Cheese, Ice Cream and Teddy Bears – Vermont

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Stowe, Vermont

Like most folks, when we think of Vermont it’s the wonderful cheeses, maple syrup and maybe an image of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that dance through our heads.  We planned our stop in Vermont so that we’d be close enough to check some of these things out conveniently by car.  We were able to do it, and had a couple of nice surprises along the way.  Up early on our first day of exploring and off we went to the Cabot Creamery in Cabot.  The beautiful drive along highway 100 allowed us to enjoy many miles of the Mad River Byway – even though we encountered quite a bit of roadwork along the way.  Oh well, we’re in no hurry, right?  Yes we are!  We want our cheese and ice cream!

Dairy and Agriculture in Vermont

A common sight in Vermont, dairy and agriculture farms

We arrived at the creamery just as they opened and watched a short video which described how a few dairies got together to form a co-op which grew to 1,200 family dairies and works to assure that its members produce the best products possible. In our group was even one of the farmers who brought their grandkids for the tour. Then we took a tour of the very busy and noisy plant to learn how the delectable cheeses are made.  Finally, the good part – a big table full of samples of the many delicious cheeses!

After making our purchases and as we were loading them into the cooler in the car, one of the creamery employees walked up to us and just handed us a two-pound block of their premium cheddar cheese!  We were quite shocked and thanked the man profusely – now we have enough cheese to last the rest of the summer!  We hope to share this cheese with Pam of Oh the Places for telling us about Cabot Cheese.

On we went to our next stop, Ben & Jerry’s.  Another video followed by a tour, then a tasting of a fairly new flavor – cookies and milk.  As we were leaving, the girl in the information booth asked how we liked the tour.  We told her we enjoyed it but were disappointed that they weren’t selling their “Pistachio-pistachio” flavor that day.  She said, “hold on a minute” and asked another girl to watch her booth as she disappeared into the plant.  Two minutes later she came out with a pint of “Pistachio-pistachio” and gave it to us – free!  Wow, free ice cream and cheese on the same day!

I had read how beautiful the Stowe, VT area was, and since we were only a short distance away we drove up the Green Mountain Byway and stopped at the Trapp Family Lodge.  Yes, this was the home and is now a lodge of the real Von Trapp Family of the movie “The Sound of Music”.

It’s a beautiful place and would be a shame not to take pictures of the stunning hills mountains all around the area. I can just imagine how Vermont would look like in a few months  when the autumn leaves fall.

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe, Vermont

By this time we were getting hungry and were glad to find a great Irish pub/restaurant in Stowe.  After an excellent lunch we headed west to Burlington for a drive down one last byway, the Lake Champlain Byway.  This one runs right by the Shelburne Museum, and the Dakin Farm specialty foods store, where we stopped to buy even more delicious meats and other good eats.  After our 230-mile drive we were ready to go home and enjoy some of our cheeses – with a glass of good wine, of course!

The next morning we left early again for our day at the Shelburne Museum, which I recently blogged about here.  Since it didn’t open until 10:00am, we stopped at the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory – just for the heck of it.  We learned about how the business was started and saw all the steps involved in making their popular teddy bears during the factory tour.  It was actually quite fun, but probably not something we’d drive across the U.S. just to see.  We do love factory tours, though!

We passed by Montpelier, Vermont the smallest capital city in the United States, and is a very down-to-earth kind of town.  The Vermont State House  set in a picturesque backdrop of forested hills was remarkable and I could not resist snapping a picture as we drove by.

Montpelier State House, VT

On this stop we stayed at the worst campground we have encountered so far – Lake Dunmore Kampersville.  Fortunately, our all-day outings minimized the length of time we actually spent in the crowded, noisy park.  Avoid this one if you’re in the area!  Click here for Steve’s review, if you’re interested.


A museum like no other – Shelburne Museum, VT

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Round Barn

Heading into Vermont, our minds and plans were fixated on yummies like ice cream and cheese (more on that later).  Little did we know that the museum our friend Don from Ohio recommended to us was the real gem.  We had been to so many museums in our travels that we thought, “how different can it be?”  Well, we found out after spending an entire day there – from opening to closing!  For $22 per adult, you can explore and enjoy the museum for two days – and it could take that long if you are really into the many varied items they have on hand.  We did it in one day, but we were exhausted from being on our feet for 7 hours straight.

