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If you haven’t experienced fall in Vermont you’ve never truly experienced fall. The Green Mountain State explodes with color as the fall foliage hits its prime. From Manchester to Woodstock to Stowe, every roadside pull-off is a photo opportunity. Here are our favorite things to do in Vermont in the fall around the entire state.
Whether you’re looking for an active fall getaway that involves biking or a relaxing leaf-peeping road trip around the Burlington area, Vermont is the place to be!
Peak Foliage: When to See Fall Colors in Vermont
A lot of folks ask about the best time of year to view Vermont fall foliage. Ideal timing varies based on the weather, but, in general, late-September to mid-October are your best bets. Northern Vermont peaks earlier than Southern and Central Vermont.
I’d veer earlier if your destination is north of Montpelier. In many places, fall season dates cut off on October 10th, so plan around that. You can check this fall foliage prediction map for more info.
Travel Guide: Things to Do in Vermont in the Fall
Burlington and Nearby Areas
The obvious first choice for a fall visit to Vermont is, of course, Burlington. With the University of Vermont located there, a lot of parents head to the area to see the sites and visit their kids.
Beyond the university, Burlington is a bustling city with a vibrant downtown. You’ll find good food, unique items and public art. You can also stay here and visit other nearby areas easily like Shelburne, Charlotte and Colchester.
Visit Church Street Marketplace in Burlington.
Any trip to Vermont should include a stroll down the Church Street Marketplace. This brick walkable shopping area is filled with small businesses peddling unique items that you’ll only find here.
Definitely check out Golden Hour. Owned by Nicole Carey (disclosure: we used to pet sit one another’s dogs), the shop puts makers at the forefront. An artist herself, she features an eclectic variety of handmade goods. Every time I’m in the area, I stop by to grab fun gifts for friends. The shops are located at 32 1/2 Church St. in Burlington and 17 E. Allen St. in Winooski, Vermont.
Watch The Sunset Over Lake Champlain
Whether you watch from the shore or on the water, Lake Champlain is the perfect spot to take in a sunset. This lake between Vermont and New York really only warms up to 70 in the summer, so it’s mostly a “sports on” not “sports in” the water lake.
There are several spots to rent canoes, kayaks and paddle boards. The season for most rentals ends on October 10th. Sunset cruises on the Spirit of Ethan Allen ships run through October 16th and can be a fun way to end your day in Vermont.
Wander Through a Corn Maze
Located outside of Burlington in Colchester is Sam Mazza Farms. This is the place to find all the fall fun you’re looking for, from a petting zoo to a corn maze to apple picking to hay rides.
There are two different corn maze options. One is one mile long and the other is two miles long. The corn maze is manageable for families, enough of a maze to have fun but not so hard that you’ll end up screaming at each other.
Visit Shelburne Farms
One of my favorite things to do in Vermont in the fall is to visit Shelburne Farms. Visitation is still a little Covid-creative here. In lieu of an admission fee, they’re asking for donations. You can walk more than 10 miles of trails, take in the views and participate in special programs.
Shelburne Farms is a working farm and nonprofit.
Best Places to Eat in Downtown Burlington
Make sure to come hungry when you head to downtown Burlington. There are so many solid options, but top choices are:
- Penny Cluse Cafe, 169 Cherry St. This restaurant serves a fantastic breakfast and fills up fast. With no wait list, the line is part of the experience, so embrace it. Favorites in my family include biscuits with herbed cream gravy, homefries to the next level with Bucket-o-Spuds and the daily specials. Very vegan-friendly with many no-meat options.
- August First Bakery, 149 S Champlain St. I would drive hours just for one of the seeded baguettes. Inventive breakfast sandwiches, hearty salads and creative vegan and vegetarian options keep me coming back. The owners are super involved in the community welcoming everyone and giving back to programs supporting social justice in Vermont. You can order ahead online so it’s a great option to pick up before heading out for a car ride to see the fall folliage on the back roads of Vermont.
- Kountry Kart Deli, 155 Main St. Be very skeptical of any must-visit restaurant list that doesn’t include this Burlington institution. So many options, so many hours and so much flavor! My husband brought me here on one of our first dates and I’m not saying it’s why I married him but it certainly didn’t hurt his game. You can order online here as well. Since you’re looking for things to do in Vermont in the fall, the Thompson Turkey Gobbler is your best bet. It’s like Thanksgiving came early and it pairs well with sweaters and foliage.
