It's difficult to imagine a more picturesque Vermont hamlet than Stowe. A scenic downtown with iconic country stores, vibrant art galleries, luxurious lodging, and delectable dining destinations. All set at the foothills of the tallest mountain in the state, offering dramatic vistas of the valley below. If skiing, hiking, or mountain biking are your pursuits, you’ve found your locale. Don’t sleep on the Fall foliage, breweries, dining, and shopping though - Stowe is a town that has it all. Come up to the mountains and start your Vermont adventure.
The best of the best. The cream of the crop. The cow’s pajamas. These are the restaurants, hotels, and activities that you absolutely have to put into the planner when you visit. In fact, these are the places that are worth planning an entire visit around. Dive into our Hit List and let us know what you think!
Before you ask, yes. This is that von Trapp family. “A little of Austria, a lot of Vermont” is the credo behind all the von Trapp operations, and we couldn’t be bigger fans of all they’ve created here in the Green Mountains. The brewery and beirhall is the perfect place to enjoy an award-winning lager, have an amazing lunch, take in the mountain views, and yes, even hear a little sound of (live) music.
Vermont Route 108 runs between the mountain towns of Stowe and Jeffersonville. Or, more accurately, twisting and climbing through peaks and valleys you can find the historic and scenic road known as Smugglers’ Notch. A truly unique roadway that at times will feel closer to rock climbing than driving, the natural beauty of the Notch Road is something every visitor must experience.
Opened in 1895, Shaw’s General Store in downtown Stowe may no longer sell woodstoves and horse feed, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still helping locals and visitors alike find exactly what they’re looking for. With apparel, games, gifts, and maple goods, Shaw’s General is where to come to bring home a little taste of the Green Mountains.
The ultimate family resort, Smugglers’ Notch is four seasons of non-stop adventure and fun. With world-class skiing and riding instructors, alongside a huge variety of terrain - Smuggs is the ideal place to come get your kids into Winter. Not that Smuggs is a slouch when it comes to any of the other seasons either. There are kid programs, camps, and activities running year round and they even have a giant 26,000sq.ft. entertainment complex, complete with laser tag, ninja warrior course, arcade center, and a ton more! Bottom line, you and your entire family will love it here.
If riding Vermont’s tallest peak is on your wishlist, there’s only one mountain that can do the trick. That’s right, Stowe Mountain Resort. Ice skating, shopping, dining, and of course skiing and riding. With legendary terrain and amenities, a visit to Stowe will quite literally bring your vacation to new heights.
Whether your visit is aprés-ski, aprés-bike, or aprés-whatever, Doc Ponds is the place to be. Part of the Hen of the Wood / Prohibition Pig family of restaurants, Doc Ponds serves up some of the tastiest food and drink around. Plus, they have an absolutely killer record selection, and their turntables are always spinning. Love it.
What are the local, must-see attractions or hot spots?
The first is a no-brainer, you absolutely have to head to the Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour. Everyone knows Ben & Jerry’s and Vermont go together like PB and J (which by the way, was an amazing ice cream flavor), and crossing the factory tour off your to-do list will certainly add some VT street cred. You’ll get a chance to see the production floor, how they make their pints, a short “moo-vie” on the B&J history, and of course, sample some of the goods. Local Tip: After grabbing a full-size cone at the snack stand in front, head up the hill and check out the Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard - an homage to some sadly departed flavors as well as some real head-scratching flavor reaches.
Similarly worth the visit, we’re all for spending time at the Trapp Family Lodge and the von Trapp Brewery. The grounds are positively stunning with lush fields and expansive mountain vistas, and it’s easy to see why this famous family planted roots here. The brewery is a great visit any time of year, but we especially enjoy it in the warmer months when the breeze and mountain air keep things nice and cool. A huge patio space is perfect for grabbing a table with friends, and you’ll often find a band playing great tunes. Local Tip: In between beers give a go at the Disc Golf course which starts it’s first hole right next to the patio. Definitely one of the more picturesque courses we’ve played.
Driving the Notch Road is another great way to spend an afternoon. Steeped in history and just overall steep, the Smuggler’s Notch road is as scenic a drive as you can find. With massive boulders close enough to touch out your car window, the trip up and over the notch oftentimes feels as though it would be home in an amusement park. There are tons of great hiking trails on either side of the notch (two favorites are the Hells Brook trail and the Sterling Pond trail - we’ll let you guess which is an easier route). Word to the wise: the Notch road is closed in the Winter and opens up in late Spring, so be sure to check on the status before you go. Also, don’t attempt to drive up in an 18-wheeler. You will get stuck and the locals will make fun of you.
