Fun Things to Do with Kids on a Vermont Vacation

16 Fun Activities for Kids in Vermont

By Victoria Watts Kennedy

Vermont often feels like an idyll of decades past, when trees outnumbered bricks and the land was carpeted in forest. It’s a state known for its cheese, maple syrup, ice cream, skiing and, of course, its famous senator. But what’s there to do with kids in Vermont?

For us, it was one of our favourite stops on our New England road trip. And the kids agree. I mean, it’s the home of Ben and Jerry’s, so it was always going to be a contender. But bike rides, row boats, teddy bears, Kipling, and a Dirty-Dancing-style resort helped it win our hearts. It’s a place I could see myself living.

So here’s our round-up of the best things to do in Vermont with kids. And they’d also suit anyone travelling without kids – who doesn’t want to eat ice cream and bathe in a forest?!

As always, please feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments.

And if you’re looking for somewhere to stay, see our guide to the best family resorts in Vermont.

16 fun things to do in Vermont with kids (or without!)

1. Try a Creemee
In Vermont, you don’t call it soft serve (or a ’99 if you’re English), it’s a creemee. And oh my, they’re good. I don’t know if it’s the name, the environs or the actual taste, but somehow a creemee just tastes better.

And to get the full Vermont experience, be sure to go for the maple flavour. The best one we tried was at Burlington Bay, which is a lovely spot overlooking the water.

2. Do the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory tour
Another ice cream “must” in Vermont is visiting the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory. It’s in a gorgeous location, just outside Burlington with views of the rolling hills. You can simply stop by to take a look, buy an ice cream (of course!), visit the flavour graveyard and play in the impressive playground. Or you can do a guided tour where you can see behind the scenes of the factory and learn about the company’s history. It’s best to book in advance as the tours book up quickly.

Also, to back up to the flavor graveyard, yes you read that correctly – there’s a “graveyard” of all the Ben and Jerry’s flavours that are no longer being made. It’s a quirky detail that sums up the brand’s character. We loved it!

3. Make your own bear at the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory
Two of our kids’ most prized possessions are the teddies they made at the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory just outside Burlington in Shelburne. The beloved company even has an on-site “teddy hospital” where you can send your teddies to be fixed.

When visiting, you can simply browse the shop for ready-made bears, or make your own with one of the staff.

They also run tours every half hour where you explore the factory floor, learning what goes into making a teddy bear, see some of the favourite designs from over the years, and even visit that teddy hospital! It’s definitely a must do activity for families in Vermont.

4. Ride bikes around Burlington
Burlington is a bike-friendly city and seeing it on two wheels is the best way to explore. There are cycle routes throughout the city and its outskirts, including along the waterfront of Lake Champlain on the 8-mile Burlington Greenway. This handy guide from Local Motion has details of the cycle routes.

We hired bikes and a trailer for the kids from Skirack. But Local Motion is another popular option. Bear in mind that it’s pretty hilly, so you might want an electric bike. I was fine on a manual one (and I’m really not athletic), but Steve got an electric one seeing as he was pulling both kids in the trailer.

It’s a good idea to book bikes in advance. That said, we didn’t, and simply walked in on the day – the first place we tried had none, but the second had availability even in the height of summer.

5. Stay at Rudyard Kipling’s estate
Did you know Rudyard Kipling lived in Vermont? The Englishman married an American woman, moved there, had a tumultuous relationship with the family (to the extent law enforcement were involved!), but fell in love with the land. And nowadays you can stay in the very house, Naulahka, where he wrote classics like The Jungle Book and Just So Stories!

We stayed in the neighbouring Carriage House, still part of the Naulahka estate, and it was one of the most memorable stays of our trip. It reminded me of the stately homes I visited in England as a child, filled with dark woods, cast iron beds and antiques from the 19th Century. And of course plenty of books and nooks for reading. It’s a special opportunity to bring Kipling’s history to life and one that kids and adults alike will love.

There’s lots of land and a tennis court for the kids to run around in, and you can visit the Scott Farm Orchard next door, which also holds events in high season.

6. Have an epic family holiday at Basin Harbor resort
Oh my, I’m obsessed by Basin Harbor. Largely because I’m also obsessed by the film Dirty Dancing, and Basin Harbor is the closest I’ve ever come to Kellerman’s. To my mind (and the countless people who return year after year), it’s the perfect family resort.

The lakeside paradise has an extensive collection of cottages and all the entertainment you need for a week-long stay. Take pickleball lessons, do a boat trip, hit the gym, put the littluns in kids club, swim in the pool, play in the lake, go to the playground, or do a round of golf. The list goes on and on.

There’s a fancy restaurant, a casual one, a food cart, and weekly barbeques on the dock. You really needn’t leave. But if you do, the nearby town of Vergennes is adorable and has some top-notch restaurants, including the Black Sheep Bistro and Laundry Vergennes.

