Ben & Jerry’s Factory

If you’re looking for suggestions for places to visit in Vermont, very likely one of the places mentioned is the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, VT. I’m not necessarily a big ice cream fan, but I had never been to an ice cream factory, so I thought that would be a fun place to visit during my New England road trip. So Ben & Jerry’s Factory was the first destination added to my list of destinations in Vermont for the trip.

After reading travel guidebooks for New England, I learned about some other things the state of Vermont is known for. An area called the Green Mountains have some great places for skiing during the winter time and is a great place to see the fall foliage, and Vermont State Route 100 is a road that cuts through the Green Mountain area and is wonderful route to take to experience the beauty of nature and Vermont countryside. Much of Vermont is covered with farm land, and two famous products from Vermont (other than the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream) are cheese and maple syrup. Since I only had limited time during my road trip to visit places, I decided to pick three places to stop by during the drive through Vermont: the Grafton Village Cheese Company in Grafton, the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, and the Morse Farms Maple Sugarworks in Montpelier.

After leaving my previous stop in New York City very early in the morning (around 3 am), I managed to enter the state of Vermont by around 7:30 am. Why so early? Well, I had a very ambitious plan for the day: spend the morning driving through and stopping at the places mentioned above in Vermont, then continuing in the afternoon to the White Mountains area in New Hampshire, and continuing the drive at night to my destination, Bar Harbor in Maine. In hindsight, that was pretty crazy, but it did make a fun-filled day..

The first stop, Grafton, is located on the scenic State Route 100. The drive was wonderful; fall foliage definitely was around the peak time, and it was nice to drive through the Vermont countryside. The only problem was that scenic drive meant slower drive. I did find the Grafton Village Cheese Company, but they were still closed at the time I arrived there around 8 am. So I decided to continue on to Waterbury since I knew that Ben & Jerry’s Factory would already be open by the time I got there. I abandoned the initial plan of driving through State Route 100 after experiencing the lower (and safer) speed limit on this country road. Instead I drove back to the Interstate Highway and took it most of the way to Waterbury.

The Ben & Jerry’s Factory is definitely a fun place to visit in Vermont, especially if you come with family / children. For a small fee of $3.00, you get to watch a Moovie presentation about Ben & Jerry’s history and their integral place within the state of Vermont, view the ice cream factory from an observation deck, and taste the ice cream to finish it off. There is also the Flavor Graveyard in the back of the factory where you can find headstones remembering some Ben & Jerry flavors that didn’t quite make it well in the market. And of course there is an ice cream shop if you didn’t get enough from the tour. For me, the little cup of ice cream was enough. I still had a long journey for the day — didn’t want to have stomach problem from having too much dairy products.

My last stop in Vermont, the Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, is a great place to find maple products and other local food products that Vermont is known for. Since I was watching my timing closely as I wanted to get to Mount Washington Auto Road before it closes at 3 pm, I only stopped at Morse Farm to get some souvenirs to take home. It’s only a short stop, but tasting the real maple syrup (that tastes much better than the artificially flavored syrup you often get at the grocery store) got me hooked. Since I got back from this trip, I also learned that maple syrup is actually a healthier alternative to processed sugar to use as sweetener. And you can actually get the pure maple syrup at the local grocery stores (typically they’re from either Vermont or Quebec, Canada).

After the stop at Morse Farm, I continued my trip to New Hampshire. The few hours drive through and brief stops gave me a little taste of Vermont, leaving more to experience in future visits. As for the rest of the ambitious travel day, you can read about them on my posts about White Mountains and Asticou Azalea and Thuya Gardens.

The photo below was taken right outside the Ben & Jerry’s Factory. It was a nice autumn morning, and I saw this group of visitors enjoying their ice cream with the wonderful fall foliage in the background. It’s a little cool outside, but I don’t think it mattered when you have the tasty ice cream to enjoy.

Ice cream in the fall

White Mountains

This weekend the Midwest and Northeast regions of the United States are experiencing an unusually early snowstorm. It reminded me to another place I visited during my New England road trip a couple of years ago, the White Mountains area in New Hampshire. The White Mountains area covers a significant part of the state of New Hampshire. It is another popular getaway destination in New England given its close proximity to Boston.

My primary reason for going through the White Mountains area during my drive from Vermont to Maine was to check out Mount Washington. Mount Washington is perhaps the most well-known mountain in the area because at close to 6,300 ft it is the highest mountain in the Northeast United States. It is also home for the highest wind gust ever recorded on the earth’s surface at 231 mph. Weather permitted, you can drive your car on the Mount Washington Auto Road that takes you from the base to near the summit of the mountain, a 7.6 mi drive that climbs 4,618 ft (at about 11% grade). I was driving my new Acura for this road trip, so I thought it would be interesting to see how my car would fare on this road.

Unfortunately when I arrived at the base of the mountain, I found out that the Auto Road was already closed for the season as they had a snowstorm few days earlier that made the road impassable. So after taking some photos from the base of the mountain, I continued on with a drive around the White Mountains on the Kancamagus Highway. This drive is often mentioned as one of the prettiest drives in the United States, especially in the autumn.

I drove through the White Mountains National Forest to enjoy the scenery, and stopped for a short hike to the Sabbaday Falls. There were not that many people around on the trail. It was slightly past the peak foliage time there given the higher altitude, but it was still pretty. The photo below is from the trail — beautiful maple leaves covering the ground.