Best Hotels in Burlington Vermont
There are a ton of lodging options in Burlington. A few of our favorites include:
- Hotel Vermont– This hotel is modern with a calm vibe. The rooftop makes it worth it, providing great views of the entire Burlington area. You can also borrow bikes to see the area. With a Cherry Street location, you’ll be near everything downtown has to offer.
- Courtyard Burlington Harbor– This Marriott brand hotel’s top amenity is the view. Looking out over Lake Champlain, this chain hotel feels like a boutique location. You’ll be near everything but you’ll just want to sit and look out your window!
- Starlight Lounge– If you’re looking for something unique this location in Colchester includes drive-in movie access for guests and themed rooms. Kids will love the playground and you’ll be near Burlington with easy access to go anywhere else.
Waterbury and Stowe
In my mind, these two towns located off of Vermont Interstate 89 go together because part of the charm is driving the Waterbury-Stowe Road (Vermont Route 100). There are a ton of tourist attractions and local spots tucked away along this drive.
This route also has what I like to call the trifecta of tastings: Cabot Cheese, Cold Hollow Cider Mill and the Ben & Jerry’s Factory. In reality, it’s even more than that now with the addition of local shops. To get to Waterbury and Stowe, you’ll go two exits north of Vermont’s capitol, Montpelier.
I’m not saying that the only thing to do in Waterbury is to eat, but it’s the best thing to do. Start with these must-stop spots:
Cabot Farmer’s Store, 2657 Waterbury-Stowe Road. You can taste samples of cheese in flavors you’ve never even seen in the store. I highly recommend the everything bagel cheese! Nearby shops include Lake Champlain Chocolates and the Smugglers Notch Distillery Tasting Room.
Cold Hollow Cider Mill, 3600 Waterbury-Stowe Road. Continue up Route 100 and stop in at Cold Hollow Cider Mill to taste apple cider, watch fresh cider donuts being made (buy some!) and visit the tasting room to try hard cider. It’s also a great food stop. The luncheonette serves breakfast and lunch and if you haven’t had a breakfast sandwich served on a cheddar cheese biscuit yet, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Ben & Jerry’s Factory, 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Road. The factory tour is available Tuesday-Saturday. You’ll need a ticket for the tour. Tickets release every Tuesday for the following week and it is strongly suggested that you purchase ahead of time or they might sell out. Adults cost $6, kids 12 and under cost $1. There is a military discount. Your ticket gets you a guided tour, a cookie dough chunk and an ice cream sample. Don’t want to take the tour? The outdoor Flavor Graveyard is free. Head here to mourn flavors that no longer exist. RIP Dastardly Mash.
When you think Vermont vacation, Stowe almost always comes to mind. With covered bridges, ski mountains and a Norman Rockwell-looking Main Street, people flock to Stowe year round.
Stowe holds a Foliage Fall Festival annually so check it out if your visit falls in early October.
Chuck Pumpkins with Trebuchets
Yes, you read that right. The 13th Annual Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival will be in Stowe on September 25, 2022, and it’s one of the funniest things to do in Stowe. Winners in different divisions get prize money.
Not interested in launching pumpkins? Go for the music and the food trucks. Festival proceeds benefit local charities so it’s for a good cause. Bring cash for admission and food; they don’t take credit cards.
Tour Local Breweries
Stowe has a prime location for those looking to try craft beers. Vermont has more than 50 craft breweries now. In the Stowe area you can visit quite a few including Alchemist Brewery, Ideltyme Brewing Company, von Trapp Brewery and Stowe Cider. If you continue into Morrisville you’ll run into a personal favorite of mine – Rock Art Brewery- as well as Lost Nation Brewing.
Looking to visit multiple breweries without worrying about transportation? Book a Half-Day Craft Brewing Tour that will take you to five area breweries.
Summit Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s Highest Peak
As the tallest mountain in Vermont, Mount Mansfield stands at 4395 feet above sea level. What makes it unique? Not only does it have alpine tundra features that survived the Ice Age, but the summit is actually owned by the University of Vermont!
Hikers on the Long Trail will cross the alpine zone on Mt. Mansfield as they traverse the state. The hike up Mount Mansfield is challenging and is not for beginners.
Want to get to the top without hiking? There are two ways. Head to Stowe Mountain Resort to ride the Gondola SkyRide to the top. This is the option I recommend. You’ll glide up the mountain surrounded by autumn colors (through October 16th, see hours and prices here). The ride takes about 12-15 minutes.
