Planning a vacation can be stressful and expensive. Every year I probe my brain to figure out where to go that will be fun and relaxing, but not force me to mortgage my home to do it. You might be surprised to know (I was) that you need not travel around the world or cruise the ocean to find wonderful places you have never really been, or do exciting things you have never done before. Sometimes adventure and relaxation is right around the corner…or in your backyard, figuratively speaking.

   Living in Massachusetts, Vermont is my “backyard.” Now some of you reading this might have a certain impression of that state (as my daughter admitted to after we got back...that her impression was way off), but trust me when I say there might be a lot more to it than just mountains and woods (although the mountains and woods are absolutely majestic at times).

   I started off my vacation with a trip to an amusement park (yes, Vermont actually has one, sort of). Bromley hosts Vermont’s Summer Adventure and it’s what happens when you turn a mountain for skiing into a fun park in the summer. Without going into all the details I’ll just say it’s fun to go down the mountain on a sled gingerly married to a track (although I left quite a bit if skin on said track), and I retained my crown in mini-golf.

   I ended my vacation with trips to a couple of cheese and maple farms that had more varieties of cheese and maple syrup than I ever imagined were possible. Seriously….some of the combinations were so far off the wall they hadn't even made it to the floor. That said, most of them tasted absolutely fantastic, with a few that either gave you the stank face, or were so hot and spicy that they turned all the soft tissue in your mouth to ash.

   In between the beginning and the end of vacation was a plethora of trips to the local wineries and brewing companies. Let me tell you….wine tastings are one of the best kept secrets in the world. For a few bucks you get to sample some really good wines, and when I say “good,” I mean great when it comes to alcohol percentage by volume! The beer was the same, although there are less breweries than wineries, I particularly recommend Magic Hat Brewery. The free guided tour ends with samples of their beers…and it should go without saying how that ends (wink).

   Vermont being big on their local food and drinks, has many places to get some excellent food…native to the region, that you really can’t get anywhere else. Even the Cabot Cheese factory has flavors of cheeses that don’t seem to make it across the border, and they are a big company.

   I am no stranger to Bennington VT, having been there numerous times throughout the years, but I must say traversing the rest of the state and exploring all the beauty and hospitality (seriously, the people are some of the nicest anywhere) was one of the best vacations I have ever taken.

   Now….not everyone reading this will go to Vermont (although I expect some to actually trust me on this and make the trip), but the larger point I am making is that no matter where you are, perhaps a great time of fun and relaxation is just the next state over and with some meticulous planning and a few hours of driving, you can have one of the best times of your life.