Use Your Vacation Days and Go To Stowe, Vermont
Written by Sean Freidlin – September 1, 2020
Vacations are a beautiful thing; restorative, relaxing, educational, and exciting forms of self-care and exploration that expose us to new cultures, places, and ideas. In 2020, taking a vacation has become more challenging for reasons nobody needs to be reminded of. For those very reasons, I urge you to try and take one if you have the means.
At times, it can feel like we’re obligated to be grateful just to have the privilege to work. By every measure, employment at this moment is a privilege. But there is a law of diminishing returns that comes into play at a certain point where the quality and quantity of work you’re capable of producing no longer reflects who you are. A moment when your mind and body no longer function in a harmoniously productive state. That’s when you need to listen to the warning signs you’re subconsciously sending to yourself. That’s when you need to take a break and go somewhere safe that makes you happy.
Suppose you happen to live in America and face the reality of being physically incapable of leaving the country, or are simply frightened to board a metallic tube with dozens of strangers, inhaling recycled air for hours on end. In that case, I suggest you drive to Vermont. Specifically, the small town of Stowe, Vermont, and to be even more specific, Edson Hill, a completely affordable and out of this world oasis in the Green Mountain state.
Edson Hill is a 40-acre property that feels like an exclusive adult sleepaway camp. It’s one of the most beautiful and serene places I’ve ever been in my life. I’m convinced it’s the source of peaceful chirps and hums recorded and packaged into white noise machines and the aromas liquified, bottled, and sold to accompany diffusers. Whoever coined the term “morning dew” must’ve done it after waking up here. At night, the sky is so dark and devoid of light pollution that you’ll feel engulfed by the galaxy, as if you’re staring into the world’s largest planetarium in mind-boggling high definition. It would take a lifetime to count all the stars. With rocking chairs scattered throughout the property, you can sit back and soak it in. A deep-soaking bathtub and a wood-burning fireplace are waiting in your room, with a literally endless supply of pre-chopped logs and kindling.
It would be a gorgeous place to visit and call home for a few days under any circumstances, but it is incredibly worthwhile right now. It’s where I spent 5 days this August, and it’s a place I don’t want to forget.
Because let’s be real — as marvelous as a vacation can be, all of the positive effects can be undone within a few days of returning back to the life you left behind. At a certain point, the things you escaped gradually erode away all the bliss and beauty you fled to, and you’re back to where you were before you left.
If and when you take my advice and go there, you legitimately may not want to leave; there’s a nice, temperate swimming pool and a tranquil pond to swim in, and a variety of hiking trails, ranging in length and difficulty, scattered about the property. Green grass and blue skies sprawl in the distance, bleeding into each other as far as the eye can see. On-premise farms and gardens fulfill the promise of their “farm-to-table” dining. An absolutely fantastic restaurant with spacious outdoor seating serves breakfast that comes with coffee, juice, fresh baked rotating seasonal pastries like banana bread, peach scones, and blueberry muffins, and your choice of standard breakfast fare, executed to perfection. It’s included in your nightly rate, so there’s no excuse not to indulge. If that sounds good, wait until you see the view from your dining table:
Yea, I know, and that same table and view is waiting for you at a relaxed sunset dinner too, which starts with hot bread baked-in house and butter they legitimately churn fresh every day. Everything on the menu is bountiful and satisfying. Here’s a grilled bone-in pork chop with polenta and a wild mushroom, kale, and chickpea paella that my wife and I shared one evening. It’s a small miracle I didn’t eat the cheeseburger with salt and vinegar French fries every night.
If and when you eventually decide to leave the Edson Hill property, you’ll be presented with a variety of potential activities to satiate your appetite, whatever you hunger for.