You can also drive up the Scenic Auto Toll Road through October 16th. This road provides views and a parking area at 3,850 feet to stop and take pictures. Be aware that this road also offers anxiety. I love a good scenic drive; I highly recommend the toll road at Mount Equinox. However, Stowe’s scenic toll road is gravel and dirt and filled with people who shouldn’t be allowed on regular roads. I would personally never drive it on a weekend during leaf peeping season.
Cambridge, Jeffersonville and Johnson
Many folks from outside of Vermont know this area for the main attraction – Smuggler’s Notch – but it would be a mistake to overlook the towns of Cambridge, Jeffersonville and Johnson.
We lived in Johnson for several years and this is still one of my favorite spots to visit. There are a couple of fun spots for fall fun near Smuggler’s Notch.
Make Time for Maple Syrup and Treats
Yes, maple’s main moments come in the spring. You won’t find any local sugar houses boiling in the fall, but plan to buy some maple syrup to bring home. I swear this area makes the best syrup!
The easiest place to stop is the Vermont Maple Outlet on Route 15. You can stock up on maple candies, maple syrup and grab a cup of coffee or a maple creemee. If you feel like ice cream or the best doughnuts ever, head to Cupboard Deli at 4807 VT-15. Bring your appetite – servings are huge!
Visiting on a Wednesday? The Farmers Market runs through October at 49 Main Street and is one of my favorites.
Drive Smugglers’ Notch Road
Vermont 108, aka Mountain Road, is a beautiful drive during leaf season. My enthusiasm for it also comes peppered with some local skepticism from living here.
This windy, curving road can become a tourism nightmare the more and more beautiful it becomes. Trucks and RVs cannot take this winding road between Jeffersonville and Stowe. If you see one, leave quickly before it gets stuck and you spend hours behind it.
People will inevitably try to stop to take pictures. On a road with limited pulloffs that means your top speed may be 10 mph. If you’re visiting later in the season, be aware that the Notch closes. Ask around to see if that happens. Once it snows, the road shuts down for the season.
Hike to Sterling Pond
The hike to Sterling Pond is easy to moderate. I’ve done it multiple times, sometimes with small kiddos in tow and sometimes wearing one in a baby carrier. The pond at the top is gorgeous during foliage season and it doesn’t tend to get as crowded as some of the other hikes in the area.
Originally called Bromley, most visitors to this day know Peru as the home of Bromley Mountain. One of my kids’ favorite outdoor Vermont things we’ve ever done was a visit to Bromley Mountain. Not only does it have the longest alpine slide in the world, but the Sun Mountain Flyer is perfect for daredevil older kids. Think zipline mixed with swing. You go down the mountain strapped in, wind in your hair. Not feeling so brave? Just ride the chairlift or book a round of disc golf.
Bromley sells day passes on weekends through October 10th. You can book attractions individually but the passes are definitely a better value. Plan for a full day visit. The alpine course takes awhile and there are plenty of things to do here. Plus, with the fall colors everywhere, you’ll need the extra time to take pictures. On September 24th, Peru holds its fall festival so check that out if your timing is right!
This picturesque Southern Vermont town is a hotspot for visitors from busier metro areas. It’s roughly two hours from Boston, Massachusetts and about four hours from New York City. This affluent mountain resort town is a popular Christmas destination but also has its charm in the fall.
Some fall fun to check out:
See the fall colors at Hildene.
Manchester Vermont is home to the estate of Abraham Lincoln’s only child to survive to adulthood. Robert Lincoln built Hildene after becoming the chairman of the Pullman Company. Lincoln’s descendants lived here until 1975 and now it is open to the public.
The estate explodes with fall colors in September and October. With 412 acres and 12 miles of public walking trails, there are plenty of opportunities to take that super snapshot. Kids will love the floating boardwalk over the wetlands area and Dene Farm, a working farm with friendly alpacas and sheep.
You should allow about three-five hours for your visit depending on how many areas you plan to visit. We love the picnic tables and always pack a lunch to eat outside, especially during fall foliage season. You can buy cheese at the gift shop that is produced in Hildene’s solar-powered goat dairy. Check hours and events on Hildene’s website before visiting.
Take in the view from Mount Equinox Skyline Drive.
