Best of New England: Vermont

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Lodging

Inn : Historical
THE DORSET INN
The oldest continuously operating inn in Vermont (it’s been in business since 1796), the Dorset has 25 rooms and suites boasting plenty of well-preserved details. But it’s also wonderfully up-to-date, with luxe amenities for discerning guests. Indulge in a body treatment at the Petite Day Spa, or cozy up with your pooch in one of the fireplace-equipped, pet-friendly suites. // 8 Church St., Dorset, 802-867-5500, dorsetinn.com.  

Inn : Romantic
WINDHAM HILL INN
The most seductive retreats are never the ones that try desperately to orchestrate romance — no, they’re the quietly cosseting places where there’s nothing to do but enjoy each other’s company. For that, no spot tops Windham Hill, where a day goes like this: cozy breakfast; read by in-room fire; gourmet picnic lunch; walk on the 1.8-mile Green Trail; warm bath; six-course tasting dinner; champagne. Book the spacious Meadowlook loft suite, and you’ll be swooning like lovebirds in no time. // 311 Lawrence Dr., West Townshend, 802-874-4080, windhamhill.com.      

Inn : General Excellence
WAYBURY INN
It doesn’t get more iconic than the 200-year-old Vermont inn used in the opening credits of Bob Newhart’s TV show. But this is no mere set piece: Thirteen antiques-filled suites and an intimate restaurant create a comfortable atmosphere that’s accentuated by the attentive staff. Want an insider’s peek at the storied inn’s past? Request Room Nine, which harbors a romantic secret: a hidden desk drawer stuffed with letters from guests who’ve stayed there over the years. // 457 E. Main St., East Middlebury, 802-388-4015, wayburyinn.com.   

Getaway : Group
THE WOODSTOCK INN AND RESORT
No wonder this sprawling inn on Woodstock’s town green is a local favorite for weddings and reunions: It’s large enough to hold several restaurants, a cross-country skiing center, an outdoor pool, golf facilities, and a brand-new 10,000-square-foot spa, but its solicitous staff leaves you feeling as if you’re the only guest in the place. And when you do want some privacy, the recently renovated rooms are a welcome retreat. // 14 The Green, Woodstock, 800-448-7900, woodstockinn.com

Getaway : Gourmet
THE PITCHER INN
After a day on the slopes, a bare-bones lodge is hardly a dream come true — at least, not for everyone. If your idea of après-ski is more wine and dine than burgers and beers, opt for the Pitcher Inn, a Relais & Châteaux hideaway located near Sugarbush Resort, not far from Mad River Glen. In addition to world-class dining, the inn features in-room spa services, in-suite fireplaces, and steam showers. // 275 Main St., Warren, 802-496-6350, pitcherinn.com.   

Resort : Family
STOWE MOUNTAIN LODGE
Opened in June 2008, this impressive slopeside getaway blends top-tier service, a spa, and year-round diversions — and is extraordinarily family-friendly to boot. Its location ensures quick access to the slopes (take advantage of the “ski valet”); a new performing-arts center provides entertainment; and a just-launched “KidSpa” offers pampering for the little luxury-seekers in your party. When it’s time to reconvene for dinner, treat everyone to organic fare by executive chef Cody Vasek at Solstice. // 7412 Mountain Rd., Stowe, 888-478-6938, stowemountainlodge.com

Resort : Fairytale Fantasy
CASTLE HILL RESORT AND SPA
There’s an undeniable princess-in-a-castle feel to this imposing stone mansion, constructed by Governor Allen Miller Fletcher in 1905. The elegant gardens, four-poster beds, and chandelier-bedecked dining rooms transport guests back in time — or they can escape reality altogether at the Aveda Concept spa. The main inn is where couples will want to stay, but there are also more-modern “resort homes” on the property for group rentals. // 2910 Route 103, Cavendish, 802-226-7361, castlehillresortvt.com.    

Resort : Luxury
TWIN FARMS
As lavish a resort as you’ll find anywhere, Twin Farms wows the senses with pastoral views and painstakingly outfitted rooms (four-poster beds, fireplaces, Jacuzzis, museum-quality art). But the flawless service is what really seals the deal. Whether you want an on-property fly-fishing experience, a picnic after a hike on the inn’s 300 acres, or a wine from the 26,000-bottle cellar, resort staffers bend over backward to make it happen. // 452 Royalton Tpke., Barnard, 800-894-6327, twinfarms.com.    

