- 11 Things You’ll Want To Do With With Kids on a Long Weekend in Stowe, VT
- Things To Do Around Stowe With Kids
- Stowe Restaurants we liked
- Our Stowe Hotel
- Practical Information
- Pin It for Later!
I always have to work a bit to convice Rich and Tween Traveler to take a vacation where the point is to relax, rather than to cram in as much sightseeing as we possibly can. But whenever I manage to do it we enjoy it and with time to relax and appreciate each other a bit, it usually turns into a great bonding vacation We went to Stowe, Vermont for five days for one of these relaxing vacations.
. We had no schedule, just a general plan to do some easy outdoorsy stuff. We slept late. We went to the pool every afternoon. We ate fried food and ice cream and things with maple syrup in them. We drank local beer on patios with scenic views.
And you know what? We all relaxed– really relaxed. We laughed a lot over silly things. We had fun. And we enjoyed being together.
I recommend everyone find the time for a do-nothing-much vacation this summer. It’s the best way to celebrate our coming out into the world again after too much hiding from it.
As it turns out, Stowe is a pretty good place to do just that. Outdoor destinations offer lots of activities you can adapt to kids from toddlers to teenagers. Many of them are free and cheap. And they usually offer plenty of good, casual, kid-friendly restaurants. Stowe is no exception. We had a fun 4 days and didn’t spent a fortune.
11 Things You’ll Want To Do With With Kids on a Long Weekend in Stowe, VT
Things To Do Around Stowe With Kids
Explore Stowe: Your quintessential Vermont Town
Downtown Stowe was smaller than I expected it to be, but it ticks all the boxes for a picturesque Vermont tourist town. Main Street has a white church steeple, brick storefronts, gingerbready Victorian homes, a good coffee bar, an ice-cream shop and a store that sells Christmas ornaments and 50 different maple products.
There aren’t as many restaurants and bars right in town as I would have expected in a popular ski destination. Stores close at 6:00 pm, The ice cream place is shuttered by 8:00 and most restaurants close at 9:00.
But we liked staying in town where we could walk to the coffee bar for our morning lattes and stroll around after dinner.
Shopping in Stowe
On a day too drizzly to do outdoor stuff we explored the town. Highlights included window-shopping at Remarkable Things, which sells an eclectic collection of artful patio chairs, cool hammocks, jewelry, kaleidoscopes of all kinds, funny metal animal statues and more. We bought truffles at Laughing Moon Chocolate, which has a window where you can see them making some of their confections.
We went into Stowe Mercantile and Shaw’s General Store a few times. The Mercantile has all the requisite maple products plus lots of candy, Vermont cheese and beer, Christmas decorations, t-shirts, hunters-plaid sweaters and so on.
The General Store has a smaller selection of maple products and Christmas tree ornaments but also sells interesting games, outdoor clothes and gear and water toys.
Go to the Mercantile if you want local blueberry jam or some quality crafting toys for your youngsters. Go to the General Store if you forgot to pack your walking stick or want a new trivia game for a rainy afternoon.
There are plenty of places to buy cans of locally brewed beer and cider to bring back to your place. The Mercantile can provide good snacks to go with it.
Fun & Easy Biking:
We have been traveling with our bicycles for a few summers now. Tween Traveler upgraded to a quasi-mountain bike with gears over the winter so I’ve been looking forward to tackling longer and more challenging rides with her.
Read my tips for cycling on family vacations, which includes some of our favorite East Coast trails.
The Stowe Recreation Trail:
This five-mile paved trail starts in Stowe Village and roughly parallels route 108 toward the ski mountains. It’s a fun and pretty easy ride with lots of gentle curves, small rolling hills and wooden bridges where the path crisscrosses a stream that people and dogs were wading in it at points along the way.
Starting from Stowe the first half of the trail passes in front of or close to Japanese food, pizza, Mexican food, a cider tasting room, a brewpub, an ice cream stand and a bakery. We timed our bike ride to stop for lunch along the way. The second half of the trail is all woods and cornfields and mountain views, bucolic.
It’s a pretty doable ride for any kid comfortable on a bicycle. The only hard part is that the bridges can only handle one-way traffic and had short but very steep inclines on either side. When we had to stop half-way up to let oncoming cyclists pass it was impossible to get going again. We got off our bikes over the bridges a few times because it was just easier. When we had a clear path the downhill side of these little bridges was fun.
