Date of Trip: May 2006
My 5-year old daughter and husband decided at the last minute to whisk me away to Southwestern Vermont for a 4-day getaway May 25th through the 28th. Arrangements were made for us to stay at the reasonably priced SnowTree Condominiums at Mount Snow. While this is one of the northeast’s largest ski resorts, we wondered how much of a ghost town we’d find it to be in this warmer season. (Read on for the answer!)
We left our New Jersey home late morning and took our time heading north on the scenic New York state throughway. We hit little traffic (it was a Thursday, after all) and made it to West Dover (the home of Mount Snow) just in time for dinner.
After hearing good things about the food and “local flavor” at TC’s Family Restaurant, we thought we’d make it our first stop in town. It may be the home of snowboarding champ Kelly Clark (her parent’s own it, her bro’s the head chef) and there were locals crowding the bar, but the food was downright yucky. Our “homemade” pizza was of poor quality and tasted like it just came out of the microwave. I wouldn’t recommend it even on their half-price Thursdays.
Afterwards, we easily checked in to our SnowTree condo, and found it to be perfect. It was beautifully decorated, well-equipped with every amenity we’d need and had spectacular views of the green mountains from the balcony and family room. We unpacked and put our feet up because Friday was to be a busy day; we were going shopping!
Our day kicked off with a hearty breakfast at Dot’s. She has two locations: one in West Dover and the other in Wilmington (about 9 miles away.) We found super yummy food and great prices. We also found only two or three other customers, and I think they were locals!
After breakfast we were back on the road. We took Route 9 West to Bennington, and then hit 7 North to Manchester — a shopper’s paradise. The sky was a bit gray and rain was in our forecast, but that would not keep us away from taking in this quaint shopping village. Parking was a breeze (many lots, all empty, which I am sure fill up in peak season) and we didn’t have much competition at the sales racks either! We started off by grabbing espressos and some ice cream (from Ben & Jerry’s, of course!), and then hit the shops: J.Crew, Yankee Candle Co., Garnet Hill and many others. Our best find of the day was The Vermont Toy Chest — they sell “smart toys for smart kids.” Besides having THE best playthings, Sabrina, the proprietor, was just a peach and provided us with details for a great picturesque drive home.
Winding roads through the charming towns of Winhall, Jamaica and Stratton led us back to West Dover. And yes, we made a note to explore those towns on our next trip up. We settled on Chinese food for an early dinner, and weren’t disappointed at all in the good eats at First Wok. They offered a traditional Chinese menu with loads of specials at reasonable prices. The atmosphere was very relaxing, our service was courteous and fast, and the food was yummy. Afterwards, we took in a movie at Mountain Park Cinema.
We hit Dot’s again for Saturday’s breakfast. This time we sat at the bar and chatted a bit more with the locals and wait staff. It was a bit busier and families were filling the tables, but the scene was still very laid back. Being from New Jersey, sigh, I can really appreciate that slowed down pace while on vacation!
Once our bellies were stuffed, we began our short trek to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams, MA. It was another gorgeous drive — back to Bennington, then 7 South and over the border.
It was our first time visiting this museum, and I loved that it is located in an abandoned 19th century factory complex. (Culture improving the quality of a depressed area…) The art space is just huge and can easily accommodate large installations. To give you an idea of the scale, we took in Carsten Hoeller’s Amusement Park installation while we were there. This is one super-sized show featuring several actual amusement park rides…think Gravitron, bumper cars, Twister. And it’s all indoors, folks. After soaking up the scene, we had a well-priced gourmet lunch at the Lickety Split café, and also enjoyed more espresso and ice cream. If you’re traveling with children or are a creative soul, you must visit Mass MoCA’s Kidspace. (You can take home whatever you make.) Heck, even the bathrooms are worth visiting at this place.
My husband was set for dinner at Deacon’s Den Tavern back in West Dover, but unfortunately, we found them to be closed…well, partially. (Turns out they were sharing the kitchen with neighboring parlor, Fennessey’s since it was so early in the season.) Our host was 6 feet 4 inches of pure joy, and explained that people just start trickling back in to town for Memorial Day weekend. He was also quick to point out all of the festivals and fairs that had started greeting thousands of visitors earlier that day while filling us in on the night’s specials. Ghost town no more…and I’ll take the grilled salmon, please!
Our dinner was exquisite. Our lovely waitress brought our young one a plate of baby carrots and cucumber slices while we had our salads, and the main courses were perfectly done and tasty. Smiles were seen from across the entire dining room — could be because the wait staff was very aware of empty beer mugs and wine glasses — but perhaps the food really was just “that” good.
We started Sunday with a bang — packed our things and cleaned the condo for check out day. (With rentals, our motto is always to leave the place cleaner than we found it…) By noon, we were back on the road.
On our way out, we decided to stop in Wilmington for lunch at Dot’s and to see this rubber duck race. The village was jammed! This quiet lazy town had been taken over by a mob supporting about 1500 rubber ducks racing down a tributary of the Deerfield River. We snapped a few pics in all of the excitement, and then bustled our way into Dot’s. As her sister shop in West Dover, this one served excellent food at better than reasonable prices, and all with a smile. We made a last stop at the 1836 Country Store. What a gem! The owner told us a bit about the history of the landmark building, and that he made his childhood dream come true: All he wanted to do was to sell chocolate and toys!
So, Vermont was really just coming back to life when we made our visit. And we loved every minute of it — meeting the welcoming locals and business owners, soaking in the warm and bug-free (but not humid!) sunshine and just exploring. What I love most about Vermont is the casual atmosphere and leisurely pace of life. It forces us stressed out folks to slow down and enjoy the day, and maybe even get a glimpse of all the natural beauty life has to offer.
Events to remember! Here’s a sampling of what’s going on in the area over Memorial Day weekend:
Bennington: Mayfest Craft Fair, a festival of juried handmade crafts, tasty food, and street entertainment.
Wilmington: Rubber Duck Race benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Statewide: Vermont Open Studio Weekend, see http://www.vermontcrafts.com for more.