Vermont is a huge State. Even bigger than it looks on the map because of all the different things it offers to do along the way. When I sat down to plan our family road trip for the week, my original plan was to visit Vermont and Maine.
After the research began I immediately eliminated Maine off the list. There was simply no time. And after even more digging into the best way to spend one week exploring Vermont, I realized that if we get to see three to four areas that will be pushing it.
Honestly, you can easily spend a month in this great State and still need more time to enjoy it all.
After much deliberation I found a circular route: Lake Champlain Basin Harbor Club, Stowe, Smuggler’s Notch and Burlington.
The four locations are within 45 minutes to one hour of one another and make for great variety and highlights of Vermont.
Places to Visit in Vermont
Lake Champlain is considered to be the sixth largest lake in the US. To say the least, most of Vermont borders it to some degree. But finding a hotel that is right on the lake with tons of water activities is a must do.
Where to Stay
Basin Harbor Club – This is one of our absolute favorite hotels as of date. It is everything you can imagine about staying in Vermont on the lake.
The lake view cottages offer the homey feeling
What to Do
The water activities are covered from swimming to kayaking to paddle boarding and so much more.
Sports and outdoor fun – you can find it all here. Football, pool time, camps for kids, golf, biking, tennis, volleyball and more.
And don’t forget the never ending views of the lake.
Where to Eat
The resort has three different restaurants that offer completely unique styled foods. So you will never run out of choices. They like to pride themselves on ‘Cruise Like’ dining. That’s because the food is endless and from all cuisines.
Stowe is located at the base of Spruce Peak and Mount Mansfield (the tallest peak in Vermont). These mountains are not only known for the best skiing in the country but they are part of the Green Mountain Range.
Where to Stay
Stowe Mountain Lodge – This is the place to be when visiting Stowe. All the coolest and funnest activities start and end here.
Even if you’re staying in town in one of the other inns or hotels, you will definitely end up at the resort.
What To Do
The activities for outdoor fun are endless here. And for all ages and levels of adventurers.
Hiking is by far the best activity you can immerse yourself in. Some of the trails are stroller and wheel-chair accessible, so any one can enjoy.
They also have hard-core trails and mountain biking is a biggie out here.
Mount Mansfield Toll Road – get in your car and take the 4.5 mile road all the way up the highest peak in Vermont for the most stunning views of the Green Mountain Range.
Where to Eat
Staying at the lodge you can try their five star restaurant – Solstice.
Even though the restaurant is fine dining, it is 100% family and kid friendly. So eating here is a win-win for everyone. The kids have a blast and the parents get to eat local, quality cuisine.
Stowe town has a ton of great restaurants that are unique and great for all flavors. The town is so small that you can park your car and simply walk around and choose what is best for you.
Smuggler’s Notch is about 30 minutes from Stowe off of one of the most scenic roads you’ll most likely take. The road is literally carved into the rocks. Go slow, and enjoy.
Smuggler’s Notch National Park has several ways to enjoy staying with them. You can stay directly in the park. You can camp and also enjoy resort like accommodations.
Where to Stay
Camping in Vermont – my oldest boy has been asking me, more like begging me, to go ‘real’ camping. Since Guatemala, where we live, has minimal camping, I decided Vermont would be our best bet.
After reviewing our options, I decided to go with a private campsite rather than the National Park’s.
Brewster River Campground – which is literally on Brewster River was a truly perfect choice. The location is pristine, with the river in the background and even a waterfall you can enjoy and swim in.
What made me most attracted to this campsite is that, people like me and my brother – who aren’t big campers can enjoy it just as well. The Loft which is right next to the campsite where my husband and son pitched their tent, was a large apartment with a full kitchen, great bathroom and private shower.
Smuggler’s Notch Resort – This is the #1 most family friendly resort in the US and after visiting it, I can say that is true. You can easily stay at the resort which is acres and acres of nature and springs and pools and other outdoor fun. Or you can do what we did, and enjoy a day pass here.
