Vermont conjures many classic New England images that locals and visitors associate with the region. The area became a state in 1791 — number fourteen, and barely outside the group of early US jurisdictions that comprise the Thirteen Original Colonies. Today, Vermont's forests, Green Mountain area, scenic lakes, and proximity to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Canada make the state a favorite stop for tourists as well as those looking to relocate here for good. As these small towns and their natural attractions show, Vermont's tourist slogan, "Vermont, Naturally," rightly suggests that choosing the state as a future travel destination should be an easy choice.
Montpelier is the capital of Vermont, but with 8,000 residents, it stands as the smallest capital city in the United States. (The second-smallest — Pierre, South Dakota — is substantially larger, with 14,000.) Yet Montpelier's small size may be the secret to its charm. Settled in 1787, the town offers a large set of attractive historic landmarks, from the Vermont State House and the Vermont History Museum to the historic, nearly 200-acre Hubbard Park. Even the town's name echoes with history: it shares the same title and spelling as the Virginia home of James Madison, a founding father and the fourth US president. The town likewise draws inspiration from Montpellier, a city in the south of France. For places to stay, try the Inn at Montpelier, a three-star standout in town. Another bed and breakfast, High Hill Inn, is ranked with two stars and lies just east of Montpelier.
Situated on the Connecticut River, Brattleboro, population 12,100, offers much to interest the curious traveler. The historic downtown area embodies the town's proud past and natural beauty. Popular sites include the New England Center for Circus Arts, the Brattleboro Museum — and the Estey Organ Museum, remembering the town's reputation as a manufacturing center of musical instruments.
Outdoors enthusiasts should head for the Brattleboro Words Trail, as well as Fort Dummer State Park, where camping, biking, and hiking offer some of the state's finest natural settings. The downtown Inn on Putney Road makes for a stay (and a splurge) to remember. Cheaper options include the Covered Bridge Inn and the Colonial Motel and Spa. Lying just across from New Hampshire and near the border with Massachusetts, the town makes a great base for broader exploration in the central New England area.
Newport, in far northeastern Vermont, has 4,400 inhabitants. First settled in 1793, the town lies on the southern shore of Lake Memphremagog, itself part of the US-Canada border and a popular summertime draw. The town's International Club used to be the area's hot ticket for music and dancing — its dancefloor, in the 1930s and 1940s, was once New England's largest. Performers like Louis Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney, and Cab Calloway all graced its stage. More recently, Newport has since 2004 hosted an ice fishing competition every February; the town also organizes a soap box derby, or motorless car race, each year. Accommodation includes Vita Huset, a "Swedish-inspired" extended stay option, or the Newport City Inn and Suites. Both have received enthusiastic reviews.
Bennington, population 15,300, has drawn adventure seekers and deep thinkers since its founding in 1749. The home of Bennington College as well as Southern Vermont College, this place, in the southwest corner of Vermont, is a picture-perfect New England college town. Bennington was likewise a center of revolutionary activity during the American independence period. More recent histories are evident at places like the Park-McCullough Historic Governor's Mansion, a Victorian home built between 1864 and 1865 and boasting 35 rooms. The town also hosts the final resting place of famous American poet Robert Frost. A Victorian bed and breakfast, South Shire, which uses the tagline "A Little Hotel," lies in the heart of town and averages near-perfect reviews.
Manchester, named after the northern English city, lies in southwest Vermont and has about 4,500 residents. Hildene, the name of the estate of Abraham Lincoln's son Robert, boasts a Georgian Revival mansion and serves as a perennial draw to this small town. So, too, does the American Museum of Fly Fishing, with its displays of rods, flies, and paraphernalia. The town is the headquarters of the fishing and clothing brand Orvis, popular among older Americans.
The Southern Vermont Arts Center offers varied exhibits, a sculpture garden, and a venue for the performing arts, not to mention forest paths and extensive walking trains. Nature lovers will enjoy the path to Mount Equinox west of Manchester proper or the Green Mountain National Forest south of town. Luxury awaits at the Kimpton Taconic Manchester, while the Inn at Manchester makes for a nice but less expensive stay.
Middlebury, population 9,200, is another of Vermont's quintessential college towns. Founded in 1761 and home to Middlebury College and its famous foreign languages school, the town lies along Otter Creek and just east of Lake Champlain, which separates Vermont from New York state. The college's gorgeous campus and Museum of Art are musts for the out-of-town visitor. Aside from the Middlebury grounds, other walking destinations include Battell Woods, Mean Woods, Chipman Hill Park, and Otterview Park, all within easy distance from downtown. Bed-and-breakfast options include the Swift House Inn and the Middlebury Inn, in addition to chain hotels downtown and in the area.
Stowe, with 5,300 inhabitants, is possibly Vermont's best ski town. Home to the Stowe Mountain Resort, the town claims to be the "ski capital of the east." Since 2002, it has been home to the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum. Sitting in the shadow of the picturesque Mount Mansfield, the town offers outdoor fun beyond the winter months, too. Among cultural interests, the town is home to the von Trapp family, proprietors of the Trapp Family Lodge, and who inspired the classic film The Sound of Music. The lodge remains in operation today. In a combination of culture, sports, and industry, Stowe was, until his 2019 death, the home of Jake Burton Carpenter, founder of the Burton Snowboards company and a leader in making snowboarding the global phenomenon and Olympic sport that it is today.
With so much going for Vermont, it may surprise the out-of-state visitor that more people do not live in or travel to historic towns like Montpelier, college-town perfection like Bennington or Middlebury, or outdoor adventure centers like Manchester or Stowe. The state is thus a center of various attractions for all seasons. No matter what interests a traveler seeks in Vermont or when they plan to visit, they are sure to find satisfaction in the beauty, history, and rich cultures of Vermont.