Ambience galore in pocket of Weston, Vt.
One of the storied villages that hug the Green Mountain National Forest in southern Vermont, Weston is a lovely stop along scenic Route 100. One of its claims to fame is the Weston Playhouse, the oldest professional theater in Vermont. Another perennial favorite is the Vermont Country Store, founded in 1946, where you’ll find four buildings devoted to items that “must work, be useful, and make sense,” featuring everything from Tangee lipstick (a ’50s favorite) to union suits — not to mention a product called “Tired Old Ass Soak,” whose name says it all. Beyond that, there’s a priory, a mill museum, and a bit more shopping, but Weston is really more about ambience than activities. Its lovely town green — complete with Victorian bandstand — evokes a more gracious age, and reminds visitors that pockets of Olde New England still exist, especially in Vermont.
The most elegant place to stay in town is the Inn at Weston (630 Main St., 802-824-6789; www.innweston.com; rooms from $185), an 1848 property with a bonus: innkeeper Bob Aldrich’s spectacular collection of rare orchid species, nurtured in an adjacent greenhouse (and featured throughout the inn). Thirteen guest rooms — some in a carriage house, some in the Coleman House across the street, and the rest in the main inn — are prettily turned out. Some have fireplaces. Plus, the Weston Playhouse and the Vermont Country Store are within walking distance. Just a couple of miles south of the village, the pet-friendly Colonial House Inn & Motel (287 Route 100, 802-824-6286; www.cohoinn.com, rooms from $80) offers plenty of bang for the buck, including comfy, country-style furnishings and fresh baked goods. The inn also serves dinner Thursday through Saturday nights until mid-October. The Apple Knoll Inn (815 Route 100, 802-824-0051, www.appleknollinn.com; rates from $120) is an 1830s farmhouse, surrounded by conservation land and grazing cows. The West River borders the property. Guests of the five-room inn rave about the breakfasts (complimentary), especially the eggs Benedict.
There aren’t many places to eat in Weston, but if you don’t find what you’re looking for here, hit nearby Ludlow (northeast of Weston, where Okemo Mountain Resort is based). Try The Downtown Grocery (415 Depot St., Ludlow, 802-228-7566; www.thedowntowngrocery.com ), a hot spot for seasonal regional cuisine, where chef Rogan Lechthaler makes his own pasta and cures his own meats. Locally, the Inn at Weston (see above) offers inspired regional cuisine in a candlelit dining room, enhanced with live music from a pianist, or (in summer) on the deck or gazebo, surrounded by orchids. Chef Michael Kennedy ably executes a seasonal menu that might include maple-brined pork tenderloin with Vermont goat cheese ravioli ($28) or a cashew-crusted tofu “steak” with Asian vegetables and rice noodles in a green curry coconut cream ($23.) The honey lavender crème brûlée is worth the caloric splurge. You’ll no doubt visit the Vermont Country Store, so its Bryant House Restaurant (802-824-6287, www.vermontcountrystore.com, dinner entrees from $16) is a convenient option; they’ll announce that your table is ready over the store’s PA system. The menu is skewed to tourists looking for a taste of New England, so count on dishes like Yankee pot roast, clam chowder, Indian pudding, and even johnnycakes. (The signature item is chicken pot pie.) If you’re looking for a basic “burger and a beer” experience, or maybe your sweet tooth needs a little love, take a quick trip south on Route 100 to Londonderry, home of the New American Grill (5700 Route 100, Londonderry, 802-824-9844; www.newamericangrill.com; from $10.99). It’s set in a strip mall, but you won’t even notice as you dig into your Gorgonzola bread (the must-try appetizer), locally-sourced grass-fed burger, and (definitely) dessert — maybe the maple-bourbon bread pudding (best use of maple syrup we’ve encountered in Weston) or the fabulous apple crisp.
DURING THE DAY
The famous Vermont Country Store (657 Main St., 802-824-3184, www.vermontcountrystore.com) is a mail-order catalog business and a sprawling retail store that relies on “who knew they still made this anymore?” items like Lanz flannel nightgowns (and ruffled nightcaps) and “Evening in Paris” cologne, plus ingenious kitchen implements, penny candy, local cheeses, maple products, and old-timey products and potions you won’t find at your local CVS. There’s more shopping across the street at the Weston Village Store (660 Main St., 802-824-5477; www.westonvillagestore.com), smaller than the Vermont Country Store, stocked with puzzles, games, hardware, edibles, and a good selection of stuff for kids. For a more spiritual experience, attend one of the daily worship services at the Weston Priory (58 Priory Hill Road, 802-824-5409; www.westonpriory.org), maintained by the Benedictine brothers, who share the grounds with pigs, llamas, and sheep. They also operate a gift shop stocked with handmade pottery, jewelry, books, and carved wooded crosses. Services are simple, with music, and offer a peaceful respite for those of any faith. Outdoors, you’ve got the Green Mountains at your feet, with numerous hiking options like Little Rock Pond Trail, a gentle 4-mile section of the Appalachian Trail/Long Trail (www.fs.fed.us/r9/gmfl). For a short, sweet nature escape, visit Buttermilk Falls (Buttermilk Falls Road, off Route 103, Ludlow; www.vermontriverconservancy.org), where three small cascades flow into pools of clear, olive green water lined with boulders; on hot days, this spot serves as a local swimming hole.
One of the premier cultural hubs in southern Vermont, the Weston Playhouse (703 Main St., 802-824-5288; www.westonplayhouse.org; ticket prices vary) offers a seasonal lineup of Broadway plays, musicals, and new works; the current season ends Sept. 7. Main stage productions like “42nd Street” share the spotlight with a cabaret theater (now closed for the season), where Sunday Cabaret & Dinner ($40 per person) is a fun date-night event. You’ll also find a smattering of bars in Ludlow since it is, after all, a ski town much of the year. Try Tom’s Loft Tavern (300 Mountain Road, Ludlow, 802-228-5638). If you’re up for a drive to Manchester, there’s a fun bar called The Other Woman Tavern (2594 Depot St., 802-362-2817, www.perfectwife.com/PerfectWife/Tavern.html) at The Perfect Wife restaurant (sounds like a great spot for a reality TV series), with live music — funk, blues, jazz — on stage on weekends.