15 Best Small Towns to Visit in Vermont

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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New England has a reputation for natural beauty, and Vermont stands out as exceptionally stunning.  There is a picturesque charm about Vermont that is difficult to resist.  Chock full of small towns, they generally have a village centre, a Main Street, historic architecture, unique boutiques and businesses, and a sense of community that defines its character. Regardless of the season, visitors can enjoy the outdoors, incredible food, and the best that New England has to offer.

Lets have a look at the most charming small towns to visit in Vermont:

1. Chester

Chester, VermontSource: theculturetrip
Chester, Vermont

Chester has the distinction of having two areas on the National Register of Historic Places.  Stone Village, named for the granite buildings there, and the Chester Historic Districts both have traces of colonial architecture and a New England early American aesthetic.

It often serves as base camp for outdoor adventures heading for nearby Mount Killington, Okemo, and Mount Snow. Boaters, cyclists, and ski bums stay in Chester for that small town experience, while taking advantage of the resorts and parks nearby.

One of the most popular activities is a day trip on the Green Mountain Flyer Scenic Railroad.  Gorgeous from beginning to end.  While you’re there, don’t miss the Stone House Antique Centre, Da Vallia Art, and the Vermont Institute of Contemporary Arts.

2. Woodstock

Woodstock, VermontSource: flickr
Woodstock, Vermont

Woodstock has been a popular tourist destination for years – giving them plenty of time to perfect the quintessential Vermont experience.  The town easily combines charming and upscale to provide the escape that you need with all the amenities attached.  The boutique and antique shopping is among the best in the state, the dining options are incredible, and the entertainment is almost endless.

History buffs will enjoy the Billings Farm and Museum.  Once owned by Laurence and Mary French Rockefeller, the farm is now a dairy with a restored late 19th century farm house – both National Historic Landmarks. Art lovers will enjoy the many galleries (top pick:  Stephen Huneck Gallery), and foodies will want to spend a day in F.H. Gillingham & Sons.  This is a general store and gourmet shopping experience not to be missed.

3. Montpelier

Montpelier, VermontSource: flickr
Montpelier, Vermont

America’s smallest capital is Montpelier, Vermont. Among the locals (and all Vermonters consider themselves local) it’s known for its many farm-to-table restaurants, and daily farmers market.

As the centre of government for the state, there is a little something of everything here. Visit the Vermont Historical Society Museum, the state house, Hubbard Park, the New England Culinary Institute, and T.W. Wood Art Gallery.

And that’s just a start! Make no mistake, this is still a small town, with the kind of hospitality and charm you expect.  But with such a thriving cultural scene, Montpelier is something special.

4. Brattleboro

Brattleboro, VermontSource: flickr
Brattleboro, Vermont

Located in the southern part of the state, Brattleboro has a funky, crunchy, arts vibe that attracts people from all over the region.  It’s a walkable town with tons of clubs, restaurants, studios, galleries, and shops.  Its contemporary atmosphere is balanced by the beauty of Mother Nature.

There’s a gorgeous mountain or river view no matter where you are in town.  When you’re out walking, an impromptu street performance is not out of the question, and you’ll love stopping at the independent bookstores, record shops, and crafts boutiques.

The town has several theatres, many with historic significance.  Every month there’s a First Friday Gallery Walk and almost every restaurant exhibits local artists.  Brattleboro is a town that will have you talking about it for a long time after.

5. Putney

Hickory Ridge Road, Putney, VermontSource: flickr
Hickory Ridge Road, Putney, Vermont

A few minutes from Brattleboro is Putney. It’s got a similar vibe, but even more laid back. Check out the spinnery, the berry and apple orchards, and the winery while you’re there.  This is a place for slow walks and deep breaths.

It’s the kind of place you don’t tell people about because you don’t want it to ever change.  Sacketts Brook still has its original stone arch bridge and flows right through the centre of town. Putney general store and co-op are community staples.  It’s that kind of town.

6. Lincoln

Mount Abe from Brown Hill in Lincoln, VTSource: flickr
Mount Abe from Brown Hill in Lincoln, VT

At the bottom of Mount Abraham is Lincoln. The natural surroundings along the New Haven River will take your breath away.  The residents take pride in the beauty of the farms and forests in the area.  Settled by Quakers in the late 18th century, there are about 1200 residents now.

Lincoln is best known for its interesting treehouse. Built across four large maples and 30 feet up from the ground, you can stay there for $150 per night – complete with heat, shower, electricity, and even a mini fridge. Don’t forget to visit the Old Hotel, the general store, and Burnham Hall.

7. Bristol

Bristol, VermontSource: flickr
Bristol, Vermont

This is the place for festival lovers.  They’ve got a celebration for everything, and people come from all over the state for the Outhouse Race – the longest running one in the country.  All of downtown is listed as a National Historic District and you’ll definitely feel that you’ve stepped back in time.

