From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Vermont’s capital — and the least-populated capital city in America — Montpelier, Vermont is known for its vibrant community, stunning local countryside, cultural attractions and more. It’s also just plain pretty and quaint. It's pretty much a real life Stars Hollow (any Gilmore Girls fans?!)... Montpelier is filled with all sorts of exciting little nooks and crannies to discover.
Maybe you’ve called Montpelier home for a while and are looking to get reacquainted with your city. Maybe you’ve just arrived. Either way, here’s our guide to all things local in Montpelier, Vermont which are absolutely begging for exploration.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Easily one of the most attractive things about Montpelier is its position in the center of so much stunning natural beauty. Here are just a few of the many state and national parks within easy driving distance of Montpelier, VT.
Featuring 22 RV-friendly campsites, flush restrooms and coin-operated showers, Big Deer State Park is one of the best-appointed of the seven separate state parks that lie inside the 26,000 acre sprawl that is Groton State Forest. Located just 42 minutes east of downtown Montpelier, this is a popular weekend getaway among locals.
If you’re looking to get wild, Camels Hump State Park might be exactly the place you’re looking for. Largely undeveloped and with a long history of exploration, Camels Hump State Park has drawn people from the surrounding countryside for centuries with its stunning mountain vistas and serene quiet.
Home to both a lake and a mountain of its namesake, Elmore State Park is one of the best-loved state parks in the entire state of Vermont — and when you visit, you’ll see why. More than 200 of the park’s 700 acres are comprised of the lake, and the peak towers more than 2,600 feet above sea level, making for stunning views both above and below.
Another of the state parks nestled into Groton State Forest, Kettle Pond State Park is known for its beautiful waterfront and comfortable campground. The area offers 26 lean-tos as well as composting and pit toilets, making it a great choice for primitive camping trips.
Originally settled back in the 1800s by a group of pioneers, Little River State Park was a tough place to live — but is today a wonderful spot to recreate in. Along with paddling the waters, hiking the trails and enjoying the general untouched natural beauty, visitors can also have a peek at the old cemeteries, sawmill remains, old town roads, bridges and many cellar holes that reveal the community that once called this place home.
Ricker Pond State Park was established as such in the 1930s, but had been traveled by Native Americans and French settlers as early as 1704. Its beautiful white pine, spruce, hemlock, beech, maple and birch were prized by loggers, and today set the stage for a beautiful place to relax. (This is another of the Groton State Forest State Parks.)
Popular for a wide range of activities — including, but not limited to: bicycling, fly fishing, hiking, picnicking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing — Seyon Lodge State Park is another of the many tucked into Gorton State Forest. This one offers scenic views and also, as its name suggests, comfortable lodging for up to 16 overnight guests.
Although it’s for day use only, Waterbury Center State Park is a great place to spend a day. Its 90-acre size makes it a relatively small wilderness, but it’s still got some of the most beautiful views in the state, especially come autumn.
Whether you’re a beginning hiker just getting your legs under you or a well-seasoned adventurer looking for a challenge, there’s a trail for you near Montpelier. Here are some of the best.
A loop running about five and a half miles and seeing a little more than 2,000 feet in elevation gain, Mount Hunger and Whiterock Mountain Loop is a great moderate-to-difficult choice for hikers in search of a rewarding workout with great views along the way. It’s also one of the less-crowded pathways to the summit of Whiterock Mountain, which is a popular destination!
With similar stats to the trail mentioned above, Middlesex Trail to White Rock Trail is another option for those eager to explore this unique part of the Vermont landscape. Dogs are allowed on this trail, too — but must be kept leashed at all times!
A slightly more approachable adventure with views that are just as sweet, Spruce Mountain is a trail of a little more than four miles tucked into the L. R. Jones State Forest just east of Montpelier. Over its length, this trail sees about 1,100 feet of elevation gain, so it’ll still make you sweat… but not quite as profusely as some of the other treks we’ve mentioned so far!
If you’re headed to Camels Hump State Park, you almost have to do Camel’s Hump Trail — though be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart. Measuring six miles altogether and seeing more than 2,500 feet of elevation change in that period, this is definitely a climb… but one whose stunning views will make you feel more than grateful you gave it your all.
Alright, how about an actually-easy stroll? Owlshead Mountain Trail, located in New Discovery State Park about half an hour outside of Montpelier, is only three miles altogether and sees less than 500 feet of elevation gain. Which is to say, while it’s not flat, it’s pretty darn doable… especially when you consider the views you get in return.
It’s probably clear by now that, if you’re going to do your Montpelier adventure any justice, you’re going to need to fuel up. Here are some of the very best restaurants in Montpelier, from classic Italian to spicy Mexican and beyond.
If you Google “best restaurants in Montpelier,” chances are Sarducci’s is gonna show up toward the top… and for good reason. An Italian joint serving up generous portions of Tuscan classics, this is a solid choice for date night — or just a Wednesday when you don’t feel like fending for yourself.
Looking for the best Asian restaurant is never easy in any community, but Wilaiwan’s Kitchen makes it a bit easier for those in Montpelier. A small but homey space serving up some of the most delicious Thai dishes in existence, a meal here is a must… especially if you like it hot.
What’s the one food that’s good no matter what time you’re eating — which serves whether you’re after sweet or savory? Why, crepes, of course. And if you’re in the mood for crepes in Montpelier (and a variety of other Vermont communities), Skinny Pancake is the spot. (This is also one of the best options for those looking for vegetarian and vegan options in town.)
