Things to do on a budget this winter in Vermont


Renowned for its verdant forested landscapes and 19th-century wooden bridges, the northeastern US state of Vermont is a nature lover’s paradise. Acres of mountainous terrain are a haven for hiking and skiing enthusiasts, while a smattering of picturesque small villages add to the region’s character and charm. But more than that, in recent times Vermont has also become known for its creative edge, both in its political and cultural scenes.

A wintery scene in the town of Stowe in northern Vermont (Photo: Peter Rintels via Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0)

There are a huge amount of things to see and do in Vermont, many of which revolve around the state’s abundance of natural sights and place of interest. Winter, inevitably, sees winter sports fans descend here in their droves to make the most of skiing season and other mountain-based activities, and regular snowy spells lend Vermont’s built up areas an almost fairy tale-like quality. Below are some of the best winter attractions you’ll find anywhere in the state.

Additionally, if you’re seeking an affordable hotel close to any of the destinations mentioned below, check out our useful hotel booking tool here.

Embark on a thrilling sleigh ride

During the winter months the tractors at Adams Family Farm in Wilmington go in the shed and the horses come out to play. A team of heavy draft horses pull a sleigh that holds around 15 people through a maple sugar lot, across the ridge of the mountain and to a log cabin back in the woods. During the ride you’ll learn about the history of the farm and Vermont itself. The whole trip lasts about an hour and a half, with half the time spent on the sleigh and the remainder back in the log cabin where you’ll get treated to a cup of hot chocolate. Daytime and evening rides are available by reservation.

(Photo: Adams Family Farm)

Visit a local art exhibition

Vermont has a vibrant artistic scene and among its most prestigious arts institutions is the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center. This winter sees the venue play host to a unique exhibition called ‘Figuration Never Died’ that explores the abstract art scene of New York in the 1950s, ’60s & ’70s. During this time the most forward-looking artists of the period gathered in Greenwich Village at the Cedar Tavern, the Artist’s Club, and neighbourhood cafeterias, to hold forth about their shared conviction that abstractness was a necessity and that the source of art was the unconscious. This exhibition explores that rich heritage by focussing on the works of 10 inventive artists from that illustrious generation.

LOCATION Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, Brattleboro HOURS Weds-Sun 10am-4pm Closed Mon-Tues

(Photo: Brattleboro Museum & Art Center)

Get in the seasonal spirit at a winter festival

Each year the small village of North Bennington plays host to the fun-packed Winterfest that offers no end of seasonal-themed events and activities for all the family. Perennial highlights of the one-day festival include a chili fest, a pig roast, an indoor carnival, book sales, pony rides, community snowshoeing, live Dixieland Jazz, and – last but by no means least – the Penguin Plunge, which sees intrepid types plunge into the nearby lake’s icy waters in a bid to raise money for charity.

LOCATION North Bennington DATES 24 January

Take a self-guided tour of a historic museum

Throughout the winter, the Birds of Vermont Museum is open by appointment, with its numerous trails accessible daily from sunrise to sunset. Among the special events taking place this winter are the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, a hugely popular four-day event that invites bird watchers of all ages to count birds, identify bird types, pick the right feeders for your home, and create a real-time snapshot of where they reside and spend time. Warm drinks and snacks will be available to purchase on-site.

LOCATION Birds of Vermont Museum, Huntington DATES 12-15 February 2021

(Photo: Birds of Vermont Museum)

Warm the cockles at a beer fest

Vermont has the highest number of breweries per capita anywhere in the US and every year BrewFest highlights the state’s top notch beer brewing scene, plus regional favourites and craft ciders. As well as the mouth-watering beverages on offer, there’s also a live DJ spinning tunes along with tasty munchies courtesy of the on-site Resort’s Mountain Grille. The entry price to the festival includes a souvenir sampling glass.

LOCATION Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Cambridge DATES 5 December 2020

Go on a snowmobiling adventure

Snowmobiling is one of the fastest growing winter sports in Vermont, inviting thrill seekers to traverse New England wilderness on back country trails surrounded by evergreens and through flats on wide open fields, stopping every now and then to soak up breath-taking mountain vistas. Snowmobile Vermont run daily tours in locations across the state, with access to a combined network of over 5,000 miles of terrain for all levels of riding.

(Photo: Warren B. via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Attend a Thanksgiving holiday market

The Montpelier Thanksgiving Holiday Market provides a platform for a wide array of local farmers, artists, crafters, makers and producers to display and sell their agriculture, food, and craft items. Visitors will find fresh produce, farm fresh food, cut flowers, pottery, note cards, preserves, baked goods, jewellery, crafts, prepared food, fresh local turkeys, gifts for the family and plenty of merchandise items too. There’s also live music and cooking demonstrations to add to the entertainment. Admission to the market is free.

LOCATION Montpelier High School Gym Northwest DATES 21 November

Hit the ski slopes

For skiing enthusiasts Vermont is something of a mecca, with the state home to a large number of world class ski resorts. Among the most popular is Mad River Glen, a privately owned resort area located within the Green Mountain range in the Mad River Valley. Still privately owned, the area has retained its charming old-timey look and feel and draws large numbers of skiers every winter who come to test themselves on its challenging terrain, which includes a vertical drop of 2,000 feet.

LOCATION Mad River Glen, Fayston

(Photo: Robbie Shade via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Get spellbound at a light-filled lantern parade (Drive-through only)

A hugely popular voluntary-run event, A River of Light sees local schools and artists come together to create giant lanterns that are then paraded for an enchanting evening of music, light and community spirit. This year the occasion has been reimagined, with the lanterns set to be on stationary display at four separate viewing sites and the audience able to drive or walk through them. Visitors are also encouraged to design their own lanterns to add to the spectacle.

LOCATION Venues across Waterbury, Duxbury, Middlesex & Waitsfield DATES 5 December

Admire medieval performers at a Renaissance Faire

Chase away the winter blues at the Winter Renaissance Faire, a family-friendly event featuring performance troupes including singers, musicians, acrobats and dancers, as well as medieval and Viking demonstrations of life on the battlefields. A variety of artisans and craft vendors – both local and from across the region – as well as mead, wine and, cider makers will also be in attendance, allowing patrons to peruse and purchase fascinating items and indulge their appetites with tasty treats from around the world.

LOCATION Champlain Valley Exposition, Essex Junction DATES 27-28 February 2021

By Paul Joseph