Hello friends! I've been off on some good old summer road trips! The first trip consisted of three generations of Jonas - Hillen - Verrelli ladies off to visit relatives in The Queen City (Cincinnati, OH). We had a great time, reminisced and of course made a couple special foodie stops!! I'll be sharing all about my Cincinnati Chili tour and our adventures at Goettafest coming up soon!
The second trip took me and the family up north to the great state of Vermont! We had never been in the summer before and weren't quite sure what to expect. We found beautiful green mountains, activities everyone enjoyed, no crowds anywhere and of course…some foodie stops!
When trying to plan a family getaway to a new destination, I always look for anything I can find online to help me plan our trip. Having a little file of ideas with me on a trip is so helpful, especially if you tend to be slightly indecisive like us! So, I'll post here about our Vermont trip in hopes that it will help someone, somewhere with their own vacation plans.
We knew we wanted to stay in a condo, so we could cook a good deal of our own meals and have relaxed breakfasts in our PJs. We rented a condo through the Killington Resort. Well, actually, we ended up staying in two different condos as we were asked to move out of our first condo after the second night. We were told the owners decided they wanted to use their condo. It was a pain to move, but they made it worth our while with an upgrade and some comps. We loved our stay at the Highridge community. Our condo was a beautifully decorated 2 bedroom unit plus loft. The units are all owner owned, so you're never quite sure what you're going to get until you step inside. For the record, unit D3 is lovely. I would say the whole complex was only 10% rented, so we had the nice indoor pool and giant outdoor hot tub to ourselves anytime we wanted.
Activities & Foodie Stops:
Killington Mt. was pretty quiet during the week as they are in the process of building a new lodge at the peak and the gondola was shut down Monday-Friday. So we planned other activities for during the week and our mountain activities for the weekend when the gondola would be open and an outdoor concert was scheduled.
Okemo Mountain Resort was about 20 minutes away to the south and had a great "Adventure Zone" with all kinds of activities including this Mountain Coaster. The "Timber Ripper" coaster takes you on a leisurely 5 minute ride up 1,600 feet of Okemo Mountain and then you control the speed (up to 25 mph) on the way down through 3,100 feet of twists and turns. It was a great ride for the whole family! Their Jackson Gore lodging area was right at the base of the mountain and seemed to be brand new - might be another great lodging option.
Samantha's video of her Mountain Coaster Ride (Click the white arrow.)
Ben & Jerry's Factory & Tour:
We all enjoyed this visit to Ben & Jerry's in Waterbury! A behind the scenes tour + ice cream tasting = a perfect afternoon!! The tasting flavor of the day was salted caramel, which happens to be a pretty special flavor to me!! We weren't allowed to take pictures while on the factory tour - I would have risked it and taken one, but I was afraid they'd take away my tasting rights!
White Cottage Snack Bar:
We happened upon this great place in Woodstock. A really cute snack bar with a full menu for lunch and yummy ice cream…which you can eat while lounging on the grassy bank while the kiddos splash around in the river! I would have happily spent the whole sunny afternoon here! It's a definite must do! Bring a nice blanket to lounge on…aah!
We loved the country charm of this farm visit. It is truly a working farm vs the more commercialized cheese tours. You are free to walk around on your own and check out the farm animals, stroll the nature trail through the maple sugar woods and tour the sugarhouse. When you go inside the farmhouse, you are right inside one of their cheese workrooms, bumping elbows as they wrap and dip their cheese blocks in colored protective wax coatings. They'll let you sample tons of their cheddar varieties and all four of their maple syrup grades. Our favorites were the smoked cheddar, the sage cheddar and the extra long aged cheddar which had lovely crystallized bits in it like you would find in a good Parmigiano-Reggiano. We brought home some cheese and I'm sure I'll be visiting their website before the holidays as they make and ship great gift boxes. The drive through Woodstock to and from Sugarbush Farm was so picturesque with covered bridges, farms, beautiful homes, ponds - I was temped to knock on someone's door and offer to make dinner if I could spend the evening on their beautiful porch!
