Weekend at Bernie’s (Vermont)

An extended weekend trip to Vermont is just what the body needs– a respite from the southern Pennsylvania heat, elbow-to-elbow crowds, and drivers who think they’re in charge.

With apologies to the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s”, that’s what this trip was. A weekend of wandering through stickers and flags of Vermont’s favorite senator, Bernie Sanders. Saw a few signs for Donald Trump as well.

lone fisherman on beachLeave York County as the sun rises, and you can easily arrive in the Green Mountain state before dinner. It’s about 500 miles to Stowe, a town that thrives on year around tourism, but better known for the ‘froze toes’ winter skiers.

Vermont’s excellent tourism office is a treasure trunk full of things to do. Everything from state parks to historical sites to ‘pick your own’ and where to plant your two bicycles for the best trails.

Brattleboro is in the southern end of the state, and that’s reachable in just 5.5 hours. Named one of the top ten small towns in the U.S. by Fodor’s, it’s the gateway to all that’s beautiful here.  Just to the west is Bennington, home of Bennington College, ranked high in scholastic achievement (and tuition). Nearby is the 300-foot tall Battle of Bennington Memorial and the Bennington Museum, home of the largest public collection in the world of paintings by Grandma Moses.wolf head

From there, head north past a dozen ski resorts (many are running summer lifts or zip lines and offer terrific views), the president Coolidge historic site, the Stephen A. Douglas birthplace (think Lincoln-Douglas debates), the Frisbee Dog Memorial in Middlebury (really), Moss Glen Falls near Stowe, the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum near Vergennes, and St. Albans, the northern-most town invaded by the Confederates in the Civil War (again, really).

Visitors could spend months or years just wandering around Lake Champlain for museums, natural scenery, and its history.  Did you know there are more than 300 ships lying at the bottom of Lake Champlain? An underwater video takes visitors to the bottom to see some of those wrecks. Leaving from the museum’s dock, tourists can enjoy a quiet ride across the lake.

The lake is chock full of Revolutionary War history and bike trails take riders to some of them. Almost 1,600 miles of trails weave along the coast, ranging from 10 to 60-mile loops.selfie

On August 3-5, the Festival of Fools hits Burlington. From the tourism website–  Festival of Fools features the best international street performers from around the globe and transforms the downtown district into a world of foolish fun. Some of your closest friends might be starring in this presentation.

The Vermont Country Store has two main country store locations, one in Rockingham, another in Weston. If you’ve never stepped into a Vermont Country Store, you’re in for a treat. Remember that whatchamacallit you couldn’t find or the dohickey you needed? Yeah, these stores have each in stock.  Trader Joe’s or Macy’s it’s not, but that’s the point.

Drive through quaint Montpelier, the smallest state capital in the country, and still the only capital without a MacDonalds. It’s the least populated capital in the country with a population just a little larger than Red Lion, Pa. (7400 to 6300).

On a recent weekend, I hit the road north and spend a few days in the area. Visited a Native American exhibit, a fishing derby (the ospreys caught more fish than the kids), and Vermont’s Renaissance Faire. Oh, and of course, a factory tour of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream in Waterbury.

Vermont’s goodness is nearly overwhelming, but I accepted the B&J sample of “Half Baked”, their best seller, anyway. Vermont tourism was the source for all the stops and all were interesting.champlain bridge

Generally, if you have the luxury of time, stay away from the interstates and other superhighways. The blue highways–the small blue roads on your road map– will take you to truly wonderful places.

Have breakfast at the neighborhood diner, and ask locals what you should see. They might not have seen ‘the’ attraction either–they’ll see it next week or month– but they’ll know about it.

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