Sometimes, you’ve just gotta have diner food — and if that’s your situation, and you’re in Montpelier, you need to get yourself to Wayside. A classic mom-and-pop serving up breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a slate of renowned baked goods, this place has been an institution in town for over a century!
Funky, fresh, and freaking delicious: those are the first three things that come to mind when we think of Mad Taco, a small chain of casual Mexican eateries with a well-loved Montpelier location. Along with the delicious tacos, burritos and other classics, enjoy a freshly-poured craft beer and one of its range of hot sauces.
Eating and exploring the outdoors are just the beginning! Here are a few of the top things to do in Montpelier this weekend… or whenever.
Montpelier is a great community for kiddos. Here are some of our favorite family-friendly activity choices!
While you’re en route east to one of those many state parks we’ve mentioned, consider making a quick stopover at Martin Covered Bridge Park — which is the perfect place to pose for a picture or three with the kids. (By the way, if anyone in your family is a dyed-in-the-wool bridge fanatic, Vermont is home to more than 100 covered bridges, which is to say more per square mile than found in any other U.S. state. Consider making a whole road trip out of it!)
From cultural exhibits to information about local flora and fauna, the Vermont Historical Museum makes its mission to educate and entertain locals and visitors alike — no matter their ages. Best of all, there’s a special, discounted family rate to help get you and your clan in without breaking your budget!
It’s true: Montpelier isn’t exactly known for its nightlife. But don’t despair! Along with all the great things to do in Montpelier during the daytime, there are some excellent options once the sun goes down, too.
One of the best-loved bars in town, Three Penny Taproom serves up a wide range of local craft beers on tap, all in a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere where you can also grab some great pub eats. The taproom also serves as event space for local music and shows.
Looking for an after-hours option with less alcohol, but all the fun? Chill is home to what is perhaps the very best gelato in all of Vermont — and given the state’s reputation for its dairy, that’s saying something. Made from scratch daily in small batches, think of these delicious gelato as amped-up ice cream… and a great nighttime treat for kids and adults alike.
Don’t want to spend an arm and a leg to get a taste of town? No worries — you don’t have to! Here are some of our favorite cheap things to do in Montpelier.
If there’s one thing Vermont is known for, it’s maple syrup… and there’s more to making delicious syrup than sticking a sap tap in a tree! If you want to learn more about how this sugary treat is made (and, yes, sample some for yourself), head to one of the local maple syrup manufacturers, like Bragg Farm Sugar House or Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks. The tours themselves are often free, though we don’t you’re gonna get out of there without wanting a bottle to take home!
Is anything lovelier than wandering the stalls of a farmers market on a sunny weekend? Montpelier’s Capital City Farmers Market is a beloved source of local produce and crafted goods, as well as prepared meals and a general festival atmosphere. Plus, it’s held right on the river.
That’s right: there’s a range of stuff to see and do in town that’s absolutely, 100% free. Here are just a few items to pick from.
One of the oldest of the nation’s state capitol buildings, the Vermont State House is a sight to behold… and it’s also free to enter. Better still, you can participate in a free self-guided tour or even arrange to be led around by a docent — and still not have to pay a cent for the experience.
It might sound morbid, but trust us: Hope Cemetery is one of the most beautiful, serene green spaces in Montpelier, making it a great place for an afternoon stroll. Along with the landscape, be sure to stop and take in some of the fascinating and beautiful headstone art, including life-size statues of the deceased and more.
Feel in need of a little TLC? We get it! Here’s where to head if you’re looking for a day spa or salon in Montpelier.
Manicure? Check. Pedicure? Check. Hair cut, color, and style? Check, check, check on those too. Dosha Salon & Day Spa also offers massage and facial services, and all of it’s done with a friendly attitude and well-trusted Aveda products. Which is to say: if you’re hankering to get something “done” while you’re in Montpelier, this is your place!
Want to get your sweat on? Good call: working out is about so much more than what you look like. Here are some of the very best gyms and yoga studios to keep you feeling strong and grounded.
Sometimes, you just need a bit of an extra boost to get you where you’re going — in fitness as in all other parts of life. At Alpenglow Fitness, you’ll engage with fun and creative community classes, including a wide range of physical activities like spinning, strength work and barre. It’s a lot easier to meet your goals when you’ve got a whole team along with you for the ride!
Offering yoga as well as pilates and other types of moving meditation, Embodied is a studio that’s all about getting you — well, embodied, which is to say, emotionally in touch with your physical sensations and self. The studio’s variety of classes is sure to support you no matter where you are in your journey and what your goals may be.
Sure, you could spend a happy lifetime in Montpelier and never feel deprived of to-dos. But there’s so much to explore within an easy day’s drive, too! Here are some of the best day trips for those calling Montpelier home base.
Montpelier may be the capital, but Burlington is the state’s most populous city — and it offers a significant change of pace from the Montpelier lifestyle. Wander through the stores and restaurants that make up Church Street Marketplace or gaze at the works in the Shelburne Museum, and still have plenty of time to make it home before bed.
Easily one of the most renowned places in the world for leaf peeping in the fall — and a great hiking destination no matter the season — White Mountain National Forest is only a little more than an hour outside of Monteplier, which is to say, you should definitely go. (And maybe spend the whole weekend.)
Thanks to its relative distance from the rest of the national parks (and the rest of the United States in general), Acadia National Park is one of the least-visited in the lower 48… and definitely worth the six-hour drive from Montpelier. You’ll want to give yourself at least a few days to bask in the stunning granite peaks and explosive crashes of the Atlantic ocean as it runs into the cliffs… but once you get there, we don’t think you’ll need much convincing to extend your stay.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Montpelier that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Montpelier? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.