For a small state, Vermont is big on character. It’s not just the rolling green hills, rustic barns and country roads that make Vermont so appealing. A big part of the state’s charm can be found in the heart of Vermont’s communities, where you can explore Main Streets lined with local bookstores, cafes, galleries, and more. Here are five walkable Vermont downtowns worth exploring on your next visit.
Some people describe Brattleboro as a smaller version of Burlington. Beyond sharing progressive politics and an artsy vibe, Brattleboro is a community all its own with a strong sense of place. Along Main Street is a mix of independently owned cafes, restaurants, bakeries, bookstores and shops. There is plenty of history, arts and culture to be enjoyed in Brattleboro, including the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, located in a former railroad station, and the Latchis Hotel and Theatre, a 1930s art deco hotel and movie theatre. While you’re out and about, try Amy’s Bakery Arts Cafe or Duo Restaurant. For more information, visit brattleborochamber.org.
Historic, flat-roofed buildings with striped awnings and American flags line Main Street in Bristol. Just past the town’s 19thcentury storefronts, it’s nearly impossible to miss the gorgeous, dramatic view of Deer Leap mountain. Hike up Deer Leap for a magnificent view of the town. Stop by The Bobcat Café on Main Street for local brews and food or grab a coffee at the Bristol Bakery & Café. The town is also home to a variety of events, including a festive July 4th parade and celebration, the Bristol Harvest Festival in July and the Cool Yule during the month of December. For more information, visit addisoncounty.com.
Main Street in Norwich is lined with historic Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival brick and frame buildings, and the local village green is busy with bandstand concerts, community picnics and soccer games. While you’re in town, visit the lovely Norwich Bookstore and don’t miss Dan and Whit’s, a classic Vermont general store selling everything from light bulbs to long underwear (their motto is “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”). Outside the heart of town, you’ll also find the outstanding Montshire Museum of Science and King Arthur Flour, a baker’s paradise. To top off your day, head over to Jasper Murdock’s Alehouse at the Norwich Inn for dinner. For more information, visit uppervalleynhvt.com.
Photo courtesy of Vermont Tourism
With just 8,000 residents, Montpelier is one of the smallest state capitals in the country. Even so, its restaurants, live music offerings, arts scene, parks, trails and historic buildings make the city an inviting, lively and interesting place to explore. The city’s crown jewel is the Vermont State House, which was built in 1859. Just behind the historic building and its golden dome you’ll find the 200-acre Hubbard Park, a forested area that overlooks the city, complete with walking trails and a 54-foot stone observation tower. After a walk in the park, hit up Three Penny Taproom for a beer or choose from a variety of excellent restaurants and cafes, including the Skinny Pancake, the Mad Taco, Positive Pie or the North Branch Café. For more information, visit montpelieralive.com.
Woodstock is routinely named one of the prettiest towns in America, and it’s easy to see why. But there’s so much more to this community than its good looks. The town’s history, architecture and natural areas make Woodstock a town worth getting to know. Visit the historic Billings Farm & Museum, explore the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park—the country’s only national park to focus on the concept of conservation—or hike up Mount Tom to get a bird’s eye view of Woodstock. Stop by The Yankee Bookshop—Vermont’s longest running independent bookstore—or the F.H. Gillingham and Sons general store. When the day is done, enjoy a cocktail or dinner at the Woodstock Inn & Resort. For more information, visit woodstockvt.com.