equals. Much of the brilliant red, orange, and gold color is from native sugar maples, which are abundant in Vermont (the flip side of fall foliage is the sugaring season in late winter, when maple sap begins to flow). Plan ahead to see fall foliage in Vermont, because people from around the world flock here. Best option: reserve lodgings in a mountain resort or sweet inn for a romantic getaway and stay awhile.
This drive in the southwestern corner of Vermont is not a loop; you will need to double back to return to the start or step off the route where ever you choose. This drive also dips into northwestern Massachusetts to visit the delightful town of Williamstown. The Vermont towns of Manchester and Bennington are cherished for their classic New England beauty structures, and for their fine museums, dining and shopping. Take all or a part of the drive, which includes a very outdoorsy side trip to the pristine Somerset Reservoir. This drive has lots of digressions for dining and wining. Choose and enjoy!
♦ Two wonderful shopping venues: Manchester Designer Outlets and the Northshire Bookstore, are in Manchester. The outlets have all the brand names you love; the bookstore is welcoming and the staff members are devoted readers.
♦ Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home in Manchester. Beautiful home and grounds built by Abraham Lincoln’s son, a 19th-century railroad executive. Check website for visiting hours.
♦ Robert Frost Stone House, Route 7A, South Shaftsbury. Visit the poet who taught us about mending walls. Check website for visiting hours.
♦ Bennington Battle Monument in Old Bennington. Climb this historic obelisk for great views and photos.
♦ The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. Simply the best in art museums, in New England or anywhere. Gorgeous grounds and lots of public entertainments.
♦ Somerset Reservoir and Somerset Reservoir Trail near Wilmington. This is a very secluded lake. There are no shops, or ranger stations or private residences around. People use this lake for kayaking and canoeing.
♦ The Perfect Wife on Depot Street in Manchester. Fancy dining downstairs; more-casual tavern dining upstairs in The Other Woman. This is top-shelf Vermont cooking, meaning locally source ingredients, unique combinations, and nearly prayerful attitude toward food.
♦ Blue Benn Diner on North Street in Bennington. Love diners? We do, too. Old-school diner with easy access to blueberry pancakes with local maple syrup.
♦ For an upscale and elegant meal after your day’s explorations – and the perfect tone, if you have been strolling through The Clark -- consider dining at Messe Bistro + Bar in Williamstown.
♦ Honora Winery & Vinyard on Route 112 in Jacksonville. This side trip 12 miles southeast of Searsbury takes you to an in-town tasting room for Honora Vineyard wines. Outdoor tasting near a pond, pines, heron sightings.
♦ This is another digression, this time toward the town of West Dover, for a meal at the The West Dover Inn and 1846 Tavern & Restaurant. The name conveys the atmosphere: informal and down-to-Earth. Solid wines and hearty food.
This loop drives starts and ends at the bustling, hippie-period-redux town of Brattleboro, with lots of good dining, fun shops, and a circus school, and travels on and around Route 9, also called the Molly Stark Byway. The drive passes through the Mount Snow ski area, which offers scenic chair life rides on the Bluebird Express daily during foliage season. You will pass through delightful towns like Newfane and Whitingham, and the views all along the way are guaranteed to be spectacular if the weather cooperates.
♦ Brattleboro Museum & Art Center in Brattleboro. Art is presented in an old train station, with the old ticket windows still intact, windows overlooking the tracks, and marble steps worn by generations of travelers.
♦ Newfane Common. Get out of the car and take a stroll through this classic Vermont town green.
♦ Scenic chairlift rides at Mount Snow -- Take a chair life ride to the summit of Mount Snow. Enjoy the beautiful surrounding views with highlights like Somerset Reservoir and Mount Monadnock. If a mealtime is near, grab lunch and a craft beer at The Bullwheel.
♦ Adams Family Farm in Wilmington. This is a working farm that welcomes visitors. The petting farm and farm store are open year-round, daily except Mondays.
♦ Molly Stark State Park in Wilmington. At this park hiking trails lead to the Mount Olga fire tower, for magnificent mountain views. Trail guide.
♦ Chelsea Royal Diner in Brattleboro. Fill your personal fuel tank at the start or end of your drive at this vintage 1938 diner. The Royal Diner’s cuisine is high-end home style, with daily Blue Plate Specials, generous portions, and easy pricing. Take-out is available for every item.
♦ Saxtons River Distillery in Brattleboro. Maple liqueur? We’re in Vermont, aren’t we? Just off I-91, Saxtons River Distillery invites you to see how handcrafted spirits are made and to take home some samples of these unique liquors.
♦ Dot’s Restaurant in Wilmington is nothing less than “a national treasure,” according to no one less than Gourmet magazine. Patronized by local people from near and distant towns. Solid American food.
♦ Readsboro Inn in Readsboro. Very good food. Good for the groaning farmers breakfast. Brace yourself for excellent pizza, sweet potato fries and the catfish –yes, catfish – special.
♦ Town Hill Pottery in Whitingham, with the studios of Aysha Peltz and Todd Wahlstrom. Peltz’s pots are porcelain, evoking natural forms and architecture. Wahlstrom’s pots are dark stoneware clay or white clay and have richly patterned surfaces.
♦ J’ville Craft Brewery in Jacksonville. Come in for a small-batch craft brew, a five-cheese grilled cheese sandwich, and genuine hospitality.
