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!

Travel Notes — The Amalfi Coast & Capri

Frequent VBT Traveler, Edie A. has been kind enough to lend us her thoughts, responses and experiences on her Amalfi Coast & Capri walking vacation. Her notes are recorded daily and offer tremendous insight into the day-to-day discoveries of a VBT traveler. We’ve included excerpts and highlights of Edie’s walking vacation below. Enjoy!

Amalfi Coast, Amalfi Tours, Walking Tours Italy

Edie’s Journal

I finally got back to Italy. I have never been south of Rome and had heard that the Amalfi Coast was the most beautiful place on earth, so it seemed like a good place to spend a few days.

Friday

The walking group met in the lobby at 9. Ulisse was there along with our other Trip Leader, Vincenzo. They were experienced local Trip Leaders who spoke great English and had great personalities. I was more than happy to turn responsibility for my well-being over to them. The 12 walkers and the Guys hopped into Mr. G’s big van for the drive to Pompeii.

Pompeii Tours, Italy Walking Tours, Travel Italy

On August 24 in AD79, Vesuvius erupted and buried the city along with neighboring Herculaneum. It was discovered in the 17th century and the restoration, begun in the 18th century, continues today. We walked a couple of miles with Laurencio, an excellent local tour guide and I was glad to check the site off of my traveler’s must see list.

…Like many gorgeous places with perfect weather, Sorrento was first discovered by artists and writers. I could have written a novel in my room at the Europa Palace. A restored villa overlooking the Bay and surrounded by lush citrus gardens, the hotel was luxury to this little walker. I threw open my double French doors above the terrace and wondered if I’d ever leave. I did, of course, and followed my guide map for a couple of hours on a walking tour of this charming town.

Travel Italy, Traveling Italy, Italian Food, Italy Food

Saturday

…Back to Sant Agata for lunch at Agriturismo Fattoria Terranova. What a delight this home and family were. They taught us to make mozzarella and braid it – and then served it to us for lunch. I don’t know when I’ve had such fresh food – meats and cheeses and grilled vegetables and fantastic bread and rice balls (a regional specialty).

Travel Italy, Italian Food, Italian Cheese

…It was a beautiful Saturday night in Sorrento and everyone was out. I ran into Meg and Naomi from Chicago and we found a pizza. And then we found Primavera Cafiero, an absolute must for gelato. Two huge scoops later, we joined the locals and tourists alike for the passagiata – the traditional Italian night stroll under the stars.

Italian Pizza, Travel Italy, Traveling Italy, Italian Food, Italy Food

Tuesday

Today we were hiking the Path of the Gods and I was excited…. The 6.5 mile walk is considered the most scenic on the Amalfi Coast and today the weather was perfect and sunny…. This was the best view ever of the three islets of Li Galli (or Sirenuse). Ulisse was our historian and knew well the story of Ulysses and the Siren’s because he’s named after them.

Travel Italy, Traveling Italy, Italy Tours

…Mr. G was waiting to take most of the walkers to Positano. And we were off on the road to our last spectacular destination… Our Amalfi Hotel was an oasis right in the middle of town next door to the small main square and situated in a citrus grove. I loved my balcony over the citrus groves – the view to the left was the majolica tile roof of the church and to the right the vertical houses of Positano going up the hill.

Italy Hotel, Amalfi Hotel, Positano Hotel

I had to see the church of Santa Maria Assunta which is famous for a large 13th century wooden icon of the Black Madonna. Legend says that the icon was looted by the Sarcacens. When they got out to sea, the winds becalmed and they couldn’t move. They heard voices saying “Posa, posa” which means leave it here. They returned the icon to shore and the winds came up again. Hence, the name of the town is Positano. I wouldn’t mind leaving myself there.

Italy vacations, Italian vacation

Thursday

It was our last day with the Guys. We were headed to Rome and places far away. They let us sleep in and enjoy the breakfast buffet for the last time. We met Mr. G for a ride to the Gragnano Pasta Factory…. After a lovely lunch featuring the factory’s signature shell pasta, we said good bye to the Guys. They were excellent guides and I would recommend them to anyone…. I believe that the Amalfi Coast is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Hope you get there. Buon viaggio.

Edie A., The Amalfi Coast & Capri