VERMONT TRIP DAY 2: Shelburne Farms, Otter Creek Brewing Company and Robert Frost Wayside Trail
With its strong agrarian heritage and activist-rich citizenry, Vermont is a paragon of the localvore movement. Even Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma", has lauded the state for its cooperative farming and abundance of organic produce. As food economies go, it doesn't come much fresher. You'll find LaPlatte River Angus is the beef of choice, while Arethusa arugula and Shadow Cross eggs are ubiquitous in markets and eateries alike.
On Saturdays, City Hall Plaza hosts a farmers market that's ideal for finding the freshest greens, cheeses and our favorite snack: The Nutty Vermonter's Maple & Chipotle Triple Nut Butter. Grab some of this spicy spread for the ride, as today you'll head south on Route 7 towards Shelburne Farms. Once an exclusive summer retreat for the Vanderbilt Webbs, this sprawling 1,400-acre estate is now a National Historic Landmark. Still, the working farm bears all the trappings of American nobility, replete with grand equestrian barns, epic panoramas, and one of the area's finest restaurants, The Inn at Shelburne Farms. Call ahead for interactive exhibits that range from cheesemaking to bottle-feeding Brown Swiss calves. Then, check for an evening reservation at the Inn – as you’ll pass this way on the return trip to Burlington, and might fancy some homestead lamb with roasted cauliflower.
Craft enthusiasts can also visit nearby Shelburne Museum, a diverse gallery of quilts, carousels, and some of the country's premiere artists. But beware — kids will crane their necks as they pass the world-famous Vermont Teddy Bear Company. Only minutes away, this popular factory tour spotlights the cute and cuddly critters from stuffing to stitching — sure to please young and old alike.
Outdoor enthusiasts have countless ways to stretch their legs, as Route 7 buffets a sanctuary of rolling hills on either side. If the mood strikes, continue up to Shelburne Orchards, where apples in over a dozen varieties hang in wait. Handpick your favorites for a midday snack, along with a bottle of spicy Ginger Jack. The Orchard's non-alcoholic brew packs more bite than a black bear and will seduce friends back home. Or, if gardening is your thing, prepare to pine over the East Coast's largest selection of asters, golden rod and other species, just down the road on the six-acre Wildflower Farm.
Afterward, duck into nearby Dakin Farm for free nibbles of cob-smoked ham and waxed cheddar. Stock up on watermelon pickles for mom, before continuing your cruise south into Middlebury. There, charming antique shops and the state's best pale ale will surely seduce anyone with a taste for treasure. Grab a hoppy pint at Otter Creek Brewing Company before hitting the Robert Frost Wayside Trail. Ten miles east, this timeless hike through Ripton's hills is annotated by some of the poet's best work. Having chosen the road less traveled, you'll soon see why America's most revered wordsmith tapped the Green Mountains for inspiration. Vermont's fall tapestry greets explorers at every turn; with fiery maples and exploding yellow birch that stretch in all directions. Everywhere deciduous flora looks ready to burst in sharp hues you've hardly imagined.
As light fades, return north to Addison, where (if you're lucky) you'll experience the perennial avian exodus through Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area. Comprising the migratory corridor from eastern Canada to the Chesapeake Bay, this wetland sanctuary draws tens of thousands of snow geese as they travel south for the winter. Be there by dusk for one of the state's little-known spectacles. Or, for an unparalleled sunset, skip the birds and head to Charlotte for a quick summit of Mount Philo. Take in dreamy lake views, and then celebrate with a bottle of sensuous Ridge Zinfandel at nearby Starry Night Café. Roasted buttercup squash soup and crispy sautéed duck capture the state's rustic terroir better than any roadside restaurant we’ve visited. Sun-kissed and well-fed, you'll know firsthand why Vermont is the country's gold standard in autumn drives.
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