Vermont is a great location for those who want to enjoy the New England scenery. It is a collection of small rural villages (Burlington, the largest town, has 43,000 people), nestled among rolling hills, lush forests, and green meadows. Vermont does have national chain stores and shopping malls, but mostly independent shops and boutiques.
Residents enjoy beautiful summers and colorful autumns, a leisurely lifestyle, and plenty of outdoor recreation. Canoers have access to Lake Champlain and the Connecticut and West Rivers, while skiiers have some of the best snow in the Northeast at Sugarbush, Stowe, and other resorts. Some retirees move to Vermont from other parts of the country and open shops or small businesses.
The weather, however, is one of the downsides of living in The Green Mountain State. Another is the tax structure: Vermont taxes most retirement income. Social Security benefits are taxed at up to 85%, the same rate as the federal government. The state income tax rate is 3.55% to 8.95%. State sales tax is 6%, to which local districts may add 1%. Property taxes are the seventh-highest in the country: the median property tax on a $216,300 home is around $3,444. There is no inheritance tax, but estate taxes are imposed on estates over $2.75 million and the maximum estate tax rate is 16%. These led Kiplinger to rate Vermont the second-least tax-friendly state. The cost of living is also 17% higher than the national average, though lower than some other Northeast states. The remoteness is also a drawback-the nearest international airports are in New York and Connecticut and are a few hours’ drive away.
But the quietness and beauty of the surroundings and friendliness of the residents more than makes up for all that for many people. Here are some towns to consider.
A small town of 10,000 in the western part of Vermont, Essex Valley has many things to do. The 10-day Champlain Valley Fair is the state’s largest annual fair, held at the Champlain Valley Expo, a large stadium and event field. The fair sponsors a large agricultural exhibition, carnival rides, local food displays and vendors, and nightly concerts that have featured national performers like Lyle Lovett, Keith Urban, and Justin Bieber.
Other events at the expo include an antique car show, Vermont International Festival, and the Champlain Valley Balloon Festival. The Essex Family Fun and Entertainment Center provides mini golf, batting cages, and a driving range, in the midst of a georgeous natural setting. In the area there are also balloon rides, a climbing gym, and many unique shops.
Burlington was named one of 10 affordable mountain towns to retire in 2010 by U.S. News. With great views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains, Burlington has many parks and recreation areas, bike paths, a waterfront park, and a small-town atmosphere.
Its many amenities offer opportunities for year-round recreation. In the local area, residents can ski, snowshoe, ice fish and skate, hike, bike, shop, attend competitive intercollegiate sports events, and enjoy movies and fine restaurants.
The University of Vermont and several other colleges contribute to the educational and cultural offerings, including the Robert Hull Fleming Museum, which displays art and historical artifacts. Those interested in science or history can visit the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts has live performances, and the Church Street Marketplace has shopping at national and local stores. There is also a farmers market on summer weekends.
With a population of 3,000 people, Woodstock is a small town in the central part of Vermont. It has a severe, continental climate, with hot and humid summers and cold winters. But the scenery is picturesque, with views of the mountains and a river valley, and the community is friendly and welcoming. there are many local attractions and activities.
Woodstock is a prototypical New England village, with a central green in the middle of town, an inn on one end and a covered bridge on the other, and surrounded by a library, courthouse, town hall, theater, and houses dating back to the 1700s and 1800s. Much of the town is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the community works hard to preserve the town’s colonial atmosphere.
There are many other local sites of interest that preserve the area’s heritage, such as the Billings Farm & Museum, which were owned by Laurance Rockefeller and include a working dairy farm and restored 1890 farm house. Annual events include art, book reading, and chili tasting festivals, and in the winter, skiing and snowshoeing. During fall foliage season, the area is filled with tourists.
The annual Harvest Weekend at The Billings Farm and Museum is held in October and includes a husking bee, barn dance, and harvest activities. The downtown area has art galleries, stores, a bookstore, and a large general store. The nearest shopping mall is in West Lebanon, N.H., about a half hour drive away.
Chester is a tiny village of about 3,000 that is known for its historic homes and neighborhoods. Two in particular are Stone Village Historic District and Chester Village Historic District, both of which are are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and are popular tourist attractions. The Stone Village district is known for many houses made of local granite, while The Chester Factory Village has homes that were built between 100 and 300 years ago, and includes various architectural styles.
Other attractions include the Vermont Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Stone House Antique Center, and the Green Mountain Flyer, a sightseeing train ride through the mountains and countryside. The town sponsors annual events including The Chester Fall Festival on the Green in September, and the Winter Carnival in February.
The local community actively works to preserve the rural New England environment and prevent national big box stores from being built; in 2011, residents fought in court against a proposal to build a Dollar General store in the town.
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