Ten Regions with Scenic Drives and an Abundance of Arts and Outdoors to Explore
1. In Vermont’s rural Northeast Kingdom, you’ll find unexpected delights. Tour the more than 50 massive and masterful sculptures by David Stromeyer amid meadows and hay fields at Cold Hollow Sculpture Park. Visit Dog Mountain, home of the Stephen Huneck Gallery. Set on 150 acres, the grounds are always open to people and their dogs. For an especially unconventional arts excursion, head to Bread & Puppet Theater. You’ll find one of the nation’s oldest, self-supporting theatrical companies and its 140-year old hay barn that has been transformed into a museum for Bread & Puppet’s exquisite collection.
Along the Northeast Kingdom Byway, additional arts centers and venues include The Artist in Residence Gallery, Mountain Fiber Folk, Memphremagog Arts Collaborative, Now Playing Newport, Catamount Arts, and the Northeast Kingdom Artisans Guild, with work from more than 100 artists. Get Outside: Scenic boat cruises on Lake Memphremagog are a perfect finish to a day of arts touring.
2. Jewels within the nation’s sixth largest lake, the Lake Champlain Islands are popular with art-lovers, boaters and cyclists. Referred to simply as “the Islands,” its 200 miles of shoreline are a prized fall vacation destination, as the milder climate brings on peak foliage later in the season than in the state’s mountainous regions.
Along the Lake Champlain Byway, visit Grand Isle Art Works. The Gallery houses an extensive collection of local arts, its cafe serves lunch and a calendar of arts and crafts workshops is available for those wanting hands-on arts activities. Island Arts in North Hero offers courses for children and adults, concerts and arts events. You’ll also find art and crafts at the farmers’ market on Saturdays in Grand Isle.
Get Outside: The world’s oldest coral reef can be explored on walking trails along the shore and through old farmland.
3. For the last century, the villages of Jeffersonville and Cambridge have been havens for plein air painters, particularly in autumn. Travelers will be pleasantly surprised to see the region’s just-completed latest public art: two massive murals reinventing old farm silos in the village of Jeffersonville. This fall, Smugglers’ Notch Resort offers a “Painters’ Palette” acrylics workshop and a sculpting workshop with local artist Nancy Schade. Also, the Bryan Memorial Gallery and Visions of Vermont Gallery offer exceptional opportunities to appreciate or purchase the works of local artists and special exhibits. The newest arts hub in the region, Maple Ridge Center for the Arts has a shop and gallery, plus workshops for all ages.
Get Outside: Sterling Pond Trail leads to a beautiful, high mountain pond and panoramic views.
4. Along the scenic Green Mountain Byway, in Stowe, catch a performance at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center and walk along Helen Day Art Center’s “Exposed” outdoor sculpture exhibit that is placed on the town’s recreation path. Visit Green Mountain Fine Art on Main St. or enjoy the West Branch Gallery and Sculpture Park, a contemplative and contemporary place to explore sculpture in a natural landscape. Additional arts options include Stowe Craft Gallery, Robert Paul Galleries and Little River Hot Glass Studio.
Get Outside: Summit Mount Mansfield via one of the state’s most challenging hikes, the Hell Brook Trail, then ride the gondola or zip line down at Stowe Mountain Resort.
5. The Mad River Valley is home to several arts spaces, including Bundy Modern. Featuring the clean lines of the International Movement, Bundy Modern is positioned on a natural plateau with incredible views of the mountainside; the perfect backdrop for its exhibits of contemporary art. Nearby, Mad River Antler, offers “natural shed antler artistry,” in the form of chandeliers, lamps, wine holders and more rustic home decor. Other options to explore include the Artisan’s Gallery, Mad River Glass Gallery, Walker Contemporary Gallery, Luminosity Studios and Waitsfield Pottery. Waitsfield is also the headquarters of Vermont Festival of the Arts, which hosts a year-round gallery.
Get Outside: Enjoy steady ascents and miles of ridgeline payoffs on the Monroe Skyline, a “gap to gap” hike traversing the Long Trail north from Lincoln Gap to the Appalachian Gap.
6. Along the Crossroad of Vermont Byway, visit Killington Arts Guild before touring Rutland’s extensive arts scene, featuring Paramount Theatre, a lively hub for national acts appearing in an exquisitely restored 1912 opera house. In West Rutland, situated at an historic marble quarry, The Carving Studio and Sculpture Center offers residencies, exhibits, workshops and public arts events. Additional arts options include West Rutland Art Park, Castleton Downtown Art Gallery and Chaffee Art Center. Rutland’s several downtown murals are also a delight for travelers.
Get Outside: At Killington Peak, enjoy a thrilling SkyeRide, 30 mph birds-eye mountain tour or take the gondola to the summit.
7. The Middlebury region is brimming with arts offerings a close distance to state and national forests. Visit the Middlebury College Museum of Art, with its extensive outdoors public art collection and Mahaney Center for the Arts. Explore and shop at Edgewater Gallery’s two locations; Gallery on the Green and Edgewater Gallery at Middlebury Falls. Both are hosting fall exhibitions.
Get Outside: Enjoy foliage reflecting on calm water at Branbury State Park and U.S. State Forest Silver Lake Campground. 8. Along the Shires of Vermont Byway, in Manchester, you’ll find the village itself is an arts hub with galleries and museums in multiple nearby towns. At the Southern Vermont Arts Center, tour the historic mansion and art gallery; see a performance in the Arkell Pavilion and explore the grounds, home to the largest sculpture park in the state. Visitors to the Museum of the Creative Process will find a center of creative discovery and intellectual retreat. The museum is “dedicated to understanding the psychological properties of creativity, bridging art and science.” Additional nearby arts options include Weston Playhouse, Dorset Playhouse and the Marble House Project, offering artists residencies and cultural programming. For additional information, visit Hills Alive, an online collection of cultural events in the area.
Get Outside: Hike to the 70-foot fire tower atop Stratton Mountain for beautiful views of hills and villages below.
9. There are several arts opportunities in downtown Bennington and more yet, heading eastward into the mountains along Route 9, the Molly Stark Byway. See the defining collection of 19th-century Bennington Pottery and the largest collection of paintings by great American folk artist, Grandma Moses at Bennington Museum. Additional options include Oldcastle Theater, visiting Robert Frost’s memorial and catching a bird’s’-eye view from Bennington Monument, the tallest structure in Vermont. Tour The Bennington Center for the Arts and stop in at Fiddlehead at Four Corners, a gallery in the heart of the historic downtown district.
Get Outside: In addition to hiking, fly fishing for trout along the Walloomsac River is a popular outdoor activity in this region.
10. The arts and outdoors-rich West River Trail begins in South Londonderry and runs south along Route 30 into Brattleboro. In Brattleboro, join a jam session or see a first-rate jazz ensemble at the Vermont Jazz Center. Give trapeze swinging a try at the New England Center for Circus Arts or see a circus performance by students from across the globe. Additional options include a stay at the Art Deco Latchis Theater & Hotel, meeting artists in residence at the Vermont Performance Lab, and touring three galleries along Main Street: Gallery in the Woods, Vermont Artisan Designs and Mitchell Giddings Fine Arts, which offers exhibition openings, artists talks and events.
In the greater West River area, see the talents of internationally acclaimed glass blowers Randi Solin and Robert Dugrenier. Visit Elaine Beckwith’s Gallery in Jamaica and dine at the Garden Cafe, a culinary-art-space in Londonderry, also home to Martha’s Folk Art and Mountain Painters & Artisans Gallery.
Get Outside: Enjoy 772 acres of beautiful outdoor scenery at Jamaica State Park.