• The Lamoille Valley Rail Trail will be a 93-mile path that stretches across most of northern Vermont when the state is finished building it. The largest completed stretch is located just north of Stowe. Pick one of several parking areas next to it and hop on with your bikes.
An article about the trail in Stowe Magazine suggested planning a route that will include lunch at the Lost Nation Brewing Company in Morrisville, either by starting and ending there, or by making it your destination from one of the parking areas northwest of it.
Rail trails are usually wide and relatively flat, making them easy places to bike with kids. This one promises some nice farm, field and mountain views during your ride
• Like most ski areas Stowe offers several places for mountain biking in the summer. That’s not the biking we do, so I couldn’t tell you how the trails are. But we did see groups of mountain bikers on the Rec trail so it must connect to some of the mountain bike trails.
Hiking in Stowe
Smugglers Notch State Park and Mansfield State Forest are full of short, easy hikes that are great for families, many within a few minutes’ drive of Stowe Village. There are also plenty of challenging hikes if your family is up for that including sections of the Long Trail, which runs the length of Vermont. Google maps doesn’t do well at finding trailheads; if you plan to do a lot of hiking try downloading this handy Stowe hiking guide to your phone.
• One of the two hikes we did was up to Sunset Rock and Upper Overlook. You’ll find the trailhead a block from off Main Street at the end of Sunset Street.
After a pretty manageable quarter-mile walk uphill we arrived at sunset rock, which offers a postcard view of Main Street; it’s probably gorgeous when the fall foliage comes turns color. Another one-third of a mile uphill gets you to upper overlook, a meadow with views of the mountains.
The whole thing, including stopping to admire the views and take photos, took a bit more than an hour. It really is uphill all the way, but not steep and the footing is pretty good. It’s doable with school-age kids and a piece of cake for teens. On your way up take note of the trail markers painted by some local kids.
If you want to extend the hike further, just before you get to Upper Overlook you can turn right onto the Taber Path, which ends at another trail head about less than half a mile away. You can make it a loop by walking along an access road back to Upper Overlook.
Tip: The great thing about this hike is that it ends back in town, making it easy to reward yourself with an ice cream cone or a cold drink.
• The second hike we did was to Bingham Falls, which starts from a trailhead on Route 108, just past the entrance to Smugglers Notch State Park. It starts with a gentle downhill slope to a first set of falls.
From there, you can turn left and follow the stream. It’s very flat there is plenty of easy access to the stream for wading. We didn’t follow it to the end so I don’t know how far it goes.
Most people get the falls and turn right. This takes you to a short but steep and irregular rock staircase down below a second set of falls. From here you can clamber a bit further to pools below and downstream from the falls where you can wade or swim. It was a little too cool to dive into bracing mountain streams the day we visited but I can see the appeal.
Tweens teens and older school-age kids will definitely want to take the path to the rights. If you have very little ones, the path along the stream will be much easier, especially if they want to splash in the water a bit.
If you want clamber down to the lower falls with a baby or little ones who aren’t very good at climbing and stairs, I definitely recommend a carrier so you have two hands free.
Tip: I can recommend a great carrier for hiking. The Piggyback Rider is a lightweight frame carrier that you can use with kids who can stand on their own; about ages 2 to 5. Designed by an outdoorsy dad, it’s light and easy to travel with and use.
More Hikes Around Stowe
• It was a toss-up for other whether do try Bingham Falls or Moss Glen Falls, an easy quarter-mile walk to a pretty waterfall.
Once you get there, slightly more intrepid folks can climb up to the top of the falls or down to the bottom. Serious hikers can do a four-mile there-and-back hike up to the summit of the mountain above the falls.
• If you park in the Mount Mansfield lot and cross the road there is a trail head where you can do an out-and-back south along part of the Long Trail. This will take you to a picnic area a few miles down the road. You can hike a bit, have a picnic lunch and hike back for a very doable hour or two of hiking. Or you can eat lunch and continue walking for a bigger challenge.
From the same trailhead the 1.5-mile Barnes Camp loop is a moderately hilly walk that will bring you back to the wooden boardwalk at the start of the trails.
A few miles up the road is a trail head where you can do an out-and-back heading north on the Long Trail.
