Travelers don’t go to Vermont for the finery of the city. The Green Mountain state is an escape from 24-hour urban culture. When it comes to accommodation, the philosophy manifests best in the quaint country inn, heavily imbued with New England tradition and nostalgia for more a simple, innocent past. The 21st century has indeed arrived in Vermont, but our hearts remain true to the old spirit, and so do our inns. The following represent the cream of the crop.
Willard Street Inn – Burlington
As Vermont’s largest city and home to almost 20,000 college students, Burlington tends to embrace the trendy, boutique style of accommodation, as at the recently opened Hotel Vermont. But a few country style inns still cling to the slopes of the city. The finest, Willard Street Inn, resides in the “Hill Section,” famous for its 19th century mansions of industry barons and old money elites. Built in 1881 by one of them, the inn blends Georgian, Queen Anne, and Victorian design in the red brick exterior. Step inside and the cherry paneled lobby impresses further, but not as much as the glass breakfast room overlooking perhaps Burlington’s best back garden. Upstairs, 16 rooms take up 3 floors, each with period-appropriate names and personalities, like Alexandra’s Alcove and Victorian Cabernet. The favorite remains Champlain Lookout, which looks out to Lake Champlain. Rooms start at $150.
There’s a distinct cinematic quality along the windy drive up the hill to the Wilburton Inn in Manchester. At the top sits a brick Tudor style mansion built in 1902 and still the largest private estate in the area. There’s no need to muse “if these walls could talk” here, they do. The furnishings memorabilia, posters, artwork and dark wood trim seemed imbued with a living spirit that makes the portraits seem to gaze at you. In the back, the large plate glass windows of the breakfast room open up a gorgeous view over neighboring Hildene (Estate of Robert Todd Lincoln) and the rolling green hills beyond. The main house includes 11 rooms, and more can be found in additional cottages on the 25 acre property. The grounds are also home to a wonderfully odd sculpture trail, which manifests co-innkeeper’s Dr. Albert J. Levis’s philosophy of psychodynamics and moral sciences. Rooms start at $115.
Barrow House – Dorset
When it comes to town greens, few can compete with elegant Dorset. Home to the oldest marble quarry in the country, the town still gleams and sparkles when the sun touches the milky white stone, often directly underfoot. Just down the road, the Barrows House, built in 1804, has re-opened its doors after extensive renovations in 2012. The exterior keeps to its Greek Revival upbringing, but the scene inside follows a slow progress to modernity, ending at the bar and restaurant in the back, which sports a long burnished metal bar, back-lit marble, and delicious pomegranate martinis. The 18 rooms, 9 suites, and 3 cottages achieve a similar balance, with traditional fireplaces and hardwood floors mating with Jacuzzi tubs and fabrics mercifully free of flora. Rooms start at $145.
Forty Putney Road – Brattleboro
Following her innkeeping dreams north, Rhonda Calhoun purchased this French style manse in Brattleboro and re-spun it with her own colorful touches. From the mini-fridges stocked with complimentary drinks and snacks to her own blend of tea, you’ll quickly feel more like a guest than a customer. The communal feeling is encouraged further in the shared spaces, with roaring fires, a pool table, and beer tastings. Forty Putney Road also boasts one of the prettiest backyards in the state, overlooking the West River. Numerous walking trails extend alongside and the 4-person hot tub awaits your return. Rooms start at $159.
Mount Philo Inn — Charlotte
If you’re coming with friends or loved ones in tow, the new Mt. Philo Inn in Charlotte is just the spot. Instead of single rooms, the property is divided into four multi-bedroom wings, complete with stocked kitchens and probably the loveliest welcome basket in the state. The interior seamlessly blends classic New England zeitgeist (woody aroma included), with a modern, almost steampunky renovation that features the best of Vermont’s arts community on the walls. The inn also excels in its stunning view of Lake Champlain (from your own porch or balcony) and backyard, which leads directly into Mount Philo State Park. Rooms (wings) start at $160.
The INN – Montgomery
Beneath Vermont’s northernmost ski resort, Jay Peak, the town of Montgomery makes its living serving and servicing the thousands of bunnies and boarders that arrive each winter from Canada, New York, and beyond. Nick Barletta and Scott Pasfield wanted to bring a bit of flair to the mountain, purchasing the former Trout River Inn and giving it a complete makeover. The result, the INN, is perhaps the coziest and most stylish in the state, with multiple wood fires, plush sofas, and a homey Northern Exposure vibe that extends to the hotel’s bar and restaurant. Add in a lobster mac and cheese and the evening is complete. Rooms start at $139
All photos by Mike Dunphy
Mike Dunphy stayed as a guest of the above hotels.