Updated May 1, 2019
After a long, snowy winter, it feels good to see May on the calendar. For the first time in six months, we can walk outside without a heavy jacket, stash away our wool socks, and watch the grass grow and leaves sprout.
Even though spring arrived a month ago, it’s pretty much felt just like late winter for ages. In May, we finally turn the corner as flowers bloom, the days grow even longer, and the landscape brightens.
May is also when summer activities return and the places we’ve missed for the past six to eight months—including hiking trails, historic farms, and state parks—reopen for the season. Here are places to look forward to visiting in May and throughout the summer.
Billings Farm & Museum
Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock is fully up and running for the season in May. Established in 1871 by Frederick Billings, Billings Farm & Museum is a premiere Jersey dairy farm that continues a long-standing tradition of agricultural excellence by offering farm programs and historical exhibits that explore Vermont’s rural heritage and values. Billings Farm also hosts many fun events throughout the season, including Sheep Shearing & Herding, Dairy Celebration Days, and the 32 Annual Quilt Exhibition.
Route 108—also known as “The Notch”—reopens after the snow is gone, typically by mid-May. The scenic road, which winds through a narrow pass between Mount Mansfield, Spruce Peak and Sterling Mountain, is a popular destination in the spring, summer and fall. Located near Vermont’s tallest peak, The Notch is a must for anyone looking for a unique, scenic drive. Other May-October scenic roads to look for include Lincoln Gap Road between Warren and Lincoln, Kelley Stand Road between Stratton and Sunderland, and Mount Equinox’s Skyline Drive in Manchester.
Shelburne Farms in Shelburne
Located on 1,400-acres along Lake Champlain, Shelburne Farms is a national historic landmark and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots in Vermont. Opening for the 2019 season on May 11, Shelburne Farms is a working farm was established in 1886 by William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb. Nearly a century later in the early 1970s, the estate became a non-profit education center open to the public. If you have children, the Children’s Barnyard and tractor ride from the Welcome Center are a must. If you’re sans kids, enjoy walking trails, panoramic views, and a glass of wine at the Inn at Shelburne Farms at sunset.
Vermont State Parks
Vermont’s 52 state parks open for the season in May over Memorial Day Weekend for camping, fishing, hiking, swimming and more. Want to camp on Lake Champlain? Try Burton Island (only accessible by boat) or Button Bay State Park in Ferrisburgh. Looking for something in the mountains? Go to Mount Ascutney State Park in Windsor/Weathersfield or Branbury State Park in Salisbury. Want to be out in the far reaches of the Northeast Kingdom? Head to Maidstone State Park in Essex County. No matter which park you choose, you can’t go wrong. The parks are a popular camping getaway on weekends, so make your reservations early.
Southern Vermont Arts Center
The Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester features an outdoor sculpture garden, walking trails, impressive galleries, and scenic grounds. Enjoy exhibits, performances, music, workshops, lectures, and more this season. Want to explore art and nature? The Southern Vermont Arts Center is home to extensive outdoor trails, including a botany trail featuring rock formations, 67 varieties of wildflowers, and birch trees. The center is indeed a beautiful place inside and out.
Lace up those hiking boots. Hiking trails in Vermont’s higher elevations and along The Long Trail—including Mount Mansfield, Camel’s Hump, and Stratton—will open to the public for hiking on Memorial Day Weekend. The State of Vermont closes high elevation trails on Vermont property between April 15 and the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. This includes trails in Coolidge State Forest, Camel’s Hump State Park, Mansfield State Forest, Long Trail State Forest and Jay State Forest. Trails on the Green Mountain National Forest are not officially closed, but the U.S. Forest Service asks hikers to avoid muddy higher elevation trails until Memorial Day weekend. For updates, visit the Green Mountain Club website.
The Old Stone House Museum
Located in Brownington in the Northeast Kingdom, The Old Stone House Museum includes Athenian Hall, which was built in 1834-36 by the Rev. Alexander Twilight, the first African-American to attend an American college (Middlebury) and serve in a state legislature (Vermont House of Representatives, 1836). Opening for the 2019 season on May 15, the stone, four-story building now houses 21 rooms of exhibits focusing on 19th century life in northern Vermont. While you’re there, walk through the Brownington Historic District and stroll over to Prospect Hill Observatory—a tall gazebo that offers views of Lake Willoughby to the south and Lake Memphremagog to the north.
Biking Season Starts
It’s just about time to break out our bikes and explore everything from Kingdom Trails in East Burke to the Stowe Bike Path and everything in between. Vermont has no shortage of incredible biking options. Whether you’re into serious mountain biking or like to ride at your own pace on recreational bike paths, Vermont has plenty to choose from. Read 9 Places to Go Biking in Vermont for more options. (Please note that given the cold, wet conditions we’ve had this spring, mountain biking trails are opening a little later than normal this year. Call ahead to check trail conditions before you go!)
What other spots do you enjoy visiting in Vermont this time of year?