Fall leaves in New Hampshire

Mount Desert Island

When most visitors come to Mount Desert Island, the primary destinations are usually the Acadia National Park, which occupies a large portion of the island, and Bar Harbor, a town closest to the park where you find accommodations during the visit to the area. The island is actually more than just these two places; if you have a car (or a bike), you can also tour the island and visit many little towns there. In the last few posts, I mentioned about a couple of those places, Northeast Harbor with its beautiful Asticou Azalea and Thuya Gardens, and Bass Harbor with its famous light house. There are other towns around that may not necessarily have any particular landmark to visit, but are good representations of small Maine / New England coastal villages.

And not to be missed when you’re in Maine is a visit to one of the local lobster pounds where you could get the local product fresh from the fishing boat and at very reasonable price. These places may not have the nice decor as some fancy restaurants you find in Bar Harbor, but if you’re looking for lobster, I think this is the best way to get it. I went to Thurston Lobster Pound in Bernard, and had a wonderful feast of lobsters with side dishes and desert that was pretty easy on my budget but also very memorable experience.

The photo below was taken in a little town called Somesville. It’s located right in the middle of the island; you would pass it if you drive around the island between some of its harbor towns. There was a beautiful footbridge over a pond there that is very picturesque, especially in the autumn. I stopped there to take photos of the footbridge and the pond, but as I turned around, I saw this wonderful scenery of a home near the inlet with a gorgeous tree next to it. This is an example of one of good photography lessons I learned — be aware of your surroundings when looking for interesting scenery to photograph; sometimes you can find more interesting subjects beyond your initial one by simply turning around and look what is behind you. You can find more sights on Mount Desert Island in my flickr photo album.

Fall morning in Somesville, ME

Asticou Azalea and Thuya Gardens

Sometimes when you travel you find a place or an experience that was not necessarily part of your original travel plans, but ended up to be one of the highlights of your trip.

When I went to Mount Desert Island, ME, a couple of years ago, the primary reason to go there was to visit the Acadia National Park. I had a whole day allocated during my New England road trip to explore the area. Initially I wanted to do a day hike in the national park to really experience the nature there. However, I did not arrive in Bar Harbor until around midnight the night before (after an all-day driving around Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine), and I wanted to catch the sunrise at the Cadillac Summit in the morning (which meant waking up around 5 am and heading up to the summit). After catching the sunrise in the morning, a short nap, a nice breakfast, and a drive around the Park Loop Road, I was quite tired by mid-day. The idea of doing day hike didn’t sound that appealing anymore. So after taking another short nap, I decided to change my plan and to drive around the Mount Desert Island to explore the area by car instead.

I had planned to go to Bass Harbor just before sunset to photograph the light house, so I decided to drive towards that area. On the way there, I passed a town called Northeast Harbor, and on the visitors guide for Mount Desert Island, there were two adjacent public gardens, the Asticou Azalea Garden and the Thuya Garden, that descriptions said were not to be missed. I had never heard of these places before, but I had some time to kill in the afternoon, and they’re on the way to Bass Harbor, so I thought why not stopping by and check these places out. The visit to these two gardens ended up becoming another highlight of the trip.

The Asticou Azalea Garden is a Japanese garden location right on the main road entering the Northeast Harbor area. When I visited the garden, there was hardly anyone there, so I practically had the garden for myself. The landscape was beautiful with a small man-made lake that provided beautiful reflection of the landscape on the water from far away. The fall colors made the garden’s landscape even prettier.

The Thuya Garden is located pretty close from the Asticou Azalea Garden, though it’s located on a hill at the back of the Thuya Lodge, so it was a little secluded and difficult to find from the main road. When I did find it, it was quite a unique place. Since it was at the end of the visiting season, there was also practically no one there when I came (four more people showed up few minutes after I got there). It felt like I was in a secret garden when I was alone in the enclosed garden area. It was very peaceful, and just a wonderful time being alone enjoying the beautiful scenery and taking photographs of this place.

The photo below was at the Asticou Azalea Garden. You can see more photos from these two beautiful gardens in my flickr album. I highly recommend including these two wonderful places if you’re planning on visiting the Mount Desert Island area.

Asticou Azalea Garden

New England

After finishing the coast-to-coast road trip from Santa Monica, CA, to Brooklyn, NY, I continued on up north to the New England area. Our coast-to-coast road trip took place in early October, and since I already took several days off from work, and I was already in New York City, I thought why not continuing the trip to visit New England during its peak fall foliage time. Prior to this trip, I had only visited Boston, MA, for business trip. I had never been to the other New England states. So this was a good opportunity to do it, and I decided to ‘sample’ all of the New England states in one extended weekend.

The route for the trip was quite an ambitious one, covering Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut in only four days. But since I was traveling alone (initially I invited my brother to come along, but he had some events to prepare for immediately after getting back to New York), my schedule was somewhat flexible and I could push it as far as I could personally take. The trip ended up to be a wonderful one as I got to experience many things unique to the region — fall foliage, maple syrup, lobster, history — capping the longest road trip I had ever undertaken, around 5,300 miles covering 22 states from California to Maine in 10 days.

The photo below was taken on the Park Loop Road in the Acadia National Park, ME. I had purchased the car about one month before the trip, and this trip was its first road trip outside the DC metro area. On a morning drive through the gorgeous drive, I noticed this stretch of the road that was lined with colorful trees, and the road had a nice S curve. It was early enough that there was no traffic for few minutes, so I ‘staged’ my car and took the photo.

Fall drive in Acadia