72 Hours in Mad River Valley, VT
From the crisp cool air and gorgeous fall colors to the top-notch skiing and picturesque snowscapes, it's not hard to see why this is a prime time to visit Vermont. Chelsea Bengier hits Mad River Valley, just south of Burlington, for a weekend of kickass slopes, spirits and scenery.
In the winter, the area transforms into one of Vermont’s top ski destinations. Sugarbush is the main attraction — it’s one of New England’s biggest ski resorts, with 111 trails and 16 lifts. But that doesn’t mean its smaller sister peak of Mad River Glen should be missed. Although it has half the number of runs (45, to be exact), it’s one of the most challenging terrains thanks to a steep 2,000-foot vertical drop and bevvy of black diamond glades. Its slogan — “Ski it if you can!” — says it all.
The Inn at Round Barn Farm
Located on 245 sprawling acres of mountainous and meadowed landscape, the Inn at Round Barn Farm is easily the most romantic B&B around. Each guestroom in the 19th-century yellow farmhouse has cozy touches like original pine floors, gas fireplaces and deep-soaking whirlpool tubs. Our favorite is the Richardson Room, with vaulted wood-beam ceilings, skylights and stunning mountain views. In your free time, hit up the game room for a round of billiards, swim in the 55-foot heated indoor pool, or take in some local art at the cultural center inside the round barn. During the colder months, you can snowshoe on the property’s trails, while in the summer, you can stroll through the well-manicured gardens.
Big Picture Theatre
Cinephiles line up to catch films at this artsy, independent theater. All three cinemas have comfy couches and lazy-boy-like chairs to curl up in, and moviegoers can even bring in hard ciders and snacks to munch on while watching. After the show, enjoy a bite to eat at the funky cafe — try their famed mini maple-glazed donuts — and tap along to live jazz sets on Thursdays.
Right next to Waitsfield’s famous covered bridge is this little gem packed with treasures and knick knacks. Browse the pottery, photography and wood carvings made by more than 150+ local craftspeople. Then, pick up a pair of handmade moccasin slippers or some colorful glass jewelry to take home.
Icelandic Horse Farm
Newsflash: You don’t need to cross the Atlantic to ride Icelandic ponies. Saddle up at this horse farm and go on a half-day or full-day trail ride through the forests and fields of the Green Mountains. For a longer trip, there’s two- to six-day treks where equestrians can take in the fall colors by day, stopping for gourmet picnics and overnights at the property’s charming 1860s Victorian inn.
Mad River Distillers
Prefer spirits over hops? Head on over to Mad River, a craft distillery that specializes in bourbon, rum and apple brandy (all made from locally-sourced grains and ingredients). Tour the distillery and try a sample of the Maple Cask Rum, Revolution Rye whiskey and Malvados apple brandy. Or, if you need an après-ski warm up at Sugarbush, CastleRock Pub at the base also serves Mad River drinks.
The Mad Taco
Everyone loves a little Mex now and then. And if you’re in Mad River, The Mad Taco is the place to get some. We recommend the in-house smoked pork belly taco with jalapeño and pico de gallo or the Big Daddy Fatty with pita, cheese, avocado, coleslaw, avo-verde, onion and cilantro. And don’t miss the homemade hot sauces for an extra kick.
Don’t be fooled by Waitsfield — it may be a small town, but that doesn’t mean it lacks diverse dining options. Case in point: Mint, a top choice among vegetarians and vegans for its seasonal, green recipes and extensive tea selection. Try the yellow split pea and Puy lentil dahl with chili, glazed carrots, red peppers and brown rice.
American Flatbread is not your average pizza place. Housed in a rustic 19th-century barn on the owner’s rolling farmland, the Waitsfield outpost is just as scenic as it is savory. The centerpiece is the wood-fired oven, which was built by hand using stones found on the fields. Order the crowd-favorite Vermont Sausage (Gaylord Farm’s naturally raised pork in a house-made maple-fennel sausage with carmelized onions, roasted mushrooms, cheese and homemade organic tomato sauce). For dessert: warm apple pie, baked in the wood-fired oven.
The Sweet Spot
Craving dessert? The Sweet Spot, a café/bar stocked with freshly baked treats, craft cocktails and a killer shot of espresso, is sure to satisfy. Get your morning jolt with a cup of coffee brewed by Awake, a small-batch roaster in Vermont. But if you ask the locals, they’ll tell you to taste the homemade French custard-style ice cream (in flavors like peach bourbon and strawberry buttermilk) or frozen fruit pops such as blueberry cardamom and peach jalapeño.
Peasant’s romantic atmosphere — all deep reds and warm gray flannels, paintings by local artists and live jazz or folk music Mondays — is just as inviting as its hearty Italian dishes. Crafted by a father-son chef duo, the seasonal menu is to die for, with meals like vermont beef and pork meatballs braised in white wine, rosemary and onion as well as chicken marsala in a creamy lemon and sherry sauce. Plus, creative drinks including the Maple Old Fashioned and the Limoncello Martini are a welcomed perk.
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