10 of the best things to do in charming Vergennes, Vermont

Lifestyle

A bustling restaurant scene, outdoor fun, local art and rich history abound in Vergennes, Vermont’s smallest city — Photo courtesy of Bob Schatz

You’ve probably never heard of Vergennes, and in some ways, it’s no wonder. It’s Vermont’s smallest city in population, with an area of just two square miles, but the size of this petite municipality is inversely proportional to its charm.

With a standout restaurant row, a beautiful historic setting and a location that’s convenient to Lake Champlain, mountain hiking and big-city Burlington, you’ll never want to leave. Here’s how to live large when you visit Vermont’s smallest city.

Soak up history where you stay

Stevens House in downtown Vergennes, now a residence, features a Victorian-era facade over post-Revolutionary War-era constructionStevens House in downtown Vergennes, now a residence, features a Victorian-era facade over post-Revolutionary War-era construction — Photo courtesy of Bob Schatz

Vergennes dates back to the post-Revolutionary War era, but the look of its vibrant Main Street is decidedly Victorian. Stay amongst landmarks like the Vergennes Opera House, Stevens House (which dates back to 1793) and downtown dining destinations at historic B&Bs like the Strong House Inn and Emerson House, which combine contemporary comforts with a historical setting.

For more modern, unique digs, local Airbnbs offer accommodations in the home of a renowned local glass artist or an expansive, light-filled loft in a former spark plug factory overlooking Otter Creek Falls – or stay lakeside at the Basin Harbor Club hotel and resort.

See a stained glass marvel

The Bixby's historic stained-glass dome is even prettier in personThe Bixby’s historic stained-glass dome is even prettier in person — Photo courtesy of Bixby Memorial Free Library

While only local residents can check out books, you’ll want to check out the Bixby Memorial Free Library in downtown Vergennes. The century-old classic Greek revivalist building is a historic site in its own right, but it’s the spectacular stained glass dome in its lobby that’s a can’t-miss attraction.

The records of who constructed the Tiffany-esque design of thousands of pieces of English-made colored glass have been lost to time – a mystery that’s also a breathtaking sight to behold.

Sip on local craft cider

Get a taste of local flavor at Shacksbury Cider's tasting roomGet a taste of local flavor at Shacksbury Cider’s tasting room — Photo courtesy of Shacksbury Cider

Some of Vermont’s best cider is made at Shacksbury Cider, not far from downtown Vergennes’s Main Street strip. Stop by their tasting room to sip a glass of their pleasantly pink rosé cider or cans of Vermonter, made with local apples and aged in Barr Hill gin barrels.

For more locally made beverages, hit up Otter Creek Brewing, Woodchuck Cider and Stonecutter Spirits in nearby Middlebury and tiny Windfall Orchard in Cornwall for their renowned hard cider and perry.

Picnic by Otter Creek

Relax or picnic at Vergennes Falls Park, right on the banks of Otter CreekRelax or picnic at Vergennes Falls Park, right on the banks of Otter Creek — Photo courtesy of Bob Schatz

Otter Creek is more than the name of a beer brand. It’s a real creek that flows through Vergennes and surrounding communities. Vergennes Falls Park is the perfect place to wake up with an espresso and French pastry from Vergennes Laundry or enjoy a relaxed al fresco lunch in view of the scenic falls.

Dine out in style

Head to Vergennes Laundry for farm-to-table fine diningHead to Vergennes Laundry for farm-to-table fine dining — Photo courtesy of Vergennes Laundry by CK

In small yet mighty Vergennes, you can eat your way through a strip of big city-caliber restaurants. Start your day with coffee and breakfast at funky 3 Squares Cafe, then enjoy a customized pizza and a pint at Hired Hand Brewing Co. for lunch before deciding on dinner.

Options include escargots and duck breast at the cozy Black Sheep Bistro, down-to-earth burgers and wings at Park Squeeze or the three-course prix-fixe menu from 2017 Vermont Chef of the Year Christian Kruse at Vergennes Laundry. Finish the evening with a cocktail at Bar Antidote.

Indulge your sweet tooth

Enjoy handcrafted confections at Daily ChocolateEnjoy handcrafted confections at Daily Chocolate — Photo courtesy of Jennifer Roberts

Tucked below street level just off the town’s main drag is a chocolate lover’s paradise. Head to Daily Chocolate to sample bonbons and and barks handmade by owner Jen Roberts and her crew of chocolatiers, and pick up some decadent gifts for your friends back home.

Don’t miss their bestselling lemon-lavender white chocolate bark, shot through with tamari almonds and lavender buds. Looking to cool off with dessert? Soft-serve maple creemees and farm-to-spoon scoops in flavors like orange cardamom and green tea await at Lu Lu Ice Cream.

Get active outdoors

Snake Mountain offers stunning views of autumn foliageSnake Mountain offers stunning views of autumn foliage — Photo courtesy of Bob Schatz

Vergennes is a quick, scenic drive from outdoor destinations offering lush wooded trails, seasonal bird watching and stunning vistas. Mt. Philo offers access to its 968-foot summit – with an unmatched view of pastoral farmland, Lake Champlain and New York’s Adirondack Mountains – via a hiking trail, or you can walk (or drive) up the paved access road for an easier trip to the top.

Or go south for a moderate hike up to the ruins of the aptly named Grand View Hotel on Snake Mountain in Addison.

Shop for local farm fare

Enjoy the season's bounty at the Vergennes Farmers MarketEnjoy the season’s bounty at the Vergennes Farmers Market — Photo courtesy of Bob Schatz

On Thursday afternoons through October 10th, local growers and live music take over City Park for the Vergennes Farmers Market, where you can pick up organic produce, artisan cheeses, maple products, fresh-baked breads and prepared foods.

Need local goodies when the park isn’t open? Head to Provisionary, a small but well-stocked market featuring Vermont-made body care products and artisan foods from cultured butter to kombucha.

Hit Lake Champlain for freshwater fun

End a quiet, reflective nature walk at Button Bay State Park at scenic Button pointEnd a quiet, reflective nature walk at Button Bay State Park at scenic Button point — Photo courtesy of Alexandra Jones

The “sixth Great Lake” is less than half an hour from downtown Vergennes. Head to its shores for swimming, fishing, birding, kayaking, boating, water skiing, camping and more. Access the water at Button Bay State Park or Kingsland Bay State Park in nearby Ferrisburgh, swim at Ferrisburgh Town Beach or camp lakeside at D.A.R. State Park in Addison. (Button Bay State Park features a swimming pool and lakeside trails but no lake swimming.)

Learn about the history of this magnificent body of water at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

Feed your artistic side

Get inspired at Northern Daughters on Main Street, a contemporary art gallery blending big city chic and a homey boots-and-flannel vibe. Just across the street, the not-for-profit Creative Space Gallery features Vermont artists and artisans working in media like metal, wood, textiles and pottery, as well as painting and photography.

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