If you're heading to Vermont with kids this winter, there's more fun to be had beyond the slopes. For a real taste of what the state has to offer, we recommend carving out time to explore small towns outside the resort areas, where you can count on experiencing local family-friendly activities and events. Read on for our tops picks of exciting things to do with kids in Vermont during the winter.
1. Spend a day at the mountain.
Our first pick may be an obvious one, but some resorts are more family-focused than others and do a better job of catering to kids. Choosing the right mountain is essential, because while rides in the chairlift and runs down the slope can entertain for hours, even the most enthusiastic young skiers and snowboarders will be ready to kick off the boots and switch gears by mid-afternoon. Easy trails, handy full-service amenities, and multiple activity options are key, especially if you have a first-timer, who may need frequent breaks and in-between-lesson encouragement before getting back out there. In Southern Vermont, Stratton Mountain Resort has tons of easy trails and a tubing park. Okemo Mountain Resort also offers tubing, plus there’s an awesome alpine roller coaster and pint-size snowmobiles for family tours. Your best bet in Northern Vermont is Smugglers’ Notch (“Smuggs” to locals), which features a fantastic ski school and a winter zip line.t
2. Go on a sleigh ride.
Dashing through the snow in a horse-drawn sleigh is bound to delight the little ones, and this is an activity that parents will also truly enjoy. Sit the kids up front so they can see the horses and talk to the driver, and take a seat in the back to snuggle under a wool blanket and savor the scenery (and some peace and quiet). Most places offer group rides that are first-come, first-served, and also private rides that need to be booked in advance. In Northern Vermont, there’s Gentle Giants and Trapp Family Lodge, both in Stowe, and Shelburne Farms in Shelburne. In Southern Vermont, check out the Adams Family Farm in Wilmington.
3. Visit the Shelburne Museum.
This exceptional kid-centric museum is a great choice year-round, though with frigid temps and cabin fever, winter is an ideal time to visit. The museum has rotating special exhibitions that are fun and engaging, and a permanent collection that contains more than 100,000 items and features everything from fine art to textiles to toys. The circus collection, which includes two hand-carved wood circus models and hundreds of 19th- and 20th-century circus posters, is the top draw for children. There are also dolls and dollhouses, wooden toys, and “automata,” large mechanical toys that are meant to be comical. The collection of antique horse-drawn carriages is another favorite.
4. Check Out winter carnivals and festivals.
The sun sets in the four-o’clock hour through January in Vermont, so to brighten up dreary skies and dark days, several towns across the state hold winter carnivals and festivals. Most happen in February over a weekend, and some last an entire week. Sledding, skating, ski races, and snow and ice sculpture contests are common activities, plus expect indoor fun like music, talent contests, and face-painting. Check municipal event calendars for towns including Brattleboro, Milton, Colchester, and Middlebury, which bills its fete as the oldest student-run winter carnival in the nation (celebrating its 95th year in 2018). Burlington kicks off the month with the Church Street Winter Lights Festival, when trees along the pedestrian street get an added dose of festive color.
5. Hang out at a sugar shack.
Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S., and although maple season doesn’t start until spring, there are still dozens of sugarhouses you can visit that are open year-round. Spend the afternoon taking a tour or guided walk through the woods, tasting different grades of syrup, browsing in the gift shop, and sampling maple fudge and candy. Some places even have the much-loved maple creemee throughout the winter (because it’s never too cold).Your kids might also get to try “sugar on snow” (maple syrup drizzled on the fluffy white stuff), although it’s typically an early March treat.
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