Eating in Stowe, Vermont
As a New Yorker, there are few things I appreciate as much as a well-made sandwich. At Edelweiss Delicatessen, you’ll find reasonably priced and delicious hot and cold delights, from Montreal-style smoked meats, served on rye with mustard and expertly stacked Italian heroes to what my wife described as “the best chicken salad I’ve ever had.” I can corroborate her bold but accurate claim. If you’re going to venture towards Mt. Mansfield and Smugglers Notch for a hike, or plan to take a long bike ride on Stowe Recreation Path, picking up a few sandwiches from this local spot is highly recommended. Edelweiss has everything you need — curated regional snacks and chips, freshly baked pastries, local cheeses, and the best of Vermont’s bountiful breweries.
Drive a few minutes down the road and you’ll be in the heart of Stowe’s small, charming town, a quintessential “main street” lined with cute restaurants, most of which had plenty of outdoor seating, a church, touristy supply shops, and friendly locals. You’ll also notice plenty of signage encouraging you to enjoy the town and wear a mask while doing so, and a 100% compliance rate. So put your mask on and head to Laughing Moon Chocolates, where you can indulge in maple-infused chocolate truffles, sea salt chocolate caramels, and gourmet peanut butter cups perfect as an afternoon pick-me-up, late-night snack, or gift.
Craving pizza and a beer? Piecasso serves pretty respectable slices, pies, and Italian classics in a comfortable, spacious indoor/outdoor setup conveniently located next to Idletyme Brewing Company. For a more Neapolitan style pie, The Deep End is a block away. It delivers authentic chewy, charred crust, covered in cheese or seasonal ingredients, from a fancy wood-burning oven.
For breakfast and morning pastries, Stowe Bee and Butler’s Pantry are two popular options, but plan to be there early; both places came recommended by every article I read before my trip and seemed busy whenever we passed by. The Bistro at Ten Acres, Michael’s on the Hill, Hen of the Wood, Plate, and Doc Ponds came highly recommended for dinners. We could only eat so much, so I can’t personally vouch for them despite their overwhelming popularity from my pre-trip due diligence.
I can’t believe it took 1,200 words to mention Ben and Jerry’s factory. The. Ben. And. Jerry’s. Factory. Located in Waterbury, a stone’s throw from Stowe, it’s literally where the magic happens. The formal “tour” is temporarily closed as of writing this, but you can explore the grounds, the Flavor Graveyard, and of course, get fresh scoops of all the classics and limited-edition flavors, straight from the source. The ice cream is as good as it gets. While you wait on line (and browse easy-access QR code menus), you can read about their long, storied history of social justice and corporate activism. It’s ice cream mecca.
Physical Activities to Burn Off the Calories
The Stowe Recreation Path is a 5-mile trail that will take you from the heart of main street in town to the edge of mountain and hiking territory. It’s wide, paved path was engineered for the most leisurely, fun, relaxed bike ride you could ever want to go on. You’ll ride through grassy fields with mountain vistas and lush green forestation, over wooden bridges, up and down hills, whizzing by folks taking it all in by foot (on your left!). There are little side excursions you can take to peaceful gardens, walking loops, and hidden streams and brooks that are perfect for an impromptu swim or splash of refreshing water throughout the ride. It’s easy to rent a bike from a few convenient local options and channel your inner child for an hour or two, cruising through nature and seeing Stowe’s town from a unique perspective. It might have been my favorite activity of the trip.
Being the “Green Mountain State,” Vermont has plenty of more advanced and challenging hikes and outdoor activities, mostly centered around Mount Mansfield, Smugglers Notch, and Moss Glen Falls. In the Spring, Summer, and Fall, you can easily plan your entire trip around different hikes you want to take. Mansfield is the highest mountain in Vermont, and while we were initially captivated by the idea of climbing it (or at least some of it), my wife being in the second trimester of her pregnancy led us to a path that steered clear of unnecessary physical challenges and towards a scenic, comfortable round-trip gondola ride; the destination was a picturesque panorama worth the trip.
Everything we did was within a 15-minute drive from Edson Hill, and we were just as eager to get back to that little slice of paradise as we were to explore the best of Stowe, Vermont.
Wherever you want to go, whatever strikes your fancy and sounds like your idea of a good time, you deserve it. Don’t think twice. Don’t make excuses. Find a safe, practical place that checks your boxes and make it work. It’s been a hell of a year. Take a break.