Robert Todd Lincoln's 1905 Georgian Revival Summer home and its formal gardens in Manchester, Vermont. Image credit LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES via Shutterstock.

8 Serene Towns in Vermont for a Weekend Retreat

As the second least populous state, Vermont is a desirable destination for a serene weekend retreat. Beyond population scarcity, the Green Mountain State soothes tourists with tranquil views of its titular topography, which are best seen from small rural communities that have their own commercial attractions. Scenic sights can be paired with locally made beer, cider, maple syrup, ice cream, art, and even tacos. Following that, tuck into bed and dream peacefully in beautiful overnight hideaways. Here are eight hidden gems in charming Vermont waiting to be mined.


Hidden falls in Bristol, Vermont in the winter
Hidden falls in Bristol, Vermont, in the winter. Image credit James R. Martin via Shutterstock.

Your hair might bristle while walking through this western Vermont town - not out of fear but tranquility. Bristol is classic Americana with a scenic Main Street, mom and pop shops like Vermont HoneyLights and Farmhouse Chocolates, and lush foliage that crosses the color spectrum. It straddles the New Haven River, which becomes beloved Bristol Falls, and flows into the Green Mountains, a 250-mile range offering swimming, kayaking, hiking, camping, and even skiing at Sugarbush Resort. Visitors can stay at the resort or in Bristol proper at DreamHouse Country Inn.


Vintage bus with Ben and Jerry's logo.
Vintage bus with Ben and Jerry's logo. Image credit James R. Martin via Shutterstock.

With just over 5,000 residents, Waterbury sounds and seems like a sleepy community. But this small town, while certainly serene, claims an inordinate number of attractions. These include Prohibition Pig, a smoked meat restaurant and brewery; Cold Hollow Cider Mill, which produces fresh cider and other sugary treats; the Old Stagecoach Inn, a hotel on a property that dates to 1826; and Little River State Park, a renowned nature area on the Waterbury Reservoir. The most celebrated (shall we say scream-worthy?) attraction in Waterbury is Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory, which offers daily tours and samples. Lastly, the town sits 13 miles from Vermont's capital city, Montpelier, which became the literal Waterbury after suffering from a flood in July 2023. Despite the devastation, America's smallest state capital is open for business and sightseeing.


Equinox Pond and Mount Equinox at the Equinox Preservation Trust in Manchester, Vermont.
Equinox Pond and Mount Equinox at the Equinox Preservation Trust in Manchester, Vermont.

Located in the southern part of the state, Manchester is home to roughly 4,500 people and sits between the Green Mountains and Taconic Range. The latter's tallest peak, Equinox Mountain, overlooks the town and provides residents and visitors with amazing views and outdoor activities. Equinox is a short drive from Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, which is the preserved summer retreat for Robert Todd Lincoln and his wife Mary Harlan Lincoln. Manchester is an unlikely rural shopping mecca mixing chain stores with quaint boutiques. After running the spectrum from T.J. Maxx to Zippy Chicks, rest your shopping and eye bags at the Kimpton Taconic Hotel.


Ottauquechee River flowing through Woodstock, Vermont.
Ottauquechee River flows through Woodstock, Vermont.

You would be hard-pressed to find a prettier town than Woodstock, Vermont. Like flipping through a picture book, visitors can flip through ravishing rural lands like Sugarbush Farm, stately historic haunts like Woodstock Town Hall Theatre, cozy bed and breakfasts like The Vesper Woodstock, cute shops like Unicorn, and winsome woods like Faulkner Park. They can switch from a fairytale to National Geographic by traveling just outside of town to Quechee State Park, whose Quechee Gorge has been called "Vermont's Little Grand Canyon." Cabins and campsites are available for true woodstalkers.


Middlebury Falls, in Middlebury, Vermont.
Middlebury Falls, in Middlebury, Vermont.

Thanks to Middlebury College, Middlebury can be a little louder during school months. Yet it has fewer than 10,000 permanent residents as of the 2020 Census, so, even at its busiest, Middlebury is a quaint oasis. Among the charming sites to be discovered by weekenders are Drop-In Brewing Company, where you can drop in for a pint; Town Hall Theater, where you can drop in for a show; and The Middlebury Inn, where you can drop in for a nap. And we cannot neglect to mention covered bridges, which are picturesque staples of Vermont and the Northeastern United States. Middlebury boasts the 66-foot Halpin Covered Bridge and the nearly 200-foot Pulp Mill Covered Bridge.


Overlooking Waitsfield, Vermont.
Overlooking Waitsfield, Vermont.

Waitsfield is for people who think Waterbury is too big. This town, located just southwest of Waterbury and Montpelier, has around 1,800 residents and scenic wonders that you may now expect from rural Vermont. The Mad River carves out the Mad River Valley, which contains not only the town but the dazzling Skinner Barn, which is a restored 19th-century dairy barn serving as an event venue, and the Mad River Barn, another event venue that also serves as a pub, restaurant, and inn. Waitsfield's verdant valley is flanked by high elevation attractions, including the Mad River Glen ski area and aforementioned Sugarbush Resort, which are both in the Green Mountains. But despite its small size and rustic vibe, the town has celebrated commercial haunts such as Big Picture Theater & Cafe, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, and The Mad Taco. Do not wait to visit Waitsfield.


A Civil War Memorial stands in the center of The Park, Rochester
A Civil War Memorial stands in the center of The Park, Rochester. Image credit Kenneth C. Zirkel via Wikimedia Commons.

About 30 minutes south of Waitsfield and with even fewer people, Rochester is considered a tantalizing throwback to a time before gentrification. Typical small-town charm can be found at Sandy's Books and Bakery, The Rochester Cafe & Country Store, and Maple Soul, while atypical attractions can be found in the adjoining Green Mountain National Forest at sites like Texas Falls and Blueberry Hill Inn. The latter is a bed and breakfast whose original house was built in 1813 and whose land is a recreation area with hiking, biking, camping, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, and 200-plus namesake blueberry bushes, which guests can pick from during the right season. The blueberries make an excellent addition to inn-served pancakes.


Scenic view in Shelburne, Vermont.
Scenic view in Shelburne, Vermont.

Almost a suburb of Burlington, Shelburne is a quick, serene getaway from Vermont's largest city. The town, which has 7,717 residents as of the 2020 Census, is famous for Shelburne Museum, a 45-acre exhibit with 39 buildings containing over 150,000 works of art. Another popular Shelburne attraction is Shelburne Farms, which spans 1,400 acres and has more farming features than you can probably imagine, plus an inn and education institute. Shelburne Farms is on the banks of Lake Champlain, which has its own collection of activities. Fishing, boating, kayaking, swimming, and sightseeing can cap off a terrific trip to Shelburne.

VT is a cutie with a bunch of booty for laid-back weekenders. They can take home an array of amazing food, drinks, gifts, and views after spending Friday to Sunday in arguably the most serene state. From Bristol with its waterfall to Waterbury with its ice cream to Manchester with its shopping to Woodstock with its canyon to Middlebury with its bridges to Waitsfield with its barns to Rochester with its blueberries to Shelburne with its art, Vermont might make you rethink what a New England weekend can be.

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