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10 Fun Facts about the Green Mountain State

Whether you’ve been to Vermont or not, you probably already know a few things about the state and the people who live here. We’re pretty green: geographically and philosophically. We’re warm, laid-back and proud of our home. We love our outdoors and we’re always happy to show out-of-towners around. For those of you who haven’t made it up north, we’ve put together a collection of lesser known facts about our state.

1. Champ the Friendly Sea Monster          

Likely, you already know that our largest lake, Lake Champlain was named by the great French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, when he charted the body of water in 1609. But did you know that he was rumored to have discovered “Champ” on that very same expedition? Champ is the friendly, giant sea creature that makes his home in the depths of the lake. Possibly spotted by Champlain himself, sighted again in the 19th century and allegedly photographed in 1977 by Bristol, VT resident Sandra Mansi, Champ’s notoriety has grown over the years. And as his popularity rose, Champ became a sort of unofficial mascot for Vermonters. In fact, our minor league baseball team, The Vermont Lake Monsters, has gone so far as to make Champ their official mascot.

2.  Phish — Jamming since their days at Groovy UV

Many may note the iconic jam band, Phish, as the most famous and successful band from Vermont. Phish formed in and around Burlington in the mid-80’s and gained their first residency at Nectar’s, right in downtown Burlington. Though the band is through and through a Vermont product, none of the band’s original or current lineup was born in the state. We owe our celebrated institutions of higher education a good deal of credit for beckoning the core of the group to the area.

3.  Going Green Since 1886

We have a long history of environmentally conscious farming here in Vermont. Perhaps no estate better exemplifies Vermont’s commitment to responsible agricultural practice than our own, Shelburne Farms. Developed in 1886 by Dr. William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb, Shelburne Farms has consistently paved the way in farming sustainability and innovation. The property fell on hard times in the mid-20th century, but fortunately descendants of the Seward-Webb founded a non-profit organization in 1972 that was dedicated to the discipline of conservation. Shelburne Farms was eventually acquired by the foundation and today, the working farm that sits on the shore of Lake Champlain is committed to serving and educating its community through agricultural sustainability.

4.  A Delicious Institution

The fifth of May is a day worth celebrating for a few reasons. Not only is it a day for Cinco de Mayo festivites, it marks an important date in Vermont history, too. On that date in 1978 Ben & Jerry opened their first scoop shop in Burlington, Vermont. The shop was assembled out of a run-down, former gas station. The following year, on their anniversary Ben & Jerry established a delicious tradition – Free Cone Day, now a global event.  The date has changed since the original Free Cone Day, but the philosophy has remained the same: at least once a year, ice cream should be free, for everyone to enjoy!

5.  An Independent Streak — Vermont’s Road to Statehood

Many people know Vermont as our nation’s 14th state. However, before being admitted into the Union, Vermont was its own, independent republic for over a decade. Vermont eventually became a state largely due to the efforts of Revolutionary War hero, Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys. But Allen never saw Vermont actually achieve statehood as he passed about two years before admission in 1791.

6.  Vermont’s A List — A Few of Our Most Famous Residents   

Vermont has had a variety of other notable residents throughout history. Ira Allen, Ethan’s younger brother, founded the University of Vermont. Two United States presidents were born here: Chester A. Arthur, the 21st president, and the nation’s 30th President, Calvin Coolidge. Coolidge is also known as the only President to have been born on July 4. Robert Frost made his home in Vermont for a period of time before moving on to New Hampshire. The von Trapp matriarch, Maria von Trapp, may have gotten her start in Austria, but she and her family lived in Stowe, Vermont from the 1940’s on. And finally actor, Jonathan Goldsmith is not a native resident, but is a Vermont transplant. When he isn’t acting he keeps a relatively low profile, though you may know him better as, “The Most Interesting Man in the World.”

7.  Runner-up for Smallest State 

With just over half a million residents, Wyoming is the only state in the country with a smaller population than Vermont. That means that North and South Dakota, Alaska, and even the small states of Rhode Island and Delaware have more residents than New England’s western-most state. Accordingly, Vermont also has the smallest state capital population. Montpelier, in the Northwest corner of the state, has just under 8,000 residents.

8.  Our Natural Skyline

What we lack in population, we make up for in elevation. Our tallest Mountain, Mount Mansfield, stands 4,395 feet above sea level. You may have even taken advantage of its peaks, skiing or snowboarding at Stowe in the winter months. Another notable Vermont peak is our third tallest, Camels Hump. It’s best known for its iconic “Two-humped” addition to our skyline.

9.  Not-So-Great Heights 

In a stark contrast, our tallest building is the University of Vermont’s, Ira Allen Chapel. Formerly a religious venue, the hall is now used to host lectures and famous speakers throughout the year. Its bell tower reaches a diminutive 165 feet, paling in comparison to Vermont’s natural skyscrapers, our Green Mountains.

10.  America’s Original Bike Tour Company

Vermont is home to America’s original and best (in our humble opinion) Bike Tour Company, VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations. Founded by a Middelbury college professor in 1971, we’ve grown to offer biking and walking vacations through five continents. But we still offer two exciting biking vacations in our home state. Look out for Shelburne Farms, Phish, Camels Hump, Lake Champlain and Champ as we explore our back yard on either our Classic Vermont or our Vermont: Champlain Valley & Islands biking vacation. And while you’re here, biking and burning calories, you might want to sample a bit of Ben & Jerry’s, too!

Meet Zsuzsanna – Trip Leader on VBT’s Hungary & Slovakia Vacation

What makes Zsuzsanna a great Trip Leader?

Perhaps it’s her ability to teach her guests a little Hungarian as they travel, which she claims is “one of the most difficult languages to learn.” And she would know: she speaks seven of them.

Maybe it’s the fact that travel is in her blood. Zsuzsanna’s father has been a tour guide throughout most of her life. As an heir to the family trade, she even conducted her first tour at the age of 14.

It could also be her breadth of cultural knowledge and experience. Born into a bilingual family (her father is originally from Russia) Zsuzsanna made it a point to keep an open mind about new cultures. As a result, she has traveled to and enjoyed 27 countries, including China, India, the United States, Russia and most of Europe.

Then again, it could just be Zsuzsanna’s lasting smile that makes her a great Trip Leader. “I smile 24-7 — that’s what everybody says.”

In any case, we’re certain that Zsuzsanna’s experience, knowledge and love of her country make her one of the best Trip Leaders to travel through Hungary with! Travel with Zsuzsanna this summer or fall on VBT’s Hungary & Slovakia: The Best of the Danube biking vacation.