This drive is actually two intersecting loops, forming a figure eight, so you can shorten or lengthen the entire drive as you see fit. The loops travel around Lake Bomoseen, Birdseye Mountain, and Lake St. Catherine. A neat side trip takes you to Proctor, where you can learn about and marvel at the state’s historic marble quarrying industry. Also, tour a real castle!
♦Vermont Marble Museum and Gift Shop in Proctor. Learn the history of this classic stone, and how Vermont quarrymen and masons turned in into an industry and art form.
♦ Wilson Castle in Proctor. Castle and estate are a blend of European architectural styles and home to five generations of the Wilson family. Public tours are offered.
♦ Birdseye Diner in Castleton is a 1940’s Silk City Dining Car manufactured in Patterson, NJ. Today, the Birdseye chow is a staple of the community. Highlights are jumpin’ pepper jack flash, eggs Benedict, buffalo wings, much more.
♦ Montcalm Vineyards in Castleton. This vineyard produces estate grown wines. Call ahead before visiting: 802-265-4465.
♦ Mendon Mountain Orchards in Rutland. This family-owned orchard welcomes you for pick-your-own apple harvesting … and there's the bakery too. Open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
♦ Vermont Truffle Company in Rutland. Chocolate truffles are made with natural, local ingredients. Beautiful, unique and delicious. Open daily except Sundays and Mondays.
This loop is a large north-south oval in east-central Vermont, starting and ending in the beautiful town of Woodstock and passing through the Killington ski area. A small side trip takes you to the dramatic Quechee Gorge, with fun souvenir shopping right nearby. You can shorten the drive easily by doing only pieces of the loop.
♦ Billings Farm and Museum, Route 12 and River Road, Woodstock. Picturesque working farm and museum re-creates the culture and folkways of Vermont farming before the machine age. Fun for kids.
♦ Simon Pearce Glass, 109 Park Road, Windsor. This world-famous maker of glass artworks and functional glassware welcomes visitors for shopping and to view glassblowing. Call ahead for demonstration times.
♦ Plymouth Cheese Company, 106 Messer Hill Road, Plymouth. Open daily for self-guided tours, historic museum and factory gift shop with informational cheese tastings and local VT made products. ♦ Quechee Gorge and Quechee State Park, 764 Dewey Mills Road, Quechee. The focal point of this stop is Vermont’s deepest gorge, sometimes called the Grand Canyon of the East. Visitors can look down at the Ottauquechee River, 165 feet below, from Route 4.
♦ Killington Ski Area in Killington. Ski areas don’t limit their activities to the snow seasons. Stop at Killington for great vistas, dining on the mountains and fall events like the Killington Brewfest and the Killington Oktoberfest. Check dates in advance.
♦ Harpoon Riverbend Taps and Beer Garden in Windsor. Taste a full selection of Harpoon beers straight from the brewery and take a guided tour of the brewery Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
♦ Windsor Station Restaurant and Barroom in Windsor. Located in a historic train station, this eatery craft beer, farm-to-table Vermont food. It’s part of the Vermont Fresh Network, promoting local foods.
♦ Cabot Quechee Store in Quechee Gorge Village, Quechee. Browse, taste and buy fine Vermont cheeses in this store on the state’s Cheese Trail. Bonus: the store is in the Quechee Gorge Village, with lots of fun vacation shopping at Whisper Hill Body & Home, Deirdre Donnelly Jewelry Art, Vermont Spirits Distilling Co., Train and Toy Museum and many other interesting businesses.
This north-south oval loop meanders through the Green Mountain National Forest and skims Lake Dunmore, passing through the towns of Middlebury, Ripton, Lincoln, Jerusalem, Irasville, Granville, Hancock, Goshen, Brandon, Leicester, Salisbury, and return to Middlebury.
♦ Sheldon Museum, Middlebury (802-388-2117). This museum serves up the memory of Addison County history and culture through tours, exhibits, and programs that enrich the understanding of Vermont’s past.
♦ Danforth Pewter’s Workshop and Store, Middlebury (800-222-3142). This pewter maker offer a a gallery of one-of-a-kind pieces and viewing windows into the workshop. Beautiful and very New England-y gifts.
♦ Robert Frost Interpretive Trail, Ripton. This easy, one-mile trail commemorates Robert Frost’s work; several of his poems are mounted along the trail in the woods and fields.
♦ Texas Falls, Hancock. East one-mile trail meanders through the forest along Texas Brook toward the Texas Falls picnic grounds.
The centerpiece of this beautiful drive is the long, north-south string of the Lake Champlain Islands, where almost every twist and turn of the roads towns reveals both countryside views and vistas across the lake and out toward distant mountains. A unique and impressive mix.
♦ St. Anne's Shrine, Isle La Motte (802-928-3362)
♦ Sand Bar Wildlife Refuge, Milton (802-893-2825)
♦ Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge, Swanton (802-868-4781)
♦ Carman Brook Farm Maple and Dairy, Swanton (888-846-2753)
This is Vermont’s remote northeastern corner, a paradise for people who love outdoor summer and winter sports. The major town is St. Johnsbury, with a wonderful art museum. Jay Peak is wonderful ski resort; it has a huge indoor water park that provides a full day of rough-and-tumble water play if you need a break from the car.