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Day Trips in Vermont: Lakeside adventures, rural curiosities and plenty of creemees

A collage on the background of a lake with mountains includes cut outs of a soft-serve ice cream cone, a sign that says "Bread and Puppet Museum - Open," a Jay Peak aerial tram, a covered bridge, and two tandem canoes.
Sophie Stephens, Zoe McDonald
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Vermont Public
Whether you're looking for outdoor activities or quirky, unique destinations, we've got you covered with our recommended day trips in Vermont.

Summer is a great season to explore a new part of Vermont, or turn down an unfamiliar road in a region you've visited many times before. You may stumble upon a well-stocked farm stand that runs on the honor system, or encounter a rare bird, an ancient fossil or a museum exhibit about dust.

Here, we've collected things to do in the Green Mountain State's most populous area — Burlington and the towns within easy reach of it — and the Northeast Kingdom, its most rural area. We seek to highlight some lesser-known gems because — let's be honest — most of the best things to do in Vermont are off the beaten path. But don't worry, you'll never be too far from a creemee stand.

This guide will be updated with additional recommendations.

Journalists from the New England News Collaborative have been on the road, seeking out the best local spots in the region. Find ideas here for other New England states.

Jump to a section:


Burlington area and northwest Vermont

As the state’s most populous city, Burlington serves as a cultural and economic hub on the shore of Lake Champlain. The city itself is home to award-winning restaurants, historical landmarks and local arts — plus the vibrancy that comes with being a college town.

With easy access to the lake, and a short drive away from mountains and swimming holes, the Burlington area is a nature lover’s playground.

These recommendations will help you venture outside the city, from the small towns situated near Mount Mansfield to the lakeside spots hiding in the Champlain Islands. All of these activities are roughly within a one-hour drive of Burlington.

What to do if you're a…

Nature lover

Take a hike

A green forested area on a bright sunny day. Below the trees is shaded as sun pokes through leaves onto the green and brown forest floor.
Sophie Stephens
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Vermont Public
A forested area near the entrance of Underhill State Park on June 13, 2024.

Vermont’s tallest mountain, Mount Mansfield, sits east of Burlington and is equipped with plenty of hiking trails.

Begin at Underhill State Park for the full Mansfield Loop Trail, a challenging nearly 8-mile hike with more than 2,800 feet of elevation gain. That trail may not be for a casual explorer, but the park area has plenty of other hiking options — plus, it’s a wildlife and birding hot spot.

For smaller hikes, try trails in the Jericho/Underhill area.

Mills Riverside Park in Jericho has several hiking trails, open meadow lands and a covered bridge — all topped off with great views of Mount Mansfield. Dogs are welcome in the park — especially in the designated “off leash” area where they can run or swim.

Get your birding on in Franklin County

The Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge area in Franklin County is a nationally protected area thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (and any duck stamp fans around).

The refuge has several nature trails that make spotting wildlife easy — it’s especially perfect for birding fans or insect fanatics.

A field of tall prairie/wetlands grass, split in the middle by a maintained grass trail, leads towards a forested area on a bright, sunny day. The grass bends towards the left from wind.
Sophie Stephens
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Vermont Public
A trail leading deeper into the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge area, near the welcome center in Swanton, pictured on June 13, 2024.
A brown bird perches on a tall, skinny branch in the middle of the photo, surrounded by a green wildlife area on a sunny day.
Sophie Stephens
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Vermont Public
A small bird seen at the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge on June 13, 2024.

The welcome center in Swanton has visitor information, local wildlife artwork for sale, binoculars for borrowing and even outdoor exploration kits for kids.

Go for a swim on the Champlain Islands

There are plenty of swimming spots across the Champlain Islands. Spend a day beach hopping, or pick one to lounge around on all day.

