By David Miles
Picture this. You’re standing in the middle of the Woodstock village green. It is a beautiful summer day, the kind that Vermont is known for. Maples abound on the green itself while stately pines tower on the surrounding hillsides. Fascinating architecture surrounds you. In addition to the civic buildings, you’ll find federal and Greek Revival houses dominating the main streets. A few steps to the east you’re in the heart of the village business district with a variety of unique and charming shops. A mere half-mile to the north you come to the Billings Farm & Museum and the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, two of the premiere attractions in central Vermont. A short drive away are many other amenities and interesting stops. Why would you want to be anywhere else?
Back on the Green, the Windsor County Courthouse (built in 1855) and the Norman Williams Library anchor one side, with the Woodstock Inn and Resort set further back nearby. On the opposite side is the Middle Covered Bridge one of three picturesque covered bridges in the town (not the village!) that span the Ottauquechee River as it flows eastward out of the highlands down to the Connecticut River.
Nearby is the Town Hall Theatre, home of Woodstock’s Pentangle Council on the Arts. This nonprofit organization has enriched the local quality of life by bringing world-class performing artists and sponsoring other events for over three decades. Check Pentangle’s schedule elsewhere in this issue- no matter when you visit, there will be some sort of Pentangle performance to enjoy. Thursday afternoon brown-bag concerts on the green are always popular for locals and visitors alike. Pentangle shows first-run films in the Theater Friday through Monday evenings and with an eclectic mixture of music from jazz to classical to bluegrass the organization truly appeals to all tastes.
Also just off the green you’ll find four historic churches from the 1805 wooden Congregational Church to the 1903 stone Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church. With the St. James Church and the Universalist Church equally close, the civic architecture continues to please. Revere bells in the towers of two of the churches add to the history.
On the green you will find a small visitor’s information booth while just off the green on Mechanic Street is the larger, more modern structure with comfortable public restrooms. Whether you’re here for half a day or a week you’ll find a wide array of literature to help you plan your visit and some local knowledge that can go far beyond what you will find in print.
Depending on your tastes, one of the most useful brochures may be the “Walk Woodstock” trail map. Open the map to discover 30 miles of historic trails meandering over Mount Tom and Mount Peg, some of which give you spectacular overlooks of the village. Some trails connect with the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park. Traversing them allows you to commune with Vermont’s natural world, and also with the same beauty that inspired the early conservation movement in this nation.
That conservation theme is carried out in your visit to the National Park and then cross the road to visit the Billings Farm and Museum, a modern operating dairy farm that also allows you to explore Vermont farm life from over a century ago. In addition to the farm there is an authentically restored 1890s farmhouse, an expansive museum and a long list of summer programs. For more information on both the park and the farm, see the separate articles elsewhere in this insert.
Having visited the farm museum and national park, complete your historic experience by visiting the Dana House Museum of the Woodstock History Center on Elm Street. Here you’ll see a historically accurate recreation of an upper middle class merchant’s home, lavishly decorated and full of historic artifacts. The museum also features exhibits and photographs, a barn full of historic implements and an expansive research library. If your idea of walking leans more towards strolling among the shops of the village, you won’t be disappointed either. The mixture of shopping opportunities is sure to surprise – and delight – you. Among several art galleries is the Woodstock Gallery located at 6 Elm Street where you’ll find everything from folk art to fine art. A number of New England and Vermont artists have been featured including local favorite Sabra Field. Next door is the adjoining Clover Gift Shop with unique gifts, beautiful quilts and a host of other New England products.
Also downtown is the Unicorn on Central Street with a collection of gifts and novelty items that range from “the sublime to the ridiculous” according to Owner Jeffrey Kahn. For over 30 years, Kahn and his crew have been selling jewelry and cards and pocketknives and a whole host of other items far too unique to categorize other than to say they are both delightful and fun.
Next door is the Whippletree, a favorite among knitters and sewers and those who just love fibers. With a large variety of patterns, a selection of fibers both natural and exotic, and lots of personal attention from a warm and knowledgeable staff, you don’t have to be an expert to stop in here. Plus the store offers a number of teaching classes as well. If cooking is more your style than knitting, be sure to visit Aubergine to find a large collection of essential tools, gourmet foods and harder-to-find, more eclectic kitchenware. Owner Mima Roberts says that she and husband Todd are fond of encouraging people to stay home, prepare their own special meals and create their own great memories.
Further east at 49 Central Street is Noushka. Whimsical items from all over the world will charm you here. Fun gift ideas abound among their imaginative playthings, organic baby section, arts and crafts supplies, greeting cards, books, bedding and more.
Thistle Bath & Body is right next door. Take care of yourself with handmade soaps with fragrances that will capture you from citrusy to woodsy to spicy. Breathe it all in! Continuing east on Central Street brings you to Allechante, a bakery and cafÃ© that will tantalize your taste buds with the artisan breads, cheeses, and both sandwiches and paninis made to order. Enjoy a break from your busy day of shopping while sipping an espresso or cappuccino at one of the tables in front of the store.