Go Jump in a Reservoir
We like to get out on the water when we’re doing an outdoorsy vacation, so one morning we headed to Waterbury Center State Park, also about ten minutes from town along route 100, where you can rent SUPs, kayaks and canoes from local Umiak Outfitters. We rented three SUPS for two hours for a little under $90.
The reservoir is large and a fun place to paddle. We explored a small inlet where we found a beaver dam and Tween Traveler spotted some frogs.
Then we paddled to a large rock that seemed to be a popular place with kids. Tween Traveler climbed all over it. Some kids found a safe place to jump off of it into the water.
One side the ride extends under the water and the submerged part is slippery with moss. This makes it tricky to climb up, but sliding down into the water is really fun. Tween Traveler did it several times over and other kids who saw her followed suit.
Boat traffic and wind create some wakes and small currents but over-all the reservoir is flat and the paddling was pretty easy.
You have to pay a small per-person park fee to get to Umiak’s rental hut (it was $10 for three of us). But the hut is right next to a big lawn with picnic tables, a swimming area and real bathrooms. If you want to make the most of your visit, bring lunch and a blanket or some chairs and hang out to swim and picnic after you paddle.
Umiak says on their website that they have plenty of kayaks and SUPS but they do get busy. When we came back the racks looked pretty depleted. If you get there after noon or so, you might wind up picnicking and swimming while you wait for people to come back.
Ride the Mansfield Mountain Gondola
If there’s a scenic gondola ride available you can count on us to take it. So, we hopped on this ski-area gondola on the first nice day we had. The views we had of Vermont’s Green Mountains stretched for miles and were really fantastic.
However, there isn’t much to see or do when you get to the top. The Stowe website said there were hiking trails so we thought we’d spend the morning hiking and then have lunch before we came back down, the way we did in Whistler.
But it turns out, most of trails that start up there are too technical for the casual hiker. An employee recommended the Cliffside trail as the least technical but it’s pretty much all rocks and boulders and we were told there is a ladder or two toward the end.
I didn’t think my problem knee could handle all the rocks so Rich and Tween Traveler set out on their own while I settled into an Adirondack chair in the sun. They hiked up to a cliff that gave them a pretty spectacular view but turned back when the trail got trickier.
There is a restaurant that was closed the day we were there and a waffle hut that’s so small I managed to walk by without seeing it.
There is a lookout stand, Adirondack chairs for sitting and admiring the view and picnic tables. We had bought a picnic lunch at a deli on the way to the gondola, so we still dined al fresco, taking in the views over sandwiches and chips.
Given how little there is to do at the top —I’m sure a lot of people go back almost immediately—the cost of the gondola seemed steep at $22-$32 per person ($93 for a family of four). And both Stowe and the Mountain resort need to do a better job of describing what is available at the top. You need to have hiking boots for the even the cliffside trail, and people should know that food options are limited, at least for this summer.
Tip: If you go, expect it to be five to tendegrees cooler up top than on the ground. It was super windy the day we were there, but the gondola guy we spoke with said that was unusual. Even if it’s chilly and windy the sun is still strong.
Gondola Side Trip
When we arrived back at the bottom we hopped on the free Over Easy gondola that goes across to the Spruce Peak resort village, mostly out of curiosity. Even for a ski village in summer it was pretty sleepy.
The adventure Center wasn’t open yet; they aimed to have it up and running by July 4th weekend. It offers an indoor climbing wall and it’s where you gear up to zipline down Mount Mansfield. There’s also a treetop adventure Course that is probably also connected to the Adventure Center but it won’t open this summer.
There is a big, pleasant green in the middle of Spruce Village with picnic tables, giant Jenga blocks and cornhole. There’s live music there when the summer really kicks in and probably other activities and events as well.
The WhistlePig BBQ restaurant was open next to the green and the food looked good. So, we stopped and had a glass of local hard cider and roasted corn.
While there we saw two boys doing all kinds of fun things with the Jenga blocks while their parents sat enjoying cold drinks and waiting for their lunch at the WhistlePig. A few families come by to play cornhole or just run around. If you’re in the area it’s clearly a handy place to have lunch or just enjoy a cold afternoon drink while your kids run around.
