Only Stowe, Vermont combines a classic 200-year-old village with Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. This unique juxtaposition imbues Stowe with a character reminiscent of great European mountain resorts. Just log on to www.gostowe.com, where you will find a chalk full of ideas to enjoy at this year-round vacation spot. You can also call 1-877-GOSTOWE.
My family and I recently spent some time in the area. It was in fact our first visit there in a decade. Though Stowe enjoys an international reputation as a winter destination, it is just as exciting in summer. Sparkling streams attract anglers, splashers, and paddlers. Horseback riders gallop through wildflower strewn meadows. Bikers and hikers take to the recreation path and to more challenging mountain trails as well. Stowe’s golf and tennis offer challenges for newcomer and old pro alike or enjoy a glider ride soaring above Stowe’s spectacular terrain.
Stowe was charted on June 8, 1763 when Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire designated 64 men as “Proprietors.’” However, no settlement occurred until 1793, two years after Vermont, as the fourteenth state joined the original thirteen of the U.S.A. The town has 4,700 residents, over 70 unique shops, more than 45 restaurants and cafés and some 50 different lodging options.
Autumn in Stowe deserves special mention. Vermont is world-famous for its spectacular fall foliage, and Stowe is Vermont ‘s most beautiful and dramatic fall foliage viewing venue. You’ll be surprised at how much there is to do in Stowe. You can visit Vermont’s number one tourist attraction: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream plant, a mecca for lovers of premium ice cream. Take a tour of the facility and watch those delicious flavors being made. Samples and gifts are available. Not far up the road are a number of specialty food shops: Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Visitor’s Center and Cafe, Lake Champlain Chocolates, Cabot Creamery Annex, plus maple syrup and other goodies for which this part of Vermont is famous. At the Cold Hollow Cider Mill you can watch them making cider from local apple orchards, and sample unique mustards and jams for which they are famous. There are antique shops and craft outlets too.
Of course, downhill skiing and snowboarding are the most popular winter activities, but there are also plenty of other fun things to do! For example: snowshoeing, cross country skiing (there are four touring centers in Stowe), skating, indoor tennis and sleigh rides. Stowe has over 60 retail stores for shopping year round and every one is locally owned! There are many more activities and special events of all sizes!
Stowe is a wonderfully eclectic village that is home to a thriving arts community and exciting cultural happenings. Gifted performers and artists are attracted and inspired by this natural splendor. They, in turn, enrich Stowe with cultural and artistic sophistication more typical of large cities.
There are museums and art galleries right in the village, and an incredible array of artists, artisans and crafts people plying their talents and selling their wares. From painting, photography and sculpture, to jewellery, glass and fashion – something unique and intriguing is always on exhibit somewhere in the village. So, while Stowe is a great place to eat, drink and play outdoors, it’s also a great place to shop and feast on arts and culture.
It is never too early to plan ahead for the summer of 2012. If your trip is targeted for late July try and sample The Taste of Stowe Arts Festival (http://craftproducers.com). This is an unusual event, combining a market for handmade crafts, original art, music, and an array of gourmet edible treats. A colossal 100 foot wide tent houses the artists and artisans and other smaller tents host the culinary components.
The Arts and Craft Tent is a veritable cathedral of creativity. Come on out and see the extraordinary items the artists have presented: birdbaths and marble patio tables; end tables, pitchers, mugs, plates galore; hand painted clothing; furniture; sparkling jewellery; leather purses and bags; photography; original paintings; leather work; wall sculptures; exotic dark chocolates; wall art with clever cartoons poking fun at us all; handmade dog treats; and more. You get to stroll into 150 boutiques and meet the actual artists; that’s right you meet the maker of the works presented!
Stowe’s diversions and activities are as varied and exciting as its lodging and dining. The resort is justifiably world-famous for Mt. Mansfield’s downhill skiing. Stowe is also North America’s finest cross country skiing destination, with hundreds of kilometres of interconnected groomed and backcountry trails. And as if that were not enough, Stowe — home of Tubbs Snowshoes — is the birthplace of modern snow-shoeing. There’s even dog sledding and snow-mobiling!
Laughing Moon Chocolates on Main Street in Stowe Village offers Chocolate Dipping Demonstrations & Tours – Handcrafted candy as an art form! Stop by and learn how they make delicious hand-dipped chocolates with the big picture in mind! Demonstrations are held every day at 2 p.m. Laughing Moon Chocolates is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Boyden Valley Winery Tours is part of a fourth-generation farm in the pastoral Lamoille River Valley. Also on site: corn maze, ice cream stand, Milk House Market (featuring local food products), petting zoo, playground, music pavilion. Winery tours are at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily.
ACTIVITIES TO RECOMMEND: From June to Labour Day (and weekends after that through mid-October), you just have to try the Alpine slide. What you will experience is an exhilarating 2,300 foot ride down Spruce Peak. This is fun and exciting for people of all ages. Hours of operation are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It is free for kids aged five and under; $21 for one adult ride and $42 for three; $19 for one junior/senior ride and $38 for three. I could not believe how fast I was going!
