Vermont Foodie Fall Foliage Drive
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.
Distance: 130 miles
Length of Trip: 3 days
Stop 1: The Village Peddler
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.
Stop 2: Plymouth Artisan Cheese
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.
Stop 3: New England Maple Museum
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.
Stop 4: Bobcat Café and Brewery
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.
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.
Stop 6: Fiddlehead Brewing Company
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.
Stop 7: Hotel 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.