Vermont is known for many things including its eponymous Green Mountains, maple syrup, outdoor recreation, and the progressive mindset of its residents.
Located in the northeastern corner of the United States, Vermont is known for its small size both in terms of land and population. It’s also known for its green, mountainous terrain which explains its name. “Vert mont” means “green mountain” in French and it’s believed the state was named by French explorers and settlers. “Vermont” is the anglicized version and became the official name of the state when it joined the U.S. in 1791.
Small-scale agriculture plays a significant role in Vermont’s economy, lending to some of the foods it’s best known for. And while the state’s rugged terrain limits the amount of farming that can take place, it is made up for in outdoor recreation along the state’s mountainous wilderness and slopes.
Due to its small size, Vermont has played a relatively minor role in United States politics, however, it has been a leader in environmental and sustainable energy policies and other progressive causes. Back in the 1700s, Vermont instigated the country’s move toward abolishing slavery and has been at the forefront of causes regarding equality ever since.
Here’s what Vermont is known for:
The Green Mountains
Vermont is known for The Green Mountains. This range primarily runs through the state but also extends into the neighboring states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York. The highest peak in the Green Mountains is Mount Mansfield at 4,393 feet. The range provides a stunning landscape while driving through the state and is also a popular destination for outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, skiing, and camping.
Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the United States with over 2.3 million gallons yielded annually. Maple syrup production in Vermont dates back to the 18th century and has been an important part of the state’s economy and culture ever since. When you visit Vermont, you’ll discover that maple syrup is a common ingredient in a number of dishes and drinks served in restaurants and cafes.
Ben and Jerry’s
Founded in 1978, Ben & Jerry’s began in Burlington by friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. At the time, the flavors offered at the ice cream parlor were considered unique and unusual. Within a few decades, the company went from a local treasure to a multinational brand. Now a subsidiary of Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s continues to offer new flavors often with substantial chunks, swirls, and other mixed-in desserts. The company is also known for its commitment to social and environmental causes such as fair trade and sustainable sourcing. A trip to the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury is worth a stop if only to sample some ice cream.
Located on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, Burlington is the largest city in Vermont. Although only 44,700 people reside in the city, it feels larger due to the presence of the University of Vermont and Champlain College. The vibrant downtown includes the pedestrian-only Church Street lined with retail stores, restaurants, and cafes. There’s also a thriving arts and culture scene in the city with a number of museums, galleries, and music venues. Views from the banks of Lake Champlain look out over the Adirondack Mountains, adding to the scenery of the city.
The Green Mountain State
Not surprisingly, Vermont’s nickname is “The Green Mountain State” due to the vast range of mountains that run through it. The Green Mountain range is part of the Appalachian range and is known for its lush forests, which, in the warm weather months, give them their green color. The nickname “The Green Mountain State” was officially adopted in the state seal and flag in 1821, and it has been a part of Vermont’s identity ever since.
Driving through the Vermont countryside you’ll likely encounter breathtaking views of idyllic farms set against the state’s mountainous backdrop. Vermont’s farms are a large part of the state’s economy, culture, and way of life. The state is known for its dairy farms as well as maple syrup, apples, and other fruits and vegetables. Vermont farmers are committed to sustainable and organic farming practices and the state is also home to a number of farmer’s markets, pick-your-own orchards, and farm-to-table restaurants.
With over one hundred throughout the state, Vermont is known for its covered bridges. These historic structures were built in the 19th century as a way to protect wooden bridges from the elements. They were relatively inexpensive to build, easy to maintain, and could be constructed by local carpenters. Today, Vermont has more covered bridges per square mile than any other state in the United States. Some of the most well-recognized include Middle Covered Bridge, The Taftsville Covered Bridge, and The Creamery Covered Bridge.
See related: 11 of the Best Covered Bridges in Vermont
Lake Champlain stretches over 120 miles and forms Vermont’s western border with New York. From the Vermont shore, one can see across the lake into the New York Appalachian mountains, creating a stunning vista. The lake is also a popular destination for recreational activities such as boating, fishing, and swimming. The Lake Champlain Basin Program, a partnership between Vermont, New York, and the federal government, works to protect and restore the ecological health of the lake and its surrounding area.
Vermont’s country stores have been a staple of the state’s rural communities for centuries. These stores serve as gathering place for residents, providing not only a place to purchase groceries and household items but also a place to socialize and share information. Many of these stores have been passed down through generations of family ownership, and have become iconic symbols of Vermont’s rural heritage. Some of the most well-known country stores in Vermont include The Vermont Country Store, F. H. Gillingham and Sons, and The Dorset Union Store.
Many of Vermont’s idyllic farms are dairy farms that produce a wide variety of cheeses. The state’s cool climate and green pastures provide ideal conditions for raising cows and producing milk, the main ingredient in cheese. While the Cabot Creamery Cooperative provides a number of mass-produced, high-quality cheeses, other small operations create artisanal cheese such as the Vermont Creamery, Jasper Hill Farm, and the Grafton Cheese Company. The state’s cheesemakers have also been known to experiment with other types of milk such as sheep, goat, and even water buffalo. Vermont’s cheeses have won numerous awards both in-state and internationally.
As a mountainous state with ample snowfall, it’s not surprising that Vermont is known for its skiing. The state’s ski resorts dot the Green Mountains and provide a range of terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities. Some of the biggest ski resorts in Vermont include Stowe, Killington, Sugarbush, Jay Peak, and Stratton.
