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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Weekender's Guide: Stowe, Vermont (summer edition)

Stowe Vermont

Stowe is one of those four-season towns that New Englanders keep coming back to. There is something fun to do when the leaves change, when the snow falls, when the flowers bloom and when the summer sun is out. Stowe even made the cut on Travel & Leisure's 11 of the Best Small Towns in America and after a weekend in this mountain town, you will see why. I've been spending time here in the mountains with friends on a girl's getaway, a weekend ski trip with significant others, and now, a summer getaway with my little family and I promise, Stowe is worth the hype. 

Not only was this one of our first family getaways, but this was Adam's first time in northern Vermont (ever) which meant I had a jam-packed weekend planned - Katie Wanders style. I had a fun weekend planned and working around a 4-month old baby and our two dogs gave me a new perspective on travel as a family of 3+. Stowe is a great place to bring the kids and the dogs and we were so thankful for all the dog-friendly patios, budget-friendly lodging options, and opportunities to be outside with our sometimes fussy babe. 

Mount Hunger
Mount Hunger (nearby Waterbury, Vermont)

Stowe Recreation Path
Stowe Recreation Path

There is something for everyone in this small mountain town. Active adventurer? There are a lot of great hiking and biking options. Relaxing foodie? You have so many options when it comes to breweries and restaurants and you can spend the weekend eating and drinking your way through town. Bringing the family? Take the kids to one of the swim holes, take a gondola ride up the mountain, and check out the miniature golf course. Whether you are heading up solo or traveling north with a little one or the family dog (or both), this guide is for you. 

Keep on scrolling to see an example of what our weekend in Stowe looked like. You can also make this a "Mix & Match" sort of guide by scrolling to the bottom and picking your kind of weekend from the Eat, Play, Hike, Drink categories at the bottom of the post. 

Stowe Golf Park
Stowe Golf Park

Day 1 - Friday (Recreation Path)

Head up to Stowe! We were traveling from the central shoreline area of Connecticut and the drive for us is about 4 hours. If you get up there at a decent time, stretch your legs at the Recreation Path through town. Stop along the path for dinner (Idyletyme is a great family/dog-friendly option along the Rec Path or see my "Eat List" below). We did an app at Idletyme and sushi at Sushi Yoshi for dinner. If you have the time, miniature golf at Stowe Golf Park is a great way to end the night. Check into your hotel and get ready for an action-packed day tomorrow. 

Skinny Pancake
Breakfast at the Skinny Pancake

Stowe Recreation Path
Little River - Stowe Recreation Path 

Idletyme Brewing
Idletyme Brewing Company

Idletyme brewing
Idletyme Brewing Company

Day 2 - Saturday (Hike & Swim)

There are a lot of options for a few different types of adventure. We started our morning with breakfast at Skinny Pancake (sweet to savory crepes, awesome food, 10/10 recommend). After breakfast, we went out for a walk on the Rec Path with the dogs before getting in the car and driving around town. We headed north to Stowe Mountain Ski Resort. Here, you can take the Gondola Sky Ride ($$) to the top of the mountain, or you can drive the 4.5-miles to the summit of Mt. Mansfield on the Auto Toll Road ($$). At the summit, you can enjoy the views of the Adirondack Mountains and the Lake Champlain Valley from 3,850 feet. You can also use this as a starting point for a hike along the mountain. We skipped the sky ride and toll rode this time and continued on to check out Smugglers' Notch along Mountain Road/Route 108. 

Route 108 is the seasonal road between Stowe and Smugglers' Notch and is an attraction in itself. It is steep, very narrow, winding, and only allows one car at a time in certain spots. Motorcoaches, motorhomes and commercial vehicles are never allowed on Route 108 due to the narrow road and hairpin turns. We did a drive-by of the resort and turned around for a family-friendly/dog-friendly hike at Sterling Pond. This 3-mile (round trip) hike brings you to the most perfect pond where you can picnic, swim, or spend some time in the sun. Check out my "hike list" below for a list of hikes in the area ranging from easy to challenging. Or, if you just prefer to swim, check out this Stowe Area Swimming Hole Guide and enjoy some time in the water. Bingham Falls is one of the best swimming holes featuring a very short hike and a scenic waterfall to splash in. After a hike, or swim (or both!), head out to dinner. After our hike, we headed back down to Stowe and had an easy dinner of pizza to go at Piecasso. 

Bingham Falls

Sterling Pond

Quiet Path Recreation Path
Quiet Path along the Rec Path

Day 3 - Sunday (Hike/Bike, Brewery, and Ben & Jerry's)

Start the day with breakfast and a hike. Grab a coffee and a bagel at The Bagel and head to the trails. Stowe Pinnacle is the perfect way to get a good view of Stowe with a coffee in hand. If you want more of a challenge, Mount Hunger offers amazing views and would even be a great option on your way out of town on your way home. If you rather spend the day on two wheels, spend the morning on the recreation path (5.5-miles one-way). Grab lunch after your hike/bike ride and stop at one of the breweries (check out my list below). After visiting one of Vermont's famous breweries, there is one more stop before you head home and that's Ben & Jerry's. The factory is located just outside of Stowe and you are going to pass it on your way to the highway if you are heading south. Stop by for a factory tour and visit the flavor graveyard. Stop by the gift shop, see the cows, and of course, grab an ice cream cone before your ride home (you will be blown away by how many flavors are at your finger tips). 

