Whetstone Brook, in Brattleboro, Vermont.

7 Lovely Small Towns To Visit In Vermont This Summer

Vermont, a New England state in the northeastern US region, is epic year-round. From some of the best skiing slopes and the highest snowfall in the US—89 inches per year on average—to the fall foliage known the world over, nature, reborn in the spring, reaches its saturation point in the heat of summer. Visitors can enjoy waterfront recreation like swimming and boating in St. Johnsbury's scenic Passumpsic River. Home to the spectacular Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, where "the best bears in the universe are born," this lovely town's Shelburne Farms offers a rural lifestyle right in the city over an acreage akin to a state park. Stowe, like a Norman Rockwell painting, is home to the Trapp Family Lodge in a most authentic European Alps setting, while Manchester is home to the iconic Hildene, Robert Lincoln’s estate, with the prettiest gardens to relax in lush nature.


Downtown Brattleboro, Vermont
Downtown Brattleboro, Vermont. Editorial credit: jenlo8 / Shutterstock.com.

Brattleboro is a stateline town directly west of New Hampshire across the Connecticut River. With the West River through the heart, waterside fun abounds in the summer months, while the historic downtown Brattleboro features stately red brick buildings to accompany your browsing pleasures. Fort Dummer State Park is just two miles south with lots of shaded hiking trails and camping spots, while Madame Sherri Forest is only 14 minutes away in the neighboring state or a beautiful 40-minute bike ride, so pack a picnic from Gouger's Market & Deli Inc. for adventures. Stone Church is a live music venue for the evening.

Brattleboro's multiple historic attractions offer a picture-perfect backdrop for summertime outdoor recreation, like the famous Creamery Covered Bridge. The Connecticut River is great for kayaking and strolls, with lots of scenic spots to relax along the banks and soak in the sun over the calmly flowing waters. Don't miss the historic Water Tower landmark, built by patients of the Vermont Asylum in 1887. It is a unique slice of history to admire from the surrounding tree-lined trails. From the Estey Organ Museum to the Gallery in the Woods and Harmony Collective Artist Gallery, Experienced Goods is the place to find the perfect gift and one-of-a-kind home decor.


The Town Hall in Grafton, Vermont
The Town Hall in Grafton, Vermont. Editorial credit: Bob LoCicero / Shutterstock.com.

Just off the 1-91 highway, Grafton gives off major alpine village vibes in the mountains of southern Vermont. A lovely town to visit this summer, it offers visitors a family-friendly atmosphere and the famous New England charm. The elegant old Grafton Inn, a historic hotel from 1801, will complement a couple's stay with a cozy feel and quaint, antique-filled rooms. Grafton is home to historic buildings, galleries, museums, and independent shops, as well as the fascinating Vermont Museums of Mining and Minerals.

The Grafton Historical Society and the Grafton Brick Meeting House are windows into the town's past, while nature lovers can hop on Grafton Trails or stop by the Nature Museum and the year-round Outdoor Centre for hiking, mountain biking, swimming, and wintertime cross-country skiing. John Grafton State Park sprawls over woodlands and wetlands for self-guided exploration. So pack a picnic spread from the MKT: Grafton, which sells stellar sandwiches, fudge, cheese, and such, to immerse yourself in nature.


Hildene, Robert Todd Lincoln's 1905 Georgian Revival Summer home in Manchester, Vermont.
Hildene, Robert Todd Lincoln's 1905 Georgian Revival Summer home in Manchester, Vermont. Editorial credit: LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com

Tiny and scenic, unlike Manchester overseas, it is what the small New England town dreams are made of. Home to some of the best hiking, the Equinox Preservation Trust features a trail system from easy-enough-for-kids to challenging treks and a panorama along the way. Preservation Trust to Equinox Mountain, a woodland hike with landscape views, are the rigorous, rewarding treks. Then, there is Skyline Drive and Lye Brook Falls Trail to a pretty spot in nature with cascading waters down rocks.

From a pretty sculpture park to the American Museum of Fly Fishing with artwork and fly fishing artifacts, Manchester is also the iconic home of Hildene, Robert Lincoln’s estate. The surrounding gardens are one of the prettiest places to relax in lush nature, with walking trails and fascinating insights into the Lincoln family at the museum. Starting just off Glenn Road, the hike to Benson's Hole is the local summertime favourite, to a pretty swimming hole for a dip. See what catches your eye in the evening at the Southern Vermont Arts Center.


Historic Ticonderoga Steamboat in Shelburne, Vermont.
Historic Ticonderoga Steamboat in Shelburne, Vermont. Editorial credit: John Arehart / Shutterstock.com.

