Summer in the Mad River Valley: Small-Town Strolling, Pizza Eating and Mountain Climbing | Kids VT | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Summer in the Mad River Valley: Small-Town Strolling, Pizza Eating and Mountain Climbing


Published June 2, 2018 at 4:00 a.m.

Camel's Hump summit - BROOKE BOUSQUET
  • Brooke Bousquet
  • Camel's Hump summit

This rocky river valley casts a spell on visitors with its scenic landscape of rugged mountains, farms and classic Vermont villages. The area boasts two ski areas — Sugarbush Resort and Mad River Glen — and offers plenty of picnicking and wading spots. Mad River Valley Taste Week, from August 4 through 11 (, features a jam-packed lineup of food-focused tastings and tours, with a pig roast kickoff after the Saturday Waitsfield Farmers Market. Or simply spend an afternoon strolling through a small town while savoring a maple-sweetened ice cream cone — and summer, while it lasts.


  • Courtesy Image
  • Warren Store

Warren Store

Built in 1839 as a stagecoach inn and boarding house, the country store is still a community hub in this small town, which hosts a renowned Fourth of July celebration. Stock up on eclectic items, from penny candy to homemade granola, Vermont-made pottery to wooden toys from Middlebury-based Maple Landmark. Then pick up a deli sandwich for lunch. Selections range from the Pestopalooza to a Cajun meatloaf sandwich aptly named the Big Easy.

Madsonian Museum of Industrial Design - MICHAEL HEENEY
  • Michael Heeney
  • Madsonian Museum of Industrial Design

Madsonian Museum of Industrial Design

This eclectic collection showcases the beauty of manufactured objects — from cars to toasters — with work by distinguished designers like Frank Lloyd Wright, Norman Bel Geddes and Frank Gehry. A classic toy exhibit includes Lincoln Logs, Legos, sleds and more. Admission, $1-5 suggested donation per adult; 25 cents for visitors under 21.

The zip line at Sugarbush Resort - JANET ESSMAN FRANZ
  • Janet Essman Franz
  • The zip line at Sugarbush Resort

Sugarbush Resort

Adventurous kiddos fly high on an 800-foot zip line or soar up to 25 feet on a bungee trampoline. For those less daring, the Super Bravo Express chairlift runs continuously to the mountaintop. Hop off and hike down or ride back. Either way, the views are breathtaking. An Adventure Ticket — which includes disc golf, chairlift rides, the zip line and the bungee trampoline — is $49 for children and $55 for adults.

Hartshorn's Organic Farm Stand - COURTESY IMAGE
  • Courtesy Image
  • Hartshorn's Organic Farm Stand

Hartshorn Organic Farm Stand

Owned by fifth-generation Vermonter Dave Hartshorn, this roadside stand features fresh veggies, jams and pickles, farm-made maple products, and seasonal pick-your-own strawberries and blueberries. Call ahead to learn about their agricultural tours, with topics from medicinal herbs to culinary mushrooms.


Food & Drink

American Flatbread, Waitsfield - COURTESY IMAGE
  • Courtesy image
  • American Flatbread, Waitsfield

American Flatbread

Although the wait can be long, the pies are worth it. Baked in a wood-fired oven, they range from classic cheese and herb to Vermont sausage with caramelized onion — and they're only available after 5 p.m. (The restaurant doesn't take reservations, but parties can put their name on a wait-list starting at 4 p.m.) While adults relax with a local brew, kiddos spread out on the Lareau Farm property, equipped with lawn games, toys and a fire pit. On a hot day, cool off with a dip in the Mad River at the swimming hole across the street.

  • Courtesy Image
  • The Sweet Spot

The Sweet Spot

With a focus on locally sourced dairy, eggs, fruit and veggies, this café's savory menu changes seasonally to ensure the freshest ingredients. In addition to salads and sandwiches like pulled pork served with pickled veggies, the small establishment offers its own homemade Scout's Honor ice cream and ice pops in flavors like blueberry-mint.

  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Prohibition Pig

Prohibition Pig

Located in downtown Waterbury, the Pro Pig boasts a menu specializing in smoked meat, an on-site brewery and a bustling, casual atmosphere. Try the hand-sliced beef brisket, chopped pork barbecue or duck-fat poutine. Vermont grilled cheese or pasta with butter should satisfy the picky eaters in your party.

  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • The Mad Taco

The Mad Taco

Locals and tourists dig this south-of-the-border fare, ranging from tamales to carnitas. Family platters serve four, with a kids' menu offering up pint-size burritos or trusty grilled cheese. If you're in Montpelier, check out the restaurant's other outpost on Main Street.


Parks & Biking

Mountain Biking at Blueberry Lake - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Mountain Biking at Blueberry Lake

Blueberry Lake

Owned and maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, this shallow, man-made lake is a choice swimming spot for little ones. Its spring-fed, clear water attracts kayakers, anglers and birders. A substantial mountain biking trail system offers adventures into surrounding woods via cycle or foot.

  • Brooke Bousquet
  • Camel's Hump

Camel's Hump

At just over 4,000 feet, Vermont's third-highest mountaintop provides above-treeline panoramic views. Accessed through Camel's Hump State Park, Duxbury's Monroe trailhead, located on Ridley Brook Road, offers both a relatively flat loop with views of the summit and a more challenging ascent. Or try the popular Burrows Trail on the Huntington section of Camel's Hump Road.

Sunset Ledge - MARGO WADE
  • Margo Wade
  • Sunset Ledge

Sunset Ledge

This easy-to-moderate hike of 2.2 miles is named for its stunning western view of Lake Champlain and the rocky Adirondack Mountains beyond. After an initial steep climb, much of this trail is relatively flat, making it suitable for family trekking.


This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.