Everyone knows Vermont as an East Coast haven for skiing and hiking, but it gets less attention from those seeking to immerse themselves in summertime experiences. Understandable, to a degree, given the state’s rural identity and expanses of forests and parks where the lack of amenities is the attraction. But tucked away within the hills and Green Mountains are all of the fine lifestyle elements that give flashier summer havens their buzz. One cluster of towns particularly rich in destination-worthy features is located roughly halfway up the state, just off I-91, and anchored by Woodstock and Quechee.
History buffs, nature lovers, hikers in the summer, leaf peepers in the fall, skiers in the winter, fine-dining aficionados, families, fans of rural life, and couples looking for a romantic getaway.
What to do:
The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park in Woodstock, whose name derives in part from ownership by Laurence Rockefeller, features a Victorian manse that’s home to a collection of Hudson River School artwork, as well as restored gardens and old carriage roads and trails for walking. The nearby Billings Farm & Museum is a model farm created by railroad magnate Frederick Billings with champion Jersey cows, draft horses, farm-life displays, and its own dairy bar. Woodstock is home to an active roster of appealing fairs and festivals, and one of the most rewarding experiences is simply exploring and shopping in the historic town center.
Quechee, meanwhile, is home to the Simon Pearce mill, where guests can watch the glassblowing process, as well as dine in the restaurant overlooking a waterfall. Don’t miss Quechee Gorge and the visual drama of Vermont’s deepest gorge, formed by glaciers some 13,000 years ago.
Where to eat:
In addition to its main dining room and wood-paneled tavern, the historic Woodstock Inn offers a terrific series of special dinners. The Lincoln Inn & Restaurant at the Covered Bridge in Woodstock boasts European Michelin-starred-restaurant-trained chef Jevgenija Saromova and her gourmet-fusion plates, including a tasting menu. For a completely different local experience, head to the Mountain Creamery, the beloved local diner, for specialties like the VerMonte Cristo sandwich. The restaurant at Simon Pearce mill features award-winning food and a stunning setting with a dining room that literally extends out of the Ottauquechee River.
Where to stay:
The Woodstock Inn & Resort offers 142 rooms, golf and spa packages, two restaurants and fine hospitality in a beautiful setting. Twin Farms in Barnard is a luxury inn with a spa in a fitness center located on 300 acres once owned by writer Sinclair Lewis. It also has a 15,000-bottle wine cellar and world-class food. The Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm was built in 1793 and expanded over time to include 22 guest rooms, suites, fine dining, congenial common areas, and great views of the Ottauquechee River. The Woodstocker B&B, a short walk from Woodstock center, blends a mountain feel and farmhouse warmth in its nine rooms and suites and offers guests experiences like a tour of area craft breweries.
La Garagista Farm + Winery in Barnard produces natural Alpine-style wines and ciders that have made the wine world sit up and take notice in a major way.
On the way:
You love the catalog, now try the live experience: Stop at the historic Vermont Country Store just off I-91 in Rockingham to make over your wardrobe and your house with Vermont style.
From Hartford: 2 hrs, 20 min / 145 miles
From New Haven: 3 hrs / 183 miles
From New London: 3 hrs, 10 min / 195 miles