Last Updated on December 21, 2021 by Jim Ferri
Living in the tropics in search of a great American winter getaway…
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
By Marjorie Kean
When the rest of the country is in a deep freeze during the winter months, southern Florida usually remains as balmy as ever. So what do we Floridians do when we want to take a short trip in January getaway?
Take a weekend getaway to Vermont, of course.
A few years ago, my husband and I spent a long weekend getaway in Vermont. We chose Woodstock, an artsy New England town influenced by the conservationist movement, and found the Village Inn of Woodstock after doing research. We were looking for a quaint B&B and when we arrived found it right on the mark.
A Wonderful B&B for Our Weekend Getaway to Vermont
It wasn’t anything like the more mass-market 142-room Woodstock Inn and Resort down the street, but rather a beautiful old Victorian Mansion with eight rooms, all beautifully appointed. This was my first experience in a B&B, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I immediately fell in love with the place, including the canopied four-poster bed in our room.
The walls were covered with art, some obviously family painted, which is how we learned that David – co-owner and our co-host with his wife Evelyn – was originally an artist who brought his work to the inn. There were also early American-type pieces scattered throughout the house.
(David and Evelyn have since sold the Inn to another family but from all appearances it is still very much like the original inn).
At our weekend getaway check-in, a somewhat casual event, David told us there was a Happy Hour in the inn’s small bar at 5:00pm every day, and that turned out to be the gathering place where everyone shared information about restaurants all over town. The bar was cozy, had a black binder filled with menus from local restaurants, and was filled with top liquors since, as David said, he didn’t have room to stock the cheap stuff.
The Village Inn’s breakfast, the differentiator of many B&Bs, was delicious. Although in many B&Bs breakfasts never vary, each morning we were offered a different daily special, in addition to eggs, yogurt, and homemade granola, all along with fresh-squeezed orange juice and an assortment of homemade bread.
We were told that all the ingredients were locally grown except the coffee, which came from New Orleans “because they take coffee seriously.” What a fantastic start to the day on a weekend getaway.
Great, Delicious Breakfasts
It quickly became evident that Evelyn and David took their breakfast seriously. Soon after we sat down the first morning, Evelyn offered us waffles, something I have never liked but which turned out to be the lightest, tastiest I’ve ever had.
The second morning of our weekend getaway, the special was a quiche with Vermont cheddar cheese and the third incredible blueberry pancakes. Moreover, Evelyn was amazing about sharing her secrets in the kitchen…she told me that to keep things light, she whips the egg whites before mixing them into the dry ingredients.
Our long weekend getaway soon began to focus on eating, even though we really didn’t need to eat again until dinner after our breakfast. Nevertheless, every evening during Happy Hour, we began planning our next nightly foray with the little black binder.
Billings Farm & Museum, Perfect to Visit on a Weekend Getaway
During the day, we found several things to do in Woodstock. Though we aren’t skiers any longer, we saw some lovely slopes, as well as snowshoeing and other outdoor sports. But since the snow was poor, we set off for different places and options.
The most memorable was Billings Farm & Museum, an excellent state museum and old farmstead once owned by Laurance Rockefeller and his wife, both conservationists. It’s famous as a museum of Vermont’s rural past and is still a working farm with champion Jersey cows, as well as sheep, and they produce and sell their milk.
An exhibit at the farm highlights the conservationist movement that revived Vermont farming after erosion had ruined the land for agriculture.
What we found the most fun on this weekend getaway was the sleigh rides since there was enough snow for a ten-minute sleigh ride in the fields). We also enjoyed the barn, where we petted newborn calves, and the late 19th-century farmhouse that had, amazingly, hot running water, an indoor bathroom, and electricity.
Guides explained how they made butter (they had a large operation in the basement) and cooked macaroni and cheese, a staple winter meal at the time, on a wood-burning stove in the kitchen. It was all fascinating.
Good Shopping On Our Weekend Getaway to Vermont
Other exciting attractions in Woodstock and the surrounding area were the varied shops and antique stores. Of course, there were the usual “junk shops,” which advertised themselves as selling “collectibles,” but also some excellent antique shops with furniture, art, and knickknacks. Woodstock was started as an art colony and still has a good collection of artists who exhibit at local art galleries.
Since serious shopping can work up an appetite on a weekend getaway, thankfully, there were plenty of restaurants in Woodstock. They ranged from an Asian fusion restaurant to a new and supposedly excellent Caribbean restaurant, as well as many local New England eateries – to keep us busy in the evening. Since both my husband and I are fans of tasting local foods, we opted for three New England-style restaurants.
The first, the Prince and the Pauper, was located on a side alley, always a good sign, and was decorated with lots of wood, ceiling beams, and pew-like high-back benches, which gave us additional privacy. Each of us chose smoked-duck ravioli and lamb Wellington, both of which were delicious. Our waitress, who had the right combination of spunk and attentiveness, added a dollop of fun to the evening.
After we forgot to make reservations for the second night, we were relegated to try Max’s Tavern, a “locals hangout” up the mountain about 15 minutes outside Woodstock. Unfortunately, since we hadn’t been given good directions, it took us 45 minutes to find the place, which turned out to be in the back of the Barnard Inn, another restaurant.
Max’s wasn’t very elegant, and it lacked the right ambiance for us, but the food was excellent. My husband’s filet and my mussels were exceptional. But the staff was overwhelmed by the influx of patrons on the Martin Luther King holiday-weekend of our weekend getaway, so the service suffered greatly.
Dinner in a Factory
We chose Simon Pearce’s Restaurant for our last night, located at his glass factory and store. For those who don’t know Pearce – and neither of us did – he is a renowned high-end glassblower and pottery maker whose wine glasses sell for $60, or more, apiece.
I found it interesting that anyone would have a restaurant located in a factory on the lower level, but it worked. The building, a beautiful warehouse-style structure with old wood floors and beams, was bought by Pearce about 25 years ago, and today is filled with light wood furniture which sets off the glass and other tableware.
The menu was typical of a fine-dining restaurant, one dish from each protein (fish, duck, beef, chicken) and well presented. However, it was still somewhat disappointing, especially after our experiences the previous two nights.
The following day, while driving back to the airport, my husband and I got into a discussion as to what each of us enjoyed most about our weekend getaway. Of course, the typical guy, he raved about the farmhouse at the Billings Farm because of all the hardware and devices.
For me, though, it was our three breakfasts, sitting by the fireplace in that comfortable room, with Evelyn sharing her secret formulae for those never-to-be-forgotten pancakes and waffles…a perfect weekend getaway to Vermont.
If You Go:
Billings Farm & Museum
Route 12 & River Road
Woodstock, VT 05091-0489
Open: hours vary greatly by season
Admission: Adults 16-61 years $16.00 / 62+ years $14.00 / Students 16+ years $9.00 / Children 4-15 years $8 / Children 3 and younger free
Open: 5:00pm – 8:00pm Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Note: Dinner only; Reservations required.
Open: Thursday, Friday, Saturday 5:00pm – 9:00 pm
760 Quechee Main Street
Quechee, VT 05059
Tel: (802) 295-1470
Open: Wednesday – Sunday 11:30am – 2:45pm / 5:30pm – 8:30pm