Rain Day Activity: The Swimming Hole:
If you need an indoor pool buy a day pass at this community center; they range in price from $5 to $30 depending on how old your kids are. They don’t have lockers and it’s BYO for towels. But there are lanes you can book in advance, family swim hours, a kiddie pool and a water slide.
Stowe Restaurants we liked
Restaurant hours in Stowe are a little challenging, at least when it isn’t ski season. Some places are closed on Monday or Monday and Tuesday or Tuesday and Wednesday. Definitely check hours before you go.
There are a lot of breweries in Vermont and you can count on brew pubs to be open every day. Hotel restaurants usually are, too.
Some restaurants are only seating by reservation. It’s a good idea to settle on a place and make a reservation in the morning. If you wait until the afternoon, prime times will be taken. If it’s a busy week I’d do it a day in advance.
Restaurants in Stowe for Lunch or Dinner
We ate at the Whip at the Green Mountain Inn the night we arrived because it was the only place still open by the time we settled in. But we liked it enough to consider going back a second time.
Inside has an English pub feel that is probably very cozy in the fall and winter. It also have wide, covered patio that is nice in the summer. This is where we ate.
Since it was my first evening in Vermont I had a Manhattan made with local maple liqueur and syrup. We shared PEI mussels, which are its most popular dish and no wonder. It comes with toasted French bread for dipping in the creamy garlicky broth and I really just wanted a spoon to eat every last drop.
The other highlight of our light dinner was the maple crème brulee we had for dessert. The custard is perfect and the topping is perfectly caramelized maple sugar and not overly sweet. We came back later in the week for dessert and tea so we could have it again.
Von Trapp Brewing Bierhall
Yes, those Von Trapps. They’ve built a successful high-end resort and now a microbrewery in corner of Alpine Vermont that reminded them of home.
The name helps draw people but they don’t rest on it. We liked the food and the beer enough that we ate here twice.
Their German/Austrian style beers are the real deal: malty or wheaty, full bodied and balanced— and NOT super hopped. I’d put them up against anything we drink on our trips to Munich.
On both visits we had cheese soup that incorporates house beer and Vermont cheddar cheese. If you order two soft and salty pretzels with it you can dip them in the soup as though it were queso dip.
Shredded-zucchini fritters are crunchy and come with a sweet/tangy corn salsa. The pulled pork sandwich is German-style roast pork. It’s most, comes with crunchy cabbage and goes well with the sweet mustard they make in-house.
Tween Traveler had bratwurst and spaetzle, little gnocchi-like dumplings, that they fry in butter to make them extra good. The sausages come with sauerkraut that has apples cooked into, a novel twist.
IdleTyme Brewing Company
Idlethyme is the brewpub we stopped at on our bike ride. Inside it looks like a modern Nordic hunting lodge with gray walls, cow skins and huge glass chandeliers. There’s a seasonal bar and two patios outside, where we ate.
It serves typical American brewpub food and it was all good. Tween Traveler’s fish & chips included crispy skin-on fries. Fried pickle spears had a good crunch and an herbed dipping song with a nice tang.
The Chicken BLT was good but could have used less chicken and more BLT. The Cabot cheddar and garlic mayo were a tasty touch though
The pilsner with blueberry was a nice summer beer. The pale ale with grapefruit was crisp but could use a little more malty to balance the citrus. The pale ale was well-rounded and just hoppy enough.
While we were at IdleThyme we could smell pizza baking next door at Piecasso. It was tantalizing enough that we went back to eat dinner there. It’s a colorful place with a fun, relaxed vibe, a nice patio and a big menu.
We started with fried Brussels sprouts, lightly battered whole sprouts with a sweet and spicy sauce for dipping. We liked them a lot.
For pizza you can choose the typical red sauce and mozzarella or a white pie with mozzarella, ricotta and garlic. We had one of each. Added bacon made the red pie nice and smoky. The white pie with broccoli, peppers and basil was fresh and summery.
The small pies are definitely shareable. Between the three of us we still had a few slices left over.
We didn’t find the hostess especially friendly or helpful. Even though it was early and the restaurant was empty she gave us a pretty bad table. And she wasn’t happy when we asked for another one. But the rest of the staff was very friendly and helpful and more than made up for it. And it wouldn’t stop us from going back.
