My family loves a good road trip. Over the last few years we’ve found so much joy in exploring — by minivan — New England, Canada, and a host of cities and towns along the East Coast. With all of our people (two parents, three kids) and all of our gear (paddleboards, pack and plays, strollers, and bikes), taking drivable trips is the way to go.
And though we’ve loved spots in North Carolina, Québec, New York, and beyond, there’s one place we come back to again and again: Vermont.
Vermont checks all the boxes. It has world-class recreation, like hikes through beautiful forests and mountains, refreshing dips in lakes and swimming holes, and leisurely bike rides on rail trails. It has amazing food, like locally made cheeses and famous-for-a-reason ice cream and maple everything. It has theater and music and historic sites. And it has all types of family-friendly lodging, from campgrounds to luxury resorts to cozy mountain homes.
If you’re thinking about planning a family trip within New England, let me tell you where to go, what to do while you’re there, and where to eat!
The place to stay:
Vermont has so many lovely towns to explore! Our latest trip was to Stowe, which sits at the foot of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, and it’s a favorite destination in all four seasons. It’s the “ski capital of the East,” but in spring, summer, and fall, the activities and adventures are just as plentiful.
We always prefer vacation rentals (via sites like Airbnb and VRBO) instead of hotels because of all the “extras” — multiple bedrooms, a kitchen for prepping basic meals, indoor space for people to spread out, laundry, a yard for outdoor play.
And on our last trip to Vermont? We found the one — the house that was so spectacular we’ll have a hard time staying anywhere else! This condo — aptly named “Above and Beyond” — in Stowe looks over the 120-acre Topnotch Resort. The home itself is newly renovated and furnished, and every detail inside shows the designers prioritized families. (And if you want to try it for yourself, the code BOOKSTOWE will get you 10% off your stay!)
My two big kids were thrilled to find a reading nook in “their” room, plus a top bunk for each! There was even a white noise machine set up and ready, which is a sleeping staple we sometimes forget to pack. The closet had all the gear I needed for my little one — a pack and play, a high chair, and even baby wipes! And with its sleek dispenser of Kiehl’s baby body wash and shampoo, the kids’ bathroom was ready for them after a day playing in the woods. When it was time to wind down each night, we had a supply of classic board games waiting for us in the family room.
One of the home’s (many) highlights for me was its kitchen. I’m accustomed to vacation rentals advertising a fully stocked kitchen, but then you find the knives are terrible quality when you go to cut into the tomatoes you picked up at the farmer’s market, or there’s no colander to strain the fresh ravioli you grabbed at the local co-op. This house, though? It had everything, and all of it was top of the line. (There was even a kitchen drawer full of non-breakable children’s dishes, utensils, and placemats!)
The master bedroom and bathroom truly felt like a sanctuary, which was another major perk for me. I put the soaking tub to good use after a long day out playing, and the high-quality sheets, pillows, and blankets felt absolutely luxurious.
And because the home is part of Topnotch Resort, we had access to two outdoor pools, a jacuzzi, and a fun fire pit area for s’mores, with cornhole nearby and plenty of space to run around. The resort clearly has families in mind — endless fun, right on site!
Things to do in Stowe:
On this most recent trip to Vermont, we managed to hit a number of favorite spots, yet we drove away with a list full of things to check out during future visits. Here are the highlights from our most recent trip — give them a try during your next visit to Stowe!
Stowe is just three hours from my Boston-area home, but it’s fun to make a stop for lunch at Worthy Burger in South Royalton then spend a couple of hours swimming at Paynes Beach on the White River.
Also on the way up to Stowe is the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury — be sure to reserve tickets in advance for the factory tour! Another favorite stop is Sugarbush Farm in Woodstock — the cheese and syrup samples are the best.
Once in Stowe, the Smugglers’ Notch area has some wonderful hikes and nature walks! This time, we hiked to Sterling Pond. There’s something magical about a mountain-top pond, even if there is some grumbling from children about tired legs on the way up!
For those who want to enjoy some outdoor time without gaining any elevation, the area has lots of neat rock formations — and a cave where the alleged smugglers used to keep their goods!
Stowe’s charming main street is definitely worth wandering around. The Stowe Mercantile is a good old fashioned country store with handmade fudge and a very fun bulk candy section. Also worth visiting are the art galleries, general stores, book store, toy shop, and chocolate maker! Stowe Living is a treat for those who like to ogle beautiful home furnishings, decor, and gifts.
Where to eat in Stowe:
The Stowe Farmers Market is the place to be on a Sunday morning! In addition to the plentiful local fresh vegetables, meats, cheese, milk, berries, maple syrup, bread and baked goods, pickles, and flowers, you can find prepared food vendors with BBQ, potstickers, crepes, samosas, pizza, and ice cream!
All five of us loved dinner one night at The Bench, where I would return in a heartbeat for the wood-fired nachos!
Another great family-friendly spot is Stowe Sandwich Company — we made it a picnic at one of their outdoor tables next to a field where the kids had a blast kicking a ball around and wandering along the nearby bike path.
A stop at Edelweiss Mountain Deli is a must — the bakery options are divine, and they also offer a number of prepared and “to go” meals perfect for a dinner at the vacation rental.