You can also take the easy way up the mountain in the famous Stowe gondola. Spectacular views await you near the peak of Vermont’s highest mountain. From the gondola, access hiking trails or stop for a bite in the lift summit snack bar. This runs daily from mid June until mid-October.
The Summer Inflatable Obstacle Course, located on the same site as the alpine slide, is also a blast. Put yourself to the test and try your luck. This is no easy task, I must tell you. This runs from mid-June to Labour Day and then continues on weekends until mid-October from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Adults can get three runs for $21; juniors and seniors pay $18 for the same three. Children aged five and under go free with a paid adult.
WHERE TO STAY: The historic Green Mountain Inn (www.greenmountaininn.com) has been offering travellers respite for over 175 years. Located at 18 Main Street, it features 107 accommodations, ranging from traditional guest rooms to luxury suites and townhouses.
The Inn is owned by the Gameroff Family Trust. Marvin Gameroff was a Canadian businessman who took a liking to Stowe in the 1970s and purposely worked for its preservation through investments that would be both profitable for him and supportive of the village community. One of these, in 1982, was purchasing the Green Mountain Inn, a then–somewhat tattered facility with about 90 acres of land, on Main Street. Built as a home in 1833, it had been an inn for a century when Gameroff bought it. He also bought what’s now known as the Whiskers Building Farmhouse and owned a home in Stowe with about 150 acres of land. He passed away in 2004. His two sons, David and Simon, have carried on the tradition with innkeeper Patti Clark overseeing the day to day operations.
Last year a major renovation project completely refurbished nearly a quarter of the historic hotel’s Main Inn room inventory. Twelve of the hotel’s second floor rooms within the property’s central Inn building underwent a substantial revitalization. There was a complete remodeling of bathrooms, air conditioning system improvements, floor plan readjustments to maximize space, the installation of new high grade noise-dampening windows and the addition of new large screen plasma TVs.
Says Clark, “Our goal has always been to offer comfortable, inviting accommodations which provide our guests real value for their travel dollars. Over the years we have continually re-invested in our facilities to update, renew and enhance our offerings. Every upgrade project – such as this one – has been undertaken with a commitment to preserving the hotel’s unique character and charm so that the Inn remains a destination of choice for our loyal customers.”
The Inn is also home to the wonderful Whip Bar and Grill (http://www.greenmountaininn.com/whipbarandgrill.html). This spot provides travellers respite, refreshment, and fine dining in a casual atmosphere. It features an extensive menu full of flavorful food prepared with Vermont products and the freshest ingredients from local farmers. There are fresh homemade breads and incredible desserts. It is open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. The bar offers a great selection of Vermont and New England microbrews on tap and a newly revised wine list sure to tempt occasional wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike.
I would strongly remember the grilled swordfish, which cuts like butter. It comes with vegetables, but you can switch this for the mashed potatoes.
We shared some garlic shrimp as an appetizer. It came with two sliced baguettes. You can order a half Caesar salad here to save more room for the entrée. There is a kids menu, but the younger ones might want to try the delicious flatbread pizza from the main selections. This is the place for fish – salmon, tilapia, wild striped bass and oven roasted Boston cod. There are also steaks, chicken, burgers and sandwiches.
DINNER AT GRACIES: Many veteran Stowe vacationers also strongly recommended Gracie’s Restaurant (www.gracies.com) at 18 Edson Hill Road. Owners Paul and Susan Archdeacon are wonderful hosts. Paul, known simply as “Archie,” came here in 1972 from Boston to ski and never left. This is where he met Sue. In 1991the couple opened the restaurant, naming it after their new shelter rescue dog Gracie, a Yellow Lab Air dale mix from the South Burlington Humane Society. The name stuck and the restaurant took off. Right from the start Gracie’s was committed to producing as much of their menu as possible themselves. All the breads, rolls and desserts are made on the premises. This led to the introduction of Gracie’s “Doggie Bag.” A penny candy bag painted on the inside with white chocolate, frozen and filled with chocolate mint mousse. When ordered the paper bag is peeled off and the chocolate sack is served over double boil hot fudge. The “Doggie Bag” is garnished with fresh baked sugar cookies cut to look like milk bones. I have not tasted such an exceptional dessert in a long time.
The doggie theme carries throughout the menu with all the burgers, made with Boyden Farms all natural ground beef, named after particular breeds. There is some type of canine logic to the names with the Chihuahua served with a side of quacamole. The barbeque ribs are slow roasted for 12 hours, Memphis style, and slide right off the bone. I combined my order with chicken, garnished in fabulous bbq sauce, along with wild rice and cole slaw. The bar steak, a six ounce filet mignon, is another house favorite. All steaks here are handcarved in the kitchen by Gracies’ chefs. Reservations are recommended. Call 802-253-8741.
Mike Cohen’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his travels at www.sandboxworld.com/travel and follow him as well on Twitter @mikecohencsl.