Alburgh Dunes State Park is a natural sand beach and one of Lake Champlain’s largest beaches. The park is open from 10 a.m. to sunset for a small day use fee, or a punch on a Vermont State Park season pass. Alburgh Dunes is equipped with minimal facilities, and camping is not permitted. Make sure to pack your own drinking water — and if you bring some snacks, you can make use of the picnic area and grills.

If you don’t want to swim, there’s also fishing, paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking and boating. There’s also a playground for kids.

More from Vermont Public:How three unassuming plants link Vermont to its glacial past

There are, of course, plenty of other places to swim on the islands — like Grand Isle State Park, Sand Bar State Park, or, just across the bridge into Colchester, Niquette Bay State Park.

On a sunny day, tan sand of a beach meets blue lake water, with greenery and a cliff in the background against a bright blue sky.
Sophie Stephens
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Vermont Public
The beach at Alburgh Dunes State Park on June 13, 2024.

Curiosity seeker

Browse cool things (and save the planet) in Burlington

Junktiques Collective in Burlington is an opportunity not only to shop for cool old items, but to help reduce landfill waste and give back to the community. Junktiques' inventory is stocked at least in part with salvaged items other people considered junk.

The store also welcomes bartering and trading.

Find fossils on the Champlain Islands

The Chazy Fossil Reef is a stretch of fossils found in New York and Vermont. In Vermont, the Chazy Reef runs across the Champlain Islands. It’s currently known as the oldest diverse fossil reef in the world, and is a protected area through the National Natural Landmarks Program.

There are plenty of stops on the islands to spot some trilobites or stromatoporoids, but Goodsell Ridge Fossil Preserve in Isle La Motte has free, year-round access to parts of the Chazy Fossil Reef. Take a self-guided tour of the discovery areas trail, and stop by the visitor’s center if the flag is out.

Small swirl patterns can be seen preserved in slab of slate gray rock on the ground.
Sophie Stephens
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Vermont Public
Spiral-shaped fossils seem at the Goodsell Ridge Fossil Preserve in Isle La Mott, which is a part of the larger Chazy Fossil Reef, seen on June 13, 2024.

See some sculptures in Enosburg Falls

If you’re looking for a break from the natural wonders of Vermont, you may want to check out some human-made wonders at the Cold Hollow Sculpture Park in Enosburg Falls.

The park has over 70 sculptures made by David Stromeyer on grounds that visitors can walk through free of cost (but donations to support the park are accepted). Stop by the welcome barn for more information, including a map.

Sweet treat connoisseur

Pick up some pie in Underhill

“Pie fixes everything” — at least according to Poorhouse Pies in Underhill.

The bakery specializes in small batch pies, including sweet options like apple or maple cream as well as savory flavors.

If you’re looking for a portable option on your way for a walk in Mills Riverside or Underhill State Park, they’ve got single-serve hand pies, and — pro tip — occasional donut options on scheduled Sundays (check their site and socials or call the shop for any donut information needs).

Consume creemees and cones

If there’s one requirement for a day out in Vermont, it’s a creemee.

If you’re grabbing a cone on your way to Underhill for a hike, stop by Sweet Scoops in Essex off of Route 15 for a classic maple creemee or ice cream sundae.

If you need something to cool down with after exploring the islands all day, grab a cone at Seb’s Snack Bar in South Hero.

And if you’re sticking around closer to Burlington, Winooski’s Offbeat Creemee at Myers Pool is a good option. Their menu is 100% plant-based.

A hand holds an ice cream cone filled with brownish swirled ice cream in front of a red building with people lined up outside to the right against a sunny blue sky.
Sophie Stephens
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Vermont Public
A small maple creemee in a cone from Sweet Scoops off Route 15 in Essex Junction on June 26, 2024.

Visit Vermont’s best-known sweet spot

Vermont's most famous ice cream is not a creemee, but the dense pints of Ben & Jerry’s that are sold worldwide.

Of course you could stop by the iconic Waterbury facilities and grab a scoop after taking the factory tour.