Bristol is located in the foothills of the green Mountains and makes the perfect getaway spot.  Visitors love the village shops and the friendliness of the locals. If you’re around in June, don’t miss the Pocock Rocks Street Fair or the Bristol Band summer concerts (which have been happening since the end of the Civil War).

8. Stowe

Stowe, VermontSource: flickr
Stowe, Vermont

No matter the season, Stowe is a prime destination in Vermont.  Thanks to Stowe Mountain Resort there are outdoor adventures just waiting to be had.  Mount Mansfield is the tallest peak in Vermont and it’s a mecca for nature enthusiasts.  Ski, hike, or return again and again to do both.

The village itself is 200 years old and downtown you’ll find museums, galleries, theatres, outdoor film festivals, the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum, and plenty of fine dining. It’s year round beauty make it one of the absolute must-visit towns.

9. Waterbury

Waterbury, VermontSource: wikimedia
Waterbury, Vermont

When Vermonters need to get away from it all, they go to Waterbury. Often described as a sleepy town, Waterbury is a low key, low profile kind of town. Town pride is cantered around locally sourced fine dining.

Its undoubtedly the best of the best of Vermont.  Because of the fantastic natural settings, Waterbury is a popular wedding destination. For top of the line accommodations, try Groenberg Haus, a chalet on a hilltop, complete with a stone hearth and grand piano.

10. Shelburne

Shelburne, VermontSource: flickr
Shelburne, Vermont

Looking for luxury?  On the shores of the scenic Lake Champlain sits Shelburne – a suburb of Burlington. People come to be pampered and to splurge.  Home to the Shelburne Museum, Shelburne Farms, and the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, it’s also a family destination.

The farm boasts a one-hundred room guest house, a five storey barn, hayrides and a wonderful hiking trail. At the museum you can see live printing, blacksmithing, and weaving demonstrations.  The lake front beach is a perfect spot in the summer and several companies have boat rentals.  If it’s apple season, head over to Shelburne Orchards for the tastiest apples and cider in Vermont.

11. Manchester

Manchester, VermontSource: flickr
Manchester, Vermont

Calling all shoppers!  Don’t miss out the factory outlets and other spectacular shopping opportunities in Manchester.  This is where New Yorkers, and Europeans in recent years, come for the best select and great deals.  From high end retail, charming boutiques, and all out bargains, you won’t be able to stop.

Manchester also has a fantastic cultural scene.  Enjoy concerts, galleries, theatre, history, crafts, and artisanal dining.  The village blends cultural sophistication with old-world New England charm for an incredible experience from beginning to end.

12. Grafton

Grafton, VermontSource: flickr
Grafton, Vermont

Long ago, Grafton was the major stagecoach stop between Albany and the Green Mountains.  They’ve been hosting visitors for almost two centuries.  Located in the mountains, many of the original buildings have been restored to provide an authentic New England feel.

As you walk downtown you’ll feel like you’re walking in a museum.   In the winter, the snow covered mountains provide an ethereal ambiance that is unique to Grafton. The 600 residents all regularly participate in town hall meetings and work together to create a vibrant and lovely community.

13. Grand Isle

Grand Isle, VermontSource: flickr
Grand Isle, Vermont

Grand Isle is about 35 square miles – almost 19 of which are water.  Located in the Islands and Farms region of the state, Grand Isle is a fishing town. The Ed Weed Fish Culture Station is located here, one of only five in the state. The oldest log cabin in New England is also here.  Hyde Log Cabin was built in the late 18th century and was home to the Hyde family for over 150 years.

The most visited state park is in Grand Isle. It’s the second largest in Vermont, with RV camping and primitive camping. The experience here is slightly different than the rest of the state, thanks to the abundance of water and the fishing culture.  That’s the perfect reason to add it to your list.  It’s another Vermont one-of-a-kind.

14. Charlotte

Charlotte, VermontSource: flickr
Charlotte, Vermont

Synonymous with the Champlain Valley is Charlotte.  Established in the late 18th century, the growing town is primarily agricultural.  Orchards, dairies, sugar bushes, berries, honey, livestock, and grain are all flourishing economies here.  Charlotte even has a winery that received high praise from those who visit.

Mount Philo State Park (named for the almost 1000 foot peak) is another popular park with wonderful vistas, trails, and a nearby wildlife refuge.

15. Craftsbury

Craftsbury, VermontSource: flickr
Craftsbury, Vermont

Picture rolling hills, picket fences, family farms, and green forests.  You’re seeing Craftsbury, Vermont. Made up of five villages with a combined population of about 1,200, the town is classic Americana.

Come for cross country skiing and snow mobiling in the winter, maple sugaring in the spring, the Antiques and Uniques Festival in July, and stunning fall foliage each autumn.

15 Best Small Towns to Visit in Vermont:

  • Chester
  • Woodstock
  • Montpelier
  • Brattleboro
  • Putney
  • Lincoln
  • Bristol
  • Stowe
  • Waterbury
  • Shelburne
  • Manchester
  • Grafton
  • Grand Isle
  • Charlotte
  • Craftsbury