A short covered bridge used to be a quick picturesque route into Quechee Village, dropping visitors close to Simon Pearce’s flagship in Vermont, where tourists can watch workers create beautiful hand-blown glass or sample some of the region’s best dining. Then last August, flooding from Tropical Storm Irene along the Ottauquechee River tore a gaping hole through the road on the bridge’s village end that remains an eyesore, forcing tourists to take an alternate route. It’s worth the inconvenience. Nine months after the storm, the village is once again as fetching as any you’ll visit in New England and a fine destination for a summer getaway.
The Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm (1119 Quechee Main St., 802-295-3133, www.
queecheeinn.com. Rooms start at $110 for two on weekdays, $145 on weekends; suites start at $180 weekends, $215 weekends) is walking distance to the village and Simon Pearce, though many prefer to drive because the road is narrow. Dating to 1793, the inn was the residence of Vermont’s first lieutenant governor, Colonel Joseph Marsh. Book in advance for popular tourist weekends, and start planning now for autumn foliage. Those looking to save a little should check out the Quality Inn (5817 Woodstock Road, 802-295-7600, www.qualityinnquechee.com. Rooms for two on its online reservation site start at $105 most summer weekdays, and $135 most weekends; popular times can be more expensive), a short walk along Route 4 from Quechee Gorge.
To start the day, head to Dana’s by the Gorge (5945 Woodstock Road, 802-295-6066, www.danasbythegorge.com; breakfast entrees $6 to $8.50) featuring lots of offerings with Vermont maple syrup. For $8, try the popular Maple Walnut Special (French toast with a walnut crust and fresh fruit). Open 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., every day, Dana’s switches to a lunch menu at 11:45, and is a short walk from Quechee Gorge. Those within driving distance know the only thing better than going to dinner at Simon Pearce (1760 Quechee Main St., 802-295-2711, www.simon
pearce.com; lunch entrees $13-$18) is swinging by for lunch. The prices are lower, the food just as memorable. A bowl of the excellent Vermont cheddar soup is $7 for lunch; at night, you’ll pay $6 for a cup. At $15, the shepherd’s pie is a perennially popular choice on the lunch menu. In the evening, try the maple miso glazed salmon ($26, and a favorite in my household), which comes with snap peas, sesame sticky rice, and tamari ginger sauce. If you find yourself feeling peckish midday, a great snack break is a cone from Snack Bar at the Gorge (6053 Woodstock Road, small $2.95, medium $3.25, large $375) with Gifford’s Ice Cream. Try Maine Black Bear, a concoction of vanilla, raspberry syrup swirls, and chocolate chunks. Visitors looking for one of those special places favored by locals should try The Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm (see Stay; dinner entrees $23-$33). The prix-fixe, three-course meal for two is $24.50 per person on Wednesday, or $50 for two on Friday, when a glass of wine is included. Also consider the bruschetta muffuletta appetizer ($7) and my entrée default choice, the black jack tenderloin entree: a black pepper encrusted steak seared in a Jack Daniels bourbon cream sauce ($23).
DURING THE DAY
Quechee is in what’s known as the Upper Valley, a region of Vermont and New Hampshire that straddles the Connecticut River. Care to see it from up high? The Quechee Hot Air Balloon Craft and Music Festival (802-295-7900, www.quecheeballoon
festival.com) is Father’s Day weekend, June 15-17. Flooding from Irene prompted organizers to move from the old site, close to the river, to the grounds of Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm. Weather permitting, there are flights at 6 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $230 per person. Boots-on-the-ground fun can be had for children, parents, and nature buffs all ages at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (6565 Woodstock Road, Route 4, 802-359-5000, www.vinsweb.org; adults $12, seniors $11, children $10, ages 3 and younger free). The institute’s nature center and store offer programs, trails, and exhibits. Browse the Vermont Antique Mall in the Quechee Gorge Village shops (5573 Woodstock Road, 802-295-1550, www.quecheegorge.com), where you can also sample unusual cheese flavors at the Cabot Quechee Store. And of course there’s the gorge itself. The Ottauquechee River flows 165 feet below the bridge along Route 4. If looking straight down isn’t enough, a hiking trail takes you along the gorge, where you can dip your toes into the river.
Quechee is too small for much night life. If you stay in town, Tom Leonard, the night manager at Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm, also tends bar and seems incapable of anything short of an entertaining conversation. With a fireplace for cool nights, the spacious sitting area is a quietly elegant place to sip a glass of wine. Otherwise, head west on Route 4 to Woodstock, not quite 10 miles away, to Bentleys Restaurant (3 Elm St., 802-457-3232, www.bentleysrestaurant.com,), where depending on the night there’s usually an open mic, live music, or dancing. Closing times vary, based on the night’s activities.