But if you don’t want to travel all that way for a cone, stop by the Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop on Church Street in Burlington. After grabbing your favorite flavor, walk a few blocks to the intersection of College and St. Paul streets and find the plaque where the first-ever Ben & Jerry’s used to stand, in what was originally a renovated gas station. (The building is long gone.)

Music lover

Shop for new/old music

Record players, cassettes and even CDs are coming back — and plenty of places in the Burlington area can help you stay in style and find new spins.

Burlington Records on College Street has new and used records with daily new arrivals. Speaking Volumes on Marble Avenue in Burlington has tens of thousands of records on sale, and new and used equipment. They also do repairs. And, just across the street you can find their bookstore, which houses tens of thousands of new and used books and magazines — so bring a book-loving friend along.

Autumn Records in Winooski buys and sells new and used vinyl, CDs and cassette tapes. They also host occasional events, which they also upload to YouTube if you can’t make it in person.

Attend a show

If you’re looking for live music performances, try grabbing tickets to one of the many acts Higher Ground in South Burlington pulls into town every year. They’ve got a range of performers on the calendar, from locals to big names.

If you’re looking for a more elevated, laid-back listening experience, Paradiso Hi-Fi in Burlington may be the way to go. The listening lounge just got a James Beard nod for its New England cuisine and creative cocktails.

Paradiso sets each evening’s night service to curated vinyl, played over their custom sound system — which gives this music venue a warmer feel focused on “experience and ritual.”

Dance the night away

If you’re looking for a place to end your day of exploring, do it with music and dancing at Radio Bean in downtown Burlington.

They’ve got a calendar packed with live music, poetry, theater and more. They serve local brews and cocktails to enjoy, too. The venue is 21 years old and up after 9 p.m.

Nectar’s, a music hall on Main Street in Burlington, is another spot for local live music, craft beer and cocktails, and pub food — and a lively 21 and up night scene for their shows. Bonus points for bringing along any history-loving friends to take in the scenery — or any Phish fans that might want to experience the stage that started it all.

More from Brave Little State: Why do people like Phish? A guide for the uninitiated


Northeast Kingdom

The term Northeast Kingdom was first popularized by former Vermont Gov. George Aiken to describe three counties — Orleans, Essex and Caledonia — situated in Vermont’s northeast corner.

Canada borders the Northeast Kingdom, or NEK, to the north, and New Hampshire lies to the east, just across the Connecticut River. The Northeast Kingdom is one of the most rural areas in the state, which means its natural beauty — clear rivers and streams, mountains and bucolic farmland — is plentiful.

Small towns dot the region, and each one has something special to offer. Whether you’re looking to surround yourself with nature, seek out unique treasure troves or explore historic buildings, we’ve got a variety of day trip ideas that highlight the best — and most unique — aspects of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

More from Brave Little State: Is The Northeast Kingdom Really So 'Different'?

What to do if you're a...

Nature lover

Take a dip in a crystal clear lake

Mountains stand near a large lake against a blue sky on a sunny day.
Zoe McDonald
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Vermont Public
Lake Willoughby, seen here from the North Beach in Westmore, Vermont, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, is a popular recreation and sightseeing spot in the Northeast Kingdom, thanks to it's fjord-like appearance and clear, cool waters.

Lake Willoughby is the it-girl of the Northeast Kingdom, and for good reason. It is one of the deepest lakes in the Northeast and the deepest lake in Vermont. It’s flanked on both sides by mountains, making the fjord-like views from either end spectacularly picturesque. (Don’t forget your camera.) Thousands of years ago, a glacier carved out the deep gorge that would become Lake Willoughby. The lake is mainly spring-fed, which means its waters stay cool and clear, even in the summer months.

Willoughby State Forest surrounds the south end of the lake and offers hiking trails, primitive camping areas, boat launches and spots for swimming and fishing. There is also one clothing-optional beach — the southwest cove. A popular hike takes the Mount Pisgah trail(starting at either the north or south ends) to the summit for a panoramic view of the 1,653-acre lake and surrounding mountains.

