Updated: Mar 22, 2022
STORY BY BENJAMIN LERNER
PAINTINGS BY PETER HUNTOON
To reach Manchester, follow route 7A North through the verdant and picturesque fields of Southwestern Vermont. This charming town stands in the middle of an idyllic valley, framed by tall and majestic mountains that provide breathtaking panoramic views. With cherished cultural institutions, renowned restaurants, outdoor adventures, and enticing shops and boutiques, Manchester is the perfect place for a magnificent Vermont sojourn.
As you drive towards the center of town on route 7A, turn right onto River Road, and then turn left onto Wilburton Drive. After making your way up the curving driveway, you will arrive at the Wilburton Inn. With exquisitely-appointed suites, cottages and houses equipped with modern amenities and an on-site pool and tennis courts, this stylish sanctuary is ideal for romantic getaways, family vacations and restful retreats. The Wilburton Inn welcomes groups of up to 100 people and is a prime location for reunions, weddings, and festive gatherings. Check in for the night, drop your bags, and get ready to enjoy a memorable afternoon in Manchester.
Manchester is home to a vibrant arts scene, including some beautifully-curated galleries.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the world-renowned Tilting at Windmills on Highland Avenue features paintings from such modern masters as Hale Johnson, Gerald Lubeck, and Gunter Korus.
On Depot Street, Helmholz Fine Art houses spectacular works from artists Elizabeth Torak, Rita Dee, Douglas Flackman, Lisa Cueman, and more. The gallery has an inviting and refined ambience, and its passionate owner Lisa Helmholz-Adams is always delighted to share her knowledge with visiting patrons.
Looking to browse a splendid assortment of locally created art and artisan craftworks? Epoch Artisans Gallery on Main Street has you covered. This artist-owned and operated gallery spotlights the works of Vermont-based artists, sculptors and craftspeople, and is staffed by many of the artists themselves. Highlights of their collection include handmade furniture from Bob Gasperetti, meticulously-crafted pottery by Nick Seidner, and stunning spherical rock sculptures by Jen Herzer.
Looking for something more nostalgic? Down the street from Epoch on Main Street, a family-friendly destination beckons. At Pastime Pinball, visitors are granted access to a vast array of vintage pinball machines and classic arcade games. The machines are thoughtfully arranged in chronologically-ordered sections that are organized by time period and theme. Upstairs, their snack bar offers classic tasty treats such as root beer floats, nachos, popcorn, chicken tenders, soft-baked pretzels, and Vermont-made craft beer and hard cider.
Looking to explore the outdoors? For an energizing hike, head to The Equinox Preservation Trust trails. To reach the trail access point, head west on Seminary Avenue from Main Street and then make a right on West Union Street. The access point parking lot will be on your right, and the trail leading from the parking lot will lead you to a network of trails suitable for hikers of all experience levels. For a mellow and relaxing hike, follow the Red Gate Trail to the Pond Loop, which leads to the tranquil and shimmering waters of Equinox Pond. Experienced hikers in search of a more strenuous and intense hike will no doubt prefer to test their mettle on the Blue Summit trail. Be sure to hike at a level that is safely in line with your fitness abilities, bring plenty of water and snacks, and dress in a manner that is appropriate for the season. Trail maps are available at the Equinox Preservation Trust website, and the owners of local outdoor goods stores are happy to provide tips for a safe and enjoyable hiking adventure.
Whether you’ve spent your afternoon sauntering through art galleries, testing your digital dexterity with a spirited game of pinball, or hiking up a pristine mountain trail, you certainly have earned a delicious celebratory meal!
Looking for a night of romance? Check out The Silver Fork on the southern end of Main Street, which was recently voted the #1 Date Night Restaurant in the United States by TripAdvisor. Housed in a recently-renovated historic library building, this intimate, award-winning eatery is a supreme setting for an unforgettable meal. Try their flavorful Paella Mixta for Two with chorizo, mussels, shrimp, and cod; or sample their healthy and appetizing Roasted Rainbow Carrots for a taste of vegetarian splendor.
Prefer a fun and casual evening bite? Head to Mulligans, where hearty American fare is served in bountiful portions in a merry and friendly setting. Their Outside-In sandwich is a fantastic choice for vegetarian diners, and their “Really Great Burger” certainly lives up to its name.
