10 Unmissable Things To Do In Middlebury VT

From the inspiring words of Robert Frost to the robust flavors of Otter Creek Brewing, here’s your complete guide to things to do in Middlebury, Vermont.

Most people come to Middlebury VT for the liberal arts college of the same name. But another college – and a certain kind of horse – are also prominent features of this tidy town.

The origin of the sturdy but graceful Morgan Horse can be traced to this area of Vermont. In fact, the University of Vermont maintains one of the best “attractions” in the state – the Morgan Horse Farm – two miles out of town.

Sunset over Middlebury VT

But this town is also becoming known for a variety of beverages – from wine to beer to spirits – and even hard cider, with tasting rooms just minutes apart. So, come to Middlebury VT for the college and horses, and stay for the food and drink.

Where Is Middlebury VT?

Middlebury is located in Addison County, in the western part of Vermont. Situated along the banks of Otter Creek, it is roughly equidistant between Burlington to the north and Rutland to the south, with each being about a 35-40 minute drive away. The town is perhaps best known as the home of Middlebury College, and it serves as a hub of academic and cultural activities in the region. With its proximity to the Green Mountain National Forest and Lake Champlain, Middlebury also offers a wide array of outdoor recreational opportunities.

Looking for more weekend getaway ideas? Here’s our roundup of romantic getaways in New England.

Things to Do In Middlebury VT

Morgan Horses in Stalls, Middlebury VT

TOUR: University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm

Seventy percent of the world’s Morgan horses can be traced back to this 215-acre farm in Middlebury VT. A tour of the farm begins with a video imparting the history of “America’s First Breed of Horse,” then offers a chance to interact with the sixty or so of them living here now.

History of the Morgan Horse

US Gov Morgan Horse Farm Middlebury VT

The Morgan horse has a quirky, all-American origin story. In 1789, Vermont native, Justin Morgan received a colt from Springfield MA as a debt payment. The horse had a unique look and superb athletic ability.

Naming him Figure, Morgan observed that his new acquisition could “out trot, out run and out pull” all other horses. Plus, he was hard-working, steady, and didn’t need to eat much.

Wanting more like him, Morgan began to breed Figure and discovered that no matter what kind of mare was used, all the foals had the stallion’s attributes.

Figure, with his big arched neck and compact body, turned out to be one of the most important sires in equine history.

Morgan Horse, Indoor Training Ring, UVM Morgan Horse Farm

In the manner of the day, the horse was named after its breeder. It went on to become the primary horse used in battle during the Civil War.

Morgan Horse From War to Peace

In fact, in 1906, this farm was given to the US Government, which trained and bred Morgans for military use. These “Government Morgans” were so coveted for their strength and reliability, that they were shipped to Europe as well.

Morgan Horse Farm 1878 Barn

In 1957, the farm was deeded to the University of Vermont with a mission to “perpetuate and improve the breed, provide educational training, function as a public relations arm for the University, and to provide a resource for research in equine science.” And so, UVM opened The Morgan Horse Farm to the public.

Tending to the horses Morgan Horse Farm VT

Walk into the fanciful white barn, built in 1878, and it’s so quiet, you might assume that the horses are outside.

Morgan’s are not prone to much drama or noise. They stand quietly in their stalls, and most (except the nippy young ones) are gentle and used to being handled.

If you’re lucky, you may be able to see foals that were born earlier in the spring nuzzling their mothers. You’ll descend to the “Grooming Alcove” and the indoor training ring.

It’s a very hands-on, and tranquil visit, where you won’t feel in any big rush to leave. Hanging out with these beautiful creatures has a calming effect.

The UVM Morgan Horse Farm is one of 10 quirky-romantic places to propose in Vermont.

DO: The Middlebury Tasting Trail

It’s only five miles end to end, so you can easily sip the fruits of vines, trees, and earth in one afternoon. Establishments are open Memorial Day to Columbus Day from 11-5 pm. And remember, designate a stay-sober person to drive before you go.