Take in the views from the region’s tallest peak

In the winter months, Jay Peak is well-known to many skiers in the Northeast, but it also has a lot to offer in the summer and fall. As the highest peak in the NEK, it offers gorgeous views and plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature.

Hikers can hop on Vermont’s famous Long Trail for a trek to the summit — and gorgeous views of the NEK. Park at the parking area on Route 242 and follow the Long Trail North to the summit. This more than 3-mile out-and-back hike does include over 1,500 feet of elevation gain and is rocky toward the summit, so make sure you’re prepared with hiking gear, water and snacks.

A tram with windows on all sides and text that says "Jay Peak" on the bottom half is suspended in the air, with grass and ski lift equipment in the background.
Zoe McDonald
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Vermont Public
The Jay Peak Resort aerial tram runs to the top of Jay Peak in Jay, Vermont, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.

If you aren’t up for the hike, Jay Peak Resort operates an aerial tram throughout summer and the first part of fall. A $25 adult ticket — or a family 4-pack for $75 — buys you a tram ride to the top of Jay Peak and back down, letting you take in views of the resort and surrounding mountains for the entire journey.

Pedal your way through the scenery

If you enjoy taking in scenery on two wheels, you’re in luck. There are a number of options for bikers in the Northeast Kingdom, no matter the type of biking you prefer or your skill level. Kingdom Trails offers a large variety of mountain bike and pedestrian trails around East Burke for all skill levels. Check out their map to find a route that’s right for you. Another great option is the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. The entirety of the mostly flat, 93-mile route stretches across the top half of the state. The eastern side of the trail winds through Northeast Kingdom towns like St. Johnsbury, Danville and Hardwick. There are parking areas and trailheads in each of those communities. Check out the Vermont rail trail website for more information and trailhead locations. Planning a visit in the winter? Consider trying out a fat bike, a type of mountain bike that has large wheels for a smooth ride in the snow.

For more on biking in the NEK, including where to find rentals, visit northeastkingdom.com/biking.

Stop through Newport and have lunch and ice cream by a gorgeous lake

Two people sit near a city boat dock on a large lake with mountains in the background.
Zoe McDonald
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Vermont Public
Two people sit near the city boat dock on Lake Memphremagog in Newport, Vermont, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.

Newport is situated on the South end of Lake Memphremagog, which stretches up into Quebec. The city’s boat dock features expansive views of the lake and the mountains that border it. There are picnic tables near the dock, making it a perfect spot to bring lunch or snack. Head downtown to sit down for a meal at Dusit Thai and walk into Newport Natural Market and Cafe to browse the shelves for local Vermont goodies. Afterwards, grab a creemee at Tim and Dougs, the ice cream outpost of the Pick and Shovel — a hardware store that’s full of surprises. The bustling shop has everything from gardening tools to maple sugaring equipment to clothing and shoes, as well as a pet section with live fish, reptiles and hamsters.

Take a scenic drive

Vermont has ten federally designated byways, including a route that runs through the center of the Northeast Kingdom. If you’re driving the upper portion of the scenic Northeast Kingdom Byway, add Shattuck Hill Road to your route between Newport and Derby for views that won’t disappoint.

Shattuck Hill in Derby is beloved by locals for its beautiful view of Lake Memphremagog, which straddles the border between Canada and some of the Northeast Kingdom’s northernmost communities. The Shattuck Hill lookout has been a local hotspot for years, but it’s about to become more accessible. Derby residents Doug and Vivian Spates spearheaded a campaign to help the town purchase the land and create a parking area for sightseers. The scenic pull-off, walkway and picnic area should be completed around September 2024.

Pet lover

Take your best friend to a doggy wonderland

Pack up your pup and head to Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury for an experience neither of you will forget. Dog Mountain is a 150-acre swath of private land owned by the late artist Stephen Huneck and his wife. Now maintained by a nonprofit, the land is open to visitors and functions as a space for dogs and their owners to enjoy together. Leashes are optional, and there are plenty of trails and ponds for you and your dog to explore. Don’t miss the Dog Chapel, where the walls are covered with visitors’ photos and dedications to their beloved pets. You may want to bring tissues.