This private toll road that is open to the public is arguably one of the prettiest drives you can take in New England. Open from Memorial Day through Halloween (unless the weather shuts it down early) the sticker shock to drive on this road keeps some away, but it’s worth it. Cost is $25 for the car and driver ($30 from 10/1-10/31) and $5 for each additional passenger over the age of 10. Hours are 9am-5pm but you must enter before 4pm. You’ll want to save the entrance address for your GPS: 42 Skyline Dr. Sunderland, VT.
You’ll drive a little more than five miles, ascend more than 3,000 feet and have the opportunity to stop at multiple pull-offs. Be sure to pack a picnic and a sweater or jacket. It’s windy on the road and usually at least 15-25 degrees cooler. The views from the summit of Mount Equinox, the highest peak in the Taconic Range, are worth every penny.
Looking for more scenic fall foliage drives in the New England area? We’ve got a roundup of the best fall color road trips in the Northeast!
No it’s not that Woodstock (the festival was actually held in Bethel, New York) but this Woodstock is just as artistic. This small town just over the border from New Hampshire has long been known for its artistic community including woodworkers, potters and painters. It would be hard not to be inspired by the fall colors and gorgeous scenery in the area.
The town has a central downtown area where you can walk down the picturesque Main Street, take photos of the famous Woodstock Inn and hang out on the Green. There’s some really cool architecture to photograph as well. I’m a fan of the Norman Williams Public Library – so many people comment on its exterior appearance but try to go inside. The vaulted wood beams in the main area and the woodwork around the second floor are incredible!
Visiting the weekend of October 8-9? Check out the Apple & Crafts Fair.
Outdoor Things to Do in Woodstock Vermont
Woodstock is kind of like a playground for outdoor lovers. The Woodstock Area Mountain Bike Association maintains trails including the Aqueduct Trails and Mount Peg Trails. As the snow starts to fall, people turn to fat tire biking at local ski resorts.
Fall is a great time to combine leaf peeping with hiking in Woodstock. There are several national and state parks in the area including the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Site, Quechee State Park (Hartford VT) and Silver Lake State Park (Barnard VT).
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Site
As a National Park, this is a great choice is you’re traveling with kids. There is a National Junior Ranger self-adventure available for download. Kids love earning their NPS badges!
There are over 20 miles of hiking trails with hikes ranging from easy (a 1.25 Junior Ranger Loop that the kids will enjoy), to difficult (the 2 mile Precipice Trail along the rocky outcroppings of Mount Tom). Guided hikes along portions of the Appalachian Trail are also available.
See Billings Farm
If your kiddos love animals and you love scenery, this is the perfect spot. This interactive working farm has lots to see and do. Animals are everywhere and you can watch cows being milked. You can tour the house and learn about items from different time periods. Plan for at least a half a day here.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to hit the Farmhouse Cafe for a treat! It’s located on the patio near the 1890 Farm Manager’s House. In the fall you can get a cider donut and apple cider there!
Visit Quechee Gorge
You’ve likely heard of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Maybe you’ve even heard of Palo Duro Canyon in Texas. But did you know that Vermont has its own “Little Grand Canyon”? Quechee Gorge is a stunning visit at any time of year but it really stands out in the fall. It’s one of the most popular attractions in the Upper Valley- an area of Vermont and New Hampshire that includes small towns in both states connected by a network of bridges over the Connecticut River.
It’s located in Quechee State Park which is open through October 16th. Check hours and prices on their website.
Danville Vermont: It’s Corn!
Giant Corn Maze
You can’t write about things to do in Vermont in the fall and not include the Giant Corn Maze in Danville! It’s a little bit out of the way which I think strikes it from some lists, but, if you are a fall lover or a corn maze fanatic, you must go here. If you’ll be near Littleton New Hampshire, it’s not that far.
They bill themselves as 24 acres of confusion and they aren’t wrong. You’re advised to allow at least three hours and the fact that they cut off entrance between 12 and 12:30pm depending on the day speaks to the fact that people take longer. If you can’t walk for 2 hours without sitting down, lose interest quickly or have a healthy fear of corn mazes, this may not be for you. Read more about recommendations, pricing, and hours here.
Not looking for that level of maize mazing? There’s a Scenic Maze located within the giant maze that includes directions. In the end, either makes for a fun fall day.
Autumn on the Green
Enjoy a fall foliage craft fair on the town green. This year Autumn on the Green in Danville takes place on October 2nd and features over 200 vendors. The Northeast Kingdom is gorgeous in October so plan time for a drive before or after you stop in.
Where will you head for fall fun in Vermont?