Good food abounds elsewhere in the village and town as well. Head west out of the village on Route Four for a number of options. One fun place to find food will be the Woodstock Farmer’s Market. In a self-described “busy, crazy” atmosphere you’ll find take-out prepared dinners and lunches, regular groceries, fresh organic produce and meats and everything in between. You might want to check out their fun website at www.woodstockfarmersmarket.com.
The White Cottage in West Woodstock is a local tradition. Woodstockers have been sitting on the banks of the beautiful Ottauquechee for over 50 years munching on char-broiled burgers, foot-long hot dogs and fresh whole fried clams followed by ice cream, both soft-serve and hard, with over 30 varieties.
Another mile or two west brings you to Mangowood Restaurant at the Lincoln In. Chef/Owner Teresa Tan has created a quiet little culinary mecca with contemporary American cuisine, where “east meets west,” and the result is sublime. Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday and reservations are recommended. Call (802) 457-3342 or check out www.mangowood.com. Nearby is the Lincoln Covered Bridge, the second of the three covered bridges in the town.
Back on the green is the Red Rooster Restaurant at the Woodstock Inn & and Resort. With the freshest of local foods, the dining experience here matches the luxury that everybody has come to expect at one of Vermont’s most beautiful addresses. Luxuriate in newly renovated rooms and take up the challenge of prime golfing at the Robert Trent Jones Sr. 18-hole course at the Woodstock Country Club -with its twelve water crossings. Enjoy the many health-inducing amenities at the Racquet and Fitness Club, including Mid Vermont Tennis with camps for all levels, private lessons and walk-in clinics. Your stay here will truly be refreshing and as they like to say, “Classically Vermont . . . . Uniquely Woodstock.”
If pampering yourself is your goal perhaps you will want to visit Brenda Blakeman and her skilled staff at the First Impressions Unisex salon for hair styling, manicures, pedicures and massage. Brenda and company have a loyal clientele of locals and second home owners. Likewise, visitors who drop in are delighted at the treatment they receive. One of Brenda’s specialties is bridal services.
Perhaps toning up a bit is what you had in mind. Then you might visit the Woodstock Recreation Center just west of the Green on U.S. Route 4. A full fitness center includes state-of-the-art equipment, plenty of room and expert staff. In addition you can swim in one of two pools. Take the little ones over to Vail Field where you’ll find a playground and tennis courts. Two outdoor basketballs courts are available for hoop-lovers of all ages.
Maybe it’s time to explore just beyond the village. If that is the case, head to River Road near the Billings Farm & Museum and follow the signs to Sugarbush Farm. It’s well marked, just look for the yellow signs! Learn how maple syrup is made while visiting with Betsy Luce about her family’s farming history. Bring a taste of Vermont back home with you, choosing from 16 kinds of cheese, many varieties of jam and mustard, and of course that maple syrup.
Driving south or east of the village will bring you to one of two general stores. Five miles south on Route 106 is the South Woodstock Country Store and Gourmet Deli. This popular spot offers a complete line of breakfast and lunch sandwiches, pastries, comfort foods and more. You can also pick up groceries or beverages here.
Meanwhile three miles east is the hamlet of Taftsville (and the third and oldest of those covered bridges). You must stop at the historic Taftsville Country Store and meet with proprietor Charlie Wilson. Its shelves hold a large selection of Vermont cheeses, fine wines and cigars, syrup and specialty foods and other necessities.
With everyone watching pennies these days, it’s tough to pass up a bargain. Many of these can be found at the Yankee Exchange Consignment at 2178 Maxham Meadow Way in Woodstock. Here you’ll find upscale resale clothing for women and children as well as books, toys, games and sporting goods. Call (802) 457-1577.
There are many realtors who can help fulfill your dreams of owning a piece of property in this special corner of God’s Country. Check out their advertisements that appear elsewhere in this publication.
River Bend Home and Garden carries a complete line of plants, pottery and outdoor decorations. It’s a great place to find a gift. They’re located on Route 12 between Woodstock and Barnard.
Before you relax after a long day of being a tourist, stop at Woodstock Beverage on Route 4 at the east end of town for a complete selection of fine wine and spirits, hard to find beers, cigars and other adult treats.
While fueling your vehicle at Maplefields, check out the snacks and fresh pastries, the many flavors of Green Mountain Coffee, beer and wine and a full line of Vermont products. Maplefields is an excellent example of what makes Woodstock so special. When a second convenience store was being built in the village, where did it go but into a brick building that housed a car dealership some 80 years ago. Retaining those historical roots is much of what makes Woodstock a special and unique place to visit, whether for a couple of hours or several days.
You’ll be glad you did!