Let it snow; let the winds blow. Let Old Man Winter howl. These four country inns beckon you to stay inside with fine food, warming fires, and lush furnishings. A stay at one of these cozy properties can make you love a New England winter — at least for a night or two.
The Inn at Weathersfield
As first impressions go, this country inn makes a fine one. Twinkling lights beckoned in the distance as we drove down the inn's long driveway. Outside, as we approached the door, we could smell wood smoke and hear soft music and laughter. Inside, a fire blazed in the large colonial fireplace near the entrance; another warmed the dining room.
Housed in a 1792 farmhouse and carriage barn in Weathersfield, Vt., the 12-room inn has exposed beams, weathered pine floors, and antiques. It's charming, but it's also up-to-date. Rooms have top-of-the-line linens, private baths (some with spa tubs and separate tile showers), flat-screen TVs and queen or king beds; 10 rooms have fireplaces. Climb skinny stairs to your nest-like room and you might not want to leave. But you will. The inn's kitchen is under the helm of Michael Ehlenfeldt, who spent 14 years as the executive sous chef for renowned chef Gordon Hamersley. Grab a high top in the tavern (or on one of the slouchy couches and chairs) for cocktails and to listen to live music. Then head to the rustic-chic, low-lit dining room, with white linen tablecloths, wood paneling, and an original beamed ceiling, to enjoy ultra-fresh, local dishes (90 percent of what they serve comes from within 20 miles), like house-made sausages, Vermont artisan cheeses, farm raised alpaca bolognese, and a hearty cassoulet with braised pork shoulder, garlic sausage, and duck confit. The inn also offers year-round, hands-on cooking classes, taught by cookbook authors and visiting chefs, in The Hidden Kitchen, a modern facility housed in an old barn loft, located on the 21-acre property.
1342 Route 106 Weathersfield, Vt., 802-263-9217, www.weathersfieldinn.com, rates start at $109.
Rabbit Hill Inn
When was the last time you had breakfast in bed or spent an afternoon lounging next to a fireplace reading a book or working on a puzzle? This oh-so-cozy inn tucked in the northeast corner of Vermont was made for relaxation (and romance). The meticulously restored and updated inn, made up of an 18th-century tavern, main house, and carriage house, is surrounded by mountains, snow-covered meadows, starry skies, and not much else. If you must move, take a snowshoe hike around the property, exploring 10 acres or so of trails, or continue along trails leading to the Connecticut River, before afternoon tea in the parlor and evening cocktails in the inn's Snooty Fox Pub. Dinner is a not-to-be-missed event, with beautifully-presented and sophisticated dishes like the peekytoe crab appetizer served with a sea urchin curd and kumquat confit. Entrees may include dishes like the cider-braised pork shoulder and homemade truffled cavatelli pasta. End the meal with the chocolate fig pie topped with whiskey cream, and thank the stars above that you have only steps to go to your room.
There are 19 unique rooms, each with private baths, lush linens, antiques, and Vermont artifacts. Popular rooms include the Hampshire in the Main House, with a paneled ceiling, carved woodwork, a king sleigh bed, and a corner gas fireplace; the cabin-style Cedar Glen with pine and cedar floors and walls, a king, four-poster pine-log bed, whirlpool tub, and gas fireplace, and the more contemporary Tavern Secret, tucked in the back of the 1795 House, with a private deck, glass-enclosed shower, spa shower, two-person 48-jet tub, and a gas fireplace. You'll be tempted to call in sick on Monday to stay another night.
48 Lower Waterford Road, Lower Waterford, Vt., 802-748-5168, www.rabbithillinn.com, rates start at $170
York Harbor Inn
It's frigid outside and the surf is up. No worries: You're snuggled under a heap of warm, lush linens watching the waves pound the shore and flames blaze in the corner fireplace. You'll be tempted to hibernate day and night in this luxurious room, with a four-poster bed and handsome, traditional furnishings. It's not a bad option; it's just not the best option. No hurries, but you'll want to climb out of that lazy luxury and eventually venture over to one of the pubs at the Main Inn. The Ship's Cellar Pub is our favorite, a basement-level, nautical-themed space that makes you feel like you've descended into the cabin of a luxury yacht. Rich, mahogany paneled walls, exotic woods, porthole windows, and a bowed ceiling add to the below-deck ambience. Nestle into one of the leather settees, where you can enjoy a bowl of steaming lobster-corn chowder or creamy lobster mac and cheese, followed by main dishes like the lobster stuffed chicken, Cambodian style shrimp and scallops, or the popular beef filet topped with a crab cake and a pile of lobster meat. (The same menu is offered in the upstairs, more formal dining room and lounge.)
The inn has six separate buildings, including Chapman Cottage and 1730 Harbor Court, which are about a half-mile from the Main Inn. In winter, we'd recommend staying at the Main Inn or adjacent buildings, where you're steps away from the dining rooms and pubs.
480 York St., Route 1A, York Harbor, Maine, 800-343-3869, www.yorkharborinn.com, rates start at $129
This rambling, romantic inn, perched on the slopes of Foss Mountain, overlooking the Presidential Range, has the perfect location for a de-stress, reconnect getaway. It's quiet, and private and beautiful, surrounded by pine forests and snow-blanketed fields. The vibe is casual and relaxed, thanks to innkeepers Kevin Flynn and Jen Kovach, who offer warm, pampering service without being intrusive. Seventeen rooms in three separate buildings are bright and spacious, decorated with casual furnishings and country décor; some have fireplaces and most have mountain views.
If you're craving some crisp air and exercise, the inn's on-site Snowshoe Center offers rentals and guided daytime and moonlight tours. After your winter wonderland hike, head to Max's Restaurant and Pub, in the Main Inn. Snag a table near the fireplace, and nibble on pork-stuffed dumplings or moist lamb lollipops. There's a selection of tavern fare (try Max's burger with mushroom sauce, caramelized onions, and Vermont Alehouse cheddar) and entrees like local rack of lamb, duck, and beef tenderloin. Still feeling antsy? You can always drive into bustling North Conway, about 10 minutes away, with a slew of activities and outlet shopping.
136 Stewart Road, Eaton, N.H., 603-447-2818, www.snowvillageinn.com, rates start at $149.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.