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Stowe, Vermont Offers a Classic New England Mountain Town Vacation Experience

Stowe Vermont in the summerStowe, Vermont. (Photo source: GoStowe.com)

by Eric Hurwitz. Page updated on 5/28/18

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Best known as a winter ski and fall foliage destination, Stowe Vt. also takes the high road when it comes to offering a wonderful, family-friendly New England summer vacation mountain vacation spot.

More than 45 years ago, my parents first took us to Stowe. As a kid and young adult, we stayed at the Smugglers Notch Resort in nearby Jeffersonville, enjoying the all inclusive resort before all inclusive was cool (it's an even better resort now!). These vacations were the stuff that memories are made of including taking free tennis lessons from the legendary late Arthur Ashe at a Stowe resort, hiking through the woods, enjoying campfires at night, being mesmerized by the scenic setting for the "The Sound of Music" musical at the Trapp Family Lodge, eating as much ice cream and pizza as the stomach could hold, and walking up and down idyllic Main Street wishing our hometown could look like this.

As an adult, my wife and I spent a portion of our honeymoon at now-closed Foxfire Inn and reveled in the quintessential old-time New England inn atmosphere while finding perfect compatibility with a town that had remained timeless, relaxing, charming and scenic. Yes, the winter skiing is legendary and the fall colors among the best in New England, but never overlook the glories of a summer vacation here, too.

Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont
Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe.

Outdoor pool with Mountain views at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt.
Outdoor pool set to a "The Sound of Music" mountain scene at the Trapp Family Lodge.


Quaint, friendly and true to its small town roots, Stowe remains the prototype for a classic New England mountain town. Sure, Stowe has grown through the years with its myriad lodging, dining and shopping choices -- especially apparent along the increasingly commercial Mountain Rd. -- but what can never be taken away is the glorious mountain scenery as well as the beautiful 200-year-old village that exudes a kind of friendly Mayberry-RFD-in-the-mountains vibe. Let's not forget that while hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoy Stowe each year, the residential population is just over 4,000. Now that's a small town!


Anchored by the landmark Shaw's General Store at 54 Main St.  and a tall white church steeple majestically rising above the village, this postcard-picture-perfect scene has always warmed our hearts -- even in the coldest days of winter. Browsing through Shaw's reflects that small town vibe well as a welcoming, old-fashioned store that has been family-owned since 1895. The local conversation flows with friendliness between staff and residents (and tourists, too!), and you can find just about anything here in the slightly disorganized isles, including clothing, boots, candy, ski items, local gifts and souvenirs, hardware supplies and toys and books. The classic general store looks good from any downtown perspective...

Shaw's General Store in Stowe, Vermont

Downtown Stowe, Vermont
Shaw's General Store.

Location means everything and Stowe is certainly blessed geographically. Home to Vermont's highest peak, Mt. Mansfield at 4,393 ft. lays the foundation for Stowe's high peak scenery and pathway to fun activities in the area. Hiking Mount Mansfield reveals the natural beauty of the area with stunning panoramic views at the peak. Always check weather conditions before considering a hike and definitely consult with your doctor, as trekking up such a high mountain can be a bit of a challenge. I know it was for me, and I’ve hiked many mountains across New England!  The views here are really amazing, though, and worth even a partial climb (like I did).

The Stowe Recreation Path in Stowe, begins in the downtown and meanders 5.3 miles through some scenic forests and meadows and alongside the beautiful West Branch River. Although it feels like you're miles from civilization, the path allows easy access to local restaurants, shops and lodging.

Stowe Vermont bike path
The Stowe Recreation  Path.



Stowe Golf Park, located at 1613 Mountain Rd. at the Sun & Ski Inn and Suites in Stowe, offers a nicely designed, well-landscaped miniature golf course that simulates a real golf experience. It’s open from May through October with rates surprisingly reasonable for such a state-of-the-art mini golf course in a tourist area. 

The Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory Tour, at 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Rd. in neighboring Waterbury, offers a free ice cream factory tour that comes along with a free ice cream sample! Or, if more hungry, the factory features an ice cream stand with all the favorite Ben and Jerry's flavors.

Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory Tour in Waterbury, Vt.

Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory Tour.

Cold Hollow Cider Mill, a vintage mill at 3600 Waterbury-Stowe Rd. in Waterbury, might just make the best apple cider and apple cider doughnuts on the planet!  It's a fun, family-friendly local attraction with an onsite cider press viewing room, a comprehensive bakery (try the pies and apple cider slush, too), hundreds of Vermont foods including local honeys (you can watch bees make honey behind glass here) and maple syrup, jams, gifts and toys, and a luncheonette called the Apple Core Luncheonette and Brew.

Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, Vt.
Cold Hollow Cider Mill.

Entrance to the Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, Vermont.
Entrance to the Cold Hollow Cider Mill.

Breakfast at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, Vt.
Breakfast sandwich with apple cider doughnut from the Apple Core Luncheonette and Brew.

Of course, Stowe offers tremendous dining and lodging opportunities. The Idletyme Brewing Co. at 1859 Mountain Rd., (formerly The Shed), offers a spacious family-friendly setting with appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pub fare, full dinners and for the adults, an impressive beer list.  Lodging is varied from the basic (Stowe Motel) to the upscale (Stowe Mountain Lodge, Topnotch Resort and Spa to the classic New England inn (Stowe Inn and Tavern).

I have always thought of Stowe as having something for everyone. It is perfect for families, romantic couples, outdoor enthusiasts and just about anyone else who enjoys a relaxing, scenic setting with plenty to do. Hope you get to visit and experience the special feeling of this wonderful New England mountain town!

For more information on Stowe, we recommend logging onto GoStowe.

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