With its breathtaking foliage, New England charm, and laidback Vermont vibe, Stowe ranks high on my list of New England’s best weekend destinations. Just three hours by car from Boston or upstate New York, and a little over two hours from Montreal, this small town in north-central Vermont has made a name for itself as a rustic retreat for Northeastern urbanites. Here’s how to get the most out of a weekend getaway in this scenic mountain town.
As you’re nearing Stowe, pay a visit to the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, located about six miles south of town. The smell alone is probably enough to lure you in, but hardcore cider donut fans better arrive ready to indulge. Cider donuts are made onsite and served hot off the press every day. (And, at only 50 cents a pop, you can’t possibly eat just one.) Save room for some samples, too: There are tons of local cheeses, jellies, mustards, and maple candy to enjoy. Try the spiced apple butter, cider jelly, and horseradish maple mustard.
The Applecore Luncheonette & Brew next door to Cold Hollow is a great lunch spot—the turkey Reuben with fresh apple cider vinegar coleslaw is fantastic. Applecore incorporates many Cold Hollow products in its menu and also sells more than 60 local beers and hard ciders in its store and tasting room. Create your own six-pack and take it to go.
After lunch, downtown Stowe is only a 10-minute drive away. Stroll through art galleries and jewelry stores or grab a cup of coffee or a fountain treat at the Malt Shop (if you aren’t already on a sugar high). The Ski and Snowboard Museum is also worth a visit if you’re interested in the history of Vermont’s ski lift technology.
As the sun starts to set, take a drive to the top of Smuggler’s Notch and soak in the mountain views. But beware: This two-way road gets steeper and more narrow as you go up. (I didn’t think my Ford Taurus was going to make it.) There’s no lane divider for about a quarter of a mile, so watch out for cars coming the other way.
When you’re ready for dinner, grab bar seats at The Bench and enjoy some Vermont comfort food like wood fire oven pizza and grass-fed burgers. Doc Pond’s Restaurant is another great dinner and late-night snack spot (try the classic onion dip with homemade BBQ chips). Both places have killer beer lists and great prices.
Get outside and make the most of your Saturday. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking and mountain biking, but if you’re really seeking a thrill, head to Stowe’s Zip Line Canopy Tour. Start by fueling up with breakfast at Solstice, Stowe Mountain Lodge’s restaurant. This hardy buffet has everything you could want: power smoothies, fruit salad, bagels and lox, and omelets made-to-order.
Then you can hop a gondola conveniently located right outside of Solstice that takes you to check in. Get your gear and do a practice run to learn how to adjust your speed. From there, take the gondola up 4,500 feet to Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, and ride down a series of three zip lines—the first zip line is the longest, the second is the steepest, and the third is the fastest. There’s really nothing like soaring high above the treetops on a beautiful day with the wind in your hair.
Ride the gondola back up the mountain and head to Cliff House Restaurant for lunch. There you can soak up the sun and hilltop views while enjoying a sandwich or soup and salad. The indoor and outdoor seating makes it a great year-round place to grab a bite to eat.
If you’re up for some excitement after lunch, head to the Treetop Adventure located at the bottom of mountain. It’s a series of self-guided ropes courses that test your balance and endurance. You’ll feel like you’re back at summer camp as you jump, climb, and swing like Tarzan through the trees over suspended bridges, nets, and moving logs.
And, if your morning zip lining wasn’t enough, you’ll get a second helping of that at the Treetop Adventure, too. It takes about two to three hours to complete the whole course, but you can do as much or as little as you want, and it’s great for all ages. It’s open on weekends in the spring and fall, and seven days a week in the summer.
After a full day of activities, you’ll not only be tired but you’ll have worked up an appetite, too. Head back to Solstice (which is also one of Stowe’s best dinner go-to spots) and try the oven-roasted rack of lamb with mint-pistachio pesto or the beef tenderloin with Bayley Hazen blue crusted cheese (Fun fact: Bayley Hazen blue cheese is made in Vermont and was awarded World’s Best Unpasteurized Cheese at the World Cheese Awards in London). Locals say that farm to table really sums up the cuisine in Stowe. After just a few meals, you’ll see why.
Start your last day in Stowe by grabbing breakfast at Cafe on Main. Before you head home, pick up some fresh produce at a local farmer’s market or souvenirs from Shaw’s General Store and Mercantile Kitchen, a specialty foods store. If you aren’t in a rush, the Von Trapp Lodge is right in Stowe and is well worth the visit. Learn about the history of the lodge (which is still run by the Von Trapp family) and check out the onsite Austrian restaurant and brewery, where you can sit outside and have a late afternoon snack or a homebrewed beer amidst the mountains and livestock.
There are also plenty of year-round events in Stowe for mountain bikers, art and car show enthusiasts, craft beer lovers—you name it! Do your research ahead of time so you don’t miss out.
Where to Stay in Stowe
Just six miles from downtown and nestled in the mountains, you’ll find Stowe Mountain Lodge, an Alpine-style resort situated at the heart of Spruce Peak. The lodge has a high-end rustic Vermont feel with ski-in/ski-out access, a restaurant and lounge, a heated pool, two Jacuzzis, and a full-service spa—perfect for anyone needing some R&R.
Take your pick from a variety of rooms, many of which have a fireplace and kitchenette to give you the same conveniences of home, large windows for mountain gazing, and a balcony where you can sip your coffee and soak in the scenery on a quiet morning.
(Photo: Stowe Mountain Lodge)
More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Best Romantic Vermont Resorts and Hotels
- Taking the Kids to Vermont for Fall Foliage and More
- A Weekend in Brattleboro, Vermont
Olivia Briggs visited Stowe as a guest of the Stowe Mountain Lodge. Follow her on Twitter @Olileibri.
(Photos: Olivia Briggs)