The Mad River Valley is a beautiful area of Vermont defined by the river that runs through it. Ironically, the river ended the area’s prosperity when it flooded the region in 1920. It wasn’t until after World War II that the area began to rebound with the start of the ski industry. The Mad River Valley is still dotted with historic farmsteads, making you feel like you have gone back in time.
We drove north up Route 100, making several stops along the way. The Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in planning our itinerary and was a wealth of information. I would highly recommend contacting them for advice on your trip. We told them our interests and they came back with a list of places to visit, and none of them disappointed. Here is a list of the activities that we loved.
1. Glass blowing at Salt and Sand Studios
This was our first stop and the boy’s favorite. Spencer welcomed us into his studio in the morning before the day became too hot to be in close proximity to a furnace. We were so excited to see a demonstration on glass-blowing and even got to participate.
The boys made a paper weight and a Christmas ornament. The thought of playing with melting glass, fire and blow torches was all too exciting for them. Although the studio can be a dangerous place for children, I was never worried because Stuart and his apprentice were so careful and patient with them. They walked them through each bit of the process. It was like a combination of an art class and a science lesson in one.
It was mind blowing for them to transform molten glass into an artistic creation. They had to keep in constant motion to find the form that they wanted and if the glass went below 1000 degrees, it was too cool to work with and had to go back to the oven. We picked up our treasures the following day and they have not put them down since. Harry’s paper weight looks like a galaxy with all of the colors swirled through it. Link to: Salt & Sand Studios
2. Take a dip at Warren Falls
Right across the street from the studio is Warren Falls. There is a large parking area and it is only a short walk to the falls. Although it is rated as one of the best waterholes in Vermont, it can also be very dangerous.
3. Have a “Number 6” at the Warren Store
Right off of Route 100 is the tiny village of Warren. It is a quintessential Vermont village with a covered bridge that spans the river. We went into the “almost famous” Warren Store which had a little bit of everything. The place seems to keep going- up a few stairs to the kids section, down a few stairs to women’s clothing.
There is a market place and deli downstairs. Try their famous “Number six” sandwich which is a local favorite. You can eat on picnic tables overlooking the river. It is an idyllic setting.
4. Enjoy the colors and textures at the Mad River Fiber Arts & Mill
My kids were really interested to see the process of turning wool into yarn. They are happy to show you around the mill if you call in advance since there are a lot of machines running which will have to be turned off for safety.
They have a retail shop that can be visited any time and they also offer workshops for teenage children and up. We loved seeing the colors and textures and it was a really interesting process. I had no idea how much went into making yarn! Link to: Mad River Fiber Arts & Mill
5. Eat alllll the cheese at the Mad River Taste Place
This is a great place to stop and sample some of Vermont’s best cheeses and local products such as honey, jams, and maple syrup. They are also well known for their killer grilled cheese sandwiches. The staff is extremely friendly, knowledgeable and clearly believe in their mission of supporting small artisan makers and growers. Link to: Mad River Taste Place
6. Find a Treasure at The Collection
The Collection is located within the Mad River Green Shopping Center. This is a great store for finding gifts, toys and home decor. They are said to offer everything from “sofas to slinkies.” My kids loved their toy section.
7. Sample some of Vermont’s best craft beer at Lawson’s Finest Liquids
This gorgeous property has a boardwalk leading over a wetland. My kids loved running around the trails. Inside is a beautiful open air taproom with a fireplace and cathedral ceilings. Taste some of their high quality craft beer and snack on their light fare menu. Peek in the brewery to catch a glimpse of the brewing and packaging process. Lawson’s merchandise as well as their beer can be purchased in their retail store. This is where my husband picked up all of his souvenirs 🙂
8. Have a Creemee at Village Grocery
Locals refer to this haunt as the “VG.” Creemees are Vermont’s version of soft-serve, but a bit creamier (hence the name). The VG has a self-serve creemee machine which was fun for the kids. Try the maple flavor if they have it!
9. Fall in love at the Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm
This was the highlight for my daughter and I. I didn’t know much about Icelandic horses, but apparently they are the most chill, laid back breed out there. They are like the Golden Retriever of horses. Originally brought to Iceland by the Norse people in the ninth century, they are a small but hardy breed. As it turns out, their owner, Karen, is just as cool as her horses. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I set eyes on her beautiful property that had a herd of 24 horses peacefully grazing. We walked into a pasture and were immediately greeted by three of the friendliest horses I have ever met. My daughter had to be dragged out kicking and screaming. I can’t wait for her to be old enough so we can return for a trail ride.
The Icelandic Horse Farm does everything from one hour rides to treks that last several days. They own a country inn down the road so you could easily dedicate an entire vacation to horse riding. Karen also welcomes people at her farm to visit with the horses as well as her comical Japanese silkie chickens that look like fraggles were let loose.
10. Eat pizza at the original American Flatbread Company
We spent our last night at the Lareau Farm having dinner at the original American Flatbread Company. It was a warm spring night, so we sat at their outdoor picnic tables by the fire pit. The kids ran around the meadow playing tag with the kids they had just met. The food was amazing and even my picky eaters couldn’t get enough. It was the perfect ending to a great trip.
Sometimes when you’re traveling, the people you meet make the trip just as special as the places you visit. This trip was a perfect example of that. Meeting people like Stuart at Salt and Sand Studios and Karen at the Icelandic Horse Farm were so kind and made us feel so welcome. They really helped make the trip special for us.
I appreciate that Vermonters hold on to their culture and heritage. While it is a slower paced life in the mountains, it is made up of hard working people who always have a smile on their face. The Mad River Valley is a great place to explore with endless activities year-round.
To read about the magical treehouse we stayed in, click here.
Check back later this week as we continue north to Waterbury, Vermont.