Farm Stay : Luxury
SHELBURNE FARMS
Cows, goats, sheep, lambs, pigs, donkeys, and even a llama romp around this farm/inn’s 1,400 acres in northwestern Vermont. Young visitors to the Children’s Farmyard can delight in hands-on tasks such as collecting fresh eggs, brushing rabbits, and milking cows. (The farm has a working dairy with 125 Brown Swiss cows, and their milk is used to make some of the tastiest cheddar in the state.) For parents, there are eight miles of walking trails through bucolic meadows and woodlands, as well as an on-site restaurant. // 1611 Harbor Rd., Shelburne, 802-985-8686, shelburnefarms.org

Spot for Low-Key Luxury 
RABBIT HILL INN
This white-pillared property features 19 cozily appointed rooms, candlelit breakfasts, magnificent dinners, romantic packages, and perhaps the friendliest innkeepers in the state. The rooms come equipped with canopy beds and double spa tubs, but the vibe is blissfully understated. // 48 Lower Waterford Rd., Lower Waterford, 802-748-5168, rabbithillinn.com.

Winter Retreat
THE INN AT THE ROUND BARN FARM
A circular barn is the centerpiece of this beautifully converted farmhouse, framed by a maze of delightful orchards and ponds. But never is it more charming than on a snowed-in weekend. Follow the inn’s resident black Lab on a guided tour of the snowshoeing trails — trust us, the pooch knows the way — then warm up by the fireplace in your plush room as you watch the flakes fall on the unspoiled woods outside. // 1661 E. Warren Rd., Waitsfield, 802-496-2276, theroundbarn.com

Place for a Boys Weekend
THE EQUINOX
Sure, there’s plenty for couples and families at this stylish resort. But something makes it distinctly conducive to male bonding. Is it the boisterous Falcon Bar? Or the beefy steakhouse menu at the Chop House? Maybe it’s the green gorgeousness of the par-71, 6,423-yard golf course, the off-roading fun of the Land Rover driving school, and the archery courses. Whatever it is, we bet you and your buddies will have a heck of a time finding out. // 3567 Main St., Manchester Village, 800-362-4747, equinoxresort.com.     

 

Dining

New Restaurant
BLUEBIRD TAVERN
Seasonality and sustainability are guiding principles at this Burlington gastropub, but rest assured that admirable ideals don’t come at the expense of great food. Dive into plates like handrolled spaghetti with black-truffle cream, pistachios, and house-made ricotta; lamb burgers with minted yogurt; and decadent poutine topped with local cheese curds. The cocktail menu, too, is as forward-thinking as any urban tavern, and the beer list bubbles over with craft brews. // 317 Riverside Ave., Burlington, 802-540-1786, bluebirdtavern.com

Meal with a View
SIMON PEARCE RESTAURANT
Be prepared for Simon Pearce to take your breath away. For starters, the dining room juts precariously over the rushing falls of Quechee. But chef Joshua Duda’s cooking presents the real drama. His tasty horseradish-encrusted cod with herb mashed is a perennial favorite, and new preparations like maple-and-miso-glazed trout keep guests pleasantly on edge. Love the distinctive wineglasses or handthrown ceramic plates on your table? Head to the adjacent Simon Pearce store for a set to take home.  // 1760 Quechee Main St., Quechee, 802-295-1470, simonpearce.com.   

Kid-Friendly
THE BEE’S KNEES
Adored by children for its corner full of toys and crowd-pleasing offerings like mac and cheese with local cheddar, this casual spot also appeals to parents, who can enjoy their chicken-and-goat-cheese potpie and live folk-rock with Junior blissfully occupied. // 82 Lower Main St., Morrisville, 802-888-7889, thebeesknees-vt.com.

Pizza 
AMERICAN FLATBREAD
It began as a backyard experiment and grew into a weekends-only joint, then a wholesale frozen-pizza enterprise, followed by branches in Vermont, Oregon, and Virginia. But nothing beats a trip to the original on the grounds of Lareau Farm. Here, in sight of the wood-fired oven, you can taste American Flatbread’s simple, delicious pies topped with artisanal ingredients like Vermont-made sausage and organic tomato sauce. Then linger late into the night by the campfire. // 46 Lareau Rd., Waitsfield, 802-496-8856, americanflatbread.com.

Locavore
HEN OF THE WOOD
Now that eating local has gone mainstream, many menus prattle on, name-checking every farmer, bloodline, and land mass that begat the pedigreed slab on your plate. So it is at Hen of the Wood — though here, gracefully executed items (like Winding Brook Farm pork loin with local spring-dug parsnips) deserve such royal treatment. Chef Eric Warnstedt’s cuisine is positively reverent, and the waterfall crashing outside this former gristmill is full of majesty, too. // 92 Stowe St., Waterbury, 802-244-7300, henofthewood.com.   