If you only had one night in town, where are you going for dinner?
Named after the iconic tree-skiing backcountry spot (you’ve got to buy a local a beer for more detailed information), The Bench has been our favorite eatery for many years now. A fun vibe, knowledgeable friendly servers, excellent beer and cocktails, and consistently delicious Vermont comfort food all make The Bench our go-to. Local Tip: The Bench is a great place to start off your Aprés Ski as well, the Duck Fat Fries and Wood-Fired Nachos are straight fire.
We’re looking to splurge a little - where are the best digs in town?
For a truly luxurious Vermont experience, look no further than Edson Hill. Twenty-two exquisitely appointed suites can be found across the property’s sprawling acreage, with both individual guest houses and Manor House accommodations offered. Edson Hill frequently has a Romance package running, so be sure to check their site to add a little extra panache to your visit.
Where should we go for unique, one-of-a-kind shopping?
If you’re searching for a taste of Vermont, you can do no better than the findings at Stowe Mercantile. Gourmet foods, maple goods, handmade fudge, and everything in between - it’s easy to see why Stowe Mercantile has been an area favorite for more than four decades. Local Tip: Stowe Mercantile is a great spot to score a gift basket for friends and family back home. Search out exactly the right combination during your shopping and the folks at the counter will handle the rest. After all, everyone deserves a taste of Vermont.
Set in a renovated Vermont farmhouse, Well Heeled is another great shopping option in Stowe. It’s said that their style is “mountain chic meets urban casual” and all we can say is that we’re big fans. Similarly stylish and rugged, this small boutique has a timeless selection of women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories and is positively worth the visit. Locals Tip: Be sure to keep an eye on their social media for their annual Porch Sale announcement for a chance to save on their luxe goods.
We have our kids with us, where should we go with the entire family?
First and foremost, quite literally everything at Smuggs’ is designed for kids and families to have a great time! They’ve even gone so far as to put their money where their mouth is with the Family Fun Guarantee. With their dedication towards hiring the best staff, planning the best programs, and providing unparalleled facilities, the Family Fun Guarantee basically says that if after being involved in one of the programs for at least two days any member of your group doesn’t have fun, they’ll refund the entire program portion of that family member’s stay. With everything going on up at Smuggs’ we’re just as confident as they are that you’ll have an amazing time.
As we mentioned above, you can’t go wrong with a stop at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour. It’s pretty cool to see how your favorite flavors are made. We love checking out the absolutely massive containers of “fixins” that are added to each batch.
A relative newcomer to the Stowe family scene, Stowe Bowl is the perfect destination for indoor fun. With eight regulation-sized bowling lanes, there’s plenty of room for your entire group to hit the pins. Offering a full food menu, you’ll have plenty of energy to power you through an entire afternoon. They also happen to have a full bar, which we hear is a highly regarded perk for parents.
We’re looking to start the day off right, breakfast recs? Is there a famous, local breakfast sandwich?
While not exclusively a breakfast spot, the Green Goddess Cafe, in our opinion, serves up one of the best breakfasts in town. Our go-to order for a day out on the trails is The Mechanic (fried egg, cheddar, pork carnitas, sriracha on toasted house English muffin) with a side of Cheesy Rosemary Homefries (rosemary home fries topped with cheddar cheese, scallions, and chipotle ranch dressing). They stop serving the breakfast menu at 11 am, but if the worst part of a late breakfast is having to order one of their amazing lunch sandwiches instead, it’s bound to be a pretty stellar day.
We want to get out and breathe in some fresh air, what do you suggest we check out?
Of course skiing, riding, hiking, and biking options abound in and around Stowe, but where should we go first? It really depends on what you’re looking for and who is in your group. For family get-togethers and getaways, we are always going with Smugglers’ Notch. For backcountry and tree skiing, there are some truly magical spots at Stowe. Our favorite (as we alluded to earlier) is the Bench, but that will take a little bit of digging when you actually arrive on the mountain.
For mountain biking, Cady Hill Forest is our top pick. There’s great parking and facilities nearby and the trails are a great mix of beginner through expert, so really something for all to enjoy.
There are an absolutely silly amount of hiking options within just a few minutes of literally anywhere in Stowe. The Nebraska Notch/Taylor Lodge hike is really picturesque as it winds up the mountainside past forest streams, waterfalls, and ponds. The Sterling Pond route in the Notch Road is also an excellent way to spend the afternoon and as an added bonus you’ll be able to check out all the massive boulders and caves in the notch itself.
