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Great escapes from the Ivory Tower

click to enlarge Bingham Hydrotherapy Waterfalls at Stoweflake Spa - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Bingham Hydrotherapy Waterfalls at Stoweflake Spa

Your last class ends at 1 p.m. on Friday, and your hometown honey is due for a visit. You want to show her a good time, but the only thing on the student activities calendar is a Planet of the Apes movie marathon.

So. . . unless your lady friend digs monkey love, you need to split. But where do you take a date in this town? Clearly not where you go with your parents, buds from back home or unruly dorm mates.

Below you’ll find a list of tried and true escape routes to suit each of these scenarios. It’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s a start. And it beats the hell out of bad sci-fi.


Pizza Putt

1205 Airport Parkway, South Burlington, 802-862-7888

Mini-golf, batting cages and an extensive arcade should be enough to get you and your roommates over to Pizza Putt. If that doesn’t do it, the $4 all-you-can-eat pizza on Mondays will. It’s way better than cafeteria food. And your school probably doesn’t have a sweet Laser Tag arena.

Spa Day

It ain’t cheap, but neither is college. After finals, or some other special occasion, gather up the girls for a day at any one of Stowe’s stellar spas. In addition to facials, massages and pedicures, they offer numerous special treatments such the “Wildflower Wrap” and “Sugar Scrub.” Guys like it, too.

  • Stoweflake Resort and Spa: 1746 Mountain Rd., Stowe, 253-7355
  • Stowe Mountain Lodge: 7412 Mountain Rd., Stowe, 253-3560
  • Topnotch Resort & Spa: 4000 Mountain Rd., Stowe 460-5567

Thunder Road

Quarry Hill, Barre, 244-6963

Like fast cars? Find a friend with a minivan, pack it with people, and take a trip to Thunder Road Speedbowl in Central Vermont. Even Vermont liberals like to see stock cars tear up the retro, quarter-mile asphalt track. And Barre rocks — literally. It calls itself “The Granite Capital of the World.”

Sunset Drive-In

Route 126, Colchester, 862-1800

In the fall and spring, this outdoor multiplex screens back-to-back features late into the night. Show up at dusk with some chairs, popcorn and bug spray. Even bad movies look good from this vantage point. Get there early for mini-putt.

Montréal, Canada

Awesome fact: Montréal is only about two hours from Burlington and offers amenities that Vermont doesn’t. And there’s more to the French-Canadian city than strip clubs, casinos and a lower drinking age — like food markets, great shopping and museums. Tired of winter? Check out the “orchid room” at the botanical gardens. Whatever you do, bring your passport.

  • Montréal Museum of Fine Arts: 1380 Sherbrooke St. West, Montréal, Québec, 1-800-899-MUSE
  • Jean Talon Market: 7075 Casgrain Ave., Montréal, Québec, 514-277-1588
  • Montréal Botanical Garden: 4101 Rue Sherbrooke Est, Montréal, Québec, 514-872-1400


Magic Hat Brewery

5 Bartlett Bay Rd., South Burlington, 658-2739

Going to a brewery when you’re underage may seem like an exercise in frustration, but not at Magic Hat’s otherworldly Artifactory. The guided tour is not just entertaining; it leads you through the process of brewing Vermont’s best-known beer. If you’re of age, make sure to do a “light-to-dark” with your pals, which begins with Magic Hat’s lightest beer on tap and ends with their heaviest brew. Your strong friendship will be reinforced with plenty of hops.

Skiing & Riding

What’s going to lure your homies north in the dead of winter? Fresh powder. Everybody’s been out West, where the weather is great and the trails are wide, but no one is a real skier until they’ve braved the blistering winds of the East. So challenge your friends to ski VT: Our trails are thin, steep and gnarly. Check out the Outdoor directory on page 58 for the sweetest slopes and get ready to shred!

Whale Tails

Located along I-89, South Burlington

If your non-Vermonter friends drove up on I-89, it’s a safe bet they’ll be asking, “What the hell were those things on the side of the highway?” They’re talking about the whale tails, officially titled “Reverence,” a granite sculpture by Vermont artist Jim Sardonis. Bring your posse out there and let them see it for themselves. Take some pics and put ’em on Facebook. Because nothing says Vermont like a picture of weird, random public art.

  • Drive past the Ben & Jerry’s offices on Community Dr. in S. Burlington.
  • There’s a small pull-off as the road starts to curve.
  • Pull over in that area and trek over to the tails.

Mount Philo

State Park Rd., Route 7, Charlotte, 425-2390

So, you’ve got some outdoors-y friends and some less adventurous flatlanders coming to see you. Mt. Philo is the perfect spot to bring ’em both. The woodsy folks can walk up this 968 ft. mountain and the others can drive up the road that winds up the side. Either way, everyone will get to the top, where great views await of Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks and the surrounding countryside. Bring blankets and food to make a day of it. They’ll never ask again: “Why’d you pick Vermont?”.


