Vermont, also known as the Green Mountain State, takes up less than 10,000 square miles and ranks 45th in terms of size in the United States. Don’t let its small stature fool you, though. The fun things to do in Stowe VT abound, along with the gorgeous scenery. And in the pretty town of Stowe in the northwest corner of Vermont, all four seasons offer something special.
Roughly a five- to six-hour drive from New York City, Stowe is a classic Nordic setting in the winter and a hiker’s dream in the summer. Fly fishing is popular at Sterling Pond near Mount Mansfield, nature tours are abundant, and you can even try your hand at dog sledding or snowmobiling. And, of course, there’s lots of skiing and snowboarding in the winter.
Want to know more about this lovely town? Read on.
Where to Stay in Stowe
My sister and I flew into Boston in late March, three hours away from Stowe, where we grabbed a car at the Boston-Logan International Airport for a mini road trip. That day was on the tail end of a big snowstorm that dropped several inches of white powder; great for skiers but it made for some challenging winter driving.
Luckily, we had an all-wheel-drive Nissan Pathfinder, and I was confident behind the wheel as we drove up toward Stowe. About an hour from the Lodge at Spruce Peak ski resort, I started seeing signs ahead warning of snow squalls, intense short bursts of heavy snowfall that are guaranteed to decrease visibility. As the sun went down and the roads became darker, we got closer to our destination and we white-knuckled it for the last few curvy miles to the mountaintop.
It was all worth it, though, to arrive at our resort and hand the keys to our SUV to the valet. As we walked in the door of the Lodge at Spruce Creek, the only ski-in, ski-out luxury resort in Stowe, the staff was welcoming and the comfort of a cozy guestroom awaited us. The lobby features soaring wood columns and supple leather seating illuminated by diffused golden light coming from floor and table lamps. All of the suites and rooms have been recently refurbished, each one warmed by a stone fireplace.
In town, my favorite is the Stoweflake Resort and Spa, which sits on 50 scenic acres. The Stoweflake – besides having a terrific and catchy name – is convenient to Stowe Village along with 30 shops and restaurants. And for families who love to camp out, Smugglers Notch State Park offers scenic views, hiking trails, mountain biking trails, and tent sites.
Tons of Outdoor Family Activities
Stowe is a great town for active families; adventures await year round.
In the winter, of course, skiing and snowboarding are the main attractions and multiple routes are available for a variety of levels. Neither my sister nor I had ever skied before our visit, and we started the day with a two-and-a-half-hour lesson with one of the Lodge’s lead instructors on nearly-flat ground.
We worked our way up to the magic carpet, which transported us to the crest of a sloping hill perfect for beginners. Once we got comfortable with the pizza wedge method of slowing down and stopping, we plucked up our courage and boarded the ski lift to the top of our first green hill. Yes, I fell. But it was only three times, and one was on purpose to slow down.
I was really nervous about the ski lift, and that was reflected in my experience. On a tip from a friend, we asked the lift operator to slow down the lift before we sat down, and we worked on getting the hang of catching the chair and pointing the tips of our skis upward. Once, I faltered as I was disembarking and went splat on my back. The lift operator stopped the ride immediately and called out of the guard cabin to ask if I was okay, and I replied that only my pride was hurt. That’s a small price to pay.
Little kids as young as two years old were zipping up and down the small hills on snowboards and skis with their instructors, clearly having a ball. As a family, you could easily learn how to ski even if you never have, or you can enroll the kids in a ski school that will teach them the ropes to get them started. At the Lodge at Spruce Peak, it’s easy to pick up your rentals (skis, boots, helmet, poles) and return them on your way out.
Aside from downhill and cross-country skiing and snowboarding, there are opportunities for snowshoeing, ice skating and more in the winter.
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During warmer months, Stowe is verdant and lush, with hiking trails and mountain biking routes the go-to sports.
Revisit Your Memories of the Sound of Music
When I was a kid, my sister and I looked forward to watching the story of the von Trapp family when the movie The Sound of Music would air on TV. I’m fairly certain I still know every word of the songs. As you might remember, the real-life Maria, the Captain, and all of the kids performed together as the Trapp Family Singers after fleeing Austria during the Nazi occupation in 1938. The von Trapps toured all over the United States and found a spot they loved in Stowe that reminded them of their home country.
The von Trapps opened their 27-room lodge in 1950, welcoming all who wanted to visit. In 1980, a terrible fire wiped out the original structure but it didn’t take down the family. The Austrian family started rebuilding and erected a brand-new 96-room alpine lodge on the family’s 2,500 acres. It still stands today, attracting lots of guests every year.
The Trapp Family Lodge offers a multitude of activities from the Outdoor Center, which includes rentals of whatever you need. There’s also golf, disc golf, carriage rides and sleigh rides, and a fitness center where you can even get a massage after a busy day.