Trendy gourmands in search of authentic local American craft cooking should book a reservation at The Copper Grouse, where imaginative delicacies are served alongside craft cocktails made with artisan spirits on the grounds of the Taconic Hotel. Diners with a preference for pasta will favor their Butternut Squash Ravioli, and cultured carnivores will lean towards their New York Strip Steak with Lyonnaise Potatoes. The Taconic Hotel also offers luxe, pet-friendly lodging in their sophisticated suites and cottages. With a heated pool that’s perfect for warming up in the winter and an airy wraparound porch that’s ideal for summer socializing, guests are sure to enjoy themselves regardless of the season.
Rise and greet the day with a wonderful morning meal at Up for Breakfast. Located in the heart of downtown Manchester, this beloved breakfast standby is well known for its delicious food, courteous service, and relaxing atmosphere. In the mood for something hearty and filling? Try their Hungry Hiker meal or their vegetarian Garden Omelette with plant-based sausage. For those interested in lighter fare, their gluten-free granola is both tasty and revitalizing. Pair it with a hot cup of coffee – the perfect fuel for your upcoming day of fun in Manchester.
Spend the morning at some of Manchester’s most renowned cultural institutions.
For an unforgettable historical outing, head to Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home. This awe-inspiring estate is the former home of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, who served as president of the Pullman Company in the late 19th century. Tours of the flawlessly-maintained historic property are open to the public, and the grounds surrounding the main mansion feature beautiful gardens and a fully-restored 1903 Pullman Car, complete with accompanying exhibits.
Tucked away behind Manchester’s downtown village on a heavenly hillside on West Road, the Southern Vermont Arts Center (SVAC) houses world-class galleries with artworks by famed Vermont-based artists such as Reginald Marsh and Ogden Pleissner. The SVAC grounds also feature a well-manicured trail network and a sweeping outdoor campus with open fields dotted with captivating sculptures. For inspired epicurean cuisine in a cultured setting, stop in at SVAC’s on-site curATE Café for a taste of culinary creativity.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, visit the American Museum of Fly Fishing. The museum houses photographic, artistic, and historical exhibitions that shed light on the origin and evolution of fly fishing in all of its forms, as well as an extensive collection of antique rods and reels. From April to October, the nearby world-famous Orvis Fly Fishing School teaches approachable and engaging fishing classes for anglers of all skill levels. Be sure to stop at the Orvis Flagship Store and Orvis Outlet for some iconic apparel from Vermont’s original outdoor lifestyle brand.
In the warmer months, golfers looking to hit the links should book a tee time at the Golf Club At Equinox. The original Equinox golf course was built in 1926 by three-time U.S. Amateur Golf Champion Walter Travis and later renovated by award-winning golf course architect Rees Jones. By bringing the course up to contemporary standards and taking full advantage of Manchester’s hilly terrain, Jones was able to create a challenging and rewarding play experience for visiting golfers. To further enhance your Equinox experience, reserve a room at the Equinox Hotel and spend the night in an oasis of historic grandeur, or book a pampering treatment at their on-site spa.
Looking to try something delicious and different for lunch? Stop in at Moonwink on Main Street to enjoy Burmese cuisine at its pinnacle. Their vegan-friendly Falafel Salad is flavorful and fresh, and their Burma Bowl is robust and restorative. Mystic Café on Main Street is well-known for its diverse offerings, which range from their Fresh Tuna Poké Bowl to their Green Goddess Chicken Salad Sandwich. Down on Depot Street, Zoey’s Deli offers scrumptious fresh-made sandwiches, soups, cookies, and house-made potato chips, and the skilled chefs at Zoey’s Double Hex are celebrated for their delicious Roasted Salmon and Maple-Glazed Chicken. The expertly-cooked burgers at Depot Street Burgers are hard to beat, and their beverage menu features a broad variety of quality Vermont-made beers. For lovers of contemporary American bistro fare, Firefly Restaurant & Bar on Depot Street serves up mouthwatering sandwiches, salads, and other captivating delicacies. Before you go, make sure to try their Go-Go Garlic Bread with gorgonzola fondue.
Now that your hunger has been sated and you’ve enjoyed some of the historic sites, it’s time to get down to business – and go shopping! Manchester is filled with an incredible combination of famed designer outlets and independent stores.
