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With the summer weather winding down we figured it was worth celebrating Labor Day with a bit of outdoor fun and overindulgence. The seasonal food festivals are winding down, but there are still a few worth the price of admission. Here’s our picks for a few fun Labor Day food events to close out the summer season:
Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival – Buffalo, New York
When it comes to buffalo wings the annual party up on Buffalo, New York is pretty much the granddaddy of them all. The National Buffalo Wing Festival is set to do its thing at Coca-Cola field on September 1 and 2. Events include the US wing eating championship, bobbing for wings, and of course the Miss Buffalo Wing pageant. Admission will set you back just $5 per person, and the food tickets for the chicken wings start at $1 each. Restaurants and vendors—some as far away as Georgia—will all be there preparing their crispy-skinned delicacies, so if you’re in the neighborhood this is a don’t miss event.
Vermont Travel / Beer Travel / Factory Tours / Best-Factory-Tours-Map / Food Travel / Burlington Travel / → All Tags
After ice cream, chocolate, and cheese we’re pretty convinced that Vermont is the foodie tour capital of the world. However, that didn’t stop us from checking out one more place. This was especially the case because we needed something sudsy to wash down all the other snacks and samples. That’s why we loaded up our phone with directions to see the secrets and scenes at the Magic Hat Brewery in South Burlington. We waited until the afternoon to visit—like at a couple minutes past noon—because we wanted to appear somewhat responsible.
The Magic Hat Artifactory is made up of a crazy trippy gift shop, a psychedelic bar, and snazzy factory. In total it added up to one of the best breweries we’ve seen, and it was surprising to see such a place just a few minutes off the city’s commercial strip.
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Most people think that Vermont’s most famous export is maple syrup, but unfortunately those folks are totally wrong—at least if you ask us. While we're fans of maple syrup it just doesn’t satisfy our sweet tooth the same way that ice cream does, so that’s why we consider Ben & Jerry’s to be the most famous—and important—product to come out of the Green Mountain State. We already had plenty of cheese and chocolate on our little foodie tour of Vermont, so it was only natural to see what kind of new flavors were being cooked up at the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury.
We’re not sure of the numbers, but we’d bet you a pint of Cherry Garcia that the ice cream factory is one of the state’s largest—if not the largest—tourist attraction. There’s state highway signs pointing you in the correct direction, and once you pull into the parking lot it’s pretty darn clear that you’ve arrived at the mecca for ice cream lovers. The grounds and surrounding area is picturesque Vermont to a tee, and there’s even a chance to check out the landscape through snowshoe tours during the chillier months. Although we were slightly distracted by the view—and the babbling brook by the parking lot—we new we needed to head inside.
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For those looking for something a little more sobering than the typical wine trail, we’d like to suggest the cheese trail up in Vermont. The state is pretty well known for their dairy this and that, and you never have to drive too far before stumbling across plenty of fields, farms, and cows. Some of the smaller locations have some truly unique options for cheeseheads, but before getting down with some of the seriously stinky and sharp stuff it might be worth it to check out one of the more famous spots. That’s what we did when we swung through Cabot, VT to check out the Cabot Visitor’s Center.
On the way there you’ll think something like, "hey, this can’t possibly be the right way." Soon enough, however, we were stuck behind a tanker truck filled with farm fresh milk and you know where that's headed.
The Cabot Visitor’s Center offers a sneak peek behind the whole cheese making process, and the $2 we spent on the guided factory tour was well worth it. You even get a little plastic cow bracelet or Cabot button as a souvenir that doubles as your admission ticket. We’re suckers for that kind of stuff.
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Just outside the downtown center of Burlington, Vermont—as in you need to ride your bike or drive your car—sits a factory known to chocolate lovers far and wide. Of course we’d consider ourselves fans of these sort of sweet treats, so it was a natural fit for us to make a little bit of a pilgrimage to the home of Lake Champlain Chocolates.
The factory and visitor’s center is located along right along Pine Street in a somewhat bustling industrial looking area of Burlington. You can definitely trust your GPS to find it, but be on the lookout for the sign and the parking lot as it’s easy to miss. Once inside the scent of some of the world’s best chocolate—at least in our opinion—hits you as soon as you enter the door. At that point you can pretty much hand over your credit card, as you're definitely going to bring something home with you.
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Vermonters are serious about their syrup. When we posted a story last week about a national syrup festival in Indiana, which proclaims itself as the only national, multistate fest of its kind, Vermonters voiced their dismay about being overlooked. They do make some darned good syrup, so to give them love and pay homage to maple-sugaring season, we'll give you the other top syrup fest spots in the country.
Check out three tasty syrup festival destinations after the jump.
