Weekend Away: Visit Vermont’s Mad River Valley When It's Not Snowing

Vermont is a place people (mostly) visit for two reasons: Fall foliage or skiing. And when it comes to skiing, Mad River Valley is ground zero. Set between two legendary winter resorts, Sugarbush and Mad River Glen, Mad River Valley was voted best Eastern ski town by Outside Magazine. But, as a native Vermonter, one of my favorite times to visit this corner of the Green Mountain State is summer. 

Summer in Vermont’s Mad River Valley means mild weather, seriously green landscapes, and amazing food. And while the food is excellent in Vermont year-round—the state ranks number one in the U.S. for availability of local food to the average citizen—the summer is when the farmers markets and local berries are at their best. When it comes to food— whether you want to cook, dine, or sip craft beer—there’s something in Vermont for you and Mad River Valley does local food so well, we think it warrants a whole weekend.

So, here's our ideal itinerary for a weekend away in Vermont's Mad River Valley area:

Day 1

10 AM: Waitsfield Farmers Market 

During the season—May 14th through October 15th—the Waitsfiled Farmers Market is in full swing every Saturday morning. Seemingly the entire town comes out to Mad River Green in Waitsfield Village for food, live music, local goods, and the local farmers's latest harvest. Bring some bags and plan to shop becuase you can stock up on everything local, from pottery, paintings, and jewelry to bread, cheese, jams, pickles, and, of course, maple syrup. 

12 PM: The Butchery  

Once known as Bridge Street Butchery because of its original location next to the covered bridge, this high-end butcher shop and fish market is now in a larger location adjacent to the Mad River Green. The Butchery is a must-visit for anyone who loves to cook, but, even if grilling a local grass fed ribeye isn’t on your agenda, stop by for one of their hearty sandwiches or the fresh cut sushi.

1 PM: Canteen Creemee Company 

You haven't had a proper trip to Vermont until you've had a creemee (which, btw, is the New England name for soft serve ice cream). And for the best cremee in the Valley, head to the recently-opened Canteen Creemee Company. The menu is split between sweet and savory, so fried chicken, fries, and a variety of burgers are also on the menu, but one taste of the chocolate swirl with sprinkles and we're certain you'll do dessert first.

2 PM: Warren Falls

Work off all that food with a dip in the Mad River. There are numerous swimming holes across the valley, and, if you have enough time to explore, you’ll likely find one you can call your own. But if you only have time to jump in once, have it be at Warren Falls, where there are three tiers of falls and you can dive off the prehistoric rocks into crystal clear mountain pools. 

4 PM: Knoll Farm

For an afternoon snack, stop over at Knoll Farm where you can pick your own blueberries. And because you'll likely pick more than you can eat, plan to save some for the next morning’s pancakes.

7 PM: The Pitcher Inn 

Don’t be fooled by the Mad River Valley’s rustic rural charm because there's also luxury dining and lodging. Nestled in the heart of Warren village, The Pitcher Inn offers world-class accommodations and a regionally-focused restaurant with the area's best wine list that is worth a visit all on its own.


9AM: East Warren Community Market

Do breakfast at The Pitcher Inn then stop by East Warren Community Market for a coffee and pastry. This adorable community co-op is located in a former one room schoolhouse yet manages to have everything you could possibly need. And most everything they sell has sourced from a 100 mile radius of the store including local favorites like Misty Knoll Farm chicken, Green Rabbit Bakery bread, Red Hen Bakery bread, and a fridge full of local cheese.

10 AM: Mountain Valley Farm

True, Mountain Valley Farm sells honey, maple syrup and eggs—all things you can get at any market in town. But pulling over on the side of Common Road to squeeze money into an honesty box in exchange for an assortment of blue, white, speckled and brown eggs has a lot more novelty and is 100% small town Vermont experience. The panoramic view of Sugarbush mountain behind the nesting chickens who laid the eggs is worth the stop alone.

10:30 AM: Von Trapp Farmstead 

Yes, we're talking the same Von Trapp from "The Sound of Music." When they arrived in the States, the family settled in Vermont because it reminded them of of their native Austria and they now make some of the most delicious cheese around. In case you missed them at the Waitsfield Farmers Market, (they often sell out) stop by the farm to grab a wheel of pungent wash-rind Oma, Camembert-style Mt. Alice, nutty Savage, or mild Mad River Blue. 

1 PM: The Mad Taco 

You think Mexican food in Vermont and you're skeptical, aren't you? Well, don’t be. Vermonters take quality of food seriously and The Mad Taco is no exception. With bumper-stick clad walls and a chalkboard menu, the unassuming “hole-in-the-wall” snowboarder hangout seems like nothing but fun. But their locally-sourced menu with seriously good homemade hot sauces, smoked pork belly tacos, and carnitas Cubano sandwiches prove the food is just a good as the atmosphere. 

5 PM: Prohibition Pig 

Go all out for your last meal of the weekend and head to Prohibition Pig and Hen Of The Wood. Drive the 25 minutes from Waitsfield to Waterbury so you can sip on one of many house-brewed beers or opt for the Golden Thistle, a sort custar-y Scoth fizz made with Famous Grouse, lemon, simple syrup, egg yolk, bitters, and soda. Sipping on that drink you might forget you’re in small town Vermont except that many of the liquors are made locally.

7 PM: Hen of the Wood  

It might be off the beaten path, but small old towns like Waterbury are not immune to James Beard Award nominations. Nestled in the basement floor of the historic Waterbury Feed Co. building, Hen of the Wood serves daily changing menu based on what’s available within miles of the restaurant. After much critical acclaim, chef Eric Warnstedt opened a second Hen of the Wood in Burlington. But dine at the original where you can munch on Hen of the Wood mushroom toast with poached farm egg, house bacon or grilled octopus with sunchokes, scallion and ginger while seated on a patio next to the river. If that hasn’t sold you, there is an entire page on the menu dedicated to a lengthly list of local cheeses.

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