The kids had the time of their lives (just look at them on that row boat!), and it’s one of the best places we’ve ever stayed. And while fairly pricey, I think it’s worth it.

We’ve also written a round-up of other great Vermont family resorts.

7. Explore the fairytale town of Stowe
Stowe is one of the most photographed towns in Vermont. A white-steepled church sits in the centre, and come in Fall, the town is transformed into the type of quintessential New England scene that the region is famous for.

In the wintertime, you can ski there. And in the summer, explore the Stowe Recreation Path, which starts behind the Stowe Community Church and is a lovely place for exploring the river. It’s right next to Piecasso Family Pizzeria, so be sure to stop there for lunch for plenty of kid-friendly options and outdoor seating.

8. Go to Vins Nature Center and do the canopy walk
A huge 78% of Vermont is covered in trees, and a great place to really feel that is Vins Nature Center where you can do a forest canopy walk around the tree tops and enjoy views to the Ottauquechee River.

The nature center focuses on environmental education and wildlife rehab and conservation. They have an impressive raptor exhibit, including owls, eagles and hawks.

The forest playground is also a highlight. We loved stopping here en route from Basin Harbor down to the Kipling Estate. It was the perfect place to break up the journey and stretch our legs.

9. Visit a local farm
Vermont is known for its local produce and there are plenty of farms where you can try some first-hand, including the state’s most famous products, cheese and maple syrup (and apple cider, blueberries, ice cream, maybe everything?!).

A popular option is Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks where you can learn about how the syrup is made (February to April is generally maple syrup season when the sap is extracted from the trees).

There are also lots of farmstands by the roadside. We loved the Harlow Farm Stand where we picked up some excellent baked goods and fresh berries.

We also went to Retreat Farm in Brattleboro where they have a kids play area and farmyard animals. It’s next to the Grafton Village Cheese Company, which sold lots of local produce and gifts, as well as, of course, cheese.

10. Get out on the water
Lake Champlain is so large, it tricks you into thinking Vermont is coastal. And there’s also Lake Willoughby in the north and Spruce Lake in the south, plus plenty more smaller options around the state. So be sure to get out on the water while you’re there.

Our kids loved rowing boats at Basin Harbor, and I loved taking a dip each morning.

Other options include boat rides, paddle boarding, kayaking and sailing. See more info on water sports in Vermont here.

11. Visit the Skinny Pancake
The Skinny Pancake is a Vermont institution. The small chain of pancake shops is wildly popular with families, serving food for all tastes. And it’s not all pancakes (although that’s obviously what you should try!), including burgers, poutine and even salads.

We went to the one in Quechee, close to VINS Nature Center, but there are branches across the state. It’s a big win with kids.

12. Visit the ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain
The ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, can be found in Burlington. The science and nature museum spans three floors and is a place learn about Lake Champlain’s ecosystem and its role in the region.

With interactive exhibits and aquariums featuring regional aquatic life, visitors can get up close with frogs, turtles and fish. It’s right next to the lake, so combine it with a bike ride or simply exploring the city.

More things to do in Vermont with kids
Some things we didn’t make it to but that come highly recommended for things to do with kids in Vermont include…

13. Do some winter sports

Come wintertime, the Green Mountains of Vermont turn into a winter playground. Popular ski resorts for families in Vermont include Jay PeakStratton Mountain and Sugarbush Resort. They all offer lessons for kids, as well as childminding services, and alternatives to skiing.

The Jay Peak resort has a particularly popular waterpark, the Pump House Indoor, which is a destination in its own right.

14. Hit the ski resorts in summer for outdoor adventures
In the summertime, the ski resorts are transformed into a different sort of playground with loads of opportunities for mountain biking, zip lining, rock climbing and daring aerial adventure courses. So don’t dismiss the resorts just because it’s not snowing!

15. See the Rock of Ages Granite Quarry
Not something you see every day, the humongous Rock of Ages quarry is a fascinating place to visit (just look at that photo!). The stone quarry has varying hours so check the website for the current opening times. The best way to experience it would be with a guided tour.

16. Visit the Shelburne Museum
The Shelburne Museum is a quirky museum of American history, art and design. It has over 150,000 works spread out over 39 different buildings on 45 acres of land, making it a unique kind of museum experience. And to make it even more unique, most of the exhibitions are delightfully unusual, ranging from a collection of over 400 dolls to a 3,500-piece miniature ring circus.

It’s a good one for keeping kids interested as there’s so much variation from room to room. If you’re there in winter, they do an epic illuminated light trail.


About Victoria Watts

Victoria lives in Bristol, UK with her husband and two sons. Together, they’ve visited 50 countries, and she’s made it her mission to put together travel resources and itineraries for people who seek unique experiences and destinations, including families with kids of all ages. She recommends these 16 Vermont experiences for those with children.