Umm, that's not us posing there. Just FYI
If you can’t afford a trip to the North Pole this year to go with Santa on a tour of his workshop, there’s another holiday factory tour worth checking out. Find out where Teddy Bears come to life, as the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory welcomes one and all to take a look through their workshops just outside of Burlington each and every day.
On the guided tour, you’ll visit the cutting station where about 20 different parts of fur are cut out to make all the bears, and then you can see where they start to put about 430,000 bears per year into commission in the sewing room. If you’ve ever been to one of those Build-a-Bear places you know the best part of the tour has got to be where the little bags of fur are stuffed. Even though the machines they use are from the 1940s, the workers are able to stuff the bears with fuzz and fluff at 100mph.
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This goat, the very one you see above, resides in a treehouse-type pen in a farm field outside of Montpelier, Vermont. He doesn't go anywhere and do much, and yet the busloads of tourists come to him. Why? Because this is a goat that can do a stupid animal trick, and apparently people will travel to see that, and pay a quarter to participate.
He happens to live at Morse Farm a maple syrup producer locally famous enough to attract the fall foliage bus tours, especially the ones full of Europeans eager for a peak at traditional Americana. Maybe the goat helps souvenir sales? Anyways, here's his gig: you walk out to his pen in the field, put a quarter in an old gumball machine to retrieve goat feed. You put it in a cup at the end of a rope, and the goat hears the food drop into the cup and he begins to frantically bite at the rope, quickly raising the cup up his treehouse perch and to his lips. He quickly gobbles it down and the tourists go crazy. It'd be kind of cute if goats didn't have freaky, horizontal rectangle-shaped pupils.
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If big 747s or even 737s are not your cup of tea and you instead prefer to see the smaller regional jets, private jets and a few Airbus A320s scattered in there, then plane spotting at Vermont's Burlington International Airport is for you. Aside from the concentration of regional jets that visit BTV, the airport is unique in that the public can come up to the old Control Tower to enjoy the best view for free.
The trick is to go to the second level of the terminaldon't go through securityand there's a hallway with a simple sign pointing to the "observation tower." Up a few flights of cramped stairs and you're in the old control booth. Now all it's got are stools, but a wise plane spotter will bring the binoculars and professional camera lenses to capture shots of the planes taking off with the mountains in the background.
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What's better on a rainy fall day in Vermont than a pint of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream? Nothing, that's what. So last week when we found ourselves up in the Green Mountains, we did a road trip to Waterbury, to the original factory and home of Ben & Jerry's for their production tour. We ate ice cream, we got rained on in the Flavor Graveyard and we spent way too much on souvenirs.
The biggest obstacle to taking the Ben & Jerry's tour is getting up to Waterbury, because believe usthis place is rural and without any nearby public transportation. The options aside from renting a car and road tripping there is to join a group bus tour, and that was definitely the most popular option when we visited. Whole busloads of German, Welsh and Japanese tourists dropped by, in addition to Americans on fall foliage tours.
Once you're up at the factory, it's not long until the ice cream starts flowing. Pay $3 per adult for the tour, or check-in on Foursquare to get the tour for free.
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In just less than two weeks, the stunning fall foliage you see above will be gone and the road on which we drove just yesterday will be closed off for the winter, in anticipation of heavy snows. This is the Vermont State Park area called "Smugglers' Notch," a thin pass between two mountains near the ski resort of Stowe and it boasts some of the best views and most pleasurable road tripping in all of the Northeast.
To reach it, you've either got to drive or be one of the crazy cyclists who pedal up here as part of their training and conditioning. The elevation is 2,170' and your reward for making to this place, a mountain haven between Burlington and Montpelier, is a little wonderland of small mountain streams and waterfalls, natural large boulders upon which free climbers practice, and a manmade stone staircase so that almost everyone that drives through can get out of the car, have a stretch, and walk up to capture the perfect photograph.
Souvenirs / Vermont Travel / Farm Travel / Fall Foliage Travel / Fall Travel / Fall in Vermont Field Trip / → All Tags
You know you're in Vermont when...souvenir shops include journals made of cow poo on shelves next to bottles of pure maple syrup and fridges full of Cabot cheese. We happened upon this crazy stuff yesterday at Morse Farm while taking a road trip through Montpelier, VT to observe some fall foliage at its peak.
Although seriously tempted to buy the $6 scratchpad made of cow poo, we wouldn't have wanted it for ourselves, but to use as a gift for a friend. Then remembering that none of our friends would want cow poo when they could have maple candies, we slowly backed away from the display. But that doesn't mean that it won't appeal to those travelers who revel in farm tourism, or even green travel. It totally belongs on our next list of Top 5 Travel Notebooks.