Cold Hollow Cider Mill
This cidery about 10 minutes from town on Route 100 is touristy and advertises all over the place. But it’s a fun place to spend an hour.
We started our visit at the luncheonette. Tween Traveler had creamy mac and cheese and I had a grilled cheese sandwich on bread they bake, both made with local cheddar, of course. The cup of tomato soup I had on the side was just a little bit chunky and pretty perfect. Rich had turkey, cheddar and apples on house-baked rye bread, which was also pretty tasty.
I had a blueberry cider that was just sweet enough to be fun and not cloying. Rich had their original cider, which was dry with a subtle apple flavor.
While we waited for our food we amused ourselves reading famous quotes they have posted all over their walls by everyone from Freud and Napoleon to actress Zsa Zsa Gabor and humorist Erma Bombeck.
After lunch we popped across to their shop where they sell the largest selection of maple products we’d seen anywhere in Stowe. We bought granulated maple sugar, which I use in baking, soft maple candy and taffy, maple syrup and a small bottle of smoked maple syrup that I want to try in fall cocktails.
Tween Traveler acquired a stuffed moose and with a coupon from our hotel we got free cider doughnuts. They were cakey and appley and perfect with coffee the next morning. The cidery’s focus is their very good hard cider but they sell some fresh cider, too, which you can see being pressed and sample.
Tip: This place is just before the turnoff for Waterbury State Park, so you can stop here for cold sandwiches, chips and a four-pack of hard cider and soft drinks for your lakeside picnic.
We also spotted Tres Amigos on our bicycle ride. The menu looked more interesting and authentically Mexican than the ones for other restaurants in the area but we weren’t sure we’d get to try it. It’s closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and we thought it might be too packed on Thursday. It was indeed pretty busy but it’s bigger than it looks from the outside and we used the Yelp waitlist to put our name down before we got there.
The place is lively and the margaritas looked good. But I was thirsty after a day of SUPing and hiking, so I opted for a summery hibiscus-watermelon agua fresca, Rich had a Von Trapp beer he hadn’t yet tried and Tween Traveler has a Jarritos, Mexican soda that’s made with sugar instead of corn syrup.
We shared cactus fries, a new food for Tween Traveler. Crunchy on the outside, soft and a little tangy on the inside with a pinch of hot pepper, they were impossible to not like. This is definitely an appetizer to share. The three of us didn’t come close to finishing the generous basket.
Dad and daughter shared a basic barbacoa burrito with charred beef, seasoned rice and beans and cheese, with some sour cream on the side. I had a poblano stuffed with two Mexican cheeses and covered in red sauce and crema, with rice and black beans on the side. It didn’t seem like a lot of food but were all pretty stuffed. We ordered the churros we wanted for dessert to go. They were as crunchy and soft as a churro should be and had a ribbon of dulce de leche running through the middle. If you go you have to save room for them.
Best Stowe Spots for Coffee, Drinks & Creemees
Black Cap Café
The front desk person at the Green Mountain Inn sent us to this Main Street coffee bar for our morning view. Good medium-brew coffee and lattes. There were so many good-looking baked goods ‑– croissants, monkey break, pecan coffee cake, butterscotch scones — I had my week of breakfasts planned out on the first visit. They had egg sandwiches, lots of kombucha and three freezer cases of local beer if you pop in for sandwiches at lunchtime. It gets busy so the earlier you go the better.
Stowe Public House and Bottle Shope
The Public House is a fun place From an old house on Main Street they sell bottles and cans of local beer and cider that they will pour into a glass for you. They have a refrigerator case full of local cheese and sausage, and small plates like pretzel bites to nibble on while you drink.
Sit outside at a shady table in the late afternoon and watch Stowe pass by. They don’t sell soft drinks, but Stowe Sweets is a couple of doors down. Send your kids to get ice cream cones and creemees to tuck into while you enjoy Black Flannel Kolsch or Shacksbury cider.
We stopped at Edelweiss for our mountain-top lunch because we had yet another coupon from our hotel for a free cookie. The sandwiches were good. They had plenty of fancy sodas as well as local beer and the usual stuff. The sandwiches were on fresh rolls and well made, though we thought it odd that a plain bacon sandwich was almost as much as a roast beef sannie with the works. The free cookie was a huge, gooey chocolate chip cookie; really good. The other baked goods were tempting, too.
