As I mentioned in a previous article, I have big plans for this summer! I'm planning to go to many of the wonderful events and attractions througout the state, and I'm here to tell you how it went!

2019 Strolling of the HeifersThe first event I went to this summer was the 2019 Strolling of the Heifers parade in Brattleboro, VT. Unfortunately, my husband had to work, but my 5 year old daughter and I still had fun! We were fortunate to have wonderful weather all weekend, with beautiful blue skies. I'd wanted to go to this parade for several years and just never "got around to it" - until now!

"... inspired by Spain’s Running of the Bulls, the Stroll is just the opposite: a parade of friendly, ambling heifer calves, groomed to the nines, colorfully bedecked with hats and flowers, and led by future farmers from area schools and 4H club members."

2019 Strolling of the HeifersWe parked near the Retreat Farm just down the road, and we made it to the parade route with plenty of time to find a nice shady spot under a tree. Each year, the Strolling of the Heifers chooses a theme for their parade. Last year, it was "Star Wars" and many of the cows and their handlers dressed in various characters from the movies. This year, the theme was "Heifers Are Our Heroes" and everyone was dressed as superheros!

Here's a video of the entire parade, from Brattleboro Community TV:

2019 Strolling of the HeifersAfter the parade, we browsed the Common to see everything in the tents, and I have to say, I was impressed by how much there was to see and do! I honestly didn't realize how big of an event this is - there were so many vendors! We played some games, we ate ice cream (from Kingdom Creamery in East Hardwick, VT), and enjoyed some wood fired pizza & fresh lemonade. We also sat and watched a couple performances at the big gazebo in the middle of everything. There were a few tents for face painting, and a lot of food trucks (Tacos, Pizza, BBQ, and traditional "fair" food like cotton candy, popcorn, and funnel cake, etc).

2019 Strolling of the HeifersThere were also a few cows on the Common, under the trees, and people were allowed to pet them and take pictures with them. My daughter loved seeing the cows and we even bought a "Strolling of the Heifers" cow bell and a stuffed cow toy to take home (among other things).

With so many people there and having a small, young child, I was a little concerned of "losing" my daughter, so it was a little difficult to really "shop" at all the wonderful tents. But that's ok, we'll know what to expect next time. Overall, we had a TON of fun, and plan to return next year!

Many people wait until the last minute to get all their holiday shopping done, but not me! I like to start as early as possible, sometimes as early as August! The trick is to spread out the spending so it doesn't seem like you're really spending all that much.

We at recently read an article(1), published last year, stating that Americans spend an average of $830 on Christmas gifts. I don't think I typically spend that much, but it may end up being that high because I start so early.

I am a transplant to Vermont and love to buy "Vermont-y" things for my family, so I decided to see how much I could get for that $830 on "Made in Vermont" products and items purchased from local Vermont stores. Keeping in mind that I typically buy for a few extended-family members as well, here is my shopping list (with total spent, before any taxes or shipping costs).

Northshire Bookstore
Northshire BookstoreMy husband is an avid player of Dungeons & Dragons and is in need of one of the core rulebooks for the game ($50), so my first stop is the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT. It's a family-owned, independent bookstore that's been in the area since 1976 and has been voted as one of the best independent bookstores in New England by Yankee Magazine(2). I absolutely love the atmosphere every time I visit. They have 3 floors full of books and gifts, with the top floor completely dedicated to children. And speaking of children - while I'm there, I'll pick-up some LEGO toys ($30) for my 7-year-old nephew in Virginia, and a Melissa & Doug toy ($30) for my 4-year-old nephew in New Hampshire.

Total Spent at the Northshire Bookstore: $110.

Mother Myrick's Confectionery
Mother Myrick's ConfectioneryMy next stop is Mother Myrick's Confectionery for some of the best local treats I can think of - their Lemon Lulu & Buttercrunch. I can get a combo of the two for my Dad and his family in Michigan for around $47, and I'm sure they will love it just as much as I do. Some other items they offer include caramels, truffles, cookies, fudge, pies, and a whole lot more! Their retail shop is a great place to visit while you're in Manchester - imagine the aroma of just-baked pies, and the sparkle of cellophane on gorgeous gift baskets.

Total Spent at Mother Myrick's: $47.

Manchester Woodcraft
Manchester WoodcraftNext, I'll head down Depot Street and stop at Manchester Woodcraft, where you'll find an incredible array of wooden gifts, toys, and household items. As you walk in the door you are greeted by the smell of fresh-cut wood and the sound of machines buzzing in the wood shop. This year, I've decided to get a wooden doll highchair ($42) for my 2½ year old daughter. It will be a great project for us to paint together! Other items available include cutting boards, crafting supplies, desks & shelves, signs, frames, and more!

