For as long as I can remember Manchester, VT has been my home away from home. My family owned a ski condo on Bromley Mountain when I was growing up and we spent almost every winter weekend there until I went away to college. My husband also feels incredibly connected to Manchester as his parents moved to the area when he was just 13. When we thought about where we wanted to get married Manchester seemed like the perfect place since it meant so much to both of us. And then just a few years after our wedding we decided to buy a place in town when we were pregnant with our first child. We knew it would be a place where we would always want to spend time. Some of our most meaningful memories have taken place in this area. It’s our “happy” place. A place where the mornings are slow, the attire is casual, and the fire pit is always blazing in the evening.
I think many people assume that Vermont is a winter destination but that is a big misconception. Vermont is fabulous during all four seasons – especially summer. For those of you heading North any time soon here is a list of my favorite destinations in the Manchester area. They are particularly great in the summer and fall. Leaf peepers come on up! Don’t forget to drop us a line when you are in the neighborhood.
Best Places to Eat:
The Silver Fork – This one is an intimate setting with a unique menu. It is perfect for a special date night. The food is fantastic. With only 6 tables it books up early so call ahead!
The Chantecleer Restaurant – The owners have been friends for more than 20 years and they even catered our wedding. The classic European food is some of the best I’ve ever had. The prices are expensive but well worth every penny. The restaurant is in an old converted barn and is the perfect balance of rustic and polished. In the winter we always request a table near the fireplace.
Seasons – This spot is relatively new to the scene and is ideal for families. We head here when we want a cozy meal. It’s very kid friendly and the menu has everything from pizza to a great piece of grilled fish.
Zoey’s Double Hex – Hands down the best burger and fries in the area. Their thin crispy onion shoestrings? Y.U.M. The prices are very reasonable and it’s very kid friendly as well.
Thai Basil – This Thai food rivals any we have had in NYC or CT. It’s authentic and has a few outdoor tables during the warmer months.
Zoey’s Sandwich Shop (Same owners as Zoey’s Double Hex) – They make their own bread and the sandwiches are the best you’ll ever have. They close mid-afternoon but it’s our favorite lunch spot. My husband opts for chicken salad with bacon and I always get the “Rachel” which is turkey, cheddar, and coleslaw. Delicious!
The Perfect Wife – Another great casual place for kids if you sit upstairs in the bar area (Locals call the upstairs area “The Other Woman”.) Fine dining is offered downstairs. They also play live music Friday and Saturday which is fun for adult cocktails!
Spiral Press Cafe – Best grill pressed egg and cheese sandwiches pre-skiing and their coffee bar is authentic and has a huge variety. Many guests have asked if we have a Starbucks in town. Spiral Press is our Starbucks. 🙂
Equinox Pond – This is our favorite place for a flat walk and great views. Located right behind the Equinox Hotel, this hike is appropriate for all ages. There ‘s a sweet little building on the pond where we had our rehearsal dinner.
Chipman Stables – We discovered these stables last year and the girls have had a blast taking riding lessons western style. The owner is friendly and does her best to accommodate last minute requests for trail rides too!
Grout Pond – Incredible camp sites and a beautiful body of water. When I was 6 months pregnant with my third we decided to camp out for a night at Grout Pond. It was memorable to say the least. The camp sites have wooden frames to keep tents dry and off the ground and almost all of the sites have a metal drums for safe fires. The pond is also a great place for a swim or hike even if you aren’t camping.
Emerald Lake – This lake is a great place to spend an entire day. Pack a picnic and bring your own canoe. If you don’t have a boat you can also rent paddle boards, canoes, peddle boats and rowboats by the hour. There are some epic rope swings along the water’s edge and a wonderful hiking path around the lake. There is also a good bathroom and changing area which is a rarity at most VT ponds and lakes.
Hapgood Pond – This Pond has another great hiking trail and every time we are there we find frogs, newts, snakes, and fish. They have camp sites and running water. Perfect for first time campers. There are also picnic tables and a cordoned off area around a small “beach” so that swimming is safe for all ages.
Pikes Falls – These water falls and swimming hole near Stratton Mountain are awesome! Beware – there is an old man who lives nearby and frequents the falls sans-suit! Aside from that it’s a short hike to the swimming hole and a really fun place to jump in.
Little Rock Pond – This hike is not for the faint of heart. It’s a little steeper and a little “rougher” as you hop over streams and navigate big boulders on the path. After a two mile hike the Pond is breathtaking and on the far side there is quite a “jump” for those who are real daredevils like my husband.
Bromley Brook – This one is tough to track down. It’s right in Manchester so email me directly for details.
Taylor Farm – This dairy farm that makes incredible cheese on site is one of our favorite places to go. They are open to the public and love visitors. We walk amongst the cows and chickens and the kids buy a bucket of animal food for $1 and the animals eat right out of their hands. John the farmer who owns the place is super nice and loves answering questions about farming. Don’t miss this one in the spring when all the baby animals are born!
Mad Tom Orchard – We never miss a season at Mad Tom. The apple picking is incredible. They have all different varieties of apples and I cold store them all winter to make pies and crisps well into the spring.
Wildwood Berry Farm – This berry farm is incredible. Raspberries are usually in season in June and blueberries in July. We leave their farm with pounds and pounds of berries. And sadly we pay about the same price for pounds of berries here that we do for a few ounces at the grocery store in Connecticut! The berries are great to freeze too!
Bromley Mountain – Bromley Mountain is perfect for families. The lodge has been the same for decades and the whole mountain has a very old-school feeling. During the summer the alpine slides are awesome and they’ve added bungee trampolines, a massive bouncy castle and a terrific water slide. They serve food and alcohol and we often spend an entire day there hanging out.
Stratton Mountain – Stratton is where we skied before having kids. The terrain is more steep and more diverse. They have a few different lodges and snow tubing aprés ski is really fun. In the off season the hiking at Stratton is great because the gondola runs year-round and will take you up to see the views and then you can hike down. Stratton hosts some interesting food and music festivals too!
Favorites for a Rainy Day:
Northshire Bookstore – This bookstore is a total destination! (Spiral Press Cafe is located on the first level.) Their children’s section is spectacular and the books/magazines for adults are excellent as well. I could spend hours perusing the aisles. They have great gifts too – a lot of local VT brands!
Village Picture Shows – This is the only movie theater within a 20 mile radius. I remember Saturday nights at this theater when I was growing up. It’s teeny tiny but gets the job done. Prices are 1/3 less than at a big chain theater. A Kickstarter campaign kept them from disappearing a few years back and we are so grateful.
The list keeps going and going… There is also a great bike trail in Danby and countless other hikes as well. Come to VT. It doesn’t disappoint!