For some of the best outlet shopping in the region, make a beeline for the intersection of Depot Street and Main Street, where you will find the celebrated Manchester Designer Outlets. Polo Ralph Lauren, Vineyard Vines, and J.Crew offer a vast range of preppy-chic wardrobe staples for men and women that never fail to make a powerful first impression, and Michael Kors features a wide variety of sophisticated handbags and accessories. Looking for beautifully fitting minimalist clothing? Theory is a treasure trove for timeless women’s and men’s wardrobe essentials, Talbot’s is well-known for its quality selection of classic women’s garments, and Eileen Fisher provides elegant and comfortable women’s attire that adds depth to any closet. Eddie Bauer offers cozy and durable outdoor apparel, and those looking for high-end clothing will find a vast panoply of luxurious garments at Armani and Brooks Brothers. The French design house Yves Delorme is best known for its luxury bedding and bath products, as well as its posh and opulent home accents. Marimekko is a must for homeowners looking to snatch up some vibrant and chic bedding and home décor pieces. Don’t forget to stop by Tumi to snag some stylish European luggage – and Le Creuset, a legendary French cooking goods store that specializes in high-quality kitchenware in a variety of material mediums, including enameled cast-iron cookware and stoneware.
What’s better than shopping? Shopping and CHOCOLATE! Be sure to stop in at Mother Myrick’s – home of the Lemon Lulu and Butternut Crunch - for some incredibly tasty treats.
For a cultured and rewarding afternoon outing, head north on Route 30 from town center towards the delightful village of Dorset. Proceeding northward on Route 30, you will come across The Kitchen Store at JK Adams. This extensively-stocked store specializes in lovingly-crafted kitchen and baking products, including custom-engraved and custom-carved slate coasters and cutting boards, kitchen utensils, wooden bowls, table linens, and so much more!
After reaching the lovely town of Dorset, park your car and enjoy an ambling stroll through the town green on Church Street. Pop into the 3 Pears Gallery to browse through a gracefully-curated collection of rustic and refined artworks, grab some toothsome provisions and Vermont-made goods at the Dorset Union Store and Dorset Bakery, and then stop by the Dorset Exchange on Route 30 for some decorative memorabilia and vintage garments.
Further north on Route 30, the Mettowee Mint nursery offers top-notch landscape consultation services, as well as a variety of flowers and plants. Head to their on-site café for a rejuvenating cup of coffee, and take a moment to sit down and bask in the bucolic ambience.
What better way to finish a fun and fulfilling day than a satisfying feast? Stay in Dorset or head back to Manchester to enjoy a lavish dinner.
Those in the mood for classic traditional continental and New England food at its finest should look no further than Ye Olde Tavern. Located in an historic 18th century building, Ye Olde Tavern offers an authentic old-world dining experience served in a warm and inviting setting. For a satisfying entrée, try their Traditional Pot Roast or their vegan Quinoa and Lentil Meatballs.
Diners with a penchant for Asian-Fusion cuisine should book a reservation at Thai Basil, where a variety of Asian culinary traditions coalesce into a unified gourmet vision to create an inspired and eclectic menu. Their Signature Half Crispy Duck is blissfully savory, and the subtly-spiced flavor of their Massaman Curry with Tofu is sure to delight even the most discerning vegetarians.
Don’t miss the guacamole and chips at Gringo Jack’s Southwestern Bar & Grill. For American fare in a fun and casual setting, Union Underground never disappoints. While basking in the relaxed and jovial atmosphere of their basement dining room, be sure to sample some of their Bar Room Bites, including Duck Rangoons and German Pretzel Sticks.
If you find yourself in Dorset for the evening, treat yourself to a memorable Vermont fine-dining experience at The Dorset Inn. Classic American dishes are prepared with loving care and masterful finesse by their exceptionally-gifted chef team, and served in the elegant setting of a historic 18th century Vermont Inn. Vegetarian gourmands will cherish their Crispy Quinoa Asparagus Cakes, and famished epicures will revel in the satisfying glory of their Roast Turkey Croquettes. For a contemporary gastropub experience, stop in at Barrows House and enjoy a delicious and creatively-conceived meal made with locally-sourced ingredients. Try their Eggplant Parmesan or Steak Au Poivre for a gloriously gratifying entrée, and order a CBD Collins or Smoked Maple Old Fashioned and toast the good life. Looking to spend a night in Dorset? The Dorset Inn also offers splendid accommodations. As Vermont’s oldest continually-operating inn, their sumptuous suites provide a timeless and elevated lodging experience that meets the standards of the most tasteful vacationers. Inn at West View Farm is another great choice for comfort, food, and atmosphere.
It’s time to power up with a nourishing nosh at one of Manchester’s favorite cafés. Dina’s Bakery Café offers a wide assortment of pastries, coffee beverages, and inventive versions of brunch favorites, including their Challah French Toast and Black Bean Sweet Potato Patty.
Following your sensational morning meal, start your Sunday off right with a continuation of your spirited shopping trip.