Finally, if you’re after a somewhat more mellow, yet equally stunning outdoor activity, the Stowe Recreation Path couldn’t be more perfect. Going all around downtown Stowe, this pathway goes through lush meadows and fields full of wildflowers, across dramatic bridges, and past excellent swimming and fishing holes. With multiple points of entry, you’ll be able to determine exactly how long of an excursion you want to set out on. Get out there and enjoy!
We’re coming up for a couples getaway - where should we go for a romantic dinner?
Michael’s on the Hill is a five-minute drive away in Waterbury Center. This 1820s farmhouse has spectacular views of rolling green fields and breathtaking sunsets, but perhaps the most enticing feature of this establishment is undoubtedly the menu. Chef Michael Kloeti’s passion for excellent dining can be seen and tasted with each and every course that is presented. Our recommendation is to pull out all the stops and enjoy one of the two tasting menus as this will allow you and your partner to enjoy as many dishes as possible. Michael’s has a great ambience, perfect for a romantic night out and we couldn’t more emphatically recommend that you stop in. Local’s Tip: There’s nothing quite like freshly shaved black truffle presented table-side, so if the waiter offers, by all means, indulge.
How about local music or entertainment?
Covid certainly has caused somewhat of a shuffle to the live music scene in Stowe, but several of our favorites are still going strong with excellent options almost every night.
Zenbarn is exactly what we look for in a great music venue. There’s a rustic, almost honky tonk vibe from the moment you step through the door with a great bar running the length of the opposite wall. To your left is a slightly raised stage where you’ll find bands absolutely crushing with an excellent dance space in between. We love it here because it feels slightly secretive yet warm and inviting, and they consistently book great shows. Local’s Tip: Every Wednesday is Dead Night, and listening to some Jerry in an old red barn just feels so right. Join the party.
You can also still find great music on the weekends at the legendary Matterhorn. An (in)famous aprés ski spot, The Matterhorn is a little bit of a dive, but we like it that way. Great spot and a ton of fun.
We’re looking for something special for lunch - suggestions?
Two excellent lunch options are Ranch Camp and Piecasso. Ranch Camp labels itself as “a trailside full-service mountain bike shop, casual restaurant, and tap room” and when your canon is bikes, beer, and burritos, we’re definitely going to be on board. The food here is perfect for a quick bite or takeout, whether that takeout might be on two wheels or four. Ranch Camp is the perfect place to call home base for a lunch and a day of riding.
We also love grabbing a slice or two at Piecasso! A funky, hip pizza joint, Piecasso has a great selection of hot sandwiches, salads and pastas, and of course pizza. With indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a quick-serve pizza counter, you can either grab a slice to go or take your time and enjoy. They have a ton of rotating slice varieties and they’re all super solid, but our go-to is usually the Positive Pie (White Base, Fresh Spinach, Mozzarella, Artichoke Hearts, Roasted Red Peppers, Vermont Butter & Cheese Chevre). Hits the spot every time.
After a long, fun day a cocktail sounds perfect! Where are we headed?
Stowe is a town that knows how to make a great cocktail. Pretty much anywhere you land you’ll find something worthwhile to whet your whistle. One of our favorite purveyor of craft cocktails is Doc Ponds. They’re always changing their lineup and keeping the menu fresh, but be sure to be on the lookout for many of the creations featuring local Vermont distillers. Also of note, the milkshakes at Doc Ponds are undeniably legendary, but you can also improve on their perfection by adding one of the suggested spirits and liqueurs. Game Changer.
Just outside of downtown Stowe in Waterbury you’ll find one of the best watering holes around, Hen of the Wood. HOTW justifiably gets a ton of praise for their food game, but we find their cocktail creation to be just as deserving. Continually pushing the envelope with beverage progression and innovation, yet never crossing the line to pretentiousness, the cocktails here are deceptively simple and overwhelmingly impressive. A perfect environment no matter what your drink of choice may be, and a perennial favorite.
We don’t want to be complete tourists - where are the locals going?
The easiest answer is; out and about. Stowe is a town for getting outside and doing. Spinning Madonna laps at Smuggs’ on a pow day, grabbing a growler at The Alchemist, pumping singletrack at Cady Hill, and cooling off on a Summer day at Bingham Falls. There are a virtually unlimited number of outdoor activities to choose from up at Stowe, and that’s one of the biggest perks of calling this place home. Come on up to the mountains and see what adventures await.