It had been several years (six to be exact) since we had a proper winter getaway. Each year around the holidays we set an intention to journey to New England but before we knew it, spring was around the corner and ski season was over. This year, we turned intention into reality and set up a long weekend to visit Manchester, Vermont.
Located near two ski resorts, Manchester also offers local award winning cuisine, trendy shopping, and activities for all seasons. We had also gotten several recommendations for this area so we set off on Thursday after work for a several hour journey north.
Airbnb selection was not very impressive for accommodations and the prices were expensive so we ended up choosing a traditional hotel option with Palmer House Inn.
We arrived very late Thursday evening and it seemed desolate. Rounding the corner to the office, an envelop with our name had a map with directions and keys to our room. Although I knew the rooms were motel style with the doors outside, I was hoping our push to save money was not foolish in this situation.
When we got to our room and opened the door, we were immediately relieved. While some reviews criticize for being dated, we found the room to be impeccably clean and an enormous size in comparing to traditional hotel rooms. And it was even nicer to have had an easy check-in process- grab your keys and go! We hurried to unpack the car in the freezing temperatures and to bed for an early morning.
Our ski day! There are two ski resorts to choose from- Stratton and Bromley. We ultimately picked Stratton for several reasons. Statton is the bigger mountain and since we planned on doing one full day of skiing, we wanted enough trails to keep exploring for the entire day. Stratton also had a great variety of green and blue trails for me and plenty of black trails for more advanced skiers like Kevin. Since we anticipated a busy weekend, a bigger mountain can hold more people without it feeling over packed. In proximity to Manchester, Bromley was closer than Stratton by a fifteen minute advantage. Bromley was the cheaper resort in both lift tickets and rentals but it was not enough savings to sway the decision. And more importantly, the waffle cabin was not open at Bromley during the week and I really wanted a waffle that tipped the scales- Stratton it is.
We spent quite a bit of time bundling up before venturing out. The wind chill was negative eight degrees and it was unclear how much colder going up the mountain would lower that number. Needless to say, we wore as many layers as we brought in an effort to avoid frostbite and still enjoy a day on the mountain… oh and be able to ski.
On our way to Stratton, we stopped for breakfast at Bob’s Diner. We pulled up to the fifties style diner on the side of Route 30 knowing we were in for a classic morning meal.
Kevin ordered an eggs benedict dish perfectly poached atop tomato, bacon, and an english muffin served with a heaping serving of potatoes. We discovered Bob’s is actually known for their hollandaise sauce as it is made from scratch and has a lemony profile. The potatoes were quite salty but to be fair, we never add salt to our cooking at home so even a little salt is overbearing for our palette. It was a solid dish, hearty enough to fuel a full day of skiing.
I kept with a traditional favorite of oatmeal, bananas, brown sugar and toast. Perhaps boring but it was a perfectly constructed bowl of oatmeal and I was very happy to have this in my tummy for the day ahead.
From our hotel in Manchester, Stratton was a 25 minute drive and we arrived at mountain open at 8:30AM. There are two off site parking lots that shuttle to the front of the base lodge and if it was warmer, we probably could have walked but the shuttle service was great. Once we got all of our lift tickets, rental gear (best rental equipment we have ever had at a resort), and bundled up, we were on the first chair life by 9AM. And did we have to bundle! It was negative eight with the wind chill at the base lodge and continued to plunge with elevation. You could tell instantly if any skin was showing as the wind was quick to reveal any kinks in the armor.
Fresh snow had graced the mountain the day before so conditions on the slopes were ideal. We rarely waited to get onto a chair lift and the gondola wait was five minutes at most. The trails were long and wide with a variety of greens and blues among the black. Sometimes we had slopes all to ourselves which is perfect for a skier of my skill level – I was actually able to tackle blue trails this trip- confidence is boosting!
The base lodge itself was very nice and had lots of room for seating as people rotated in frequently to avoid frostbite, ourselves included. The cafeteria was actually very modern in the offerings include soups, salads, and sandwiches which was an unexpected surprise. Oh, and of course we ended our ski day with a rewarding pit stop at the waffle cabin- pure happiness.
Overall, we had a great day at Stratton even despite the freezing temperatures. It offered variety for both of us to enjoy and got to experience the luxury of fresh powder snow.
We actually took the GoPro for a few runs playing around with functionality and to give me some footage as I teach myself to video edit. As I watched the clips when we got home, I was instantly sick to my stomach at the unsteadiness and constant back and forth- complete motion sickness. Maybe there is some usable footage in the midst to make a short video but I am going to need help actually seeing the footage- any helpers out there? Ha!
Before we headed back to the hotel we decided to get a lay of downtown Manchester. After passing through the center, Kevin spotted a craft beer sign- the first sighting!