Home chefs, rejoice! Vermont Kitchen Supply, a locally-celebrated culinary boutique, is well-stocked with a broad variety of high-quality specialty items.
r.k. Miles is a renowned Southern Vermont hardware store that has grown into a successful business with multiple locations across two states, largely due to their never-ending commitment to customer satisfaction. Their courteous staff is happy to help with all home improvement inquiries, and their upstairs clothing department features rugged and durable work gear and flannel shirts that are perfect for Vermont winters.
Want to see some true “Made in Vermont” craftsmanship? Those in search of a hand-shaped wooden masterpiece will adore the walnut, apple, ash, and cherry wood bowls at the Vermont Bowl Mill. The stunning custom hand-blown light fixtures at Manchester Hot Glass are the perfect way to make an impressive statement in any room. Trendy stemless glassware and beautiful custom-blown abstract ornaments compliment this striking store’s eye-catching collection. And Flying Cow Signs offers distinctly hand-crafted and custom-painted wooden signs.
For Bohemian-chic women’s clothing, such as beautifully-designed shirts, dresses, and custom jackets, stop in at Miss Phyllis Fine Linens & Frocks. At knit 1 purl 1, customers can browse through a wonderful array of quality yarns. Well-informed and considerate staff members are happy to assist you with all of your knitting and crochet needs.
Marketplace on Main Street offers a great selection of unique gifts, souvenirs, and local handcrafted gifts. The Vintage Soul Country Store offers antiques, collectibles and so much more.
Athletically inclined shoppers with an appetite for open air exploration will revel in the selection of outdoor apparel and accessories at The Mountain Goat, and jewelry lovers will adore the meticulously-crafted pieces at McWayne Jewelers at the corner of Bonnet Street and Main Street.
At Apricot Lane, shoppers can browse through a vast array of trendy and affordable women’s clothing pieces. For premium women’s intimate apparel, stop by La Pêche Lingerie for a fitting and consultation with their knowledgeable staff. Zippy Chicks is a must-visit for seasoned shoppers with a taste for high-quality consignment clothing, and Ugg is certainly well-equipped to help you find a marvelous addition to your shoe closet.
And no trip to Manchester is complete without a trip to the Northshire Bookstore on Main Street. With an outstanding selection of literary treasures, this beloved Manchester institution is the perfect place to find some beautiful books to expand your mind, fill your shelves, and line your coffee tables.
For an integrative experience that combines elevated dining with home decoration shopping, head to Depot 62 Fine Home Furnishings for lunch. After sampling some of their appetizing Turkish-Mediterranean delicacies, such as their Konya Lamb Kebabs, Red Lentil Soup and Anatolian Hummus, take a moment to peruse their dazzling selection of European and Mediterranean rugs and furniture. Their decorative offerings are equally as complex and cultured as the flavors of their food. In the mood for pizza? Don’t miss Christo’s.
It’s time to celebrate a weekend well-spent in Manchester with an outstanding final afternoon. In the colder months, nearby Stratton Mountain Resort and Bromley Resort provide a wonderful ski experience that’s fun for the whole family. Stratton’s new mountain biking course offers equally-exhilarating summertime athletic thrills, and Bromley’s Mountain Adventure Park comes alive in the summer with kid-friendly features, such as their beloved concrete Alpine Slide and rock wall.
Skateboarders, rejoice! Your concrete oasis awaits at Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park. The Manchester Skatepark features a variety of challenging obstacles, a rounded bowl and half pipe, and locally-sourced marble from the nearby Danby Quarry. Additional amenities include a pedestrian path that leads around the park’s perimeter, several soccer fields, and a running track, pool, playground and enclosed dog park. Need gear? No problem. Arson Skateboard Shop sells quality skateboarding gear at fantastic prices, as well as an eclectic selection of high-end streetwear from both international and local brands.
In the warmer months, a trip to Prospect Rock and Lye Brook Falls are a must for any hiking enthusiast looking to double up on their trail time. Stop back in at The Mountain Goat to pick up one of their “Favorite Day Hikes and Backcountry Adventures Pamphlets” for detailed directions to their trailhead access points. The pamphlet also features guided directions to Merck Forest, Baker Peak, Bromley Mountain, and Stratton Mountain’s trails, as well.
In the heart of the winter and holiday season, nothing beats a cup of hot chocolate or a maple latté from Bonnet & Main Café. Grab one of their delectable sandwiches and pastries for the road, and then stop in at Above All Vermont for a fun and whimsical Vermont-made souvenir. It’s the perfect way to remember your joyful Manchester vacation.