Wheelchair Accessible Vacationing in Vermont
If you've never seen The Green Mountain State in autumn, you're missing one of nature's most amazing fall "fashion" shows--the best time of the year to travel Vermont in your wheelchair van. And the good news is—Vermont has spectacular wheelchair accessible attractions throughout the year! Here's your guide to an enchanting, accessible Vermont vacation...
Queen City Ghost Walk, Burlington
Spine-tingling ghost stories, ghoulish happenings, and a haunted college campus that invites you to share in "a little school spirit" are awaiting you on a Queen City Ghostwalk. You'll have several tours from which to choose, including Darkness Falls, Wicked Waterfront, Graveside Gatherings, and the Ghosts of UVM. Bwah-hah-hah...
Author and tour creator Thea Lewis shares her love of the supernatural with visitors to Burlington, and you can also find out what's in the cards for you at the Tarot table, which is another spooky service she offers. Though last-minute tourists are admitted as space allows, it's best to purchase your tickets in advance from the Flynn Regional Box office. The tours are wheelchair accessible, though some of the walkways may be uneven. Consequently, Queen City's ghosts and ghouls recommend you bring a companion along on your visit.
Ethan Allen Homestead, Burlington
You may think this is a residence filled with fabulous colonial-style furniture from Ethan Allen, and in a way, you're right. But famed furniture-designer Ethan Allen did not deliver the home's beautiful appointments. In fact, the furniture company didn't open its doors in Burlington until 1932, when the owners named their company Ethan Allen to honor American patriot and founder of Vermont, Ethan Allen.
Filled with hands-on history, surrounded by spectacular scenery, and steeped in 18th-century life, the Ethan Allen homestead stands at the heart of Vermont.
Open between mid-May and mid-October, the homestead/museum features a replicated colonial tavern, riverside picnic areas, and a schedule of events that include Revolutionary War reenactments and special exhibits. The one-story homestead and other locations are wheelchair accessible. Make sure not to sit too close while watching the war reenactment--you may get drafted into the Continental Army.
Norman Rockwell Museum of Vermont, Rutland
Though iconic artist and illustrator Norman Rockwell was born just before the turn of the 20th century in bustling New York City, his paintings depict slices of life and simple times--idyllic images of men, women, and children immersed in the American experience. He's most famous for his Saturday Evening Post covers, rich in color and capturing emotions in his uniquely expressive faces. If you're a Rockwell fan, or just a fan of classic American artwork, this museum is worth a visit.
Along with displays of the artist's work, you'll discover the stories behind many of his illustrations, like the Four Freedoms, World War II's Rosie the Riveter, Coca-Cola, and the Boy Scouts. Rockwell's work has made its way to commemorative plates, puzzles, mugs, and figurines, which are available for sale. The museum is wheelchair accessible, and the Vermont setting for Rockwell's masterpieces adds to the charm of his technique.
Hathaway Farm, Rutland
Must love lambs, a leisurely way of life, luscious maple syrup, and losing yourself in a corn maze--in fact, it's the biggest corn maze in Vermont. The family-run farm also has a livestock barn with typical farm animals, including cattle, Olde English Babydoll sheep, poultry, pigs, miniature donkeys, and pigmy goats. The barn and farmhouse are on the National Historic Registry. Kids will enjoy a play area for farm games right outside the corn maze.
Let's go back to the maple syrup. Hathaway Farm has produced its own maple syrup since the family purchased it in 1942. Maybe just the thought of sampling classic Vermont maple syrup in the farm store is enough to lure you to this wheelchair accessible, perfectly pastural place in the Green Mountain State.
Vermont Jazz Center, Brattleboro
Get up close and personal with all that jazz. If you love it, here's the place to learn about it, listen to it, and let it speak to your soul. The Vermont Jazz Center is an internationally recognized institution dedicated to the creation and preservation of jazz. The center provides jazz education focused on both instrumental and vocal programs, and outreach through workshops, jam sessions, a monthly concert series, and special events.
The Center was founded by the legendary guitarist, Attila Zoller and is now run by pianist, Eugene Uman. Students of jazz from around the world descend on the campus year-round and during the summer for workshops taught by some of the genre's top vocalists, composers, and musicians. As long you're in Vermont, you should take in a late-night jam session or a concert in the hip, happenin', handicap-accessible Vermont Jazz Center.
