Colorful views like this are why fall is so special in Stowe — Photo courtesy of Stowe Mountain Lodge at Spruce Peak
With its world-class slopes and fairy tale-like alpine village, Stowe, Vermont is best known as a winter ski destination.
But, if you wait for the snow, you’re missing out on this New England town’s super scenic season.
"In reality, autumn is the most beautiful time of year to visit," according to Scott Huntsman, Managing Director of award-winning Stowe Mountain Lodge at Spruce Peak. "The fall foliage in Stowe is some of the best in the world, and our slope-side location immerses you in the vibrant colors of the mountains, which need to be seen to be believed."
Here are ten reasons you’ll fall for Stowe in the fall.
Auto Toll Road
Take the scenic Toll Road to the top of Mount Mansfield — Photo courtesy of Stowe Mountain Lodge at Spruce Peak
Wind your way around the curves of the historic Toll Road to the summit ridge of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest mountain. Yes, you have to pay to make the drive but the views from the top are worth it. You can also hike along this road if you’re so...well, inclined.
When you reach the top, take in the breathtaking sights of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains from an elevation of 4,393 feet. Mount Mansfield is one of the only places in the state with Alpine tundra, and a hike along the Long Trail takes you above the tree line for more than two miles. From the side, the mountain resembles the profile of a human face, and the Long Trail leads you across the peaks of the lips, nose, Adam’s apple, chin and forehead.
The Sanctuary Lounge is appropriately named — Photo courtesy of Stowe Mountain Lodge at Spruce Peak
Once you’ve discovered this retreat in The Spa and Wellness Center at Stowe Mountain Lodge, you’ll wish for bad weather so you’ll have an excuse to spend the day there.
With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the mountains, a fireplace and healthy snacks, this is a cozy place to relax and finish that book – or just curl up and take a nap.
Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour
Get the real scoop on the Ben & Jerry's Factory Tour — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
I scream, you scream, we all scream for Ben & Jerry’s! This 30-minute guided tour gives you a behind-the-scenes look at (and taste of) how everyone’s favorite ice cream is made. You’ll watch a fun video tracing the two friends’ history from their first scoop shop in a renovated gas station, see the production line that sends out more than a quarter of a million pints daily, and check out the ooh-what’s-happening-in-there-Flavor Lab.
Best of all, you’ll get to sample the flavor of the day, which is only available on the tour. When I was visiting, it was Maple Tangerine, which I hope to find in grocery stores one day. Be sure to pay tribute to old favorites at the Flavor Graveyard, and stop at the adorable gift shop for cow-like bowls, coffee mugs that look like vintage pints of Ben & Jerry’s and T-shirts that proclaim, "I like to spoon."
Solstice Chef’s Table
The best seats in the house are at the Solstice Chef's Table — Photo courtesy of Stowe Mountain Lodge at Spruce Peak
Chef Sean Blomgren at Solstice at Stowe Mountain Lodge whips up special, locally-sourced dishes every single day, but if you want a really elevated experience, let him prepare a custom menu just for you, omakase-style.
After sharing your culinary preferences and restrictions, you’ll be seated at the best table in the house, directly overlooking the open kitchen counter, where you can watch your meal being lovingly created. Sommelier extraordinaire Tim Wallace will pair all four courses with selections from the wine cellar for a unique experience that will make you feel like a VIP.
New England Culinary Institute
The New England Culinary Institute's student-run restaurants are also their classrooms — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
The prestigious New England Culinary Institute is the alma mater of so many big names including the Food Channel’s Alton Brown, and you can taste the creations of the next generation of top chefs at two student-run restaurants.
NECI believes that the kitchen is the best classroom, and you can have dinner at NECI on Main, where farm-to-table has been the philosophy for more than 30 years. Or enjoy breakfast or lunch at La Brioche Bakery & Cafe for fresh pastries, soups and breads.
The fact that most guests have no idea that their food was made by students is the highest praise of all. And it tells you everything you need to know about the quality, not just of these eating establishments, but also of these future chefs’ education.
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Cold Hollow Cider Mill
Cold Hollow Cider Mill is a Vermont icon — Photo courtesy of Jim Courtney
No trip to Vermont is complete without a stop for fresh-pressed apple cider and apple cider donuts at Cold Hollow Cider Mill.
Cold Hollow has been making its legendary donuts from a secret recipe for 25 years, and, during the fall, they turn out more than 800 dozen a day. Have a cup of the famous cider from the large sample tank while you watch the human pressers make it right in front of you.
Bring home a gallon or two for later, and don’t worry: you can order the cider and the donuts online for a taste of fall all year round.
Stowe Cider Uber Scrub
The Stowe Cider Uber Scrub is a fall treat — Photo courtesy of Stowe Mountain Lodge at Spruce Peak
This restorative 100-minute treatment at the Spa at Stowe Mountain Lodge is the perfect fall indulgence.
A pre-massage full-body scrub incorporates an exclusive blend of exfoliating ingredients and local Stowe Cider. The apple scent is so intoxicating, you’ll be tempted to take frequent whiffs of your newly-soft skin.
Luckily, after your service, the Spa Concierge will bring you a can of cold Stowe Cider to sip in the Sanctuary. Grab a cushy lounge chair, wrap yourself in a soft blanket and enjoy the mountain views along with your delicious drink.
Be nice and you just might nab an invitation to this secret speakeasy — Photo courtesy of Stowe Mountain Lodge at Spruce Peak
This underground (literally!) speakeasy at Stowe Mountain Lodge is awesome, and the only way to get in is to be invited by a staff member. See, being nice has its rewards.
It’s impossible not to feel special in this exclusive but intimate atmosphere, where Dan Hatheway holds court, tends bar and treats you like family. Ask him to make you a Forbidden Lady, and don’t freak out when he takes out a blowtorch.
The Gondola SkyRide takes you right to the top of Mount Mansfield — Photo courtesy of Stowe Mountain Lodge at Spruce Peak
If it’s just views you’re after, why bother climbing or driving?
The easiest way to reach the top of Mount Mansfield is to simply board the Gondola SkyRide, sit back and admire the color show nature has put on for you.
Get a bird's-eye view of the fall foliage on the zip line — Photo courtesy of Stowe Mountain Lodge at Spruce Peak
Fall is a great time to experience this popular activity at Stowe Mountain Lodge, and the perfect way to get a bird’s-eye view of the gorgeous scenery.
Launching from the top of Mount Mansfield – you take the Gondola to get up there – this is one of the longest and fastest zip line tours in North America. The ZipTour consists of three zip line spans, each with two side-by-side cables so you can soar above the Vermont forest canopy with your BFF.
Strap on a GoPro to document your experience so you can relive it in the middle of the cold, bare winter.