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The Thrifty New England Traveler is a blog of VisitingNewEngland.com, a regional web site that focuses on the joys of travel in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.


Stowe VT: The Hills are Alive with Affordable Things to Do

This isn’t going to be one of those Stowe, Vt., posts that encourages you to spend all your hard-earned money and then equate it as the sole way to have a good time.

Let’s start out first by stating that, in one way, you don’t have to spend a dime to enjoy Stowe. Just look virtually everywhere and realize that the best travel attractions and memories could very well be provided by Mother Nature…

Stowe Vermont in the summer (photo source: GoStowe.com)

Stowe, Vt., in the summer (Photo source; GoStowe.com)

There’s no question that Stowe is an idyllic mountain town with plenty of beautiful year-round scenery — perhaps, arguably, nicer than any other in New England — as well as many fine shops, restaurants and lodging. It’s a world-class destination that can carry world-class prices.

The reality is, though, that Stowe is a very down-to-earth town with a beautiful, little village and some of the most pleasant, humble people you’ll ever meet. That is the takeaway for me — the presence of a community that would have appeal, for many, as a primary residence. We’ll take the sense of community and scenery over the marketing any day!

Growing up as the son of a teacher and artist, we didn’t have a lot of money, but my folks always found a way to save every penny so that we could vacation in the Stowe area every fall with a few summer visits included. The resort we stayed at thoughtfully locked in the first lodging rate for the next two decades, but we also found other ways to maximize fun times while minimizing expenses. It was sort of like the vacation version of having the smallest home in the best neighborhood — that is, living within one’s means while not compromising on memorable times.

Carrying that mindset into adulthood (proof: this blog!), I understand the problem for the budget traveler visiting Stowe, as a vacation here can get pretty expensive — or any well known tourist destination, for that matter. With that in mind, I thought it would be a great idea to mention several affordable things to do in Stowe with an emphasis on the warmer weather seasons. Please check back in often as I will be adding more budget-friendly ideas for Stowe, related to the seasons.

1. Hike Mount Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont at 4,395 ft. Always check weather conditions before considering a hike and consider checking with your doctor if it is OK for you to hike here, as trekking up such a high mountain like Mt. Mansfield can be a bit of a challenge. I know it was for me, and I’ve hiked many mountains across New England!  The views here are really amazing, though, and worth even a partial climb (like I did).

2. Bike, walk or inline skate the Stowe Recreation Path in Stowe, starting in the Village and meandering 5.3 miles through some beautiful forests and meadows and the West Branch River. Another great aspect of the bike path is you can stop whenever you want to check out nearby shops, or perhaps to grab a bite at the many restaurants.

3. Grab a bit at Gracie’s at 18 Edson Hill Rd. (Tel. 802-253-8741). Named after the owners’ dog, this is anything but a woof of a restaurant! this is a casual spot focusing on very fairly priced comfort foods, including New England clam chowder, fresh baked bread, real crab cakes, BBQ ribs, mac and cheese, burgers, and homemade desserts. The lunches are most affordable and the dinners amiettedly priced a bit higher than we’d like but still lower than most other places here that offer similar menu items.

4. Try some cider at the historic Cold Cider Hollow Mill at 3600 Waterbury-Stowe Rd. in neighboring Waterbury (800-327-7537). The cider is simply amazing, made from an old-fashioned “rack and cloth press.” The budget-friendly cider donuts are phenomenal, too!

5. Enjoy an afternoon tea and homemade desserts from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the lounge at the famous Trapp Family Lodge (the sweeping mountain vistas served here as inspiration for “The Sound of Music” movie starring Julie Andrews; hence the article’s headline reference here) at 700 Trapp Hill Rd.(1-800-826-7000). What a nice setting with a fireplace, sun room and splendid views of the rural countryside.

6. Take a Ben and Jerry’s Factory Ice Cream tour at its facility at 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Rd. in nearby Waterbury/You’ll see a company history “moo-vie,” and a tour of the production room to learn about the manufacturing process. After that, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for: visiting the “Flavoroom” where guests can try out a flavor of the day! There’s also a gift shop with myriad Ben and Jerry’s merchandise.
I’ve been a few times to this tour and it ranks up there with my other top Vermont vacation memories. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream has a way of doing that, I suppose! We recommend calling (802) 882-1240, X2300, for specific tour dates and times.The tour at this writing, is just $4 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and free for children 12 years old and younger. A tour package deal costs $20, and includes a choice of select t-shirt and a factory tour.

7. Visit the Stowe Golf Park (802-253-9951) located on Mountain Rd. in front of the budget-friendly Sun & Ski Inn and Suites in Stowe. This beautifully designed, well landscaped mini golf course has been designed to simulate a real golf experience. It’s open from May through October and the price, at this writing, is better than what you’d normally pay at a high profile attraction like this: $8.49 for adults (ages 13+) and $6.60 for children (age 6-12) and seniors (age 65+) under 12. Group rates (eight people or more) are $7.50 for adults and $5.50 for children and seniors.

Regarded as a premier ski and fall foliage New England travel destinations, the Stowe summers are appealing with so much to do and that refreshing mountain air that feels so good (especially at night). I hope you get to experience all seasons in Stowe, but for me (a non-skier), the summer and fall are best!

Please feel free to share your own inexpensive Stowe attractions experiences with our growing readership in the comment box below. Thanks!

For more info on Stowe, I highly recommend logging onto GoStowe.com

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