Vermont may be known for being the leading producer of maple syrup, but there is a lot more going on around there than watching tree sap drip.
Lying in the New England region, The Green Mountain State is centrally located for tourism and travel.
The state is so acclimated to the LGBT community that every bar has the possibility to be a gay establishment. While some of the population is conservative, most people here were found to be very open-minded and liberal. Civil unions were passed back in 2000way ahead of the rest of the United Statesand Vermont was the fourth to legalize same-sex marriage.
Flying JetBlue was a breeze, with snacks and drinks for the short hop from Chicago to New York City's JFK Airport to Vermont, where I lost an hour with Eastern time. Renting a car right out of the airport was convenient and necessary in this part of the world, where things are spread out on a scenic highway with foliage at every turn.
We drove to our lodging at the Moose Meadow Lodge, which was tucked onto the side of a mountain. This homey bed-and-breakfast was full of taxidermal wildlife and paintings. We stayed in the cozy creel room, which is dedicated to fly-fishingcomplete with a private steam room and balcony overlooking the forest. The only thing that was missing was a fishy smell, which was okay by me.
The gay owners continue to expand with a treehouse chalet in the works overlooking a pond. Don't miss a glorious uphill hike to see the mountains from an overhang pavilion that is not for the faint of heart.
Before dinner we visited the Grunberg Haus, with its strong Austrian style; Jeff Connor, a former member of the LGBT tourism board, and his wife, Linda, own the venue. More than 10 rooms, along with separate outside cabins, provide suites for guests. Watching the bird-feeder from their living room never got boring.
The Cider House BBQ & Pub had some of the best pulled pork I have ever tried, but bring a bib for those messy tasty ribs. Don't forget to spread some bourbon sauce on any morsel in sight and ask for Bubbles the server, who will show you one-of-a-kind service.
For lunch there is probably not a better hot spot than Simon Pearce's The Loft, named after the famous Irish glass blower. Located over a historic woolen mill, diners can watch the hydroelectric turbine and waterfalls while consuming calamari salads or a delicious shepherd's pie. The lamb burger was a treat after fans demanded its return to the menubut watch out for the juice!
Downstairs tourists can peruse the massive gift shop and watch a glass-blowing demonstration. After a devastating flooding from Hurricane Irene, this place bounced back after only three weeks to maintain it's historic look.
There are so many welcoming places for LGBT visitors to stay in Vermont, including all-green gay-owned Deer Brook Inn in Woodstock. A moose even felt right at home there recently when he charged across the property to surprise guests. Where was that moose-crossing sign when they needed it?
Just a two-minute drive from there was the Farmhouse Inn, where dozens of hens ran out to greet us upon arrival. A huge barn was turned into a party room, projecting movies on the wall and hosting local bands to entertain folks that stay there. With bees and trees, honey and syrup are served fresh for breakfast for visitors staying in the seven rooms. Remove your shoes upon entering and no pets pleasethere are enough on the farm!
Speaking of parties, Killington was the place to be for drinking and carousing. The Killington Resort has the complete getaway package for any taste. Stretching across six mountains, these snowmakers extend the amount of ski time on their 3,000 acres, thanks to secluded areas. Jam-packed with activities, the Winter Pride Slide has revelers in a downhill parade and competing in a costume contest after hitting the slopes from Feb. 1 through the weekend. Stay in The Grand Resort Hotel to enjoy spa treatments and a spacious golf course while you are there.
One of my favorite locations to visit was the Red Clover Inn. The farm-to-table dinner menu looked delicious with butternut squash soup for starters and garlic Portuguese steak to satisfy. The rooms were named after past owners and were just the right taste of modern mixed with historic architecture.
Later in the day we drove to the most populated part of the state, Burlington, for Gay Pride Weekend (or Northern Decadence, as some called it). Within walking distance of our centrally located Marriott Hotel accommodations, we found the VGSA Pride Cruise on Lake Champlain.
The ferry left the harbor with attendees covered in Hawaiian leis setting sail on the Love Boat or more appropriately titled Gilligan's Island since it was a three-hour tour. The drag queens joked that there were a Ginger and Mrs. Howell, but no one wanted to be Mary Ann. Maybe she was too innocent for the partygoers?
Patrons ate a light buffet after boarding, including an anniversary cake. A DJ played tunes that got people dancing, and a live singing drag show provided more entertainment for the evening. One unlucky fellow tossed his cookies overboard either from being seasick or having too many cocktails at the bar.
After, the Vermont Pride Parade kicked off on Church Street. There were no barricades or stumbling drunkards on the street for this short but sweet celebration. Afterwards, many walked to Battery Park to show their true colors with tents full of rainbow merchandise, clubs to join and square-dancing. Performers sang from a local production of Rent after drag queens lip-synched with gusto in the pavilion. Former Gov. Madeleine Kunin spoke of equality and changes in the government while Adam Bouska took NOH8 photos close by. Some rain sprinkled down to cloud the festivities, but that didn't stop the after-partycalled Farm Fresh, complete with a Southern themethat lasted until the break of dawn.
On the way up Route 100, visit the Ben & Jerry's factory, where the company not only has incredible ice cream but the company is active politically and in the gay community, having a presence at the aforementioned festivities. Lake Champlain Chocolates and the Cabot Cheese Annex have enough samples on the highway to fill anyone. Also, make a pit stop at the Hollow Cider Mill for a drink of cider along with apple doughnuts and soaked hot dogs.
There are so many places to stay, such as the Commodores or Timberholm Inn; however, tourists simply must trust the only gay-owned B&B in Stowe at the Arbor Inn. Renovated and adorable, this place was prepared for the upcoming Foliage Week with a new porch.
Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa supplied a relaxing reprieve with a total immersion into a world of massage and luxury that worked out the aches and pains of driving.
The music lover should head uphill to Stowe, where the Von Trapp family still remains to this day running the Trapp Family Lodge. The hills were alive with the Sound of Music as the great-grandchildren keep their Austrian past alive with 96 rooms styled in classic yet modern looks. From the exercise room and pool to the restaurant, everything is within reach and was top-notch for families with no need to leave a fireplace and balcony in their rooms.
It is fairly inexpensive to live in this region but gas prices were on par to Chicago. The population appears to be growing in leaps and bounds. After talking to some locals, many have moved here for a better way of life and the legalization of same-sex marriage. With ceremonies and honeymoon opportunities at every turn in Vermont, when are the other states hopping on this economic stimulating train and getting with the program?
Visit www.vermontgaytourism.com for details on planning a trip today!