While I know we looked ridiculous just off a full day of skiing, the care was long gone as we were mesmerized by the inside. It was the definitely of cozy!
I would have loved to have had the cheese plate but with dinner so close, we had to pass. Kevin had generous pour of Burlington Beer Co Petal Prophecy Honey IPA while we gathered cans of (Kevin’s favorite) Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine and two wild card gold mine surprises of Upper Pass Beer Co Cloud Drop DIPA and Lawson’s Maple Nipple.
First official beer run was a success and completely unintentional! We loved it in here and could have easily spent several hours drinking tap beer and wine (yes they also had wine!) and eating cheese. For a future trip!
After getting washed up, we were ready for our evening dinner at The Silver Fork just a short eight minute drive away. With only six tables and five bar stools, we were happy to have snagged a reservation at the bar. We loved the cozy nature of the intimate setting. The co-owner, Melody, greeted us upon arrival and told us the background of The Silver Fork. Herself and her husband/chef Mark opened the restaurant in 2011 after experiences in St Louis, Puerto Rico and training with a German chef and the menu certainly outlines these influences.
We were both happy to wake up without aches or pains from skiing yesterday- yay! Manchester had a lot to offer so we took the day to explore the downtown area.
Our first stop was breakfast at Up for Breakfast, named as it is located on the second floor.
Resembling a converted apartment, the entire space feels like one big kitchen, filled with roosters of all shapes and sizes, and each table situated with the vintage stained glass hanging lamp.
Kevin ordered a bowl of oatmeal with fruit while I ordered Vermont granola with yogurt. Together, we split a short stack of pancakes served with hot Vermont maple syrup.
Everything we had was great, especially the pancakes and the hot Vermont maple syrup. Kevin was happy to see fruit after last night’s meal and I enjoyed every last flake of the granola. Be aware, the is a cash only establishment.
After breakfast, we made our way to the Northshire Bookstore, one of the largest bookstores in New England. This family owned, independent bookstore is one of the top rated activities in Manchester so we were super excited.
When we walked in, it felt like home. It reminded us of Shakespeare and Company in Paris with caverns of books. We were immediately drawn into different directions as we uncovered gems hiding in the pages of thousands of books.
So many walls full of books for everyone’s interest and no nook left bare. Sections divided by genre or activity, and there is an entire floor for children’s books and games. We spent two hours grazing the shelves and could have spent much more.
And somehow (yes) we both separately caught photos of the other buried in one of the many books we searched through.
We continued the downtown stretch stopping in the Manchester Country Store, Rablogan Castle Scotland (sells traditional Scottish garb and food), Green Peak Elements (vintage and antique collectibles store), and Fortuna’s Sausage and Italian Market.
We spent a particularly extended time browsing pieces at Green Peaks Elements. I wish we had some useful need for the items in the store cause this is the place to get them. It was really neat to see an array of vintage pieces including baseball cards, comics, postcards, light fixtures, and more.
Then we drove to Mother Myrick’s artisan chocolates, cakes and pies. We got to try their famous buttercrunch candy- butterscotch nugget dipped in milk chocolate covered in candied nuts. It was certainly very tasty and a Manchester specialty.
The lunch choice difficult as we were told several places that would make for good stops. I secretly wanted to go back to Crocked Ram for a cheese plate but having had one last night and in the spirit of trying new things, we decided on The Copper Grouse. This space is located inside the Kimpton Taconic Hotel and it was a beautiful rustic space- and that was just the lobby!
The inside of The Copper Grouse was just as impressive with an elegant pub feel. We took a seat at the bar admiring the beautiful arrangement of beverages.
Once again, we were shown an amazing menu challenging our decision making. While neither of us were particularly hungry, the offerings stirred up an appetite. Kevin order a Fiddlehead IPA on tap while we started with House Made Soft Pretzel Bite tossed in duck fat with cider mustard.
There is something so comforting with homemade pretzels. Being tossed in duck fat certainly tipped this into the amazing category! The order comes with six pretzels so it is a perform sharing portion.
I ordered the New England Clam Chowder with applewood smoked bacon as it was perfect soup weather.
This take on clam chowder was different- the pieces of potato and seafood were all large and chunky mimicking more of a stew consistency than a chowder and it worked so well! The broth was incredibly flavorful and not overly salted- the bacon provided just enough of that. We both thoroughly enjoyed this soup as did many other patrons echoing its praise.
Kevin ordered the Fried Cod Sandwich with five pepper aioli, pickled onions, arugula, and kettle chips, claimed to be the best in the town.
While we did not go on a tour of Manchester to validate this, it was a solid fish sandwich. The cod was a great selection for the sandwich and maintained good moisture after frying, giving it the perfect crunch. The five pepper aioli had a small kick to it and brought the entire sandwich together.