Red Barn is on the recreation trail near IdleThyme and they get a good amount of cyclist traffic during the day. We stopped by after dinner one night because they were they only ice cream store open after 8:00 pm. It’s a friendly and fun shop with colorful displays of candy and flavored cotton candy alongside the ice cream. I had a maple creamee (a must when you’re in Vermont). Tween Traveler went for a vanilla creamee with hot fudge Rich had black raspberry ice cream, which was also rich and good.
What is a creamee?
Creamees are a Vermont thing, and a very good thing at that. High-fat, low-air soft-serve ice cream. It’s thicker and creamier than regular soft-serve, more like really good frozen custard. The classic flavor is maple, but you’ll also see vanilla, chocolate and other flavors, too. Aim to eat them at least once a day on any visit.
This casual outdoor tasting room is yet another place we found along the recreation path. They have a large selection of ciders – on the dry side but balanced. Rich had one with aronia berries – a New England berry somewhere between a cranberry and blueberry. I had a shandy, which was light and very drinkable on a hot day.
They’re okay with kids but their only soft drink is sparkling cider and they were out of it the day we were there. They don’t have food but people bring take-out from the delis and restaurants nearby. Tres Amigos is next door, along with Stowe Bee, which has hot panini, pasta dishes, salads and arancini at lunch time. I’m guessing they would probably be Okay with kids drinking soft drinks from outside.
Our Stowe Hotel
Stowe has a good selection of vacation rental homes: Many are near the ski mountain and some have amenities like shared pools. They’re less expensive in summer than in winter and for a larger family or a group they can offer good value.
We stayed at the Green Mountain Inn, a deceptively large inn on Main Street. The best thing about it is the large heated pool and hot tub with a nice deck around it. I think some families staying while we were there never left the pool.
The hotel didn’t seem quite ready for summer though. The outdoor fireplace wasn’t working all week because they were waiting on a part and a kids’ wading pool was still closed. The day we left we saw them getting the poolside bar ready to open.
Overall the hotel is comfortable and the service was very friendly. They have free lemonade and cookies in the afternoon and we spent time playing games in one of their sitting rooms when we got a burst of rain. Tween Traveler got a kick out of the old-fashioned phone near the entrance.
But there are places where the Old-New-England ambience edges toward stodgy. And our room had an outdoor corridor in front and back. I usually avoid these, but Stowe is quiet and safe enough that it felt okay.
The air conditioning in our room was not powerful but otherwise it was comfortable with the backdoor opening on an outdoor balcony overlooking the pool, where hung out quite a bit. The bathroom was modern with refillable bottles for hand soap, lotion, bath gel, shampoo and conditioner; a green effort I always appreciate.
Most other hotels with pools were cheaper motels or very expensive resorts outside of town. Given the pool, the location and the service, on balance it was a good value and we’d stay again.
Getting to Stowe
Stowe is 35 miles from Burlington, which has the closest airport. You can get direct flights from a dozen major U.S. cities.
It’s 100 miles from Montreal, 175 miles from Portland, ME; 200 miles from Boston and Quebec City, 260 miles from Syracuse and 330 miles from New York City.
Vermont doesn’t have a major throughway like New York State. No matter how you go, at least part of the drive will be on two-lane state roads where you’re doing 40 to 50 mph and slowing down to 25 or 35 mph as you pass through towns. Add a good hour to whatever Google Maps tells you your drive time is.
We spent four nights because I thought the driving time from New York City was too for just a weekend in Vermont. We were glad because the drive ate up far more of the first day than we expected. And the extra days gave us a chance to do a lot and still relax by the pool every day.
Stowe Weather & What To Pack
Vermont’s Alpine terrain can be both muggy and chilly in the summer. If you plan to hike bring bug spray, proper hiking shoes and socks. Even if you don’t need a sunhat in the woods, it also help keep the mosquitos away. Pack shorts or light pants for for hiking and biking, as well as jeans, a light fleece and a rain jacket. In short, be ready for anything weather-wise.
Like most outdoorsy destinations people are casual. Jeans or shorts were fine everywhere we ate. There a handful of more upscale places we didn’t get to. Even in those places though, khakis or nice jeans with a collared shirt are fine for men and capris or a casual sundress for women.
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All photographs by FamiliesGo!©