Idletyme Brewing
Idletyme Brewing Company

Ben & Jerry's
Ben & Jerry's

Ben & Jerry's
Ben & Jerry's

We had a perfect (family-friendly) weekend in Stowe. I had to pivot a bit from my normal adventures and instead of planning early mornings with challenging hikes, we slowed down and found shorter adventures that were more family-friendly. Walks on the rec path and short hikes to ponds where the dogs could swim were perfect for us at this point in life. I can't wait to bring Whitney back as he gets older, to hike in the fall or ski in the winter, to swim in the summer and ride his bike on the rec path. Stowe has something for everyone and I hope you plan the perfect weekend for you. 

Green Goddess Cafe Outdoor Seating
Green Goddess Cafe

- E a t -

Here's a list of some of the restaurants I have been to in my many visits to Stowe. You can also check out the TripAdvisor top ten list here

Green Goddess Cafe ($$) Great local cafe with breakfast and coffee

Skinny Pancake ($) Everything crepes from sweet to savory

The Bagel ($) Great bagels and a good breakfast to go option

Idletyme Brewing ($) Awesome outdoor space in the summer, typical brew pub-style food and great beer selection (flights available)

Doc Ponds ($$) low key atmosphere, brewpub type of food

Piecasso ($) Good pizza/salads and a great to-go option

The Bench ($$) Comfort food menu and known for one of the best burgers in town - small space, great food 

Von Trapp Brewing ($$) The bierhall offers an Austrian style menu with a variety of apps, small plates, sandwiches, salads, and entrees

Sushi Yoshi ($$) Smaller rolls and pricey but very good/high quality. Another great to go option. 

- P l a y -

Stowe Recreation Path (free) Bike, walk, run on the recreation path 5.5-miles one way and passes several breweries and restaurants - nice way to get around Stowe

Stowe Golf Park (mini-golf) ($) Not your typical themed mini-golf course but instead, designed to simulate a real golf course in miniature 

Stowe Bowl - Bowling ($) Great option on a rainy day, the Stowe Bowl and lounge caters to kids and adults 

Ben & Jerry's Factory & Tours ($) No trip to Stowe is complete without a stop at the Ben & Jerry's factory - no tours with COVID but worth visiting for the variety of ice cream and a walk through the flavor graveyard

Swim - Stowe Area Swimming Hole Guide (free) You won't be oceanside but you can find great swimming holes in the area 

Stowe Mountain Resort (summer) ($$$) Not just a winter outing, head to the resort for golfing, mountain biking, rock climbing, ziplining, gondola rides, and more 

Gondola Sky Ride ($$) Head to Stowe Mountain Resort and leave your skis behind and take the gondola to the top of the mountain to take in the views or get a leg up on a hike to the summit of Mansfield 

Auto Toll Road - Mansfield ($$) 4.5-miles to the summit of Mt. Mansfield to 3,850 feet - views of the Adirondack Mountains and the Lake Champlain Valley. Fee charged by Stowe Mountain Resort. (Open late June/July to December). The Stowe Toll Road closes mid-December and re-opens in July. 

Smugglers' Notch State Park (free): This beautiful state park offers hiking, camping and some rock climbing/bouldering - it's also where you will find the trailhead to the popular Sterling Pond hike

Canoe/Kayak Tour with Umiak Outdoor Outfitters ($$) Kayak, canoe, stand-up paddleboard and white water kayaking with Umiak

Mountain Bike - Cady Hill Forest (free) Grab a mountain bike and hit the trails right in the main area of Stowe - great way to get a taste of mountain biking in the area 

- H i k e -

Bingham Falls: Easy (1/2 mile RT, 150' gained)

Stowe Pinnacle: Easy/Moderate (3.2 miles RT, 1,520' gained)

Sterling Pond: Easy/Moderate (3 miles RT, 1,000' gained)

Mount Hunger: Moderate (4.5 miles RT, 2,300' gained)

Mount Mansfield: Difficult (7 miles RT, 2,600' gained)

Sterling Falls Gorge * highly rated but currently closed for trail maintenance

- D r i n k - 

von Trapp Brewing - Austrian style beers at the famous Austrian inspired lodge - take a break from the IPA craze and enjoy some Vermont-made lagers (food menu available)

Idletyme Brewing - A variety of brews from light and fruit to double IPAs - amazing outdoor area (food menu available)

Stowe Cider - An impressive selection of ciders in this no-fuss space 

Alchemist  - Famous for their IPAs like Heady Topper - more of a "try and a sample and take some beer to go" kind of place (visitor center and tasting room currently closed due to COVID-19)

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