On a recent road trip through New Hampshire, Vermont, and upstate New York, I encountered an array of fascinating sights that seemed unique to the region, from painted moose statues to the Ben & Jerry’s factory.
I made the smart decision to come during autumn, which meant that the fall foliage was just starting to reach its peak vibrancy.
Let’s recap a few of the interesting sites from these cute little states.
My New Hampshire and Vermont Road Trip Route
This was the route I followed, more or less. I did pop into Maine for a bit, and I continued into upstate New York, but for the purpose of this article, let’s stick with the road trip highlights in New Hampshire and Vermont.
The trek starts in Burlington, Vermont, proceeds to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, heads down to Portsmouth and Hampton, and back west through Vermont to Bennington.
I know there were a lot of interesting spots I missed, but that’s ok. As an avid road tripper, I’m sure I’ll be back in this area before long. Feel free to share your favorite attractions in the area that I may have missed!
Here’s the rundown of some of the attractions and memories that stand out.
Burlington, VT: Waterfront and Marketplace
In Burlington, I spent some time in Waterfront Park, looking out over Lake Champlain. It was a cloudy evening, but the sunset view was still cool.
The Church Street Marketplace had a lot going on. I loved this pedestrian mall. There were almost too many options in terms of shopping and dining.
I walked around for a while, then had a delicious shepherd’s pie at Ri Ra Irish Pub.
Burlington was also home to one of my favorite quirky attractions in this part of the country: The World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet! It’s more than 40 feet tall and features 38 cabinet drawers welded together.
I don’t know what would compel someone to construct this, but I’m glad they did.
Waterbury, VT: Ben & Jerry’s Factory
As an ice cream maniac, I had wanted to visit the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, Vermont for years, and this was finally my chance.
Seeing how the ice cream gets made and trying a free sample was cool, but the best part was visiting the Flavor Graveyard of discontinued Ben & Jerry’s ice creams.
This is where they honor all the flavors that have been retired. I enjoyed being reminded of some of my old faves, like Boston Cream Pie, Pina Colada, and Mission to Marzipan.
Montpelier, VT: Vermont State Capitol
Montpelier looked beautiful surrounded by the changing colors of the fall leaves. My main stop here was the state capitol building.
Did you remember from elementary school that Montpelier is the capital city of Vermont? I took the self-guided tour and got to check out the building from the inside.
No matter how toxic U.S. politics become, there’s still a certain sense of awe seeing the chambers of democracy from the inside.
After walking around downtown and stopping at places like The Quirky Pet (“an emporium of way cool pet stuff”) and Namaste Indian Nepali Kitchen (loved the dumplings!), I set off east into New Hampshire.
White Mountains, NH: Mount Washington
After passing through Bethlehem (I enjoyed their mural), it was time to see the White Mountains.
White Mountain National Forest is the home of one of the most prominent peaks in New England: Mount Washington.
The peak stands 6288 feet tall, and it’s known for its windy and snowy weather. You can drive 8 miles to the top on a steep road.
Unfortunately, on the day of my visit, bad weather closed the road, so I didn’t get to have a Mount Washington experience. Even in September, the weather can be rough here!
Portsmouth, NH: Cute City on the Maine Border
Heading south toward the coast, I reached Portsmouth. I really liked walking around here. It felt like a stereotypical New England city, with old houses and hotels, and some walkable neighborhoods.
The Strawbery Banke Museum was a great way to get to know this part of the country.
Another good historic destination in Portsmouth is the Fort Constitution Historic Site, although it has been closed recently due to concerns over the structural integrity of the old buildings.
Hampton, NH: Beach and Boardwalk
New Hampshire does have a short stretch of Atlantic Ocean coastline. The long, wide-open Atlantic beach and its boardwalk of eateries and businesses are fun places to visit.
I encountered quirky sights like this Santa Claus in flip flops and shorts, outside the Sand and Santa gift shop.
Elsewhere in Hampton, I came across this historical marker dedicated to the old road that led to the city’s early settlement.
There’s so much rich history in the New England states, like the site of the Boston Tea Party and several Revolutionary War sites, that seeing a sign for something as mundane Old Landing Road wasn’t necessarily impressive.
But the sign is here if you’d like to learn about Rev. Stephen Bachiler and his small band of followers.
Manchester, NH: Art and Architecture
The biggest city in New Hampshire with more than 100,000 residents, Manchester was a good place to spend the night and hang out a bit.
I was most excited about the Zimmerman House, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structure from 1950 that’s conveniently located next to the acclaimed Currier Museum of Art.
Manchester has lots of other attractions that I hope to have time to visit next time, including Rock Rimmon, the Millyard Museum, and the Bookery cafe and bookstore.
Chesterfield, NH and Brattleboro, VT: Dueling Bridges
After heading west from Manchester, I reached the state line, which required driving over a bridge. I found this interesting: They built a new bridge, but kept the decaying old one right next to it.
It’s almost like they wanted to show the “Before” and “After” of bridge construction!
The new bridge is called the United States Navy Seabees Bridge. It was built in 2003 to replace the original from 1937. They decided to keep the old one as a bike and pedestrian bridge. Hey, why not?
Wilmington, VT: Downtown and Molly Stark Scenic Byway
Despite being deceased since 1814, Molly Stark leads the way through Vermont. She was the wife of a Revolutionary general.
Her scenic byway travels 48 miles across the state through small towns, valleys, and mountains. It basically runs across the entire state from Brattleboro to Bennington. Molly Stark State Park has some forested hiking trails.
In downtown Wilmington (pop. 2255), the Vermont House Tavern & Restaurant stood out. Apparently, the bar and restaurant portion have closed since my visit, but the inn itself very much remains open for business.
The Vermont House Inn remains a treasure. The three-story stagecoach hotel feels like a relic from a different era – because it is, having been built in the 1850s.
Woodford, VT: Green Mountains and State Park
Next I drove through the Green Mountains. They’re quite appropriately named.
I did a short hike in Woodford State Park. I loved seeing cabins like this on the water.
If you’ve ever dreamed about living in a remote log cabin on a lake surrounded by a forest, this is probably pretty close to what you envisioned.
Bennington, VT: The Painted Moose Statues
I was really hoping see some wild moose in this part of Vermont, but it was not meant to be.
As if to tease me, the town of Bennington, Vermont had moose statues all over the place!
These were very flamboyant moose. Some were dressed like hippies. Others were outfitted like colonial soldiers. One was decorated like a circus animal.
This one was a bit more stately, with a top hat and a necktie. Keep it classy, Mr. Moose!
What a cool sight. I’d love to seclude myself in a place like this for weeks at a time, enjoying the solitude and nature.
I’m hoping to go back to New Hampshire and Vermont soon to do a more detailed trip.
For more New England fun, read about the Mr. Potato Head statues in Rhode Island, see our itinerary for a drive from Boston to Maine’s Acadia National Park, and read a review of the Thunder Hole natural formation in Acadia.
What other places should people stop on a New Hampshire and Vermont road trip?