Woodstock, Vermont

We have travelled to Woodstock many times with and without kids.  We first fell in love with the town as newly transplanted Brooklynites and made the trip up every Columbus Day weekend to see the beauty of the changing leaves.  We have visited in every season but this year we decided to go up Memorial Day weekend as a chance to get away without having to deal with all the beach bound traffic.

On the way up we stopped for a quick hike in Manchester on the Ice Beds Trail.  This is a 1.5-mile round trip that offers a great chance for everyone to stretch their legs and enjoy a little nature.  There are some beautiful overlooks but the best part of the hike comes at the turnaround point.  The ice beds referred to in the trail's name are buried under the rocks here.  During the winter ice forms in the rocks and slowly melts during the summer and as you approach the temperature drops quickly and you soon feel like you are standing in a freezer.  We had never experienced anything like it and the kids were amazed.  

 

After our brief detour, we headed on to Woodstock and our hotel.  We chose to stay at the Shire Riverview.  This is a very nice family-run place which is in a great location to explore the town by foot.  It is located on the Ottauquechee River and our room had access to a balcony where we had lunch and enjoyed the view while the kids were sleeping at night.  A small grocery store is right across the street making it easy to grab snacks and drinks.  

The hotel provided a list of recommended places to eat and we decided to try Melaza Bistro, a tapas style restaurant, that was fantastic.  The menu is great for families as while there is a kids menu, the kids can choose to order off the small plate menu as well.  That is what our kids did and they enjoyed empanadas, rice and beans and sweet plantains.  We loved everything we ordered and the waitstaff couldn't have been nicer.  

  Photo by Melaza Bistro

Photo by Melaza Bistro

Our favorite meal of the trip was breakfast at Mon Vert Cafe.  They have one of those menus where you spend minutes deciding what to order and immediately begin thinking about what you will order tomorrow morning.  

  Photo by Jack Swanson

Photo by Jack Swanson

The 2-egg frittata sandwich is cooked to order and so good.  Most of the ingredients are locally sourced and organic including the coffee.  There is a wide selection of pastries and Ava had a fruit bowl that was overflowing with fresh berries.  We ate here for breakfast both days but unfortunately didn't get a chance to try the lunch menu.

Well fortified form our breakfast at Mon Vert, we headed over to King Arthur Flour's headquarters in nearby Norwich.  They had greatly expanded since the last time we visited, with a new kitchen and cafe.  This is a great place to stock up on all of King Arthur's products, sample some baked goods, and take a class if you have time.  The classes tend to fill up well in advance so if that is something you want to do be sure to plan ahead.  

  Photo by Jack Swanson

Photo by Jack Swanson

And of course get the obligatory king and queen shot...

King Arthur is located in a bucolic setting with picnic tables for the adults to relax on and plenty of space for the kids to run around and burn off that sugar high from sampling all of the delicious baked goods in the cafe.  The cafe serves breakfast and lunch every day, hearth-baked pizza on Fridays from 4-6, and the menu is updated seasonally.  

From Norwich, it is a short drive over to Hanover, NH, home to Dartmouth College.  Hanover is a great college town with a lively downtown filled with a mix of chain shops, specialty stores and great restaurants.  

We always stop in and check out the Dartmouth Bookstore.  Although it is run by Barnes and Noble it has a huge and very diverse selection of kids books carrying many titles that I usually have seen only in independent bookstores.  

The campus is traditionally beautiful in the way all New England campuses are:  lots of brick, Greek columns, classic architecture.

We wanted to have lunch at the Woodstock Farmer's Market, a great local market with a fantastic selection of cheeses, specialty grocery items and prepared foods.  Their sandwiches are delicious and a great option for a picnic on the green (or lunch on the balcony at your hotel).  

After lunch we decided to go for a walk and check out some of the shops.  If you're not familiar with Woodstock, it is consistently voted one of the best small towns in America.  The town had the good fortune of having one of the Rockefellers marry into a local family and he became so enamored with the town that he donated money to preserve it's 19th-century architecture and rural feel.  

Gillingham's General Store is one of our favorite stops whenever we are in the area.  Coincidentally my husband is distantly related to the owners.  This store has a little bit of everything from specialty beers and wines to maple syrup to a great selection of kids toys.  If you are looking for a gift for someone, you should definitely be able to find something here.

  Photo by Jack Swanson

Photo by Jack Swanson

  Photo by Jack Swanson

Photo by Jack Swanson

There is also a great bookstore, the Yankee Bookshop, which is Vermont's oldest independent bookstore, and once you step inside you realize why.  They have a fantastic kids section and also seemed to have every book (new and old) that I have been meaning to read.  Red Wagon Toy Company has beautiful baby and young kids clothing as well as plenty of toys to keep everyone occupied while you shop!  

We planned ahead and made reservations at Simon Pearce in nearby Quechee for dinner.  Simon Pearce produces beautiful handblown glass pieces and the restaurant is in the same building as the glass blowing studio and a gorgeous shop.  We arrived a little early so we would have time to look around as the shop sells glass, pottery, and some woven goods.  If you get there during the day, you can watch the glassblowers at work downstairs.  The restaurant space is lovely and if you're lucky and get a seat by the window the kids can enjoy the view of the waterfall.

  Photo by Jack Swanson

Photo by Jack Swanson

They have a kids menu for lunch and dinner and while it has the usual standbys such as buttered noodles and macaroni and cheese to please the pickier eaters (Ava), there is enough of a selection that a more adventurous eater (Jack) will not be disappointed.  Meanwhile, the food for the adults is fantastic.  As with a lot of the restaurants in the area, there is a commitment to serving sustainable and local food whenever possible and it definitely comes through.  

The highlight of our meal though was looking out the window and seeing this come floating down the river...

The kids were sure they were going over the falls but they took off just before!

  Photo by Jack Swanson

Photo by Jack Swanson

We ended the weekend by driving the long way home through the Berkshires and stopping for lunch in Lenox at Haven Cafe and Bakery.  We arrived after the lunch crowd had departed and had the place almost to ourselves (which is very unusual).  The food here is consistently delicious and there is something on the menu for all tastes.  I had an arugula and farro salad with marinated tomatoes that I am still trying to recreate at home.  

I wanted to stop at Baldwin's Extracts in West Stockbridge but unfortunately they were closed so I guess that just gives us an excuse to go back!