(Montgomery Center/Woodstock/Lower Waterford)
- When: 2-3 day weekends in July/August, 2020
- Where (accommodations): Phineas Swann Inn & Spa (Montgomery, VT), Blue Horse Inn ( Woodstock, VT), Rabbit Hill Inn (Lower Waterford, VT)
- Transportation: 2.5-3 hr car ride from Boston
- Sights/attractions: Jay Country Store (Jay, VT), Haskell Free Library and Opera House (Derby Line, VT), St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church (Newport, VT), Essex Resort and Spa (Essex Jct, VT), Vermont Salt Cave Spa & Halotherapy Center (Montgomery Center, VT), Mount Tom hike (Woodstock, VT), Great Vermont Corn Maze (Danville, VT)
- Food/drinks: Bernie’s Restaurant (Montgomery Center, VT), The Inn (Montgomery Center, VT), The East Side Restaurant and Pub (Newport, VT), Sweet Scoops (Essex Junction, VT), The Skinny Pancake (Burlington, VT), Nepali Kitchen (Essex Jct, VT), Mon Vert Cafe (Woodstock, VT), Worthy Kitchen (Woodstock, VT), Simon Pearce (Quechee, VT), Rabbit Hill Inn restaurant (Lower Waterford, VT)
We’ve visited Vermont- our beautiful neighboring state quite a few times, but it’s always been either during the winter (for skiing) or the fall season. 2020 came and wrecked all our travel plans for the summer, so after working from home for five months straight, we started looking for the safe places to visit. Normally we plan well ahead, so these last minute mini weekend getaways are a very new experience for us. This July and August we traveled to Vermont three times. Each time we stayed in a different B&B and loved every one of them. Since they were in different parts of the state, I’ll go over accommodations as well as the fun activities and restaurants that we tried in each area.
PHINEAS SWANN INN & SPA
Getaway to this lovely Bed and Breakfast in the northern part of Vermont was the least planned of all overnight trips we’ve ever taken. Feeling on the edge of the burnout in late July, we decided on this escape Friday at 11am. By 2pm we were packed and on the way up north. It took us almost four hours from Boston and as soon as we entered Vermont, we knew we made the right choice. Innkeeper Darren greeted us and showed us around his lovely property. Coming from one bedroom apartment in the city it was a breath of fresh air to see all the space- a garden full of flowers, sitting area with the fire pit, our large suite with a mini balcony and what we were most excited about- a hot tub outside!
Every evening for the next three nights we ended up relaxing in this jacuzzi.
An added bonus to the stay was the great playlist that was streaming through the well placed speakers all around the property and the nice selection of craft beers/wine that the owners had inside. Based on the honor system- pick your beer, write it on the slip of paper and the cost will be added to the room upon check out.
We appreciated the relaxing atmosphere and how quiet and peaceful the area was and asked for dinner recommendations for our first night. Darren told us about Berney’s– that’s where he and his wife likes to eat. We made reservations, but were the only guests at that time- it was almost eerie to be sitting at an empty restaurant. I think it’s more popular for breakfast than dinner as we saw a lot more action driving by the next day.
I’d say if you like big portions of American food, then it’s a place for you. We left full, but it was not a wow experience (we are quite picky when it comes to good food). Regardless, we were glad we tried the place and the fact that it was less than 5 minutes walk from our B&B, made it super easy after a long drive.
Saturday morning (and the next two mornings of our stay) we enjoyed breakfast at the table outside overlooking the garden. As we devoured delicious meals and watched hummingbirds drinking nectar from the flowers, all the stress was finally melting away.
On Saturday, without any strict plans for the day, we set out to explore northern Vermont.
We headed up north and based on the B&B owner’s recommendation stopped at the Jay Country Store in Jay, VT. You can’t really miss the big building with the huge carved bears and a moose right in front. The store has a large selection of Vermont goods- maple syrup, souvenirs, wine, craft Vermont beer etc. We got a few super soft and cozy T-shirts and sweaters and some maple cookies to bring home. I think if you are in the area, it’s worth a stop.
Lunch time was approaching, so we headed to the East Side Restaurant and Pub in Newport, VT for a meal with the view.
Located right on the shore of Lake Memphremagog, this place serves American food and we got a spot outside on the deck (called ahead to make a reservation). Newport, VT seemed like a nice town to stroll around, however lots of places were closed and it looked quite deserted.
We checked out the waterfront and the St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church and continued exploring. Next stop- a small town near Canadian border- Derby Line, VT. We love Canada and due to the pandemic could not visit our neighboring country this spring/summer (possibly not until next year). To feel close to it, we decided to drive up and check out the town and the famous Haskell Free Library and Opera House.