Shelburne, Burlington's suburb, is an easy retreat in the summer. Whether you're coming from the city or out of state, on a quick weekend refresh or a weeklong vacation, this lakeside town knows how to make a lasting impression. From adventures and relaxation along Lake Champlain to a downtown full of shopping and dining, the Shelburne Museum spotlights a fascinating collection of art, design, and Americana charm. Spanning over 45 acres and a dozen historic buildings with over 150,000 works, it is a summer day's worth of discoveries. So pack for a picnic on the grounds, like near Ticonderoga Steamboat, a beautiful paddlewheel ship at the heart of the complex.

The spectacular Vermont Teddy Bear Factory offers tours for all ages where "the best bears in the universe are born" at its magical Vermont Teddy Bear Shop. After you leave with a new furry best friend, nearby Shelburne Vineyard holds a special appeal for adults. The Shelburne Farmers Market is a great place to hit in the morning, and don't miss a memento by the Covered Bridge before taking a minute drive to Shelburne Bay for waterside recreation until sunset. Another highlight, the vast Shelburne Farms along the bay with New York to the other side, is a welcoming countrystead with quaint grounds, farm animals, and educational programs for the kids to get a fun taste of rural lifestyle right in the city.

St. Johnsbury

Historic Buildings on Railroad Street in downtown St. Johnsbury, Vermont
Historic Buildings on Railroad Street in downtown St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Editorial credit: Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com.

Home to just over 7,000 people, St. Johnsbury is a lovely model for a small, often overlooked riverside town in Vermont. Nestling along the scenic Passumpsic River ever since the 1780s, its up-kept timeless charm seeps into the present day as the seat of Caledonia County. The spectacular riverfront is largely natural, uncrowded, and family-friendly for summertime strolls in comfortable temperatures. It's easy to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and explore history, even on a quick escape, with landmarks like the Railroad Street Historic District.

Also on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1871 St. Johnsbury Athenaeum and the 1860 Franklin Fairbanks House look into the past, while the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium bring natural and cultural history alive through fascinating interactive exhibits for all ages. No St. Johnsbury summer escape is complete without getting your feet wet on a swim or a boat paddle and sightseeing the adorable Dog Mountain and Dog Chapel, a tourist favorite. One of the best on the East Coast, the Great Vermont Corn Maze is epic from the air.


Aerial view of the rural landscape around Stowe, Vermont.
Aerial view of the rural landscape around Stowe, Vermont.

Stowe, a beautiful village in Vermont, flaunts a breathtaking alpine landscape, which makes it a popular year-round escape into the Green Mountains in the shadow of Mount Mansfield, the state's highest peak. Home to just over 5,000, scores recognize it as the “Ski Capital of the East.” But the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum stays open for the fans in the summer, and a gondola ride will take you up and over the lush summer scenery just as well. The cooler temperatures of the mid-60s are perfect for all the beautiful hikes around Stowe. Founded in the 1760s, it quickly gained popularity.

Today, visitors can stroll through the historic district with restored 18th- and 19th-century buildings. The Trapp Family Lodge is always a hit with musical fans, once home to the original Austrian family in a most authentic European setting. The stunning, five-mile Stowe Recreation Trail pairs biking and hiking against Stowe’s exceptional panoramas, including the church steeples. Don't miss the Smugglers’ Notch State Park on a refreshing forest hike through the mountain pass, while the scenic hidden Bingham Falls and Moss Glen Falls offer spectacular photo opportunities and swimming at the base.


The historical Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge
The historical Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, a major attraction near Windsor.

Established in the 1760s, Windsor, where the state’s constitution was signed in 1777, is the “birthplace of Vermont.” Today, delighting visitors with a small-town feel of just 3,600 locals, this historic community bursts with flavor to enrich every traveler's summer getaway with timeless charm. Don't miss the most notable Old Constitution House (1777) before the inviting coolness and sounds of nature at Paradise Park beckon you to unwind. Nestled up against New Hampshire across the Connecticut River, Mount Ascutney State Park Campground is popular near the water.

Relax on a stroll along some stunning hiking and biking trails, through wildlife views, and set up a quaint picnic by the tranquil Lake Runnemede. Truly, the calmness of nature, coupled with a vibrant downtown drenched in Americana and vital landmarks like the unique Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge (1866), will quickly perk up your Instagram page. Just north of downtown, Simon Pearce, a high-end store and art gallery in a factory-like setting, features friendly and informative artisans, an impressive selection of glass, ceramic, and wood creations, as well as mind-blowing glass-blowing demonstrations.

Vermont's summer temperatures, especially around the mountains in southern Vermont, with towns like Grafton, are comfortable for hikes. Manchester features the impressive Equinox Preservation Trust trail system, from easy-enough-for-kids to challenging treks, all panoramic along the way, while Vermont's multiple water bodies, like the vast Connecticut River in Brattleboro, give off coolness. Shelburne Museum sprawls over 12 historic buildings along a large acreage, drenched in Americana charm for a full-day excursion, a covered bridge, and the Ticonderoga Steamboat, a beautiful paddlewheel ship at its heart.

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