By Matthew Wexler
This article was originally published on EDGE Media Network
Every June, the LGBTQ+ community and our allies rally around the pride flag, display our queerness with rainbow-hued bric-a-brac, and take to the streets and social media to make our voices heard. But genuine pride — which lasts 365 days per year — is a bit more elusive. We fall back into the daily grind, often forgetting the shoulders upon which we stand. Few destinations throughout the United States have been as progressive, welcoming, and humble about their LGBTQ+ heritage and presence as the picturesque state of Vermont. Well, pack a weekender: it's time to head to the Green Mountain State.
Vermont made headlines for electing Taylor Small as the state's first transgender legislator. "Even pro-equality states like Vermont need trans voices in government to ensure the priorities and concerns of the community are heard," said President & CEO of LGBTQ+ Victory Fund Mayor Annise Parker. "Taylor will bring that perspective to the state house and Vermont can be a leader on trans equality because of it."
Small has stayed faithful to her word, championing a new state law blocking what's known as the "LGBTQ+ panic defense," reports NBC Boston. But Vermont's LGBTQ+ roots run as deeply as the state's Otter Creek River, which flows through Rutland and Addison counties before cascading into Lake Champlain. In 2000, then-governor Howard Dean signed an act relating to civil unions, which extended domestic partnerships for same-sex couples and paved the way for Obergefell v. Hodges 15 years later.
Vermont is the second least-populated state, which bodes well for emerging travelers seeking picturesque landscapes and a casual easing into travel's new normal. But whether you're in Brattleboro to the south, Woodstock in the state's central region, or Burlington, the state's largest city at over 43,000 people, you're bound to encounter friendly locals and — yes — pride flags, too.
Hit the Road
Vermont boasts some of the best road trips in the USA, with 10 scenic byways dotted with hiking trails, watering holes, antique shops, and artisans. Whether you're looking for a day trip or a multi-day adventure, these scenic drives offer an easy way to explore the state.
Scenic route 100 byway — the byway stretches 146 miles and connects some of Vermont's most notable ski destinations like Mount Snow, Magic Mountain, Okemo Mountain Resort, and Killington. But the summer months reveal the byway's secret treasures, with such unique locations and experiences as the Moss Glen Falls Waterfall, the Weston playhouse, the Vermont Country Store, and more stops along the way.
Northeast Kingdom Byway — millions of years of natural geological evolution have contributed to Vermont's breathtaking topography, particularly evident in this 51-mile corridor that connects Saint Johnsbury to the Canadian border where you can visit the Haskell free library and opera house located on the border of the US and Canada. Park the car and go for a trail ride by horseback with D-N-D Stables, then shop local at Northeast Kingdom Artisans Guild, a cooperative craft, and fine art gallery, and cool off in lake Willoughby.
Take a Beer and Cheese Trail
For those hungry to taste and imbibe what Vermont has to offer, several trails map out some of the state's best offerings.
Beer trails — the Vermont Brewers Association has assembled four beer trails to taste some of the country's best craft and microbreweries. Beer advocate's top-rated Vermont picks include Abner by Hill Farmstead Brewery and Double Sunshine by Lawson's Finest Liquids.
Vermont cheese trail — pack a cooler because there's no way you'll manage to cross the state line without some of Vermont's finest curds. The state boasts more than 55 cheesemakers, including Plymouth Artisan Cheese, founded in 1890 by the father of President Calvin Coolidge. (bonus tip: check out the calendar at nearby Good Commons, an LGBTQ+-friendly retreat center, which regularly hosts weekend yoga retreats and other themed weekends in a historic home.)
Taste of Vermont
In between stops, road-trippers will likely pass one of Vermont's many farmer's markets. Innovative farmers don't let Vermont's long winters (perfect for skiing) slow them down; instead, they utilize modern farming techniques, sustainable agriculture, raised garden beds, and greenhouses.
For those looking to have someone else do the cooking, Hen of the Wood with locations in Waterbury and Burlington elevates local ingredients to new heights with signature dishes such as mushroom toast with house-cured bacon or a show-stopping ribeye for two.
To finish the meal upon your return home, consider adding a bottle of craft spirits from Wild Hart Distillery. The collection, which hovers around 10 or so different spirits, claims to embody "All of Vermont; the contemporary, the quirkiness and the accessibility." while the Vermont gin is ideal for a juniper-forward martini, distiller Craig Stevens also produces other creative libations like Arancello orange liqueur and Burning Embers vodka.
And, of course, no trip to Vermont is complete without a pint (or two) of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Ben & jerry's has long supported the LGBTQ+ community and returns to factory tours this summer, where visitors can get the inside scoop on the iconic ice cream company and sample limited-edition flavors.
Stay a While
From historic inns to b&bs and LGBTQ+-owned properties, travelers can easily find the perfect accommodations to suit their style. With so many to choose from, here are a couple of favorites:
Woodstock Inn & Resort, Woodstock — nestled in the picturesque town of Woodstock, Vermont, this historic property dates back to 1892 and was later purchased by Laurance Rockefeller. Its latest renovation occurred in 2018 for $6.5 million, adding a splash of luxury with legacy suites and Woodstock collection rooms.
Millstone Hill, Westerville — located in central Vermont with a population of less than 1,000, this gay-owned getaway offers six different on-site lodging options, along with campgrounds and plenty of trails to explore the scenic vistas. Also, ideal for intimate weddings, consider the lodge, featuring five Adirondack-style bedrooms and not a television in sight.
Ready to explore more? Visit vermontvacation.com.