Half of the building is located in Derby Line, VT, USA, while the other half is Stanstead, Quebec, Canada. Sadly the library was closed due to COVID-19 and the town didn’t have much to it, but we still had a great time and would like to return when it reopens. We even witnessed two girls meeting across the border and giving each other a quick hug across the yellow tape, before the officer told them to be six feet distance apart. It was so sad and we were wondering what their story is…Hoping this border closure will be over soon and people can again migrate freely. On the way back we grabbed an ice cream at the Sweet Scoops (Essex Jct, VT) and our day of exploring was nearly over. The only ‘task’ we have left before jumping into a hot tub is dinner! We decided to try another place literally next to our B&B- The Inn (Montgomery Center, VT). I recommend making reservations as it was pretty busy and rightly so- we really enjoyed the food and their excellent service on the patio.
SELF CARE SUNDAY
Since it was a busy day driving around on Saturday, we chose to have a “self care” Sunday. To kick it off, we booked a 45 minutes session at the Vermont Salt Cave Spa & Halotherapy Center (Montgomery Center, VT). Once again, we did not have to go far. It was a 5 minute walk just across the street from our B&B and we are in the salt cave built inside the barn! According to their website “Salt therapy known also as Halotherapy is a 100% natural, drug-free, safe, noninvasive pleasant treatment using a controlled air medium that simulates the microclimate of a natural salt cave. As an alternative treatment and healing modality, halotherapy has traditionally been found to positively impact three primary health areas centering around the respiratory system, skin issues and mental health or depression concerns.”
I am not sure how much of the benefits we’ve inhaled, but spending 45 minutes in a comfortable recliner covered with a warm blanket, and listening to the calming sounds of water felt at the minimum VERY relaxing. They also have a cute shop with options to buy salt lamps, essential oils and several kinds of vitamins and supplements.
As there is not much else to do in Montgomery Center, VT, we went for another little drive to Burlington, VT. This is a pretty big city and we have to come back to fully explore it. We grabbed lunch at The Skinny Pancake and did some shopping at the Church Street Marketplace.
We didn’t have much time to venture more, since we had another self care visit booked- massages at the Essex Resort and Spa (Essex Jct, VT). Maybe because it’s still pandemic, maybe we just got lucky, but we managed to secure couples massage with the access to the pool by calling the day prior. Now this is what I call a successful stress free day! For dinner we did not want to look far, so found a well regarded Nepali Kitchen (Essex Jct, VT) and were excited to have authentic Nepalese meal.
Very tasty and a nice change from all of the American food we’ve been eating.
Just in case the day was not perfect enough- we got to enjoy the most peaceful, nature filled sunset on the way back to Phineas Swann Inn & Spa.
This spontaneous weekend getaway has been complete success! Monday morning on the way back to Boston we stopped at Woodstock, VT, but since we will be staying there in a few weeks, I will go over it in more detail in the next chapter.
BLUE HORSE INN
Fast forward a few weeks later and we are back to Vermont! This time only for a two night stay and a bit shorter drive from Boston- around 2 hours and 20 minutes to Woodstock, VT. We stopped at this town briefly previously and it looked super cute, so we decided to get back and enjoy it more. For our stay we chose Blue Horse Inn– a lovely Bed and Breakfast that is located in the center of town AND has a pool! How perfect is that for a hot August weekend?
Tony and Jill- extremely nice innkeepers were home when we arrived and walked over all of the required safety procedures in these difficult COVID-19 times. Inside the house everyone wore masks, they were not required at the pool, but there was only one more couple at the time we enjoyed it, so there were no worries about social distancing. The place is beautifully maintained and an added bonus here – 11 month old puppy Ruffus!
He was always outside in his pen and we got to pet him every time we walked to and from the pool area. You think it can’t get better than that? Well, just wait till you see their breakfast! Jill definitely goes above and beyond making sure that food not only tastes delightful, but also looks like a piece of art!
We chose to have breakfast on their balcony overlooking the big green yard and once again felt like all the stress and the world’s problems are somewhere in the distance (at least at the moment).
SATURDAY IS FOR SHOPPING
Well, not only 🙂 . It is also for sightseeing. And more eating. And relaxing by the pool. That is essentially what we did as soon as we checked in. The room was still being cleaned, so we parked the car and went to explore the Woodstock Village. Less than 10 min walk from the Inn and we are in the Central Street lined with cute boutiques, cafes and local restaurants. The beauty of this stay was that we didn’t need to drive any more, after we already drove all this way from Boston. We grabbed lunch at the quaint Mon Vert Cafe – breakfast and lunch here is made from organic and locally sourced ingredients and Sean LOVED their brisket sandwich.
If you can’t find a seat on their patio, head upstairs- there is a pretty big area with tables and AC- we needed that on a hot day. There are several different shops, but the one I liked the most was 37 Central Clothiers. Cute boutique with great clothes that were definitely my style. On the way back to the Blue Horse Inn we absolutely HAD to stop for ice cream. It’s amazing and a must try if you in Woodstock. Mountain Creamery not only serves incredible ice cream, but also mile high apple pies and other pastries.
Now it’s definitely time to enjoy that pool and relax for the rest of the day!
The room was now ready and the rest of the day was spent lounging, reading and simply taking in the beautiful summer day outside.