Shelburne Museum

Shelburne Museum is a museum of art and Americana located on 45 acres in Shelburne, VT.  Over 150,000 works are exhibited in 39 exhibition buildings, 25 of which are historic and were relocated to the museum grounds.  All collections are exhibited in a village-like setting of historic New England architecture, accented by a landscape dotted with colorful flowers.  It is an unconventional but very well done collection.

Inside the 48 acre museum grounds

45-acre museum grounds

Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888-1960) was a pioneering collector of American folk art and founded Shelburne Museum in 1947.  She had been collecting 18th- and 19th-century buildings from New England and New York in which to display her collection, even relocating 20 historic structures to Shelburne.  On the grounds we saw the relocated houses, barns, a meeting house, a one-room schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge, and oh yeah, the 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga.

Shelburne Museum

View of the collections of houses, barns and buildings as seen from Colchester Reef  lighthouse.

The restored 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga is a National Historic Landmark and one of only two remaining walking beam side-wheel passenger steamers in existence.  Just the story of how this boat was moved here is amazing.  It took months to dig a two-mile channel, fill it with water and then pull the boat along with a pair of locomotives. It was such a lovely sunny day to walk around the museum grounds, and we were fortunate to catch one of the 2 tours of the Ticonderoga – we just happened aboard at the right moment!

restored 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga

The 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga, built in 1906 and restored in 1955.

The thousands of pieces displayed in each restored house, building or barn are astonishing.  We have never seen anything like it – the general store and apothecary (pharmacy) are by far the most complete and authentic we have seen.  Just the construction of the round barn and horseshoe-shaped barn are amazing, not to mention the huge collection of hundreds of carriages and sleighs stored within them.  Whatever passion, interest or obsession you may have, this museum seems to cover them all.  Below are pictures of just some of the collections.

Horseshoe Barn

Horseshoe Barn contains the carriages, wagons and sleighs of different eras.


One of the many carriages on display

The rich collections pictured below were housed in separate buildings or houses.

Covered Bridge

Double-lane covered bridge with footpath

Quilt Collection

Huge and colorful quilt collection

On display in the weaving building is a rare 1890s Jacquard Loom, which used punched cards to create intricate designs in the cloth.  These punched cards are actually the pre-cursors to punched cards used at the beginning of the computer revolution.

Folk Art

High-end folk art collection

80-foot-diameter Round Barn

80-foot-diameter Round Barn of 1901, restored and moved here in 1986

Round Barn

Dozens more carriages inside the Round Barn – Steve is becoming a big fan of carriages!

A horseshoe-shaped structure called the Circus Building was constructed in 1965 and was designed to showcase a 4,000 piece hand-carved miniature Arnold Circus Parade.  The collection stretches nearly the full length of the building’s 518 feet.

Arnold Circus Parade

Arnold Circus Parade on steroids

Arnold Circus Parade

These miniatures ran the entire length of the building!

Finally, an intricate 3,500-piece miniature three-ring Kirk Bros. Circus is displayed at the end of the building.  Absolutely amazing display!

Kirk Bros. Circus

Miniature three-ring Kirk Bros. Circus

Whew…there was so much to see and gawk at!  And if you feel cultured and into fine art, there was a building for that, too – but photography was not allowed and the high-end collection was closely guarded.  After seeing all of it in seven hours, you may ask if we have a favorite among the collections?  I would say no, it was so diverse, so interesting and so fascinating that we could not really pick a favorite.  And I have not  even mention everything we saw, so if you happen to be in Vermont, make Shelburne Museum at the top of your list.

By 5pm we were exhausted and ready to sit down by the campfire to enjoy our wine and Vermont cheeses.  Ahh…the cheese in Vermont – stay tuned.

Next Up:  Ice cream, cheese and teddy bears under construction!

Our upcoming stops – tell us about any “must do” tours, excursions,
restaurants, etc. you’ve enjoyed at these places, so we can check them out:

 Portland, ME

Canadian Maritimes (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island)