Lincoln Peak Winery, Middlebury VT

Lincoln Peak Vineyard

Begin at the Lincoln Peak Vineyard, which grows all of its own grapes and has won awards for its Red Marquette – a cold climate varietal. It really doesn’t matter what you try – the porch overlooking a landscaped pond and vineyards beyond is just stunning. And if you’re here on Friday nights, plan to stay. There’s live music on the lawn. $5 for 5 tastes, and you get to keep the glass.

Woodchuck Cider Middlebury VT

Woodchuck Cider House

Next, head around the corner to Woodchuck Cider House, the cidery that brought the world Gumption. This industrial place churns out some of the most innovative hard ciders on the planet, and you can taste any four for free.

Appelacian Gap Distillery, Middlebury VT

Appalachian Gap Distillery

You’ll never buy another bottle of Kahlua again after sipping Appalachian Gap Distillery’s Kaffevan (that lists among other ingredients, “magic.”) Real cold-brewed coffee and Belgian candy syrup meld to create this unbelievably toothsome coffee liquor.

This small distillery also makes Snowfall Whiskey, Monarch “Tequila” – from blue agave and maple syrup, and Mosquito Fleet Rum. I know what’s going into my next White Russian.

Drop In Brewing, Middlebury VT

Drop-In Brewing

Finish up at Drop-In Brewing – an outpost of the American Brewer’s Guild’s brewing school. It’s tiny, but dedicated brewers and brewers-to-be spend their waking (and probably some not-so-awake) moments working on the best beer man can make. Try the flagship Belgian Golden Ale, Sunshine & Hoppiness. It’s happiness in a pint glass.

Sheldon Museum, Middlebury VT

VISIT: Sheldon Museum

The 1829 Judd-Harris House was built by “two guys in the marble business” next to Middlebury’s marble quarry. It became a rooming house, and then, for a very short period, a brothel, before former boarder Henry Sheldon bought the place and started to collect things. Lots of things.

In 1882 Sheldon chartered the three-story building as a museum – making it the “Oldest Community Based Museum in the Country.” It is now known for its architecture, its six black marble fireplaces (thanks to Judd and Harris), and its beloved garden.

Sheldon Museum Geneology Vault, Middlebury VT

The Sheldon is also a repository for all of the papers and publications that Henry Sheldon hoar…, um “collected” throughout his years – photos, newspapers, diaries and war papers going back over two hundred years. Those researching local Vermont roots will positively swoon with joy.

The walk-in vault houses every issue of The Middlebury Mercury Newspaper from December 1801 on. It’s got “War Papers” going back to before the Civil War. And you can research 100,000 more fragile works on paper. Not only will you find these precious items, but the Sheldon Museum is staffed with knowledgeable and friendly volunteers just waiting to help you.

Sheldon Museum Exhibit, Middlebury VT

Wandering through the museum itself is a delight. The curator certainly has a sense of humor. He juxtaposes traditional furnishings with contemporary folk art.

Plus, he brings in well-known artists, like neighbor Warren Kimble, for temporary exhibitions. It’s a very cool small museum and definitely worth an hour of your time.

Vermont Folk Life Center Middlebury VT

VISIT: Vermont Folklife Center

Video and audio “exhibits” tell the story of small town and farm life from those who lived and still live it. One of the best is a series of interviews with Daisy Turner (1883-1988), the daughter of a slave, who was a hundred years old when caught on camera in 1985.

During one account, she remembers, down to the last word, a poem about her little black doll that she made up, on the spot, in her second-grade class.

Vermont Folk Life Center, Middlebury VT

The teacher gave Daisy a poem to read, but it seemed too disrespectful of her much loved toy. So right then and there Daisy defiantly changed the words, much to her teacher’s and white classmates’ surprise.

At age 100, she was feisty, with an impeccable memory – still living in the woods on her own and chopping her own wood for heat. When Daisy was 103, her daughter said enough was enough, and moved her into a nursing home, where she lived another two years.