As the shadows got longer, we started planning dinner. We had nothing booked, so decided to try our luck and walk over to the popular local spot- Worthy Kitchen. A craft beer and farm diner is about 25 min easy walk from the place we were staying. It was too nice of an evening to drive, so we got there on foot enjoying the pleasant surroundings.
The place was busy, but they have a big wrap around porch plus seats on the lawn for a picnic. We were lucky to get a table outside and even had a pleasure to listen to the live music artist that happened to be entertaining the guests this evening.
Delicious food, great company-what else can you ask for?
After all this eating we decided to add a little exercise to our routine. No driving needed again- the trail up to Mount Tom is only a few steps away from the inn. The trail is well marked and very easy for any fitness levels. We saw families with small children going up with no issues.
Definitely bring water (or beer for the summit 🙂 ), but other than that nothing else is needed. We hiked in a regular sneakers and did not even have any snacks. The whole trip took about 45 min. The view from the summit is quite rewarding and there are benches to relax and take it all in.
We did a loop and went down a different path than we had climbed up, so we ended up on the other side of the town center, which was perfect for grabbing lunch on the way back to the afternoon at the pool!
For our second (and last) dinner on this trip we chose Simon Pearce Flagship Store and Restaurant in a nearby town Quechee, VT. Voted one America’s Most Romantic Restaurants” by Travel and Leisure and recipient of the Wine Spectator “Best of Award of Excellence” so as you can imagine we were intrigued!
It’s definitely beautiful and has a great view of the dam! Food was amazing as well, so it was a good choice. Normally you can see the glass blowing workshop, but at this time it was sadly closed… We checked out the store and it’s incredible. I was just afraid to bump into something and break the glass- it’s a LOT of glass objects in one place 🙂 .
RABBIT HILL INN
Not even a week later and we are back to Vermont for another quick weekend getaway. For someone that has never spent time in this state in summer, we really packed it in this year! Reading that Rabbit Hill Inn is rated #1 Top hotel in the North East, #3 Top in USA and #39 Top 100 hotels in the world got us very curious.
We really wanted one of the Luxury rooms with the hot tub inside, but those book months ahead. However, we were lucky to get Hampshire room with the gas fireplace and a lovely decor.
This room is designed to replicate an English Manor study and we appreciated the details. The cozy chairs in front of the bookshelf and the fireplace were our favorite spots of the room. The common areas of the Inn are also lovely- you can play some darts, a board game or enjoy a drink at the little but well stocked bar.
What we liked the most though, was the food at their restaurant as well as the impeccable service. From the smooth check in following all safety measures, to the staff at the restaurant, to the advice on the activities in the area- we always felt the kindness and the smiles behind the innkeepers masks.
We had dinner both nights there (there is nothing else around within walking distance anyway) and truly enjoyed all of the dishes that we tried. Dinner menu was the same on Friday and Saturday, but breakfasts options were different each morning. The only thing I have to add- I hope you like a lot of food when you wake up. There was fruit, yogurt with homemade granola, muffin and a pastry to START. And then you get a full huge meal each.
We could not even finish, we were that full. This place really deserves their awards!
THE GREAT VERMONT CORN MAZE
The day before we came to Vermont we looked up the area and what fun activity we could do this weekend. Neither of us have been to a corn maze before, so it was an easy decision. You need tickets in advance and due to COVID-19 they space out the admissions to avoid crowds. We picked a 1.30pm start time and half an hour drive later we were entering the largest corn maze in New England!
I don’t think either of us had ANY idea what we are getting ourselves into. We brought a few bottles of water and a bag of popcorn (how ironic) for a snack. On the way in we each got an ice cream sandwich and that was our lunch. Big rookie mistake! The maze is huge. We walked and walked in circles (literally). We made friends with a few other people that were ‘lost’ for several hours. We took any clues we could get and asked the park staff for tips because we REALLY wanted to find the correct way out. There is a smaller, ‘scenic’ maze inside the huge one and that takes about 45 minutes to complete.
But no, ambitious that we are, we wanted to finish the main big one. At the entrance it claimed that on average it takes about 2-2.5 hours for a couple to finish. Well, it was 3 hours later and we were still not at the exit…So we QUIT.
I really did not want to, but Sean was done. We both were definitely hungry, tired, hot and grumpy by the end. Plus we had to make it back in time for our reserved (and well deserved) dinner. All in all, we’re glad we tried. It was definitely a good workout- both physical and mental, and we feel like we would be better prepared next time. We’d as minimum bring lunch and maybe not start at the hottest time of the day. There is also somewhat of a strategy on how to solve the maze, while we were essentially going in blindly. The pattern changes every year, so we are up for a challenge again next time!
Three different Bed and Breakfasts in the different parts of the state and three unique experiences.
Without any planning ahead we feel like we had seen and accomplished quite a lot. It also did not feel rushed or stressed like some of our super intense vacations. We really enjoyed each and every place and would return to every single one again. All three had their own charm and character, but what made them similar is the warmth and the kindness of the owners. In each place we felt well taken care of and at home.