Vermont: an escape calling Canadian foodies, outdoor addicts and dog lovers

  • Jul. 18, 2017 10:30 a.m.

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Vermont is a state that boasts about its mountains, its food and spirits scene, and its maple syrup production — all factors that make it a desired getaway for 650,000 Canadian visitors annually.

While ski enthusiasts are likely well aware of what the state has to offer during the winter, there are also a range of activities underway on the mountains in July and August including zip lining and mountain biking, says the state tourism department’s communications director Philip Tortora, not to mention a number of food, beer and wine festivals.

“That’s maybe the one thing that not a lot of people are aware of outside of Vermont,” says Tortora in an interview.

“Our ski towns and our ski resorts are open year round and there’s a lot to do on these mountains, they’re great places to come visit and relax or play in the warm months just as much they are during the winter time.”

Vermont is also considered the maple syrup capital of the United States, he says, adding the state produced 47 per cent of America’s maple syrup last year.

“We are quite proud of the maple syrup we produce here and we are glad people will venture in from other states and countries to pick it up while they’re here on their travels,” Tortora says.

“We won’t compare ourselves to our Canadian friends … we can confidently say we are the top maple syrup producer in the United States.”

About 90 per cent of Canadian visitors are from Quebec. Vermont is looking forward to the prospect of bringing in more people from Ontario, Tortora says, with Porter Airlines operating seasonal flights from Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport to Burlington International Airport.

Burlington — a city of about 40,000 people in northwestern Vermont — is seen as a popular escape for Canadian tourists.

It takes about an hour and 45 minutes to drive to the city from Montreal and about three and a half hours from Ottawa, making it close enough for weekend getaways.

Ron Redmond, the executive director of the popular Church Street Marketplace — a pedestrian mall named one of the great public spaces of America due its historic buildings and flourishing retail scene — calls Burlington a “great escape.”

“It is quaint,” he says. “Everybody knows everybody here…. There is generally a pretty good vibe.”

There is an eclectic group of stores along the street, he adds, noting there’s everything from a violin shop to women’s boutiques.

“We are … a designated historic district and it is quite remarkable, a lot of people come here just to enjoy our buildings,” he says.

Cities in Vermont have also received praise for their craft beer and savoury food, including the popular destination Hen of the Wood in Waterbury and Burlington, and the Switchback Brewing Co., in Burlington, which offers a small tasting room.

Fantastic food can be found at restaurants up and down the state, Tortora adds, noting many of the best are nestled into historic inns and bed and breakfasts.

“When people think of farm-to-table dining … we hope that Vermont is front and centre,” he says. “We actually have an event called Open Farm Week coming Aug. 14 to 20 where the farms in our state will open their doors throughout the week.”

Jenny Morse, who heads up marketing for the Church Street Marketplace, also says Burlington is known as a “haven for dogs” including on paths located along Lake Champlain.

“I think because we have such an active community and a very healthy community that people are often out running with their dogs or going for walks with their dogs, taking their dogs to work with them a lot of the time,” she says.

“You will see dozens and dozens of dogs on Church Street on any given day and I think our businesses do take those little extra steps to make sure people feel comfortable bringing their dogs.”

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