After Dog Mountain, you and your pup can head to Milkhouse Ice Cream for a maple creemee, or grab food at a restaurant with a dog-friendly outdoor area, such as Papa Tirozzi’s Bakery & Pizza.

Historian

Visit a library that straddles borders

A multi-story, gray and orange brick and stone building with a large turret stands against a cloudy sky.
Zoe McDonald
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Vermont Public
The Haskell Free Library and Opera House, pictured on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, was constructed at the beginning of the 20th century on the border between Stanstead, Quebec, and Derby Line, Vermont.

Derby Line, Vermont, and Stanstead, Quebec, are neighbors divided. If you’re in Derby Line, you can’t cross into Stanstead without first showing your passport at the official Canadian border crossing — that is, unless you’re inside the Haskell Free Library and Opera House. The library was built at the beginning of the 20th century by Martha Haskell, who insisted it be a free resource for patrons on both sides of the border. It has a selection of books and other resources in both English and French. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and inside, it’s decorated with ornate woodwork and stained glass windows. A line stretches across a section of the wood floor, depicting the international border on which it sits.

The building also includes a historic opera house. The theater is painted in shades of green and pink — a request by Haskell herself — and includes carvings around the proscenium arch and the balcony. An original painted drop curtain depicting Venice, Italy, has been kept intact. Performances, screenings and shows are still held there today.

Stop through a covered bridge haven

Covered bridges are one of the most enduring symbols of rural Vermont, and no town has more of these unique structures than Montgomery. If you’re headed east toward Orleans County, plan a stop through Montgomery. Though it’s technically not in the NEK proper, its mountainous geography is a marked change from the more agricultural feel of northwest Vermont.

A wooden covered bridge painted white on the front stands over a shallow brook.
Zoe McDonald
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Vermont Public
The Fuller covered bridge crosses the Black Falls Brook in Montgomery, Vermont, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.

Located near Jay Peak, Montgomery is a quaint town with historic charm. Six (6!) covered bridges, all of them constructed toward the end of the 1800s, help residents and visitors cross the babbling brooks that run through the town. The Montgomery Historical Society boasts that it has the most covered bridges of any town in the United States. A fun fact for sports fans: Montgomery is also home to Olympian and U.S. track and field record-holder Elle Purrier St. Pierre.

Visit a marvel on Vermont’s African American Heritage Trail

Alexander Twilight, who was born, raised and educated in Vermont, was the first African American to serve in the state’s Legislature — also a first for any state legislature in the United States. Around the mid-1800s, he began plans to construct a large granite house in Brownington. Now known as the Old Stone House & Historic Village, it sets out to tell the history of northern Vermont and Twilight himself. In addition to a tour of the home and nearby barns, you can also walk around the surrounding historic district. To go inside the historic buildings, book a tour ahead of time or upon arrival ($10 plus a small fee for adults).

More from Vermont Public: ‘These Conversations Are Important:' Telling The Full History Of Black Vermonters In Our State

Curiosity seeker

Visit the home base of an iconic performance troupe

Puppets with large faces and fabric clothing are displayed in a wooden room.
Zoe McDonald
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Vermont Public
Puppets are displayed inside the Bread and Puppet Museum in Glover, Vermont, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.

If you’re at all familiar with Vermont, it’s likely you’ve heard of the Bread and Puppet Theater. Founded in 1963 by the artist Peter Schumann, Bread and Puppet is known for its larger-than-life papier-mâché puppets and theatrical performances and pageants, which are often rooted in political themes. Stop by the Bread and Puppet compound in Glover to peruse dozens of puppets, paintings and set pieces on display at the self-guided museum. They also have screenprints, books, chapbooks and more for sale in the museum shop. The museum is open daily, or you can check out their show schedule and try to make it to a performance.

