What to do in Stowe, VT? (7 things to see and 3 to definitely avoid)

One of the benefits of living in Boston is our proximity to just about everything you could want within a few hours. Drive 30 minutes and you have the beach. Drive an hour and you have ski slopes. Drive 3 hours and you have what people call “The Aspen of the East” AKA Stow Mountain Resort in Stowe, VT. This is how I first discovered Stowe, VT. If you wound up here, then odds are you’re thinking of heading to Stowe for snow adventures of some kind. And, if you’re like me, you want to get a handle on what the area is like and what there is to do when you aren’t on the slopes.

First things first—Vermont is gorgeous. You can’t go wrong

I’ll admit my experience in Vermont is limited. Prior to our honeymoon in Vermont, I’d only been to Vermont once before, when I was about 18. A friend and I had made the drive from NH to Sharon, VT because “they had really good subs.” (shout out to Sharon Trading Post, their subs actually were great). Back then we were super broke and I remember searching my car for spare change so I could try to buy a bag of cheese for lunch or whatever else I could find for $3.87. We also got caught in a blizzard. All things that were very exciting at 18 and very stressful at 33.

ANYWAY

The next time I was in Vermont was for Jack and I’s honeymoon in December of 2021 and it was MAGICAL. There’s no other way to describe it. We stayed at Twin Farms and our experience off of the property included places like Woodstock and Quechee, which in December especially are the most perfect Christmas towns, plucked straight out of a Hallmark movie. So the bar was high.

The Scenery in Stowe

Vermont is beautiful. I don’t think there’s a corner of the state that you could find complaint with, and Stowe certainly holds a lot of charm. When we drove in we were taken instantly with the scenic mountain views and a fresh blanket of snow. (Vermont should always be covered in a fresh blanket of snow in my opinion)

Between the mountains, fresh air, and peaceful quiet, it’s an incredibly serene spot to be.

One of Stowe, Vermont’s many gorgeous bridges and parks

The Slopes

As a first time skier, I’ll admit I don’t know too much about what makes a great skiing experience. (I wrote about my experience as a first time skiier at Stowe and what to expect if it’s also your first time skiing here). But I can say with confidence Stowe is an excellent place for all-level ski and snowboard fanatics. We had an incredible ski instructor at Stowe Mountain Resort and access to an array of green slopes. If you’re a bit more of a pro, there are plenty of blue, black, double black diamonds as well. (I don’t think any of you are reading this. but if you are, hi, you are very brave)

There are other slopes in the area but let’s be real, if you’re going to Stowe, you’re probably going to this one.

Plus, inside Stowe Mountain Lodge you’ll find a super cute ice skating rink (free to the public), and you can even make use of their heated outdoor pool and hot tub which was GORGEOUS. (not sure if this is free for non-hotel guests but we just went in and no one seemed to stop us so, I’m guessing you can to!)

Pro tip: Go during the week if you can. We went on a Tue/Wed and while there’s still plenty of activity, we didn’t have to wait in traffic getting to the mountain, and there was never a line for the chairlift. Plus, if you’re fairly green you don’t want to be dodging people on the slopes. It’s very very busy on the weekends (I’m talking several miles of stopped traffic to get to the mountain) and very crowded once you’re there. Weekday is the way to go!

Stowe Vermont as seen from Stowe Mountain Lodge and Resort
Stowe Mountain Lodge as seen from one of the green slopes. This view speaks for itself

The Food: where I reccomend eating & drinking

This is where Stowe fumbled for me. I think by now I should know that towns that are heavily driven by tourists are going to be a little hit or miss on the food because few people are staying long enough to really build up a loyal following, but I was surprised just how expensive everything was, especially for the quality. I’m talking $16 paninis and $7 lattes. These are Boston prices (and then some) and I have to be honest—while the food was good it was rarely great.

Don’t be fooled—this pesto and tomato grilled cheese with tomato soup from Spruce Camp Upper-Level Dining was good but not $25 good.

That said, we found a few places we enjoyed and went back to a few times. Before I list them out, here’s something we’ve found to be true on most trips we’ve been on:

Skip dining inside hotels/lodges—the food is usually a miss

We stayed at Topnotch (yay for dog friendly hotels!) and while their menu looked delicious, it was….not great. I’d say half of what they made was probably done with a microwave and just pretty bland. We ended up just sticking to nightcaps and shuffleboard in the evening and avoiding the food.

A very sad breakfast sandwich and soggy potatoes we had our first morning. So much for breakfast in bed!

We also tried Alpine Hall inside Stowe Mountain Lodge and while it was one of the better meals we had overall, it’s incredibly overpriced. (Staff was lovely though!)

There are always exceptions to the rules: Smores and Japanese Rice Ball Hut were a hit!

I spent weeks leading up to our trip excited to try the smores hut. It’s only open Thur-Sun so each day I walked past it and stared longingly until it was finally time. It was 100% worth the wait. Was it ridiculously overpriced at $20 for 3 smores? Yes. But it was delicious, and it was fun to try all the different combinations like smores with Nutella, or Reeses, or Oreo. (my fav was Nutella even though I’m a PB cup nut)

Favorite dessert ever? Smores. Who can say no to all that sweet toasted gooeyness?!