Take a Sleigh or Carriage Ride
For an authentic New England winter experience, head to Gentle Giants Sleigh Rides and Carriage Rides on Mountain Road. There, you’ll find blanketed, well-cared-for horses ready to be harnessed to a sleigh for a merry ride in the snow during winter or a carriage in warm weather. A carriage ride is a terrific way to see the fall foliage and take in the beautiful patchwork scenery of autumn colors.
Gentle Giants offers private rides every day between 11 and 4, weather permitting. The route will take you on some of Stowe’s most beautiful trails for a fee. You can also catch a ride at the Trapp Family Lodge.
Peep Fall Colors
Fall colors and maple syrup make for a delightful combination, and Stowe is chock full of both of those treats every autumn. There are lots of ways to explore the area and check out the vibrant colors of Vermont fall foliage; in a car, on a bike, on foot, or even via dog cart. That’s a wheeled dogsled used to exercise the dogs in the autumn as they prepare for the winter dogsledding season.
And here’s an idea you may not have considered: soar over the canopy of trees on a thrilling zip line. Jump on Route 108 up to Smuggler’s Notch and harness up for the ride of your life with outfits like ArborTrek Canopy Adventures. If you like the idea of seeing the view from above Stowe but want to take it a little slower, hop into the Gondola SkyRide at Stowe Mountain Resort, which takes you the easy way up Mount Mansfield. Once you get to the top, hike down or stop for lunch at Cliff House Restaurant for panoramic views and artisan meals.
TravelingMom Tip: To see as much of the region as possible, a leisurely drive through Stowe and surrounding Vermont towns, jump in a vehicle with plenty of visibility. I drove through Stowe in a Nissan Pathfinder and a Nissan Armada and the generous windows offer lots of real estate to see all around. Don’t forget to choose something with plenty of cupholders (the Pathfinder has 16!) so you and the family can stock up on hot chocolate, coffee or cold beverages depending on the season. Sip and see along the Green Mountain Byway between Waterbury and Stowe or the Auto Toll Road from Stowe Mountain Resort, which includes incredible views of Stowe from Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield.
Visit the Center of the Ice Cream Universe
More than four decades ago, two friends who met in middle school took a correspondence course on how to make ice cream. Shortly after, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield opened up their first shop at a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont. Today, Ben & Jerry’s is a global brand and people everywhere enjoy flavors like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey, all made at the factory in Waterbury.
Located only 15 minutes from the main street of Stowe Village, the Ben & Jerry’s factory is a must-see if you’re in the area. More than 350,000 pints are cranked out every day on site, and you can sample a flavor (or two or three) at the Scoop Shop every day between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Factory tours are on pause currently, but when they open again you can be sure of a delicious visit. Don’t forget to check the Ben & Jerry’s site to find out when the next Free Cone Day will be.
Grab a Bite and a Sip
If you’ve never had hard cider, Stowe Cider is the perfect place to give it a try. Light, fruity and bubbly, Stowe’s ciders taste like apple soda for grownups. While Stowe Ciders are alcoholic beverages, the taproom in Stowe is open to all ages and the staff is happy to serve non-alcoholic beverages like fresh-press apple cider and cran-apple cider to the kids.
Need food while you’re there? From June to October, the Live Forever restaurant next door parks its food truck at the Stowe Cider Taproom. There, you’ll find gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, fresh salads and bowls full of healthy options. Or you could stop at one of the myriad restaurants in Stowe Village before heading to the tasting room for some cider.
Just down the street on Mountain Road, you’ll find the Skinny Pancake (yummy crepes, salads, and sandwiches), The Bench (pizza and burgers), The Nest (breakfast and brunch), and the Stowe Bee Bakery & Cafe (don’t miss the fresh, hot cookies between 3 and 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sundays).
Just down the street, two breweries are busily whipping up new batches of craft beer. The Alchemist offers a variety of brews (including its best-seller Heady Topper) at its tasting room on Cottage Club Road, and Idletyme serves up lunch, dinner and tasty suds.
Stroll through Downtown Stowe
The town of Stowe is easy to navigate, with friendly shop owners and plenty of maple syrup products and ski accessories everywhere you look.
If you’re traveling with younger kids or elderly relatives, you’ll want to park along the street in town and explore the Stowe Recreation Path, a 5.3-mile paved route that starts in Stowe Village and ends at the quaint Gold Brook covered bridge. The trail is mostly flat and level, which makes it ideal for little ones just learning how to ride bikes or parents with strollers.
Right in the center of Stowe Village, the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum is open almost all year between noon and 5 p.m. every day. This is a great place to take a break from outdoor activities to appreciate the history, equipment and notable people who have made a difference for skiers and snowboarders everywhere.
You’ll also find art galleries and a comprehensive art center, boutiques and world-class eateries in downtown Stowe.