Go and watch these interviews. If you can’t get there, see the Daisy Turner tapes online. They are funny, compelling, and full of the power of the human spirit.

Middlebury VT Waterfall

EXPLORE: Downtown Middlebury VT

Step into Downtown Middlebury, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by an array of shops and tasting rooms. From Vermont Folklife Center to Town Hall Theater, the downtown area buzzes with cultural activities and community spirit. Stroll around Town Green, an open space perfect for relaxing and people-watching.

Look for the downtown Middlebury waterfall that cascades under the Main Street stone bridge. When you’re done, shop the boutiques and galleries along the road.

SEE: Town Hall Theater

In the evening, take in a live show at the superbly renovated Town Hall Theater. It’s worth peeking in even if you don’t have theater tickets.

National Museum of the Morgan Horse, Middlebury VT

VISIT: National Museum of the Morgan Horse

This little bricks-and-mortar establishment in downtown Middlebury celebrates the Morgan horse in many forms; paintings, sketches, periodicals, and sculptures. Pop into this small storefront spot for a look after you’ve visited the farm.

TOUR: Middlebury College

A visit to Middlebury isn’t complete without a tour of Middlebury College. With its National Register of Historic buildings and liberal arts focus, the college adds a cerebral layer to the town’s atmosphere. Don’t forget to check out the Bread Loaf campus, renowned for its writers’ conference.

Kevin Mahaney Center for the Arts, Middlebury College

VISIT: Middlebury College Museum of Art

Even if you didn’t go there, or don’t have a child looking at or attending the school, you’ll want to step into this contemporary, encyclopedic museum on the campus of Middlebury College.

Most exhibits are temporary, but Marcel Duchamp’s collection of optical illusion discs rotating on a turntable is a mesmerizing staple.

Robert Indiana LOVE at Middlebury College

Grab an “Art In Public Places” booklet, and take a stroll. You’ll find one of Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculptures near the pond right outside. And twenty other works of art around campus. It’s like a treasure hunt.

GO: Ralph Myhre Golf Course

Owned and operated by Middlebury College, this 18-hole course offers a combination of challenging holes and scenic beauty. The course is meticulously maintained and provides panoramic views of the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks, making it more than just a place to play golf; it’s a place to connect with Vermont’s stunning natural landscape.

Middlebury VT Restaurants

Tourterelle Restaurant property outside of Middlebury VT

EAT: Tourterelle Restaurant – New Haven VT

Just a few miles out of town, in farmland New Haven VT, this French restaurant is, by all accounts including mine, an exceptional place to dine, celebrate an anniversary, and even get married.

EAT: Locals Love

Fire and Ice – for drinks and seafood, Jessica’s Restaurant at the Swift House Inn for upscale dining, and American Flatbread for flatbread pizza.

Middlebury VT Hotels

STAY: Middlebury Inn

The Middlebury Inn is almost 190 years old and has had more face-lifts than most of the Hollywood elite. But the 71-room historic inn retains a distinguished “shabby chic” character.

In the center of this college town, a grand ballroom was once located on the third floor. That explains the wide hallway (to accommodate the hoop skirts of the day) and soaring 12 ft. ceilings.

Ask for a four-poster Queen deluxe room with navy floral carpeting and white comforters. Small bathrooms feature black and white mosaic floors and new granite counters or pedestal sinks.

The Federal-style lobby is chock-o-block with wing-backed chairs and other vintage furniture. It’s where you’ll find a bountiful, complimentary afternoon tea with baked sweets, warm and cold tea, and lemonade.


  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

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1 thought on “10 Unmissable Things To Do In Middlebury VT”

  1. Malerie,
    The National Museum of the Morgan Horse would love to use the photo of the statue from your post in our brochure and possibly other promotional materials. Please let me know if we have permission to use it.

    Thanks for including us in your Middlebury post!

    Kim W.
    American Morgan Horse Association

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