The main reason we didn’t stay at Smuggler’s Notch Resort was because of my promise to my son for camping. Otherwise this would have been my top choice for staying for sure. Although, if we did stay here, we would have missed out on the campsite which was it’s own unique destination.
What to Do
Smuggler’s Notch Resort offers a day pass for where you can enjoy their activities that they have on the property. And they have so many, that they literally have a full directory of what to do and see.
You can do a bunch of different classes, they have four water parks and more pools. You can play any sort of outdoor sport.
Plus, the FunZone is a unique spot for both kids and adults.
Even if you’re not staying here, this would be a great place to visit, especially with kids. And because of their status of being a top family friendly resort, they have the best day cares and child care programs and activities up to teens.
I rarely say this – but this is a CAN-NOT-MISS thing to do!
Trust me when I say this, you don’t need to be an outdoor enthusiast or even interested in obstacle courses or tree climbing to fully love this place. I’m none of them but had so much fun challenging myself and best of all, seeing my kids (5 and 11 years old) have the time of their life.
And not only with the obstacle courses or the tree climbing course (which is one of the best we’ve seen). But the way they were able to challenge their minds and gain more confidence in themselves that apply to everything they do in life.
You can’t say that about a lot of activities you do.
Where to Eat
Smuggler’s Notch Resort – I know I’ve mentioned it over and over again, but the place is like a village. There are so many things to do here that it’s your best bet to find your way over here at some point.
They have a wide range of restaurants for all flavors. And, being the #1 family resort, they have the best kid menu options you can find. Healthy, flavorful and all locally made.
If you go into Jeffersonville, which is the neighboring town you can find some more small restaurants to taste.
Burger Barn was recommended to us by half the people we met who live in the area, and we went to check it out as well. It’s a tiny mobile home that makes an assortment of burgers. They have at least 30 different to chose from.
The wait is long, but it’s worth it. The heartiest burgers we’ve ever had.
No visit to Vermont is complete without spending at least one – two days in its largest city – Burlington.
Unlike other ‘big’ cities, Burlington has around 25,000 people who live here and is one of the coolest city’s we’ve ever been to. Located right on Lake Champlain you won’t have any problems finding tons of outdoor activities to do, cafes and night life.
Most of the interesting restaurants, cafes and shops are off of Church Street Marketplace and Main Street. But we also found a great local’s restaurant that is a bit off the main drag.
Where to Stay
Location is key when picking a place in Burlington. Since it’s relatively small, you can easily walk to everything if you’re in the right spot.
Hilton Garden Inn – this hotel is located right on Main Street and is great for families or couples alike.
This Burlington Hotel is located close to Church Street Marketplace and the waterfront as well. Plus, it has a pool to keep the kids entertained.
What to Do
Burlington has tons of outdoor activities that are literally right outside your door. With the Lake being only a few blocks away you can do anything from kayaking to paddle boarding to other boat like and water like activities.
Biking in Burlington – this was what truly brought me to Burlington. They have some of the best bike paths in the country.
Renting our bikes for Local Motion, a local organization that is directly responsible for the amazing bike culture, paths and even bike Ferry here, they have bikes for all shapes, sizes and interests.
Even if you can’t do a full day to go over the the Islands along the route, you can definitely enjoy at least a portion of the causeway which is directly on Lake Champlain.
Where to Eat
The amount of restaurants to chose from is incredible. Just head over the Main Street, the waterfront or Church Street Marketplace.
And you can also go off route a bit. My kids were in the mood for BBQ and I found a local restaurant that is considered one of the best in the area – Bluebird Restaurant.
They have this one dish – Family Reunion – which serves up all their greatest meats and side dishes. Honestly, this dish is worth the visit.
Accidental Farmer Cafe – this isn’t in Burlington. If you decide to do the bike rentals for the day, on the other side of the Lake, on the Islands, there is a great farm – Allenholm Farm which has been there for over a century. They have a petting zoo and a delicious cafe serving lunches.
This was our goal to reach for the day with the bikes, lunch break, play with animals, plenty of ice cream (creamies – as they are called here) and the back around to Burlington.