Have a pizza at a beloved restaurant in the back of an old general store

The Parker Pie Company, located behind the Lake Parker General Store in Glover, serves up New York-style pizza and offers a selection of local beers on tap. Don’t miss the Green Mountain Special, a pie with bacon, apples, spinach and cheddar cheese, drizzled with local maple syrup.

Walk through a quirky museum that instills a bit of magic into the mundane

The entrance to an old barn has a sign at the top that says "Museum of Everyday Life - Embarking on our mission of glorious obscurity."
Zoe McDonald
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Vermont Public
The entrance to the Museum of Everyday Life in an old barn in Glover, Vermont, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.

Old toothbrushes. Mirrors. Dust — including a sample of cosmic dust from NASA. All kinds of lists. A pink toilet. These are some of the items that you’ll find inside the permanent exhibit at the Museum of Everyday Life. Located off a highway in Glover, not far from the Bread and Puppet Theater, the Museum of Everyday Life is a fascinating collection of items, ranging from the mundane to the unusual and unforgettable. Start with the current exhibit, which, as of summer 2024, is dedicated to the wheel in all its forms. Then, head over to the permanent collection housed inside an old wooden barn. It’s open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is self-guided — so remember to turn off the lights when you leave.

Family trip planner

Visit a stunning natural history museum and planetarium

If you’re traveling to the Northeast Kingdom with kids, you can’t miss the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St. Johnsbury. Its large collection and variety of exhibits include taxidermy (kids will love the polar bear), a summer butterfly house and interactive science stations. The planetarium (recommended for kids ages 7 and up) features astronomy presentations and other films and events. Museum admission is $17 for adults and $15 for kids ages 5-17. Planetarium admission is $8.

Beer lover

Have a glass at one of Vermont’s most awarded breweries

If you love good beer, then you can’t do a day trip to the Northeast Kingdom without having a glass at Hill Farmstead Brewery. Hill Farmstead was named Best Brewery in the World by RateBeer for several years in a row. You can try their local, seasonal brews at their taproom in Greensboro Bend. If you’re not sure what to try first, ask for the “Edward,” a crowd-pleasing American pale ale.

Visit a BIPOC-owned brewery in St. Johnsbury

Whirligig Brewing and Bistro is located on a main thoroughfare in downtown St. Johnsbury. Their taproom offers a selection of the brewery’s beers and other libations, along with a seasonal food menu including sandwiches and rice bowls.

Try local brews in Newport

Another popular NEK brewery is Kingdom Brewing, which serves its beers made with locally sourced ingredients out of its BrewCabin. If you like live music, check out their events calendar to see when they’ll be hosting local acts.

Check the beer list for a unique brew fermented in a cheese cave

Wunderkammer Bier is brewed in an old cheese cave in Albany with an emphasis on local, seasonal ingredients, making it a truly unique drinking experience. The brew cave is not open for visits, but you can find Wunderkammer products at several restaurants and businesses in the Northeast Kingdom.

Sample other beers from the Northeast Kingdom

If you want to try a selection of local and regional beers, head to Kingdom Taproom in St. Johnsbury. If you’re hungry, grab some of their specialty tacos and wash it down with one of their rotating cast of local draft beers.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Zoe McDonald is a digital producer in Vermont Public’s newsroom. Previously, she served as the multimedia news producer for WBHM, central Alabama’s local public radio station. Before she discovered her love for public media, she created content for brands like Insider, Southern Living and Health. She graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Mississippi in 2017. Zoe enjoys reading, drinking tea, trying new recipes and hiking with her dog.
Anna Ste. Marie joined the organization in early 2017 in the Marketing & Engagement department. She got her start as an intern for Vermont Edition while receiving her B.A. in Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts from St. Michael’s College in 2016. Anna is a lifelong Vermonter, hailing from the Northeast Kingdom. She loves flowers, cats, TikTok, crafts and the juiciest reality TV drama.
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