Total Spent at Manchester Woodcraft: $42

Above All Vermont
Above All VermontJust across the street from the woodshop is Above All Vermont. It's a great store to visit with a wonderful atmosphere. Much larger than it appears, this place is all about the nostalgia, whimsy and the quality that showcases many of the small, cottage based businesses in Vermont and New England. Here, I'll pickup a few things for my mom and my aunt in Virginia. My mother hates the cold, so I'll get her a microwave heating pad in a fun moose-shape ($35.50) to help her "maturing" bones stay warm during the winter. For my aunt, I'll pickup a gift box ($22) with buttermilk pancake mix and pure Vermont Maple Syrup (her favorite!) from Brown Family Farm in Guilford, VT.

Total Spent at Above All Vermont: $57.50.

Dutton Berry Farm
Dutton Berry Farm - Tag Your Own Christmas TreeHeading out of Manchester on Route 11/30, I'll stop at Dutton Berry Farm. I've wanted to get a real Christmas tree for many years, I just haven't been willing to clean-up after it, but I've decided that this year I'm going to get one! At Dutton, you can tag your own tree and cut it down (about $60 I believe, depending on the size). I've never cut a tree before - growing up in a city, my family would just go to the local tree lot to pick one that had already been cut, so this will be an adventure! They also sell wreaths and other holiday decorations, as well as yummy farm goodies like maple syrup, baked goods, fudge, and more!

Total Spent at Dutton Berry Farm: $60.

Vermont Country Store
Vermont Country Store - Snowman Maple SyrupAfter dropping-off the tree and other goodies at home, I'll head up Route 100 toward Weston to one of my favorite spots for holiday shopping, the Vermont Country Store. Located across from the Village Green in Weston, the store invites you to step back in time and enjoy a leisurely stroll down Memory Lane. They offer men's & women's clothing, kitchen & home supplies, personal care & beauty products, food & candy, games, toys, pet products, and more!

I have two cousins in Virginia that long for the cold wintery weather of the north. For them, I'll pickup some Pure Vermont Maple Syrup in a cute 12.5oz snowman bottle ($25ea). For my brother-in-law and his husband, I'll get some Anthon Berg Chocolate Liqueurs ($23ea) since they always seem to appreciate good chocolate just like I do. For my sister-in-law, I'll get a hand etched "Tree of Life" necklace ($25) and for her husband, a Jerky & Beef Stick Gift Set ($40), with six mouthwatering varieties of jerky and sausage.

Total Spent at Vermont Country Store: $161.

Maple Sugar & Vermont Spice
Maple Sugar & Vermont Spice - A Little Taste of Vermont Gift BasketAnother of my favorite "go-to" spots for holiday shopping is Maple Sugar & Vermont Spice, located in Mendon, VT. They often have a kiosk setup during the holidays at the Diamond Run Mall in Rutland, and I always make sure to stop for a few things, especially for my mother's roommate since he loves food and loves to cook. On this trip, I've ordered a gift basket called "A Little Taste of Vermont" ($38). It comes with ½ pint pure Vermont maple syrup, Gormly's Pancake Mix (from New Haven, VT), a 12oz package of New England Coffee, and a 13oz jar of Maple Country Kitchen's homemade Jam or Jelly from Wells, VT. It's a gift I know he's sure to love!

Total Spent at Maple Sugar & Vermont Spice: $38.

Vermont Flannel Company
The Vermont Flannel CompanyAfter a long day of holiday shopping, I still have some money to spend, so I head home and get online to see what else I can find. For my younger brother & his wife from Wisconsin, I found some great flannel lounge pants ($39ea) from The Vermont Flannel Company. They sell a ton of great items, including flannel blankets, shirts, leggings, sleepwear, hats, scarves, dog jackets, tote bags, dorm sheets, and more! I'm going to have to check them out again for sure.

Total Spent at Vermont Flannel Company: $78.

Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa
Stoweflake Mountain Resort & SpaLast, but certainly not least, on my holiday shopping list, is my husband's parents. They've been going thru a lot lately and work really hard. I figure, what better gift for them than some professional pampering. So I bought them a 50min "Couples Side-by-Side Massage" at the Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa. Stoweflake's highly acclaimed, world-class spa is a destination unto itself with expansive facilities and a menu of wellness programs, natural non-invasive treatments, and salon services unrivaled in the northeast. It's a gift I'm sure they'll remember for a long time.

