Driving up Interstate 91 in Vermont, it’s easy to speed past tiny Windsor without blinking an eye. Perhaps this is the reason author J.D. Salinger chose this area to spend his famously reclusive life. A better way to discover this charming New England town is to drive the Vermont stretch of the Connecticut River Scenic Byway, or US Route 5, along the New Hampshire border — Windsor is connected to Cornish, N.H., Salinger’s hometown, by bridge. The drive along this two-lane road will entice with a surprising array of outdoor recreational opportunities, fascinating museums, and one-of-a-kind attractions.
There are a number of chain hotels 15 miles north in White River Junction, but Windsor boasts some excellent lodging options of its own. Housed in a 19th-century brick home with a rich history (past owners include William Maxwell Evarts, a former US attorney general and secretary of state, and Maxwell Perkins, legendary book editor), the Snapdragon Inn (26 Main St., 802-227-0008, www.snap
dragoninn.com, rooms from $269) features eight luxurious rooms, spa services, and a free continental breakfast. The Juniper Hill Inn (153 Pembroke Road, 802-674-5273, www.juniperhillinn.com, rooms from $165) is a 111-year-old home listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located along a quiet, wooded road atop its namesake hill. The 16-room inn serves up scenic Upper Valley views, a country breakfast, and fireplaces in most rooms. The Holiday Inn Club Vacations at Ascutney Mountain Resort (485 Hotel Road, Brownsville, 802-484-7711, www.ihg.com, villas from $149) offers ample options for enjoying the fall foliage. Outdoor adventurers will enjoy hiking or going for a bike ride, while weekend fitness warriors will enjoy tennis, swimming in the indoor pool, or working out in a fully equipped fitness facility. There is also an onsite restaurant, Brown’s Tavern.
The Windsor Diner (135 Main St., 802-674-5555, www.thewindsordinervt.com, entrees $6-$15) was one of Salinger’s favorite destinations. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner all day, and is famous for its burger baskets and other comfort-food creations. The Brownsville General Store (871 Route 44, Brownsville, 802-484-7450, www.brownsvillegeneral
store.com, breakfast $4-$7) has a simple yet delicious menu for breakfast including giant pancakes with blueberries, apples, or caramelized bananas. At Boston Dreams (7 State St., 802-230-4107, www.bostondreams.com) you can enjoy a coffee, espresso, smoothie, or ice cream while admiring memorabilia from the Red Sox glory years. Eat your heart out Yankee fans. Brown’s Tavern at Ascutney Mountain Resort (see above, entrees $10-$25) features steaks, seafood, pasta, and pub food in a casual atmosphere. The Harpoon Brewery Riverbend Taps and Garden (336 Ruth Carney Drive, 802-674-5491, www.harpoonbrewery.com, sandwiches, salads $6-$11) lets guests sample some of the Boston brewer’s favorite hand-crafted beers paired with one of its savory sandwiches or salads. Vittles Stop Barbecue (19½ Union St., 802-674-6776, www.tlcvittles.com, entrees $4-$16 per person) is a true New England hidden jewel, serving barbecue chicken, pork, and brisket that is delightfully sweet, spicy, and savory. Cathy Lohoski, a co-owner who refers to herself as granny, minds the open barbecue pit on Union Street from April to October. Pulled-pork sandwiches with Vittles Stop Spuds (garlic-roasted, herbed potatoes) are not to be missed.
DURING THE DAY
The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge (Bridge Street off of US 5, www.virtualvermont.com/coveredbridges/windcorn.html) crosses the Connecticut River between New Hampshire and Vermont and is one of the nation’s longest covered bridges. The view of the river and bridge with Mount Ascutney in the backdrop is one of the most picturesque scenes in New England. Mount Ascutney State Park (1826 Back Mountain Road, 802-674-2060, www.vtstateparks.com) boasts spectacular views of the Upper Valley and is open until Oct. 20 for hiking and camping. The Path of Life Garden (36 Park Way, 802-674-9933, www.pathoflife
garden.com, $6 admission) is another of Windsor’s truly unique attractions. The Japanese-inspired garden is in Artisans Park (www.artisanspark.net) on the banks of the Connecticut River. It displays sculptures that symbolize different aspects of life including creativity, contemplation, adventure, and community. Next to the garden is Great River Outfitters (36 Park Way, 802-674-9933, www.greatriveroutfitters.com, float trips $20 and up), which can hook you up with canoeing, kayaking, and tubing trips through Columbus Day, and dogsledding trips in the winter. Also in Artisans Park is the Simon Pearce glassblowing and pottery store (109 Park Road, 802-674-6280, www.simonpearce.com), and the Harpoon Brewery (see information above). The brewery has regular guided tours and tastings on weekends. Octoberfest takes place on the second weekend of October. Locavores will want to hit the Sustainable Farmer (71 Artisans Way, 802-674-4260, www.mysustainable
farmer.com), which sells a variety of locally sourced products, and the Silo Vodka Distillery (3 Artisans Way, 802-674-4220, www.silovodka.com), which distills its signature product from local grain. Outside Artisans Way is the Cider Hill Gardens and Gallery (1747 Hunt Road, 802-674-6825, www.ciderhillvt.com, open weekends through October) with its mixture of beautifully manicured gardens and fine art. For history enthusiasts, the American Precision Museum (196 Main St., 802-674-5781, www.american
precision.org, admission $8, open through Oct. 31; free on Sundays) displays the largest collection of historically significant machine tools in the nation. Located in the old Robbins and Laurence Armory, a National Historic Landmark, the museum is featuring a number of exhibits showcasing the role of Vermonters in the Civil War, including the construction of rifles for the Union Army.
Windsor’s nightlife options are limited, but there is the newly opened Windsor Station Tavern (26 Depot Ave., 802-674-4180, entrees $9-$26) in the historic Windsor Train Station building offering dinner, a full bar, and a function area. The Skunk Hollow Tavern (12 Brownsville Road, 802-436-2139, www.skunk
hollowtavern.com) is 6 miles north of Windsor in Hartland Four Corners, and offers open-mike nights on Wednesdays and live music on Fridays.