Plymouth Beach State Park:
So we had one of those "small world" moments early in our trip. We were driving aimlessly up a mountain road to check out some stunning mountainside homes when we found ourselves on a narrow road with only a driveway ahead. Before we knew it there was a car behind us and there was no room to turn around except for further up the driveway. We fully expected to get an angry earful for trespassing, but thankfully ended up in a little friendly chit chat. It turns out, she, the homeowner, is actually from our area in PA and used to teach at the same elementary school I did! Unbelievable!! She was sweet and actually called me later that night to give some great suggestions of things to do. One of those was to visit Plymouth Beach State Park which is in Ludlow on Echo Lake. It's a lovely sandy beach where you can picnic and rent paddle boats, kayaks and canoes. And of course swim in a lake which was a first for the girls! We paid a small fee to use the park, maybe $10. The canoe rental was under $8. Can't beat those prices! The lake was beautiful and the canoeing brought back great childhood memories. Only later did I see that we could have panned for gold in the park! Kinda bummed I didn't see that sooner! I also noted there were houses for rent on Echo Lake and a resort nearby, Hawk Inn & Mountain Resort, that looked beautiful! Gonna mark that one down!
We happened upon a lot of great country stores on our drives. This one, while a little touristy, was a fun stop on a rainy day! If you've ever gotten The Vermont Country Store catalog in the mail, you know they carry tons on interesting items that you may not have see since you were a child poking around in your grandma's medicine cabinet - dusting powders, Emeraude cologne! Ha! There are rooms and rooms of all kinds of products. I had to have the raisin biscuits I remember having when I was little!
Hiking on the Appalachian Trail:
There are so many great hiking trails in Vermont! There are trail maps available or just ask a local where they like to hike. Now we are complete hiking rookies here - no boots, heavy backpacks or sleeping out in the wild for us! But two hours of some nice exercise together while being in the great outdoors is pretty nice! It was kind of special for me to hike on this specific trail as my dad was a "thru-hiker" on the Appalachian Trail. That's someone who hikes the whole 2,180 miles of the trail in one trip. So I felt like I was stepping in his boot prints.
The weather couldn't have been more perfect for our day in Killington. We rode the gondola right up to the clouds. Killington has the second highest peak in Vermont with an elevation of 4,241 feet. We hiked some shorter trails while on the mountain. The J-trail takes you through magical mossy woods to a giant rock outcropping where you feel like you are on top of the world and can see forever! This view alone is worth the visit to Killington. We also hiked on the C-trail which has a really long expanse of steps that take you down to a great vantage point for watching the mountain bikers zooming down the trails. Later the same day Killington was hosting one of their "Cooler in the Mountains" free concerts. So we packed up a cooler with some local brews and settled on our blanket in the sun to enjoy the reggae music of The Alchemystics. Icy cold beer, mountain views, sunshine and great music - relaxing!
Great Local Food:
I didn't see one chain restaurant or fast food joint on our travels in Vermont. It was pretty amazing!
We grocery shopped in Rutland on our way to Killington and made a lot of our meals in our condo. The Killington Market was really close to our condo and well stocked for anything else we needed.
Some of the places we enjoyed were:
Sunup Bakery, Killington: All made in house from scratch. We had the doughnuts, the pumpkin muffins and the espresso chocolate bread pudding. They were all amazing but I think the doughnut was my favorite!
Sugar & Spice, Mendon: Great breakfast! Would love to be there when they're making maple syrup as they have a big evaporator right in the middle of the building!
The Lookout Tavern, Killington: Great casual food and drinks. Everyone was super friendly. The Southwest Chicken Salad was so good, I wanted to go back the next night to have another!
Jax, Killington: We loved sitting on the deck and playing the old school arcade games inside, Ms. Pac-Man! Get the homemade potato chips with the gorgonzola sauce…mmm!
The Garlic, Killington: I think this was the girls' favorite! Yummy bread with roasted garlic and big bowls of pasta - enough for lunch the next day!
We had a great time and will forever remember your laid back style and natural beauty!