CLOSE-UP ON woodstock, vt.

Budding beauty

Quintessential New England town is a sight to see

Cows graze among the open space at Woodstock's Billings Farm and Museum.
Cows graze among the open space at Woodstock's Billings Farm and Museum. (Photo by Paul Kandarian for The Boston Globe)
By Paul E. Kandarian
Globe Correspondent / October 15, 2008
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ODD FACT: In January 1934 on a hill at Clinton Gilbert's farm, a rope tow, powered by a Ford Model T engine, hauled skiers uphill, becoming one of the nation's first ski tows. The contraption helped mark a new era in winter sports.

Woodstock is a place within a place, one of the few municipalities in Vermont organized as a town and having an incorporated village within it. The Town of Woodstock is governed by a five-member board of selectmen while the Village of Woodstock is governed by a five-member board of trustees. Each entity has its own set of zoning bylaws that regulate land and property use. All of it is known for its Currier & Ives beauty, Victorian architecture, quintessential village green, and downtown shopping area. It is the only town in America with four Paul Revere church bells, and it is where the famous Morgan horse breed was born. Speaking of horses, remember that famous Budweiser commercial from 1986 featuring Clydesdales tromping through deep snow? That was shot in Woodstock.

The Woodstocker Inn (61 River St., 802-457-3896, www.wood, rooms $110-$340 but subject to change) is a wonderfully eclectic inn of nine rooms, all brightly painted (the building's exterior is screaming yellow) and quirky; one room's bathroom has his-and-her claw foot tubs, another a bright red tub and sink. There is a wonderful, large library, and a tasty allegiance to health and the environment with a most expansive and delicious organic breakfast. If funky is not your thing, consider the elegant and classy Ardmore Inn (23 Pleasant St., 802-457-3887,, rooms begin at $135), a restored 1867 Victorian Greek Revival home with tastefully appointed rooms. Breakfast is filling; try the Grand Marnier French toast. The iconic hotel in town is the Woodstock Inn (14 The Green, 802-457-1100, www.wood, rooms start at $195 but vary according to season), with 142 beautiful rooms, its own Nordic ski center and golf course, and a gigantic 10-foot fieldstone fireplace in its massive lobby.

There's plenty to do year-round in Woodstock, but in winter it's all about skiing, with Killington, Suicide Six, Okemo Mountain, and Ascutney Mountain nearby. Fall is fabulous, too, and a terrific place to see explosive foliage is Billings Farm and Museum (Route 12 and River Road, 802-457-2355, www.billings, daily through October and weekends in winter). Billings offers programs and exhibits honoring the state's agricultural past and includes a meticulously restored 1890 farmhouse. Across the street is Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (Route 12 and River Road, 802-457-3369,, the state's first - and only - national park. It is the site of the oldest sustainably managed woodland in North America, with sugar maples, 400-year-old hemlocks, covered bridges, and rambling stone walls. The Green Mountain Horse Association (Route 106, South Woodstock, 802-457-1509, was founded in 1926 and has been instrumental in creating and maintaining a network of open riding trails. Educational clinics and competitions are held regularly and are open to the public. Horse rentals and guided trail rides are also available at Kedron Valley Stables (Route 106, South Woodstock, 802-457-1480, When there aren't movies shown at Town Hall Theatre, home of Pentangle Council on the Arts (31 The Green, 802-457-3981, www.pent, there are plays, concerts, and children's theater and educational programs. Walkers love Woodstock, a town with a vast network of hiking and walking trails that connect Mount Tom, Mount Peg, and other conservation land within the heart of Woodstock Village, lorded over by the Woodstock Trails Partnership (29 Central St., 802-457-3555, A great starting point to climb Mount Tom is Faulkner Park on Mountain Avenue. Don't be put off by it being a mountain; it's more a big hill at 1,250 feet above sea level. But the town itself is 750 feet, so that leaves you a scant 500 feet to the top.

For breakfast and lunch, you can't miss Mountain Creamery (33 Central St., 802-457-1715, sandwiches about $10), run by Boris Pilsmaker, a native of Milton, who also owns a farm in Killington that provides much of his food, including meat for whopping roast beef, ham, and turkey sandwiches. Speaking of whopping, leave room for homemade apple pie, the biggest you're likely ever to see, 3 1/2 pounds of locally grown apples expanding a flaky crust to near-bursting. Bentley's (3 Elm St., 802-457-3232,, lunches $9.50-$12.95, dinner entrees $18.95-$26.95) has been a Woodstock favorite for more than 30 years, with its dark, moody interior and Victorian sofas, oriental rugs, and antique lamps. Bentley's custom brews its own ale and features dancing on Saturday nights with the occasional live entertainment. Fine dining abounds throughout town, including The Lauren Restaurant (3 Church St., 802-457-1925,, small plates $8-$13, large plates $22-$29), located in a renovated village inn on 2 sweeping acres overlooking the Ottauquechee River that serves top-shelf food small in portions but huge in taste. Try the potato wedges cooked crisp in duck fat and you'll never want them any other way. Another popular Woodstock eatery is The Prince & The Pauper Restaurant (24 Elm St., 802-457-1818,, prix-fixe dinners $48), which virtually all locals recommend. Its popularity warrants reservations, particularly in leaf-peeping season. Expensive and worth it, but do check out the less-expensive and just-as-tasty bistro menu.

You can't shop in Woodstock without stopping at Gillingham & Sons (16 Elm St., 802-457-2100, www.gilling, one of the state's oldest general stores, a rambling, seven-room building that is a National Historic Landmark and sells just about everything under the sun, from a range of beers to gift items, Vermont foodstuffs to children's toys. Collective: The Art of Craft (47 Central St., 802-457-1298, is a terrific little artists' cooperative selling jewelry, ceramic goods, handbags, clothing, lamps, and more, in a narrow, easily navigated space in a building right on the Ottauquechee River that courses through downtown. Get your reading needs met at one of Vermont's oldest independently owned bookstores, The Yankee Bookshop (12 Central St., 802-457-2411, Established in 1935, the store also features a wide assortment of toys, learning tools, kites, and spinning hanging ornaments.

A Woodstock winter can be pretty chilly (the area averages nearly 6 feet of snow a year), but one place to be cold on purpose is Union Arena (496-3 Woodstock Road, 802-457-2500,, a popular skating rink and community center, and the site in 2009 for a winter triathlon of skating, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Bikes abound in Woodstock and a good place to rent or buy is The Start House Ski and Bike (28 Central St., 802-457-3377, www.thestarthouseskiand The staff will also advise you on where to ride, including the nearby River Road on the Ottauquechee, voted one of the state's best rides by Vermont magazine.

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