Ask most people about Vermont and I think the first thing that's going to come to their mind is Bernie Sanders – there's also a good chance that Bernie is the only Vermont topic that they're able to conjure up. I can't really say that I knew too much more other than Bernie about the state prior to our visit, but after spending a little over a week in The Green State I will say it's quite possibly one of my favorite places I've had the pleasure of traveling to domestically.
In between our move out West to the Bay Area (more on that soon) we had the unique opportunity to travel around and spend a few weeks in various places before making the miserable 3 day drive to California. While the majority of our time was spent visiting friends and family in the South and Midwest, we wanted to make sure we went somewhere I nor my fiancé had been before. We decided to make the 15 hour drive to Burlington, VT from Indianapolis and I'm forever thankful that we did.
Most of our time was spent in Vermont's capital city, Burlington – the state's largest city (still only around 45,000 people!) and center of commerce and education hosting the state's largest university, the University of Vermont.
When traveling to Vermont, a stop in Burlington is a must. There is tons to see outside of Burlington, but the city's small size and charm is not to be missed under any circumstances.
My family is from the Asheville area of Western North Carolina so I am very familiar with Appalachia – what's so cool to me about Burlington is that it's not only sitting on the basin of the Appalachian Mountains, but also a large lake, Lake Champlain. Burlington has the benefit of being both a mountain town and a lake town – truly a paradise for outdoor people.
While Burlington's downtown area is great for walks, eating, and a liberal, hipstery nightlife (my favorite kind of nightlife), we made sure to experience some of the other more nature oriented parts of the state.
Mount Mansfield is the state's highest peak and short hour-ish drive from Burlington. You can hike a couple of hours from the parking lot and experience parts of Vermont's infamous Long Trail which I highly recommend – some fantastic hiking and great views of the state and Lake Champlain off in the distance.
Vermont is definitely a hiking state. Our time was limited due to working our 8 - 5's during the week but I would love to go back and do more serious long-term hiking and backpacking – the state is built for it and I can't imagine myself visiting again and not doing some sort of multi-day backpacking trip.
Once our week in Burlington was at it's end we opted to spent a couple of day's in Vermont's capital, Montpelier – but not before driving through the city of Stowe and checking out one of the nation's most revered craft breweries, Alchemy. They're known most specifically for their beer Heady Topper, which is consistently rated one of the best beers produced in the world. Stowe is seemingly very popular in the winter months as a skiing destination, but nonetheless even the summer is a nice drive and peek into a more remote and often overlooked part of Vermont.
Montpelier has a great mountain town vibe comparable to Burlington, but on an even smaller scale. We stayed a day in the state's capital and both agreed that that's really all you need. There are some nice things to do but Montpelier lacks the overall charm and size that Burlington has.
If you're within driving distance to Vermont you would be hard pressed to find a better place to not only spend some good time outdoors but also reap the benefits of a small town like Burlington's food and cultural experience. Another sadly great attribute of Vermont is the overall lack of fast food – I think we may have seen one McDonalds and a Chipotle the entier trip there, that's it. So nice to visit somewhere and not be overwhelmed by "TRY OUR NEW $6 BURGER COMBO" marquees everywhere. The focus on it's citizens health goes far beyond Vermont's commitment to the outdoors.
Vermont's culture and politics are also something that are a high point of the state. Being from Indiana I love seeing quaint rural towns when I travel, but even better when those same places are mostly liberal and striving for peace and acceptance among all of its citizens. As of 2018, cannabis is also legal for consumption in Vermont. While recreational sales in dispensaries won't start until 2022, rest assured you don't have to worry about being pulled over and persecuted for possessing some weed in the state.
Despite now living in across the county in California, Vermont still holds a special place in my heart and is calling me to come up with any excuse to take a flight to the Northeast any chance that I get. Seriously, come up with any excuse or reason you can to visit Vermont (even for just a few days), you will be thrilled that you did.