We also tried the Japanese Rice Ball cart (Also only open Thur-Sun) at Spruce Peak inside Stowe Mountain Lodge and those too were DELICIOUS. My husband, who has spent time in (and loves) Japan said this + the can of coffee brought him right back to being there.

Here are the food & drink places I recommend in Stowe, VT

Michaels on the Hill

Our bartender at Topnotch recommended this restaurant and I’ll admit we weren’t so sure about it…the photos online make it look like it’s just a couple of tables set up inside someone’s house. Honestly….we were blown away.

This was by far the BEST meal we had on the trip. We started with the cheese board, I got a pasta dish and husband got steak (always), and we finished with a delicious chocolate cake. I only managed to get a photo of the cheeseboard and I’ve got to be honest, my photo skills in the dark are pretty bad so don’t judge based on this. But did you see the cheese comes with its own description board?! No trying to memorize what the waiter hurriedly said, because this board stays at the table with you!

Seriously, from app to dessert it was a delicious meal. 10/10 recommend.

Zenbarn

This place is described online as being quirky and it’s definitely that. With a communal table situation that feels a little weird in COVID-19 times (but really lovely for any other time) we decided to place our orders (it’s counter service) and head upstairs to a tucked-away little room that had chess, giant connect 4, and ping-pong. An adult playground…with alcohol!

Soon after this photo was taken I beat him at chess.

Between the burgers and chess, this was one of the most fun meals we had. The food was good (they offer Beyond Burgers for vegetarians and vegans like me!), the drinks were creative, and we loved the laid-back vibe. We also really loved being able to sit away from everyone while still enjoying the night. They even have music a few nights per week and from what we saw, it was packed, which is always really nice to see for local musicians.

Stowe Bee Bakery and Cafe

This place has the best breakfast in Stowe hands down. Their buttermilk biscuit egg sandwiches are cooked in-house daily and they’re DELICIOUS. I took photos but, let’s be honest it’s hard to photograph a good-looking egg sandwich so you’ll have to take my word on this. Do yourself a favor and grab a pastry while you’re there too. I recommend the cinnamon toffee scone—which was less dense and scone tasting as it was perfectly crispy and sweet.

Unfortunately the prices are a little out of control and while the coffee is good it’s not GREAT. (don’t worry coffee lovers, I’ve got your best coffee in town rec below)

I will say they have some flavors though, like creme brulee and peanut butter cup. But their sandwiches and pastries are delicious and it’s worth stopping by at least once. We also had lunch here one day and while it was good, it didn’t quite fit the $16 price tag for a panini.

Black Cap Coffee

Nestled in the adorable downtown of Stowe, this was the best coffee we had on the trip. They have lots of creative latte flavors (I tried Milkyway but there are SO many fun ones) and their breakfast sandwiches are really good as well. I also grabbed a blueberry muffin (tasty) and overall really liked the vibe of this place. A definite MUST for their lattes and hot cocoas.

The Bagel

We came here at the recommendation of a friend who used to live in Stowe and boasted that The Bagel had the best in the area. Handmade daily with freshly prepared cream cheese, I was IN.

Truth be told, I was nervous. You see, we’re a little spoiled living so close to Exodus Bagels here in Boston. (seriously, if you’re ever in Boston GO. They’re amazing)

While The Bagel was good, I don’t think they were as good as I’d hoped. Better than the sad bagel sandwich I had from Topnotch, but not as good as I had hoped. Still, if you have a hankering and are nearby, these are still a tasty treat. Just remember to get your bagel sandwich with cream cheese! It makes everything better.

One tip though: skip their coffee entirely. It’s from a dispensing machine and pretty bad.

The Whip

This was our final meal of the trip and we loved that they required proof of vaccination. Our waitress was wonderful, super friendly, checked on us regularly, and made us laugh, and the food was solid. It wasn’t incredible, but it was better than 75% of the meals we had so we counted it as a win.

Though I have to say, the creme brulee we got for dessert was DELICIOUS. I’m still thinking about it.

How Dog Friendly Is Stowe, VT?

The most important question! Finding Topnotch Resort was a huge win because it meant we got to bring Sawyer, our spaniel/setter senior pup with us and leave him alone in the room, something a lot of places in the area didn’t allow (Stowe Mountain Resort for instance allowed pets but did not allow them to be alone, even if crated, so you’d have to hire a pet sitter at $25/hour to stay with them).

There are also lots of really great trails and parks near the mountain to walk your pup (or yourself). We didn’t really come across any dog friendly stores or restaurants, though this may change in the warmer months with a patio. (we did see a lot of patios so here’s hoping!)

On the Sawyer scale, it gets a 6.5 out of a possible 10 Sawyers for dog friendliness.

I want to hear about your experiences in Stowe! Is there a place we should check out next time we are there? What was your experience?

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