Thinking About Moving to Vermont? Sign Up for This Life-Changing Weekend Trip
By Winona Dimeo-Ediger
If you’re interested in moving to Vermont, now is the perfect time to do it — and the state wants to help you get there.
Earlier this year, the state of Vermont announced its new Stay to Stay Weekend program, aimed at encouraging tourists to consider relocating to Vermont by giving them a taste of what it’s like to live there.
But what is it really like to take part in one of these relocation “test drive” programs?
Vermont was kind enough to invite me up for the weekend to experience the August Stay to Stay Weekend for myself. And while I wasn’t planning on relocating to Vermont, I’d be lying if I told you I hadn’t been daydreaming about working remotely from an artisan coffee shop overlooking Lake Champlain since the moment I got back home.
The Stay to Stay Weekend is basically a way turn any visitor’s Vermont weekend into a well-rounded preview of what it’s like to live there. You choose what region of the state you’d like to explore (current options include Burlington, Manchester, Brattleboro and Rutland), and the state, along with the local chamber of commerce, helps you connect with potential employers and experiences that give you a taste of real life in Vermont.
Here’s the play-by-play of what the weekend is really like — and heads up: the next Stay to Stay Weekend is in October, so if you’re even slightly curious about living in Vermont, I’d highly recommend gifting yourself a weekend getaway and signing up.
Friday Evening: Meet and Greet
The weekend starts with a welcome reception at a cozy hotel bar, Bleu, near the Burlington waterfront. It’s a chance to connect with other potential new residents and meet reps from the Chamber of Commerce who happily (and honestly!) answer any and all questions that come with relocating.
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“What’s the job market like here?” (Great, especially in tech and hospitality.) “Where’s the best place to get pizza?” (Pizza Verita for eat-in; Leonardo’s for takeout.) “How do you make it through the winter here?” (Thick coats and frequent snowplowing.)
Guests are also given a welcome bag with suggested itineraries, restaurant recommendations and coupons for free and discounted activities.
Saturday: Explore the City
One of my favorite things about the way this weekend is set up is how free and open it is. It’s designed to be an individual vacation experience with added benefits and resources you’re welcome to take advantage of — or not. The Stay to Stay organizers give attendees lots of ideas and recommendations for things to do (and some choice coupons for certain activities), but they don’t micromanage your experience at all.
Case in point: Saturday is left completely open for exploring on your own.
With live music, tons of food, fresh produce, local artists, and every possible maple product you could ever dream of (Maple cinnamon rolls! Maple lemonade! Maple cookies! Maple muffins! Maple vodka!), the farmers’ market is a perfect way to get a feel for the do-it-yourself culture of Burlington and how genuinely friendly people are here.
From the market, I walked up to Battery Park and took a seat on a bench overlooking Lake Champlain. Seriously though, is this heaven?
Pro tip: these views pair perfectly with a maple creemee (maple-flavored soft serve, obviously).
Dinner was New England oysters and a nicoise salad at Leunig’s, a fantastic French bistro downtown, followed by a comedy show at the Vermont Comedy Club, a cozy venue highlighting great local and national acts. The headliner was Jamie Lee, a comic on tour from L.A., who was great, but I loved seeing some of Burlington’s local talent open for her. They hung out after the show to chat with audience members, and told me the creative community in Burlington is lively and welcoming and growing every day.
Sunday: Explore Some More (and Tour Neighborhoods With a Real Estate Agent)
In the afternoon, the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce set me up with a local real estate agent for a tour of some Burlington neighborhoods and homes for sale. This is an option for Stay to Stay Weekend guests and I highly recommend it, because no one — and I mean no one — knows more about a city’s neighborhoods, costs and culture than a real estate agent. Fair warning, though: I promptly fell in love with a house overlooking Lake Champlain and will probably spend the rest of my life daydreaming about it.
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Monday: Check Out the Local Startup Scene at VCET
On Monday morning, I grabbed coffee and met up with the Stay to Stay group outside an an unassuming brick building in downtown Burlington that houses the startup incubator/co-working space called VCET (Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies).
There are a lot of cool things about Burlington. The stunning lake views. The amazing food around every corner. The hiking trails. The comedy club. The secret bars. The many variations of colorful flannel. The maple-flavored everything.
But VCET might be the coolest thing in Burlington.
A funky, creative workspace buzzing with energy, VCET offers memberships to freelancers and entrepreneurs for just $100 a month (and it’s free for local students!). That membership covers co-working space, meeting rooms, and perhaps most valuably, access to the community of entrepreneurs and innovators who call VCET home. The collaborative atmosphere here is apparent from the moment you walk in the door, with people chatting and working in small groups at couches and tables, greeting one another, and mapping out ideas on whiteboards.
There are meeting rooms, quiet work areas and a well-stocked kitchen with a view of Lake Champlain. The people working here are launching startups, working remotely for international corporations, and freelancing for all kinds of cool companies and media outlets. To see them all mingling and sharing ideas is incredibly inspiring.
Sam Roach-Gerber, Director of Innovation at VCET, knows every member by name and clearly revels in helping entrepreneurs and freelancers make fruitful connections. She gladly extends this warmth and openness to everyone she meets. I toured VCET with another Stay to Stay Weekend participant who was interested in working in tech, and Sam eagerly offered up leads for opportunities and connections. At one point she offered to get the governor on the phone to answer some questions.
The startup scene in Burlington, and Vermont as a whole, is growing quickly, and VCET serves as a perfect microcosm of Vermont’s startup culture: buzzy and expansive but still tight-knit and down to earth. “There’s an expectation in Vermont that your family and your health come first,” Sam told me. “We have a high caliber of success here because people are happy.”
The bottom line, according to Sam: “No one lives in Vermont because it’s convenient to be here. They live here because they want to be here.”
Come spend a weekend in Vermont, and chances are you’ll want to be here, too.