Vermont Foodie Fall Foliage Drive

Dennis Curran,
The changing of the seasons brings many things: cooler temperatures, colorful foliage and, for the hungry traveler, new dishes and restaurants. Options abound for leaf peepers in New England, but a relaxed Vermont drive from Arlington to Burlington provides foodies with ample opportunities for delicious detours. Pick up Route 7 in Bennington and allow 3 days to wind your way from south to north, an unhurried pace that gives you the chance to linger in the state's largest city. This route starts by plunging straight into the Green Mountain National Forest, then carries you through quintessential New England towns and villages -- B&Bs, antiques shops, white church steeples and all -- all the way to the shores of mighty Lake Champlain. Pack a camera for the scenery, and don't forget to bring your appetite.

When to Go: Peak color is hard to pin down from year to year, but aim for the first half of October to see the foliage at its most vibrant.

Driving Tip: Watch your speed as you tour through the Green Mountain State. Cyclists share the road with vehicles by day, and animal crossings are common at dusk.

Start: Bennington, Vermont || End: Burlington, Vermont
Distance: 130 miles
Length of Trip: 3 days

Stop 1: The Village Peddler
Arlington, Vermont

Cocoa, the "world's largest chocolate teddy bear," who sits inside the Village Peddler and Chocolatorium, might seem a tad gimmicky, but this confectioner is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth. Just east of Arlington, about 20 minutes north of Bennington, you'll find everything from fudge to truffles, chocolate-dipped fruit and chocolate-coated pretzels. Time your visit with one of the regularly scheduled tastings or dive right in and try a Timber Log (vanilla fudge, caramel and cashews, covered in milk chocolate) or an Avalanche Bar (coconut, marshmallow and caramel, covered in milk chocolate).

Make a slight detour from Route 7 across the Green Mountains to reach the small village of Plymouth Notch and its historic cheese factory.
Plymouth Artisan CheeseThe Plymouth Artisan Cheese shop

Stop 2: Plymouth Artisan Cheese
Plymouth, Vermont

After its start in 1890 by John Coolidge, the father of the 30th president of the United States, a milk shortage forced the Plymouth Artisan Cheese factory to close during the Depression. In 1962, cheese-making resumed here, making it one of the oldest such businesses in the country. Spend a little time exploring the historic site and take a self-guided tour on which you can taste the sharp Original Plymouth, buttery East Meadow or woodsy Smoked Cheese. Be sure to stop by Calvin Coolidge's nearby birthplace.

Head north on Route 100, back across the mountain range, then north on Route 7 again to arrive at an unusual museum just past the town of Pittsford.
APTOPIX Food and Farm Maple Grading
Getty ImagesLearn all about the history of maple sugar at the New England Maple Museum

Stop 3: New England Maple Museum
Pittsford, Vermont

No visit to the country's largest maple syrup-producing state is complete without a stop at this agritourism destination. Learn about two centuries of maple sugaring history, from its American Indian origins to the present day, through the museum's collection of murals, photographs, artifacts and life-sized dioramas. Before leaving, stock up on maple syrup, maple candies, maple butter and other locally made products in the gift shop.

Continue north on Route 7, keeping the multicolored peaks to the right and Otter Creek on the left. You'll pass through the picturesque college town of Middlebury on your way to Bristol, which sits in the shadow of 2200-foot South Mountain.
boscdanjou, FlickrThe Middlebury College campus

Stop 4: Bobcat Café and Brewery
Bristol, Vermont

Stroll through Bristol's downtown area -- a National Historic District -- keeping an eye out for the Bobcat Café and Brewery. Chefs Sanderson Wheeler and Erin Chamof prepare locally sourced comfort food like Vermont venison and chorizo meatloaf or chèvre and tomato tarts with smoked pickled onions. Bobcat brewmaster Mark Magiera crafts flavorful beers such as Prayer Rock Pale Ale and Lincoln Lager, both named after nearby landmarks.

Spend the night at one of Bristol's small inns or B&Bs.

Drive west on Main Street to get back to Route 7. Half an hour north of Bristol, Mt. Philo State Park offers one of the best and most accessible panoramas of Lake Champlain and the Green Mountain National Forest.
USA, Vermont, Mt. Philo State Park, Fall view of the Lake Champlain area
AlamyMt. Philo State Park in autumn

Stop 5: Mt. Philo State Park

Stop at Mt. Philo, the oldest park in the state, and reward yourself with sweeping views of red maples and oaks and yellow and orange beech, birch and ash trees. On a clear day you'll be able to see the Adirondacks in neighboring New York. Leave your car at the base of the mountain and make the relatively easy 3/4-mile hike to the top, or, if you're in a hurry, follow the access road to the summit.

After a view from atop Mt. Philo, press north to Shelburne for a bit of liquid refreshment at Fiddlehead Brewing Company.
Adam Barhan, FlickrGrab a cold one at Fiddlehead Brewing Company

Stop 6: Fiddlehead Brewing Company
Shelburne, Vermont

At last count, Vermont had more breweries per capita than any other state in the U.S. -- the vast majority of which are producing excellent beer. Brewmaster Matt Cohen's Fiddlehead IPA, a medium-bodied, almost-sessionable beer with plenty of citrusy bitterness, is always on tap on Fiddlehead Brewing Company and pairs well with the wood-fired pies at Folino's Pizza next door. Fill up a 64-ounce growler, head through the door that links the two businesses and choose from a menu of 14 different pizzas, all flash baked in less than 3 minutes.

Burlington is a 20-minute drive north on Route 7 from Shelburne. Stay on Route 7 (which becomes Willard Street) past the University of Vermont and then head west on Pearl Street to reach your final stop.
Dennis Curran, VermontVacation.comDowntown Burlington, Vermont

Stop 7: Hotel Vermont
Burlington, Vermont

After covering more than 100 miles and spending the better part of two days getting in and out of the car, finish your road trip with a stay in Burlington, the state's foodie capital. Accommodations are plentiful in town, but try to snag a room at the newly opened Hotel Vermont. Not only does it include an outpost of Waterbury's Hen of the Wood, the acclaimed restaurant from James Beard Award-nominated chef Eric Warnstedt, it also has a second-floor roof garden ideally suited for appreciating the fall foliage one last time, a custom cocktail from its bar, Juniper, in hand.

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