Brattleboro Farmers Market, Brattleboro
Here's another seasonal attraction (May through October) that's more than its name implies. As the premier Farmers' Market of southern Vermont, Brattleboro's market is far more than strawberries and potatoes. Beyond the agricultural products, you're surrounded by crafts, animals, fresh breads, wines, jewelry, textiles, clothing, pottery, yarn, and ethnic foods from around the world.
But wait! They also have a Winter Farmer's Market between Thanksgiving and Christmas with many of the same vendors making their produce and handcrafted gifts available for holiday presents, and tasty Vermont-made treats that will make your holiday parties something to talk about. The market is wheelchair accessible in all seasons.
Green Mountain Glass Works, Granville
Watch the wonderful work of a gifted artisan take shape at the Green Mountain Glassblowing Studio & Gallery, where artisan and Vermont native Michael Egan demonstrates how molten glass becomes fabulous, functional works of art. The patterns he creates with glass are intriguing and spectacular, and his fused-glass pieces are remarkable. From glass shades to avant garde jewelry to dramatic glass lighting and everything in between, Michael Egan's 30+ years of glass-blowing experience is on display.
According to the artist, much of his work explores possibilities using intricate Italian cane (rods of glass with color) in the Murano tradition. Using ancient techniques, he blends clear base glass with colored glass from Germany and New Zealand. He and his team draw and twist huge masses of glass into rods, sometimes 50 feet long and no thicker than a pencil. Definitely worth a look, right? Egan's accessible studio is open Thursday through Monday, so plan your visit accordingly.
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory Tour, Waterbury
Admit it. We had you at "Ben & Jerry's." Your prize for taking their factory tour is a few minutes in the Flavoroom enjoying the sample flavor of the day. But before that, you're treated to a "moo-vie" about the company's history in the Cow Jumped Over the Moon theater. In their glassed-in mezzanine, you'll have a bird's eye view of their production room while your guide explains the ice cream manufacturing process. Summer visitors will see cows in the pasture and their Flavor Graveyard that's haunted by the ghosts of old flavors that nobody wanted.
The wheelchair accessible facility has an elevator--and ice cream in seriously fun flavors--waiting just for you!
Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Waterbury Center
How about one more cool attraction in the Waterbury area of Vermont? There's nothing like a steaming mug of mulled apple cider on a blustery winter day, and a glass of apple juice is pure refreshment any time of the year. Why not treat yourself to a taste of nostalgia and watch how cider's made--the old-fashioned way.
At Cold Hollow Cider Mill, they make sweet apple cider with a traditional rack-and-cloth press built in the 1920s. Tour the vintage mill and watch the process. If you're interrupted by the aroma of something warm and wonderful, it's just a new batch, fresh from the oven, of Cold Hollow Cider Donuts, named one of the country's top four donuts by Gourmet magazine. In summer, you can watch real bees make honey (behind glass!) in the Honey Corner. Honeybees are essential to the apple world— they pollinate the orchards each spring when the blossoms burst.
Plan your visit for almost any day of the year. The wheelchair accessible mill is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. till 6 p.m. (till 7 p.m. in the summer months), closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And don't fill up on donuts! They have treats galore--bring some home.
Lake Champlain Shoreline Cruises, Burlington
You can tell it's a Vermont-born company. Their first ship, a paddlewheeler, was called the Spirit of Ethan Allen I (remember him?) in 1984. Today, the cruise line's flagship is the Spirit III, and you can board the wheelchair accessible boat at the Burlington Boathouse.
Chart a course for a scenic cruise, Lunch on the Lake, a brunch cruise, a sunset cruise, or a seasonal cruise on natural, freshwater Lake Champlain. Check out their themed dinners that include "Lobstah" On the Lake, a murder-mystery dinner cruise, and a Caribbean sunset celebration. Are you thinking about that yummy New England lobster right now?
Visit their web site for the lobsters, uh, details!
Many people will tell you the most popular and best-known attraction in Vermont is autumn, when Mother Nature spills her palette of vibrant fall colors on the Green Mountain State and turns those mountains into breathtaking scenery. Isn't it good to know that, even if you can't take a vacation in autumn, Vermont has plenty of delightful, wheelchair accessible attractions year-round...including the fourth-best donuts in the US? Mmmmmmmm...