Place for a Pit Stop
TIP TOP CAFÉ
The town of White River Junction is a natural place to stop en route from Boston. But why settle for gas-station food when you can actually enjoy a civilized meal? Settle into a table at the Tip Top, a casual café by day and an elegant bistro by night. The lunch menu ranges from straightforward (turkey melts, classic steak sandwiches) to adventurous (a pumpkin falafel–filled gyro with cilantro crème fraîche), ensuring everyone in your caravan can find something to love. Fill ’er up, then get back on the road with renewed gusto. // 85 N. Main St., White River Junction, 802-295-3312, tiptopcafevermont.com.   

Romantic
FOUR COLUMNS INN
Take a glowing, crackling fireplace, add chef Greg Parks’s intoxicating fusion of French and Asian cuisines, and finish with the feeling of being miles away from anywhere. Whatever the reason, a dinner at the Four Columns Inn’s house restaurant has a way of sweeping you off your feet — even more so if you opt for the six-course chef’s tasting. As you tuck into arugula-and-goat-cheese salad tossed with passion-fruit vinegar, or swoon over panko-crusted scallops with green curry sauce, you’ll swear you’ve stumbled on some secret aphrodisiac. // 21 West St., Newfane, 800-787-6633, fourcolumnsinn.com.  

 

Shopping

Gourmet Goodies
GRAFTON VILLAGE CHEESE COMPANY
This enormous gourmet shop sells more than just its namesake Grafton Village cheddar. You’ll also find fromage from other acclaimed artisan creameries in the area, such as Jasper Hill, Lazy Lady, and Vermont Shepherd. Meats from Vermont Smoke and Cure, handmade jams, and a range of wines give you something to pair with all those tasty cheeses. // 400 Linden St., Brattleboro, 802-472-3866, graftonvillagecheese.com.

Gifts
STOWE CRAFT GALLERY
With its bounty of crafts, jewelry, and furniture from local artisans, this small, family-owned gallery cries “holiday gifts” at every turn. And it’s not across-the-board rustic, either — there’s a modern, elegant sensibility to many of the wares. Owner Susan Bayer Fishman also consults on home design. // 55 Mountain Rd., Stowe , 802-253-4693, stowecraft.com.

Bookstore 
NORTHSHIRE BOOKSTORE
For literati who find themselves lost amid Manchester’s upscale outlet shopping, this eclectic independent bookstore is a welcome retreat — and a refreshing alternative to the big-box joints that dominate the market. Northshire’s shelves are chock-full of Vermont-centric works, national bestsellers, thoughtful staff recommendations, and rare used volumes; the shop also hosts tons of author appearances, readings, book signings, and other free events each week. The adjacent Spiral Press Café offers a haven for those who spurn the stacks for the snacks. // 4869 Main St., Manchester, 802-362-2200, northshire.com.

Souvenirs
THE VERMONT COUNTRY STORE
This original New England country store has often been imitated, but never equaled. Wonderfully, charmingly cluttered, it’s crammed with locally made cheeses, outdoor gear and clothing, gifts, and hard-to-find beauty products. And that’s just the beginning of the odds and ends you’ll find here. While you shop, be sure to pick out something sweet from the old-fashioned candy counter — if you’re ever going to work your way through all the offerings, you’ll need the extra sustenance. // 657 Main St., Weston, 802-824-3184, vermontcountrystore.com.

Attractions

Spot to Catch a Buzz
MAGIC HAT BREWING COMPANY
The fruity #9 beer may be its best-known offering, but local brewer Magic Hat has plenty of other tasty varieties up its sleeve (or in its hat, if you will). Pay a visit to the fun, funky brewery — a.k.a. the “Artifactory” — to taste any of 30 beers on tap, including seasonal selections and experimental beers. Guided tours are offered Thursday through Sunday. // 5 Bartlett Bay Rd., South Burlington, 802-658-2739, magichat.net.

Ski Resort
JAY PEAK
Just shy of the Canadian border, Jay rewards those willing to make the trek with some of the best, most reliable skiing conditions in all of New England. Buried in fresh powder every year, the mountain is kept virtually deserted by virtue of the four-hour drive from Boston. The 76 runs, two peaks, and a ski-anything-in-bounds policy (read: stellar glade runs) attract telemark and alpine skiers alike. // 4850 Route 242, Jay, 802-988-2611, jaypeakresort.com.

Sports Center
CRAFTSBURY OUTDOOR CENTER
So you want to go canoeing? How about cross-country skiing, mountain biking, or hiking? While Craftsbury Outdoor Center is designed as a stay-and-play retreat with lodging on site — its intensive sculling camps are renowned among rowers — many of its activities and gear-rental services are open to nonguests, too. Take advantage of the amazing location on Big Hosmer Pond, a 2.25-mile-long lake, and get ready to enjoy the great outdoors. // 535 Lost Nation Rd., Craftsbury Common, 802-586-7767, craftsbury.com.

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2011/05/best-of-new-england-vermont/