Bernie Sanders rose to national fame due to his run for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 2016 and 2020. But since 1990, Sanders has served in Congress, first as a representative for Vermont and then as a Vermont Senator starting in 2007. Sanders is known for his progressive policies, particularly on issues such as income inequality, healthcare, and climate change, and has been a vocal advocate for workers’ rights. Sander’s first elected office was as mayor of Burlington in 1981, winning by only ten votes.
Quaint Rural Towns
Of all the New England states, Vermont in particular is known for its quaint rural towns. Many of these towns feature restored and preserved homes and farms. Set against the Green Mountains, these villages present an idyllic scenery, especially during autumn months with fall foliage as a backdrop. Vermont towns are known to have a strong sense of community and active civic engagement. Some examples of popular rural towns include Woodstock, Middlebury, and Stowe.
Politically active/environmentally conscious people
Not unlike Vermont’s most well-recognized politician, Bernie Sanders, Vermont citizens are also known to have a strong tradition of political activism, especially regarding the environment. The state’s long history of small-scale sustainable agriculture and vast stretches of wilderness is said to have inspired community-based conservation efforts. Vermont has also been at the forefront of renewable energy, particularly in the area of small-scale hydroelectric and solar power. Progressive companies such as Seventh Generation, Ben and Jerry’s, and Burton Snowboards have also emerged from Vermont’s politically-active and environmentally-conscious culture.
Arts & crafts
Vermont is known for its arts and crafts scene, which includes a wide variety of mediums such as ceramics, sculpture, painting, printmaking, textiles, and woodworking. The state has a long history of craftsmanship and many skilled artisans call Vermont home. Art galleries, co-ops, and studios showcase the work of local artisans throughout the state, and there are many annual fairs, festivals, and markets that feature the work of Vermont artisans. Some of the famous artisans and studios are Simon Pearce, Danforth Pewter, Vermont Wooden Toys, and Vermont Teddy Bear Company.
Vermont has a long history of apple farming, dating back to the colonial period. The state’s cool climate and fertile soil make it well-suited for apple cultivation, and many small orchards produce apples for cider production. These orchards offer a wide range of ciders, from traditional sweet ciders to dry, sparkling ciders and many are made from heirloom apples. Additionally, many farmers’ markets, restaurants, and bars in Vermont feature local ciders on their menus.
As a cold, northern state with an abundance of deciduous trees, it’s not surprising that Vermont is known for its fall foliage. Each autumn, the Green Mountains are covered in an array of reds, yellows, and oranges that make the state’s rural landscape even more spectacular. Vermont is one of the first states in the region to experience the fall foliage season which usually starts in September and peaks in October. Leaf peppers flock to Vermont each year to take in the stunning colors. Some of the best places to see the fall foliage include Route 101 Scenic Byway through the heart of the state, Route 4 Scenic Byway passing through the Green Mountains, and Route 12 Scenic Byway along the Connecticut River.
The small town of Quechee is home to one of the most popular natural tourist attractions in Vermont – the Quechee Gorge. This 165-foot-deep crevice was formed by glacial activity and erosion caused by the Ottauquechee River. The Quechee Gorge State Park offers hiking trails that run along the edge of the gorge and provide great views of the gorge and the surrounding landscape. Visitors can also take a scenic drive along Route 4, which offers beautiful views of the gorge and the surrounding hills and valleys.
One of the least-populated states
With only 627,000 people, Vermont is known as one of the least populated states in the United States. Only the state of Wyoming has fewer residents. Vermont’s geographic size partially explains its small population since it is the 45th largest state by area in the U.S.. But the state’s rugged, hilly terrain also limits the amount of land that can be farmed and developed. Vermont’s economy has also traditionally been based on small-scale agriculture and manufacturing, both of which can’t support a large population. The state’s relatively high cost of living also makes it less attractive for some residents to stay in the state.
First state to abolish slavery
In 1777, Vermont was the first U.S. colony to abolish slavery as part of its state constitution. At the time, Vermont was a small and relatively poor colony and slavery was still widespread in the remaining colonies. The abolition of slavery was a reflection of the state’s strong tradition of independence and self-reliance, and its commitment to human rights and equality, sentiments that still flourish in the state today.
The first state to join the U.S. after the original 13 colonies
Vermont was the first state to join the United States after the original thirteen colonies. Vermont had been a separate, independent entity before joining the Union in 1791 and up until that time had a long history of self-government. Vermont’s decision to join the United States was driven by a desire for greater security and economic opportunity. It also helped Vermont resolve disputes with neighboring colonies over territory and statehood.
Food Vermont is Known For:
Vermont is known for a number of different foods, many derived from its agricultural roots. In addition to maple syrup, cheese, and cider mentioned above, the following are other foods Vermont is known for:
- Maple creemees: a soft specialty ice cream that’s maple-flavored
- Apple cider donuts: small cake-like donuts made with apple cider
- Boiled dinner: a one-pot meal consisting of a variety of vegetables and meat
- Venison: a popular meat in Vermont used in stews, chilis, and other dishes
- Apple pie and cheddar cheese: Cheddar cheese on top of apple pie
Famous People Vermont is Known for:
Vermont is known for a number of famous people. Besides Bernie Sanders, Ben Cohen, and Jerry Greenfield mentioned above, here are five of the most famous people the state is known for:
- Calvin Coolidge: 30th president of the United States
- Ethan Allen: a Revolutionary War hero, and a political leader
- Bill Kidd: a former alpine ski racer
- Norman Rockwell: a painter and illustrator
- Robert Frost: a poet who explored themes of nature and rural life.
See related: Top 23 Most Famous People From Vermont
About Kerry Flatley
Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.