For those just arriving as well as those preparing to leave in a few months, the fall at Middlebury is the perfect time to explore all that Vermont has to offer. Since the beginning of 2013 alone, over 2.2 million cars have passed into the state, many of them tourists coming to experience the very things we Midd Kids have all around us every day. Vermont is famous for its fall foliage, but there are always hidden gems to explore. Below are some must-do items to place on your bucket list this fall.
Vermont Flannel Store: Nothing, and I mean nothing, says Vermont like flannel. A quick drive up route 7, and on your left as you leave Middlebury, the Vermont Flannel Store offers some of the best you can get, and was even inducted into the 2010 “Made in the USA” hall of fame. Not only are the products good, but the store sits next to an iconic covered bridge covered in tasteful lights that will give anyone who goes an authentic Vermont vibe. But be warned – shirts go for around $50 a piece.
Fiddlehead Brewery & Folino’s Woodfired Pizza: If you’re 21+ and appreciate amazing beers, head on up to Fiddlehead Brewery in Shelburne. Even if you can’t yet legally drink or prefer other beverages, the brewery also features a pizza restaurant that is incredible. It’s well worth the drive to taste some Vermont native beer and enjoy some of the best pizza around with a group of good friends.
Morgan Horse Farm & Museum: For avid runners, you may have trotted past the Morgan Horse farm and admired the buildings, but not given it much thought beyond that. I urge you to make a special trip not past the farm but onto it. The Morgan Horse farm is on the National Register of Historic places and the University of Vermont has cultivated one of the best lines of the Morgan Horse in the world there. A short walk from campus, you’ll never regret it. Careful though! The farm closes to visitors on Oct. 31.
Shelburne Farms: Their website asserts that the Shelburne farm is “a nonprofit education organization whose mission is to cultivate a conservation ethic for a sustainable future.” At 1,400 acres, the farm offers an incredible view of Lake Champlain and is a National Historic Landmark in Shelburne, Vt. You’ll have to take a car, but if you’re on Route 7 headed towards Burlington, you shouldn’t miss it.
Champlain Orchards: Fall is apple picking season and nowhere hosts a better selection and atmosphere than Champlain Orchards in Shoreham. A 20-minute drive from campus, Champlain Orchards offers all manners of apple picking from the tree as well as apple cider, cider donuts and other apple-themed tasty treats.
The Skinny Pancake: The iconic creperie of Burlington, Vt. is a key stop any time you’re in the city. The Skinny Pancake features sweet and savory crepes as well as some of the best fries I’ve ever had – seriously. Set on a corner near Lake Champlain, the atmosphere is young and geared towards foodie appreciation. They are now collaborating with “Localvore Today” to host an après-work get-together at the restaurant from 5:30 – 9 p.m. every Thursday night.
Church Street, Burlington: If you haven’t already been to Burlington, find a car (or take public transportation – its easy!) and head on up. Church Street is a pedestrian only causeway that runs through the heart of Burlington. Featuring shops as unique as Burlington Records for your LPs and 45s and as convenient as an Apple store, Church Street is perfect for meandering and missions to purchase specific items. There are also street performers to dazzle and delight.
“The Big Picture”: This café/theater in Waitsfield, Vt. is, according to their website, “the Mad River Valley’s unofficial cultural center and café.” The Big Picture is perfect for dinner and a movie, serving locally grown vegetables and herbs from the Small Step Farm as well as local meats and cheeses. They have show times available online as well as nightly specials and music too!
Burlington Bagel: If you like to eat at Middlebury Bagel, you will be blown away by Burlington Bagel. The small building sits in South Burlington, right off of Route 7. Its size doesn’t do justice to the big taste packed into each bagel. It’s well worth the drive on its own, but it’s also a great addition to any excursion to Burlington.
The Organic Farm: Students at the College have a wide range of relationships to the Organic Farm. A great way to change your previous experience of the college’s student maintained plot of land is to watch the sunrise over the hill and Meade Chapel one morning. If you’re not an early riser, there are Adirondack chairs and a fire pit positioned perfectly to watch the sun go down over the mountains on the other side.
Snake Mountain: Standing 1,287 feet tall in Addison and Weybridge, Snake Mountain is great for the outdoorsy and less adventurous alike. The hike isn’t steep, takes about an hour and opens out into a panoramic view featuring lake Champlain and the mountains of New York. If you time it correctly, you can watch the sun set from the top – it is a moment you’ll remember for a long time, I promise, but be sure to bring a flashlight if you do a sunset hike!
Ben and Jerry’s Factory: Located in Waterbury, Vt., the Ben and Jerry’s factory offers a tour of the facility. With your ticket, you receive a discount on a t-shirt and a free pint of ice cream. I would also check out the “Ice Cream Graveyard” that features all the discontinued flavors Ben and Jerry’s had over the years, commemorated by poems on gravestones.
Shelburne Museum: Located, as many of these bucket list items are, along Route 7 as you head towards Burlington, the Shelburne Museum is another must-see. There are over 150,000 works of art in 39 different exhibition buildings. Buildings ranging from The Ticonderoga Steam Boat to a brand new facility completed last year give any tour of the museum a unique character that you wont find anywhere else.
Robert Frost Trail: In East Middlebury as you head towards the College’s Snow Bowl, the Robert Frost Trail offers an easy and picturesque hike. The loop is 1.2 miles and takes on average 45 minutes to an hour. The trail commemorates Robert Frost’s poetry by featuring mounted poems along the woods and fields for you to read and experience.
Magic Hat Brewery (21+): Although Vt. is home to many breweries, none have a tour quite like that found at Magic Hat in South Burlington. Something you have to see to believe, the tour is free and can be guided or self-guided. It includes views of the factory that cranks out 400 bottles of beer per minute, but transcends the typical tour by offering a film about their Mardi Gras event and punk-themed decorations throughout. The group is friendly and dedicated to their work, willing to chat about the process as they offer samples of classics such as #9.
Cookie Love: A tiny shack easy to miss on Route 7 North, Cookie Love has some of the best you’ll ever taste. It’s situated in North Ferrisburgh and features pre-made cookies, cookie dough and creemees. All the flavors are named after a type of love: “first love” is chocolate chip, “puppy love” is peanut butter chocolate chip and “it’s a wonderful love” is holiday sugar, for example.
The Camel: I can’t give much explanation beyond this: if you’re driving on Route 7 North towards Burlington, about 20 minutes away from Middlebury, you will pass a dilapidated looking farm that has a camel who hangs out with sheep like he’s a sheep. Pull the car over, take as many pictures as you possibly can. The camel has two humps and if anyone finds out his or her name, please let me know.
Vergennes: A short and beautiful drive or do-able bike ride from Middlebury gets you to Vergennes, a perfect weekend brunch destination. Restaurants such as 3 Squares and Vergennes Laundry (a bakery, not a Laundromat) are perfect to eat at and even to get a little homework done on a Sunday.
This is just a short list of the many opportunities available in the area. The most important thing is to pop the Middlebury College bubble and explore this glorious area we’re in for four years of our lives.