Fall in Vermont: then inviting – the quintessential New England getaway. As temperatures dance and plunge, chilling clean air, vacationers’ hearts warm, as they are greeted by legendary Green Mountain State hospitality. Vivid foliage brightens the landscape, which is heavily forested. Sugar maple trees, the source of high quality syrup, ablaze in brilliant shades of yellow, burnt orange and rich red. Alders and American beeches glow mostly yellow. The finely serrated leaflets of sumacs turn into combinations of yellow, orange, and red, or a solid dark red. Pin Cherry dazzles purplish-crimson. Red oak, with its distinctive pointed lobes, blushes in scarlet red, harvest red, russet and brick red, with some chartreuse and golden yellow. In the midst of this land of kaleidoscopic changes, the time of sweaters is adopted. Pumpkins are picked. Haystacks are picked up. Mugs of steaming apple cider, swirled with cinnamon sticks, rest in upturned hands. Such pleasures of wanderlust—both soothing and stimulating—can be gratefully savored in many parts of Vermont. Where to start? Here, a look at charming Woodstock and its treasures.
Woodstock Inn & Resort
Celebrating 130 years since the founding of its original hotel, Woodstock Inn & Resort – tied to the legacy of Laurance Rockefeller and her commitment to nature conservation – is the iconic accommodation in the village of Woodstock, earning ratings stellar rooms for comfortable luxury, adorned with Vermont antiques and artistic touches. Located on Main Street, close to restaurants and shops, which encourages pleasant walks, the 100% non-smoking inn offers 142 elegantly renovated rooms that exude a sense of place and serenity. Its land is carefully landscaped.
Woodstock Inn & Resort intends to use locally grown produce wherever possible, as well as emphasizing produce grown in its 3-acre certified organic Kelly Way Gardens, where approximately 200 varieties of vegetables, 200 varieties of cut flowers, 75 varieties of berries and orchard plantings, 50 varieties of herbs and edible flowers and a mushroom barn feed the property. Its two restaurants – The Red Rooster and Richardson’s Tavern – serve winning dishes. At the Red Rooster, fine choices include New England oysters in the half shell with smoky cocktail sauce, blackberry mignonette and burnt lemon; Vermont Sweet Corn Soup with Crème Fraîche and Red Marash Pepper; an assortment of artisan Vermont cheeses served with candied almonds, honeycomb, fruit puree and lavash flatbread; herb-crusted rack of lamb, vegetable tabbouleh and berry gastrique with mint; and Vermont Maple Cake topped with Candied Pecan Ice Cream. A well-rounded wine list amply satisfies. Ask about inventive cocktails from the garden to the glass. At the more laid-back Richardson’s Tavern, the craft beers and spirits are acclaimed. By the flickering fireplace, sink into wingback chairs and choose Billings Farm cheese fondue with sliced apples, grapes, home fries, sausages, pickles and artisan bread; seafood stew with clams, mussels, prawns, finfish, fennel tomato broth, saffron aioli and grilled garlic sourdough; and a cookie plate stacked with chocolate chips, coconut macaron, raspberry jam and maple imprint.
The hostel’s 10,000 square feet, LEED certified, Forbes a four-star, full-service spa unveils traditional and signature treatments, plus themed extras depending on the calendar, such as this year’s Harvest Glow Immersions: a sugar apple body scrub; organic pumpkin puree mud wrap; wild lime scalp massage; peppermint foot massage; and hydrating body massage, followed by application of pumpkin spice lotion.
Discover an abundance of leisure and adventure
A heated indoor pool at the Woodstock Athletic Club, open to inn guests, is a year-round dip. (The hostel’s outdoor pool is open seasonally.) Re-energize with tennis (the club has 12 indoor and outdoor courts), pickleball, a list of fitness classes, plus yoga classes and barre in the expansive motion studio.
Staff at the inn’s activity center direct guests to mountain biking and walking tours (over 100 miles of trails and trails are connected by meadows, woods, and the village of Woodstock). A favorite route: Ottauquechee River Trail, which crosses fields, countryside and along the banks. In Quechee State Park, explore its beautiful Quechee Gorge, which at 165 feet is Vermont’s deepest gorge and a popular photography spot.
For a particularly memorable outing, New England Falconry (headquarters in Massachusetts) partners with Woodstock Inn to orchestrate hands-on Vermont guest encounters with these spectacular birds of prey. Fishing enthusiast? Woodstock Inn’s Orvis-approved fly-fishing program organizes adventures in scenic streams and rivers, led by expert guides. Orvis equipment is available.
Relish Billings Farm & Museum, an exemplary living history experience filled with a dairy of Jersey cows, where milking is often featured.
In Billings, enjoy wagon rides, scavenger hunts, farm garden talks, a tour of the 1890 farm manager’s house, sheep greetings, herb lessons and art exhibitions, as well as hectic dates, such as the upcoming October Harvest Celebration, Family Halloween, Thanksgiving weekend, and early December Wassail weekend.
Head to Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park for illuminating beauty. The National Park Service calls this singular gem “the only national park to tell the story of conservation and the evolving nature of land stewardship in America.” Marked hikes, a visit to the historic mansion, art exhibitions, as well as other monthly activities are organized for adults and children. Step into this park you may never have heard of, but won’t soon forget.
At the Vermont Institute of Natural Science near Quechee, the expansive ADA-accessible forest canopy walk (see video, underneath) rises 65 feet above the Ottauquechee River. It features a 360-degree viewing platform and a fantastic spider web-shaped rope challenge, enhancing the ecological outlook for all ages. Spy on squirrels, birds and other uplifting creatures that live high up. VINS deserves a lot of applause for its accomplishments in wild bird rehabilitation, captivating outdoor exhibits, and impressive educational activities. This unique environmental oasis and its forward-thinking, supportive community are champions of the Earth.
Travel to Vermont to slow down and look up, to feel the embrace of hospitality, to punctuate the unfolding of fall with the making of New England memories, to pause the gallop of life, as another lap around the sun passes. Crackle the fallen leaves underfoot, tune your ears to the chirping of birds wafting from the branches above your head, and notice that your rural hikes here bring smiles to many.