We were very happy with our meal here and definitely enjoyed the ambiance. I am sure staying at this hotel was well outside our budget but hey, one can dream!
Our next stop was Manchester Woodcraft which sells a wide assortment of carved wood pieces. Upon entering the building, the smell of fresh cut wood surrounded us. The shelves were lined with jewelry, ornaments, carving boards, walking sticks, wooden spoons, cheese plates, and much more.
While we are not avid outlet shoppers, there are many name brand outlets for those inclined. The Manchester Outlets include Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Le Creuset, J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, and much more all advertising drastically marked down prices.
Sugar shacks are common in this area and we were able to find Dutton Farm Stand that has an active sugar shack on the premise. The barn was such a beautiful structure and the sugar shack was still decorated for the holidays.
Unfortunately, we were a little early in the season to get a peek at the process (starts in February) but the farm stand offered a wide variety of produce. We also picked up a small container of Vermont syrup for home.
After a quick pit stop at the hotel, we made our way to the town Londonderry for dinner. From Manchester, the drive was just over 20 minutes. With time before our reservation, we stopped in Meulemans’ Craft Draughts to see their collection of local beer.
Overwhelmed with choices, Kevin decided on a few known favorites and a few new brews to try. This store is a great place for a beer run!
Dinner tonight was at SoLo Farm & Table situated down an unlit road in a large house- the stars in the sky we just amazing. The restaurant is family run with global inspiration that showcases a constantly changing menu reflecting the seasonal locally sourced ingredients. They are known for in-house butchery wasting no part of an animal and for their handmade fresh pasta dishes. Needless to say, we were very excited for this menu.
One more meal to squeeze out of the Vermont town. A quick check out process and we were one our way to our first stop, Mrs Murphy’s Donuts.
This quaint donut shop is well rated in the area so we had to grab two for the ride home picking honey dipped and cider cake. And I can say, they were delicious- definitely get the honey dipped it was so tasty.
Breakfast was at The Little Rooster Cafe located in a small building off the main road (another cash only establishment). We were once again surrounded by so many roosters- definitely a theme at Manchester breakfast places.
There is a menu of classic breakfast favorites along with a chalkboard of specials. Your coffee will never go cold here as the staff is diligent about constantly filling everyone’s cup.
Careful where you sit, you may crack an egg.
I opted for “Flipp’s Flapjacks” (pancakes), added blueberries and served with hot Vermont maple syrup.
These pancakes were so good! They had an almost creamy consistency (if that is possible) but it was different enough to notice. The pancakes were light and I did not feel heavy after eating them- that is a characteristic that is difficult to find.
Kevin ordered of one the specials, the Bromley Omelette which had spicy sausage, tomato, broccoli, spinach, and cheddar cheese. The dish also came with hash browns and toast.
He really enjoyed his omelette as it was full of vegetables and the sausage was quite hot. This take on hashbrowns was different than we have seen elsewhere as it was served like lasagna. It was topped with cheese and nicely browns on the top and bottom.
We arrived at The Little Rooster just before 8:30AM and by the time we left at 9AM, the line for a table was out of the door. They are good about quickly turning tables but be aware there are only ten tables. We really enjoyed this local spot!
The final place we wanted to see was the Hildene Lincoln Family Home. The property was home to Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert, and many items displayed from the family dating back to Abe.
The estate is very large at over 400 acres and the grounds are well preserved with many walking trails. Besides the home itself, there is an 1903 Pullman car, full garden, dairy goat farm, and cheese making facility for a complete agricultural program focusing on conservation and sustainability.
With so much to see and a majority benefiting from the outdoors, we decided to wait and visit the Hildene house on a future trip in the warm weather. You can spend over four exploring all the facility has to offer and we wanted to be sure to make the most out of visiting the Hildene estate. Next time, Manchester!
From there, we started the journey home perfectly satisfied with our weekend stay in Manchester.
Besides the Hildene home, there were other things we did not get to on this trip. Many of the farms in the area advertise horse drawn sleigh rides in the snow with a stop to make smores over an open fire. Unfortunately, there was not enough snow for these to occur. The same goes for nordic skiing. There is also a public ice skating rink and I was really hoping for a curling event- one day! We had marked to go the to Green Door Day Spa for some relaxation but time got away from us in exploring the downtown. And then there were all the things to do in the warm weather! The Southern Vermont Arts Center is very well rated and showcases an outdoor display but is closed in the winter time. Hiking around Manchester is popular, particularly Falls Lye Brook Falls. And finally, there was a museum for fly fishing so I think there must be a community of fly fishers in the area- something Kevin would love to try.
Manchester is a great hub for both warm and cold climate- always something to do all year round. Depending on what you want out of a trip here will determine when you should go. We are certainly looking forward to return trips to Manchester!