Woodstock, Vermont, may not be the first place you’d think of for a family vacation, but it should be. The kid-friendly Woodstock Inn & Resort is only the beginning of the town’s charms.
Family packages aren’t just an afterthought at Vermont’s Woodstock Inn. We realized that as we were checking in and eight-year-old Mary struck up a conversation with another family just arriving. There were enough children there on Friday evening that the inn provided supervised games and entertainment so parents could enjoy a leisurely dinner at their fine dining restaurant.
Not that Mary would miss the opportunity to join us at a good restaurant. And even though The Red Rooster offers one of the most interesting and original children’s menus I have ever seen, she eschewed that for the adult menu – which she can now read herself. She made a serious dent in a juicy extra-thick porkchop garnished with walnut-shallot marmalade while we had roasted Cornish game hen, and scallops with herb pesto.
The menu is a classic of Yankee understatement. No fancy descriptions, just the ingredients, along with a list of the local growers and producers whose ingredients make up the majority of dishes. Instead of depending on the descriptions, the chef relies on the preparation to create memorable meals. The nine entrees on the children’s menu include salmon and shrimp (fried, grilled or steamed).
Our two-room suite gave us plenty of space, along with two bathrooms, plush robes and bath amenities created by a local producer of fine soaps and lotions, made with naturally fragrant lemon balm.
All inn guests receive complimentary admission to the outstanding Billings Farm and Museum, within walking distance of the inn. Programs all day long introduce visitors to the herd of 60 Jersey cows and a nursery full of spindly-legged calves. At milking time, kids delight in learning how to milk a cow.
After touring the barn, we visited the mid-1800s farmhouse and learned how butter was made and kept in an icehouse filled with blocks of ice cut from a nearby pond. Mary learned to stencil on Saturday and returned on Sunday morning to make wool balls from the raw wool of the farm’s sheep.
Across the street from the Billings Farm is the Rockefeller Mansion, surrounded by the beautiful flower gardens and nation’s oldest managed forest, now the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. On a walk guided by a ranger, Mary learned to identify stinging nettles before they bit her and saw a deer at the edge of the woods.
We could have signed up for a tour of the art-filled mansion, but chose instead to go kayaking, arranged for us by the concierge desk at the Woodstock Inn. Since eight was the minimum age, Mary was able to paddle her own kayak on a trip of about three miles along a hill-bordered river. We stayed close to the shore, where we met a family of ducks and spotted a bank covered in beautiful blue forget-me-nots. The inn could also have arranged for bicycles, so we could cycle on back-country roads and along the river or we could have walked more of the trails on Mount Tom, through the national park.
The Inn is part of an extensive resort with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a complete fitness center, golf course, hiking trails, gift shop and three restaurants. In the winter the Inn’s ski area, Suicide Six, is free to guests on weekdays.
Guests who opt for the family package also get free admission to both VINS, a raptor rehabilitation center, and the Montshire Museum, a science and natural history learning center for all ages, but especially geared to children. The package includes the inn’s bountiful breakfast buffet, with a selection of hot dishes, baked goods and abundant fresh fruits and berries. It was there that Mary and I discovered the joys of buffalo yogurt, which the inn laces with pure maple syrup – the perfect topping for fresh berries.
Although Woodstock is best known for its boutiques and art galleries, we’re glad we believed the Inn’s promise of a weekend filled with family fun.