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Things to Do This Fall: Some of Vermont’s Hidden Gems

fall foliage people sitting by a lake in vermont

We all know that summers in Vermont are fleeting and that foliage season is passing quickly. If you blinked, you may have missed peak foliage season in some areas, but Vermont still has a great deal to offer—particularly if one is willing to go off the beaten path a bit. In that spirit, let’s explore some of the lesser-known gems that our state has to offer.

 

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

Fall in Vermont can offer some spectacular weather, and of course some beautiful views as the leaves change. It is a great time of year for exploring and hiking the trails, enjoying a stroll along a lakefront or maybe just a picnic in a park.

There is no shortage of great hikes for any ability. While Lake Champlain has plenty of fine waterfront to enjoy and is certainly our most well-known lake, our state has plenty of other lakes to experience. The Falls of Lana trail in Salisbury is a nice, easy hike that offers both stunning waterfalls and views overlooking Lake Dunmore. It’s a great place for a picnic or family outing.

Lake Willoughby in the Northeast Kingdom is one of the most picturesque areas of our state and offers plenty of hiking. Groton State Forest offers access to lakes and ponds, and plentiful hiking and camping—the Owl’s Head trail being among my favorites. In fact, any of Vermont’s 51 State Parks are worth a visit. It is a great time of year to see where the trails go.

Cemeteries are also interesting places to wander (especially as we approach Halloween), and we have plenty of old ones that have a little of that Vermont oddness. Green Mountain Cemetery right in Montpelier boasts some stunning stonework. Among its most notable statues is the one made of copper known as ‘Black Agnes;’ it is more of a dark green, and is actually a depiction of Thanatos, the personification of death in Greek mythology. Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven has one burial site where the owner, afraid of being buried alive, arranged to have piece of glass so that his face would be visible from above!

If you are looking for something “Vermonty” and plenty quirky, check out the Floating Bridge in Brookfield. Originally built in 1820, the Floating Bridge is the longest such bridge on this side of the Mississippi—although I believe it is the only floating bridge I’ve ever happened upon. It is a great spot for fishing, swimming when the weather is nice, kayaking, and rather fun to drive across.

 

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INSIDE FUN

Fall weather in Vermont can be anything from the mid-70s and sunny to a blizzard—and changes by the hour, it seems. It is good to have a backup plan for when the weather doesn’t want to cooperate, and among Vermont’s offerings are a variety of museums that can be both fun and educational. (For anything indoors, it is a good idea to call ahead or check out websites to see what COVID-19 protocols may be in place. Stay safe!)

Bennington Museum is a great one for history buffs, featuring a great deal of artifacts from the Battle of Bennington, an extensive Grandma Moses collection, the Jane Stickle Quilt, and even Ethan Allen’s bar tab!

For something a little more out of this world, there is the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium up in St. Johnsbury. There you can learn all about planetary and extra-planetary science, the history of lunar exploration, and plenty more.

An underappreciated gem is the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum located on Hogback Mountain in Marlboro. There you can learn about all the various species of critters that live in Vermont, some living exhibits and some taxidermized. There are also a small variety of birds of prey, mostly those that were injured and are being rehabilitated.

For the Quirky Vermont Award (not an actual award), we have the Museum of Everyday Life in Glover, Vermont. The museum focuses on, well, everyday life, highlighting the beauty and importance of things we normally overlook. I particularly enjoyed their exhibit on lists from the past, like partly finished to-do lists, which gives an often amusing insight into things someone meant to get done or actually accomplished. Bonus: it is free, though donations are requested.

 

MY FAVORITE HIDDEN GEM

My own favorite hidden gem in Vermont is a museum I’ve only recently visited, the Old Stone House Museum & Historic Village in Brownington. It is based around the home and school run by Alexander Twilight, the first African American to graduate from an American college or university—Vermont’s own Middlebury College. The museum has a variety of his personal effects, and though many of the original items were stolen from the large, granite schoolhouse that gives the museum its name, it is filled with period-accurate artifacts that are mostly focused on the local Northeast Kingdom towns.

One object that I found particularly interesting is a clockwork flycatcher. Apparently, one would put honey or some other fly-attractor on each side of a square spindle, wind it up, and then set it with the meshed back facing a light source. Flies would land on the spindle which would slowly rotate around, and then be attracted into the meshed area and not be able to find their way out. The Stone House is definitely quirky, filled with all manner of curiosities and stories told by enthusiastic tour guides. Well worth the visit!

 

Wherever you go in the state, explore. Turn down that dirt road and see where it leads—you never know what you may find out there.

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Seth Kerin

About Seth Kerin

Seth is the PSCU experience lead, working directly with our extended Contact Center to help improve the member experience. He graduated from Saint Michael’s College with a BA in English and is a longtime resident of Montpelier, and more recently Barre. In his off time he enjoys writing novels and spending time with family and friends.
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