Total Spent at Stoweflake: $260.

So, how much did I end-up spending? ... let's find out!

Not too bad, if I do say so myself. I did go over the initial $830 budget, but that's technically just an "average" and I did include almost EVERYBODY on my holiday shopping list. If I had any money leftover after this shopping extravaganza, I would look for some good quality cards to send to the rest of my family & friends, and believe it or not, there's a Vermont producer of such cards: Vermont Holiday Cards. The cards include Vermont & New England themes & settings, and all images are illustrated by Vermont Artist, Mike Biegel.

I hope this list helps you find the perfect "Vermont-y" gifts for your family & friends, and that you enjoy your holiday shopping in Vermont!

(1) Gallup: Americans Plan on Spending a Lot More This Christmas
(2) Yankee Magazine: Best Independent Bookstores in New England

I haven't really visited a lot of farms since moving to Vermont 12+ years ago, but since my 2-year old daughter has started to show great interest in farm animals lately, I decided it was time to make a trip.

Hathaway Farm & Corn MazeThis weekend, we visited Hathaway Farm & Corn Maze, a third-generation Vermont farm, located just north of Rutland, Vermont.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised that it was such fun and I just had to tell everybody about this place and why they should visit!

1) Friendly Owners & Staff
As we entered the Farm Store, we were greeted with a smile from Irene and a wag from the farm dog. We arrived just after they opened, and the barn wasn't open yet because they were finishing their morning clean-up. My daughter mainly just wanted to see the animals, so she was a little disappointed at first, but not for long! We were given a ton of information about the corn mazes and other activities to explore, and off we went!

Hathaway Farm & Corn Maze2) Fun Activities
After we crossed the dirt road to the play area, my daughter got excited as she spied all the fun things to do. She immediately flocked to the little "village" setup in the center of the play area, and we had fun playing in the houses. Some activities in the play area were under a tent for sun protection and included lawn chairs for the adults to rest while their little ones have fun, which I thought was a very nice touch. Some of the fun things to do in the play area were a sandbox with toy excavators, a corn pit with shovels & trucks (my daughter's favorite activity in the play area), a Bouncy Cow pasture, some horse-shaped tire swings, John Deere pedal go carts, Duck Races, Corn Toss, Steer Roping, Ladder Ball ... I could go on!

3) Corn Mazes
Unfortunately, as much as I tried to convince my daughter to go in one of the corn mazes, she just wasn't interested. I really would have liked to try at least the little corn maze - Irene mentioned there was a "story walk" in there to read while trying to figure out the maze. The bigger maze (12 acres) sounded like a lot of fun too, but I didn't think my 2 year old was up for it just yet. While in the big maze, you can look for the 8 different hole punches to punch your card and if you find them all, you’re eligible for a raffle drawing. There's also a smartphone game to play while you're solving the big maze - fun!

Wagon Ride at Hathaway Farm & Corn Maze4) Wagon Ride & Pumpkin Patch
Just before the wagon ride, we visited the "Snack Shack" for a little treat. It's a huge tent with a lot of picnic tables and plenty of choices to eat. We had a couple apple cider donuts - Yum!

One of the highlights of our visit to Hathaway Farm, was definitely the wagon ride & pumpkin patch. We just happened to be visiting on the first day of their "Pick-Your-Own" pumpkin season, so there were a ton of beautiful pumpkins to choose from! The wagon was huge and probably fit 10 families with plenty of room to spare. It was a bumpy ride but that just made my daughter giggle even more. She was very excited to see the pumpkin patch and she got to pick her very first pumpkin! When the wagon stopped to let us pick our pumpkins, we learned that some of them are reserved for a local school - I thought that was a great idea. After we found our pumpkin, we finished the wagon ride all the way around the corn maze and back to the main play area.

Visiting the Farm Animals at Hathaway Farm & Corn Maze5) Clean Grounds & Barn
Our final stop while at Hathaway Farm, was to visit the animals inside the barn. I was really impressed with how many animals they had for us to visit, and with how clean everything looked.

In the barn were goats, sheep, donkeys, a cow, two horses, some giant bunnies, a couple pot-bellied pigs, a guinea pig, and a bunch of chickens - what a variety! In addition to petting the animals, there was also a small pretend barn with toy animals that children could play with.

My daughter had SO much fun that she really didn't want to leave at all ... but alas, it was naptime and we had to head home. I highly recommend Hathaway Farm & Corn Maze to anyone looking to have some great outdoor family fun. I plan on returning soon!

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