, though for those without a sweet tooth, cheese is a close second. For years, the dairy industry have watched Vermont’s rise to the top as one of the very best cheese producers on earth. To experience some for yourself, check out Plymouth Cheese for a really unique cheese-tasting experience, in the second oldest cheese factory in the country. Built in 1890, the factory still occupies the same structure as it did when it was by Col. John Coolidge, father of Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States. Today, it’s the closest thing consumers can find to cheeses created by America’s first farmers in the 1600’s. Unsurprisingly, it’s delicious.
If the cheese isn’t enticing enough, the setting surely is–Plymouth is a beautiful and historic town which remains virtually unchanged since 1923. The bucolic town and farmland around it is quintessential New England at its finest.
Seventh Stop: Load Up on Vermont Goodies in Brattleboro, VT
Last, on your way home, if there’s anything you regretted leaving behind–whether its beer, cheese, maple syrup, or you just want a great sandwich for the road–the Vermont Country Deli is your spot. Right on the border of Vermont and Massachusetts in Brattleboro, this hugely popular country store is the perfect spot to begin or end your trip to Vermont. There’s not any seating indoors, but we’d imagine finding a place to plunk down outside is pretty easy. If not, it’s perfectly situated just a couple minutes from the highway for a meal on the go.
And thus concludes our roadtrip through Vermont. Though it may seem far–you do cross through Connecticut and Massachusetts to get there–crossing the state line into Vermont only takes three and a half hours from New York City. (By comparison, some of our favorite locations in the Catskills are four!) It’s a beautiful trip to take at any time of year–we’ll be back this summer for hiking, swimming holes, and of course–more craft beer. For even more Vermont goodness, check out our weekender post on Middlebury, where we headed down the Middlebury Tasting Trail for some of the finest food and drinks in Vermont.