Guest Blogger: David, his wife, and their five year old son, B, have lived all around the United States, but are currently stationed in Okinawa where David enjoys producing movies and eating pancakes in his spare time. You can find David’s videos of their Okinawa adventures on YouTube.
New England weather is tricky, and it can get cold very quickly, but fall leaf peeping is truly something to see. I took my wife and then four-year-old to Burlington, Vermont to experience something other than Florida’s seasons, which range from hot to hotter, to extremely hot. We flew into Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, which is a small and relatively inexpensive airport to fly through and, as an added bonus, it is only a short three hour drive up Interstate-91 North to Burlington. The plan was to journey along the back country roads and enjoy the fall leaves, while snaking our way back down to Connecticut for our flight home.
Where to Stay:
If you’re coming from a place like New York City where open spaces and grass is a luxury, Vermont will blow you away. We chose to stay at the Hotel Vermont, located smack down in the middle of Burlington and offering a small boutique hotel experience for not a lot of money. The rooms are spacious with views of the lake and they also support the local economy, using only locally made blankets, coffees, food, and soaps. It’s a really comfy modern hotel with a throwback to the luxurious lodges of yesteryear. The hotel also supplied a few toys for kids and really seemed to celebrate our choice to bring our family to stay with them. I can think of no other boutique hotel I have stayed at that offered this much luxury for such little money.
Where to Eat:
Everywhere! If there is a chain restaurant in Burlington, I didn’t find it. In fact, there was a really great culinary scene, all of which take into consideration the smaller guests in town. Vermont is a real “farm-to-table” state, with most restaurants serving local fare and ingredients that are seemingly sourced from the nearest farm. A few notable places we dined at:
Penny Cluse Cafe – The Hotel Vermont has a great restaurant, but we decided to venture out one morning for a more “local breakfast,” and we scored big time! We had to wait a few minutes to be seated at this amazing place, but the Penny Cluse Cafe was definitely a hidden gem among the other eateries located in Burlington’s main drag. Once we were seated, I glanced over the menu, looked at my four year old and said, “buddy, we are lucky to be here.” Gingerbread pancakes were staring me in the face and daring me to order them and boy, they were amazing! My son and I wasted little time scarfing them down. My wife enjoyed the sourdough french toast with strawberry jam, again all made fresh with ingredients from local farms. Although the cafe was a little bit noisy, it had a great busy New England vibe and we enjoyed our experience.
The Farmhouse Tap & Grill – The long wait for a table at Farmhouse Tap & Grill and the dropping temperatures were a bit harsh for our Florida blood, making us wonder whether it was worth the wait. But the aroma that was coming out of this restaurant was like a siren song for us! It smelled delicious! A server saw that we were there, waiting with our young son, and pointed to a slightly hidden side entrance that I had spotted, but just assumed was a shortcut to the restroom or a side alley selling black market moose antlers. It was not! We walked over to the side entrance and ended up in the back of the restaurant, which had an enclosed “Beer & Wine Garden.” Complete with old school games, wooden tables and chairs, sofas, and heat lamps, this was the perfect cozy space for my family to hang out while we waited for a table. My wife and I enjoyed a few local beers, and my son was given farm fresh apple juice. After about 20 minutes, we were seated in a gorgeous dining room where I shared the meatloaf with my son. The food was amazing, and I also enjoyed a local root beer. For dessert, we had pumpkin cheesecake. We walked the two blocks back to the hotel that night, fat and happy.
Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery – Our drive back to Bradley airport had us cutting through small new England towns. Along the way, we stopped at the Whetsone, which borders Vermont and New Hampshire. I’m not kidding: the border goes right through the restaurant.
What to Do With Kids:
Admittedly, leaf peeping is probably not the best thing for keeping a toddler entertained, and it was a four hour long drive from Burlington back to the airport in Connecticut, albeit with amazing scenery. Along the way, my wife and I decided to stop at Shelburne Farms, which I like to think of as Disney in Vermont except that instead of rides, you have animals. The brochure describes Shelburne Farms as:
a nonprofit education center for sustainability, 1,400 acres working farm, and National Historic Landmark on the shores of Lake Champlain in Shelburne, Vermont.
My personal description is:
Sherburne Farms is the most beautiful farm I have seen, it goes on for-e-ver! My son did not want to leave, and I don’t blame him. They had animals; all kinds that you could pet, play with, feed etc. They had food, and they showed you how that food was made, on their farm! (Except the steaks, c’mon there are kids here).
The Children’s Farmyard is the place to be and you get there from the main entrance via tractor, of course! Just some of the wonderful things to see and do: goat milking, sheep brushing, horse grooming, milking a cow, feeding various animals, and there is even a chicken parade. A. Chicken. Parade. Forget the four year old, I want to see a chicken parade! Admittedly, Shelburne Falls is only really worth visiting between May and mid-October. Once old man winter hits, the animals are tucked away inside weatherproof barns. If you happen to be in the area, definitely take advantage of this farm and visit with your children. I still gaze at the pictures and am amazed at the memories that come flooding back…especially the chicken parade. Note: There is an Inn at Shelburne Falls, so you can stay on property too.
You can’t go wrong visiting Vermont in the fall, just be sure to plan ahead as the Hotel Vermont gets booked up quickly. Also, plan on stopping to take pictures as I did. You never know what you’re going to find, like a gorilla holding a Volkswagen!
A New England native, David feels strongly about leaf peeping and has written previously about fall getaway activities in Connecticut. If you enjoy reading this post, please be sure to check out David’s other posts on WGWK! Fall also happens to be our favorite season here at WGWK, so be sure to check out our more expansive Fall Getaway series.
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