Winter Fun for Non-Skiers in Vermont

Winter Fun for Non-Skiers in Vermont

Picture of Owiso Makuku
By: Owiso Makuku | December 7, 2017

Vermont is home to the beautiful Green Mountains and, to most, conjures images of alpine skiers and cross-country ski trails. Whether you don’t ski or if you feel like hanging up your skis for a day, take advantage of the wide array of “other” activities that our state has to offer – there are so many things to do in the winter in Vermont.

Indoor Activities - Outdoor Adventures - Events and Celebrations - Indoor Adventures

Indoor Activities

When the temperature drops but the weather isn't terrible, hit the road for a day trip to discover something new!

Visit a new museum if you're looking for a full day or half day of activities. The Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich is interactive and educational! The Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St Johnsbury, VT features an observatory, and is home to Eye on the Sky, a popular weather program on VPR. The Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont in Burlington boasts some interesting collections, including an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus! Shelburne Museum has rotating collections on display throughout the winter months.

Antiquing in the Burlington area can unveil some hidden treasures of the past. There are several on Pine St, and you can find other antique shops throughout Chittenden County and Vermont. Other notable regions for antiquing include Mainstone, VT in the Northeast Kingdom, and in the Stowe, VT area. 

If you're looking to visit the state's capital city: Montpelier, VT, there's plenty to do! Catch a film at the Savoy Theater, which is a true "Art-House" cinema built in 1905. See a play at the Lost Nation Theater, or learn more about our state's legislature and tour the Vermont State House.

Join other beer enthusiasts for Winter Brewfest in February, or plan your own Wine Trail Tour of the finest vineyards in our state. Winter specialties like ice wine are a delicious treat!

Remember that if the rest of your friends are finding fresh powder, apres-ski is a time-honored pastime for those left indoors. Most ski resorts in the area have apres-ski access so you can still see your group at the lodge.

Outdoor Adventures

So you don’t want to ski, or you can’t ski… it's not the end of the world! There are dozens of other outdoor activities and events in Vermont.

Get outdoorsy in Burlington

Schedule an ice climbing adventure with Adventure Spirit Rock+Ice+Alpine Experiences to try new things and seek new thrills despite the cold. Whenever the weather is nice, a walk along the Burlington Bike Path is great for rosy cheeks and a frosty look at Lake Champlain. For an evening in the cold, attend the annual Ice Bar for an exclusive event surrounded by ice sculptures! Check out other annual events and festivals in Burlington here

Explore nature without skis 

Take to the trails in Vermont's State Parks for snowshoeing, sledding, and more. For fast fun, go tubing at Magic Mountain in Londonderry, VT. Take to the hills of Middlebury, VT for nordic skiing on groomed trails. The truly adventurous few can ramp up their survival skills with Vermont Adventure Tours, and hone skills like ice pick climbing to help get the blood flowing. 

Experience new ways to travel 

 Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports Center in Killington, VT has all sorts of winter programming and activities for people with all levels of disabilities for an inclusive outing. Let the dogs do the work and try dog sledding or skijoring with Vermont Outdoor Guide Association. Extra points if you already know what "skijoring" is!

Vermont is beautiful throughout the year, so any time spent outdoors is time well-spent. Towns and cities in the area also have their own trail systems, if you're up for a woodsy walk without making a hike all the way out to the mountain. 

Events and Celebrations

Many Vermont towns have a Winter Carnival, as do some Vermont colleges. Try Middlebury College’s Winter Carnival for a bonfire, fireworks and broomball, as well as for viewing some of the best collegiate skiers in the country, competing in NCAA qualifying races.Consider doing some fundraising and then participating in the February 3, 2018 Penguin Plunge, which is part of Burlington’s Winter Carnival tradition and serves as a fundraiser for Special Olympics Vermont.  Or check out Shelburne Farms’ Winterfest  for outdoor winter activities like sledding and horse-drawn carriage rides.

Foodies can check out the Essex Winter Carnival and Soup Cookoff in Essex Junction, VT.  The Great Ice! event in Grand Isle, held in North Hero, VT has several days loaded with free events. Keep in mind, winter weather does dictate the schedule - especially if it's too cold!

If those don’t float your boat, try winter birdwatching at the North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier,  or the Ice on Fire Winter Festival in Central Vermont  – and, yes, it is what it sounds like and more!

Indoor Adventures

If you’re itching for activity that’s not directly exposed to the elements, Vermont’s got that, too!

If you haven’t already, it’s time to try rock climbing at Petra Cliffs in Burlington, VT, or MetroRock in Essex, VT.  You can take your game outside in warmer weather or use it as a springing point to try the sport of ice-climbing! GMRCC Quechee boasts central Vermont’s tallest indoor climbing experience. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the University of Vermont’s Individually Designed Exercise for Active Lifestyles (IDEAL) program  provides a quality, supportive and individualized exercise program for people with special exercise needs (such as MS, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injury, etc.).

For a day of swimming, buy a day pass to the Y in Burlington or the Swimming Hole in Stowe. Don't let the exterior fool you - it's so much more than a barn! If you’re looking for a little more excitement, try the Jay Peak Pump House indoor waterpark in Jay, VT or the Splash Parkat the Upper Valley Aquatic Center in Hartford, Vermont. There’s also a variety of indoor adventure parks, including the Fun Zone at Smuggler’s Notch.

For the less athletic, King Arthur Flour in Norwich has a state-of-the-art Baking Education Center  where you can get elbow deep in flour in their baking workshops.

Finally, there always shopping in Vermont, whether that includes a stroll up Burlington’s historic Church Street Marketplace, a tour through the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory in Shelburne, window shopping at the Essex Shoppes, or roaming the outlet stores in Manchester.

Take an International  Trip - Only a 2 Hour Drive!

We often think our closest major city is south of us in Boston, but truth be told it’s actually north of us in neighboring Canada. Montreal is the 19th largest city in North America by population. *P.S. Did you know Mexico City was #1 with 22,100,000 people? Followed closely by New York City of course (22,000,000 people).

One of our favorite aspects of travel, especially day trips, is seeking out the food that the area is best known for. Montreal does not disappoint when it comes to food! The area is known for two specialties in particular:

  1. Smoked Meat! Probably the most famous is Schwartz’s Deli 
  2. Poutine! This link provides a literal map of the best poutine

Some great highlights include world class shopping (including an underground city for inclement weather), renowned museums, a casino, an Olympic park partially converted to an incredible garden, biodome, and recreation space, and if you need some relaxation or to be warmed up, the Nordic style baths are dotted throughout the city!

Being a mega city, you can just about find it all in Montreal. You want it? They probably have it!

Winter Fun in Vermont - Beyond the Slopes

So while your friends and family are hitting the slopes or taking in the backwoods, find your own Vermont adventure. At the end of the day, you’ll have stories to tell, as well, during their apres-ski drinks and your apres-whatever you’ve chosen to do!

Posted on December 7, 2017 , updated on January 04, 2019