Firehouse Gallery

135 Church St., Burlington, 865-7166

It used to be a firehouse; now it’s a cutting-edge art gallery. We can’t guarantee that you’ll understand the high-brow conceptual installations, but, hey, at least it’s free. Bring your date here before dinner — it’ll give you something to talk about while you eat. Local artist Dug Nap (pictured above) sells his wares on the gallery’s back patio during the Saturday Art Market in the summertime.


153 Main St., Burlington, 802-86-FLYNN

Even if you’re not big into performing arts, the FlynnSpace is a neat place to see theater, dance or music, since you’re never more than 20 feet from the action. But the intimate seating arrangement isn’t the only reason to go — you’ll see innovative interpretations of both popular and obscure productions at this basement black-box venue.

Lake Champlain Waterfront

1 College St., Burlington, 865-7247

Burlington is famous for Adirondack sunsets, and the swings along the waterfront boardwalk are positioned for prime viewing. Smooching, too. If you want to get closer, go up to the second floor of the Burlington Boathouse. Got money? A sunset cruise on the Spirit of Ethan Allen is the perfect way to launch a great date night.

Day trip to Waterbury and Stowe

Take Exit 10 off I-89, go north on Route 100

Nothing like an eating adventure to bring you closer together. There’s free cheese and chocolate at the Cabot Annex and Lake Champlain Chocolates plaza on the left as you head north on Route 100. Drive farther down the road and you’ll find the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, home to delicious cider and famous cider donuts. Grab an espresso drink at the Stowe Coffee House and check out the cute shops in downtown Stowe. On your way back, stop by the Ben & Jerry’s factory for a tour and a few scoops. If you’ve still got room after all that, The Alchemist brew pub in downtown Waterbury makes a mean burger and fried pickles. Great beer, too.

  • Cabot Annex: Route 100, Waterbury, 244-6334
  • Lake Champlain Chocolates: Route 100, Waterbury, 241-4150
  • Cold Hollow Cider Mill: 3600 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Waterbury Center, 327-7537
  • Stowe Coffee House: 57B Mountain Road, Stowe, 253-2189
  • Ben & Jerry’s: Route 100, Waterbury, 846-1500
  • The Alchemist: 23 South Main Street, Waterbury, 244-4120


Shelburne Farms

1611 Harbor Rd., Shelburne, 985-8686

Ideally, this is where your parents stay when they visit — it’s the closest thing to a castle in Vermont. On the “grounds” you’ll find spectacular barns — some of which are nice enough to get married in — as well as a dairy, bakery and cheese-making operation. Shelburne Farms is only open in the summer and fall, so book a room for graduation now. You can’t beat the food, especially if they’re paying.

Shelburne Museum

5555 Shelburne Rd., Shelburne, 985-3346

You’ve gotta visit the Shelburne Museum at least once while you’re here. The entrance fee is a little steep — that’s where the parents come in — but it’s totally worth it to see one of the nation’s greatest collections of American folk art. The museum closes for the season on October 26, but go before that to see a visiting exhibit of paintings by Impressionist Mary Cassatt and a cool carousel installation. Yep, they’ve got a merry-go-round.

Lake Champlain Chocolates tour

750 Pine St., Burlington, 1-800-465-5909

Lake Champlain Chocolates is a local business success story. And, as with Ben & Jerry’s, the product is one you can sink your teeth into. The factory — on Burlington’s Pine Street — offers tours. Or you can just watch chocolatiers make tasty confections through a window that looks down on the factory floor. Did we mention the free samples?


Vermont doesn’t look like California’s Napa Valley, but it does have a growing number of vineyards. They’re not concentrated in one area, though, so a “wine tour” takes some time. Snow Farm is a great excuse to visit the Champlain Islands; Boyden Family Winery is on the way to Smugglers’ Notch; just-opened Shelburne Vineyards is close to Burlington. Stowe doesn’t have a vineyard tour, but Snow Farm Tasting Corner and The Grand View Tasting Room are within a few miles of each other, so it’s easy to visit both. Just to be on the safe side, plan on driving your folks back to the hotel.

  • Shelburne Vineyards: 6308 Shelburne Rd., Shelburne, 985-8222
  • Snow Farm Wineries: 190 West Shore Rd., South Hero, 372-WINE
  • Boyden Valley Winery: 70 Vermont Route 104, Junction 15 & 104, Cambridge, 644-8151
  • Snow Farm Tasting Corner: 2653 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Waterbury Center, 244-6334
  • Grand View Winery Tasting Room: Route 100, Waterbury Center, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, 456-7012

Shopping on Church Street, Burlington

Strolling down Church Street never gets old. You’ve got restaurants, bookstores, a mall and quirky boutiques all in one spot. If it’s nice out, you might see some street performers or a protest march. If you’re still struggling with that last class of the day, send the ’rents up there by themselves. It’s just one street, so it’s hard to get lost, even for them.

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