Vermont, in general, is one of those magnificent places that’s just far enough away from major metropolises that many people don’t get to witness (or know about) the town’s year-round splendor. Manchester, at the southernmost part of The Green Mountain State, is just an hour-ish car ride from Saratoga Springs. What are you waiting for? Pack a bag and let’s hit the road.
To many Saratogians in the know, Manchester rivals the fabled East End of Long Island’s Hamptons as a destination. The difference? Let’s just say you could probably pack for this trip without having to spend much time thinking about what elegant outfit you have to bring. Low-maintenance luxury? Yes, please! Manchester, here I come!
That said, whether for glamorous skiing in the winter or lakefront relaxation and berry festivals in the spring and summer, the traveling elite dug in deep here decades ago. And when worldly people with discerning taste inhabit a region, all the trappings that their world requires magically get weaved into the fabric.
Looking for Food Network-worthy dining? Check. Wide open spaces as far as the eye can see? Lakes? Check and check. Vermont has a historic and well-earned reputation for environmentally friendly practices because the residents demand it. This is why much of our finer dining fare comes from free-range farms in Vermont, nowadays. Skincare botanicals and regulated smoking herbals are grown there, too, because of the purity. In Vermont, to be green is definitely to be in.
Let’s check in, shall we? the Kimpton Taconic Hotel is perfect. How’s that for starters? Yes, the public rooms, suites and indoor/outdoor corporate meeting spaces are divine, but it’s the chef’s table at the Copper Grouse that makes it Manchester’s epicenter of haute cuisine. The Taconic is also a great destination option for a whole slew of winter fun (a well-stocked activities page on its website is broken down into seasons). This is where outdoorsy elegant fun is done right. How about a late afternoon après ski or nightcap at the Christmas-themed Miracle Pop-Up Bar November 23-December 31, 2018? I say, yes!
Equinox Golf Resort & Spa is part of The Luxury Collection and is an absolute destination unto itself for wellness and unique snow sports. Though you certainly don’t have to be a wintering NFL player or PGA finalist to indulge here, that’s definitely the vibe. When people of repute patronize a spa resort for weeks, you know you’ve made the right decision. In this case, many people come to be put back together, as a sort of full-on, body/mind/spirit therapy. With a true, state-of-the-art gym and a year-round indoor pool, the spa itself draws return visitors from afar. Historical and grand, the resort features the original 200-room Equinox House, established in 1853. For modern outdoor entertainment, consider its Land Rover Driving Experience through the Green Mountains. Or sleigh riding, dogsledding, snow tubing, snowmobiling and much more.
If your pampering needs are matched by your must-be-green bonafides, then Amanda Birch Seed To Skin is where you should point your compass. I love that Amanda requires two hours for your first signature facial ($200), which can accompany one of my favorites, Red Light Therapy, for 30 minutes ($80). Ask about her personally batched Hydradermie resurfacing hydrator or other locally sourced products.
If a luxury home-away-from-home is more in keeping with your lifestyle, the super personal Reluctant Panther Inn boasts posh local digs and attentive service in the heart of Manchester’s village. Choose from the Main House, Mary Porter House or Carriage House, and take comfort in the consistent excellence of its namesake dining establishment, the Reluctant Panther Restaurant, which draws patrons from around the world.
Ready to taste and judge some of the area’s legendary farm-to-table delicacies? The Silver Fork tops the list, while Ye Olde Tavern, Raven’s Den Steakhouse and Taproom and Nippers Cafe & Steakhouse serve up delicious fare as well. Or try Seasons Restaurant, where the owners’ worldliness makes for playful fare, or Ponce Bistro for artsy/chic ambiance and dining.
Southern Vermont Arts Center is packed with 20th-century artists’ works and houses a great permanent collection, though it’s in fuller bloom after April. But you can see Hildene House, a well-preserved estate built by the president of the Pullman Company and only child of Abraham Lincoln, year-round. Don’t make the mistake I did. It’s easy to overlook it. You could undoubtedly spend an entire day here with your whole family. A solar-powered goat farm, the Georgian revival mansion tour, formal gardens and an observatory are just the beginning.
If you just need to escape to an all-country locale, then how about Mountain View Ranch or Taylor Farms? Make it the perfect boots-and-jeans day for a sleigh or horseback ride. Or, there’s always the Manchester Designer Outlets, a must-stop for many visitors.
Of course, this is just a small sampling of why Manchester is the ideal HQ for winter sport and luxe diversions. Is it any wonder why so many savvy travelers consider our chic Vermont neighbor to be one of America’s great escapes?
You’re In Manchester: It’s Ski Time!
I went to college in Burlington, VT, for the mountains. I thought, what’s better than an East Coast city that’s less than an hour and a half from six awesome ski resorts? Turns out that Manchester, VT, the ski capital of Southern Vermont, has that beat. In between all your dining, shopping and relaxing, be sure to make a day trip to one—or all seven—of these nearby ski resorts. – Natalie Moore
1. Mount Snow
1 hour, 9 minutes away
Park rats assemble! Mount Snow’s not only known for its whopping ten terrain parks, but also its impressive snow coverage and grooming mastery.
2. Killington Resort
1 hour, 8 minutes away
“The Beast” has both the longest season in the East, thanks to its massive snowmaking operation, and the most skiable acres (1509), which span six peaks.
3. Pico Mountain
1 hour, 1 minute away
A little bit closer and significantly smaller than Killington, Pico gets all the snow its neighbor does, but not the unruly crowds. It’s a big mountain with small mountain charm.
4. Okemo Mountain Resort
46 minutes away
A family mountain boasting Southern Vermont’s highest vertical drop (2200 feet), Okemo has an even distribution of beginner, intermediate and expert trails for skiers of all skill levels.
5. Stratton Mountain
43 minutes away
For a mountain with 72 percent combined beginner and intermediate terrain, Stratton has impressive glade skiing. Plus, at its base, Stratton Village is the perfect place to stroll around after a long day on the slopes.
6. Magic Mountain
27 minutes away
A small, local Vermont ski area, Magic Mountain’s known for its challenging terrain (26 percent of its
trails are labeled Double Black Diamond) and close-knit community.
7. Bromley Mountain
14 minutes away
Another family-friendly mountain, Bromley’s a mere stone’s throw from Manchester, and as it’s the only ski area in all of New England with Southern exposure, you can count on having many more sunny days over there.