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CLOSE-UP ON weston, vt.

Sit and enjoy

Recreation? Yes. Shopping? Sure. Scenic mountain views? Perfection.

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Kathy Shorr
Globe Correspondent / July 23, 2008

That Main Street is also the well-trafficked Route 100 does not detract from Weston's small-town, old-fashioned feel. Many of the attractions of this village, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are within a five-minute walk of the Village Green. For such a small place, Weston has more than its share of claims to fame. It's the original home of the Vermont Country Store, which has been running its mail-order catalog business since the 1940s; the flagship store is still on Main Street. The Weston Playhouse is Vermont's oldest professional theater company. Summer brings additional happenings in the arts, along with plenty of recreation, since the village sits in a valley surrounded by the Green Mountain National Forest. Come fall, you get not only the changing leaves, but two big October events: the annual Weston Antiques Show and Weston Craft Show. But as Sandy Gregg of the local Chamber of Commerce says, one of the area's biggest pleasures is free: "We don't charge to sit on an Adirondack chair with a good book."

Head four miles north of town on Route 100 to the Weston Priory (58 Priory Hill Road, 802-824-5409, westonpriory.org), a community of Benedictine monks. Guests are welcome to attend prayer services several times a day, talk to the resident monks, or wander the grounds and contemplate the sky's reflection in a pond. Weston is the summer home of Pennsylvania's Kinhaven Music School (354 Lawrence Hill Road, 802-824-3365, kinhaven.org, free), which holds its classical music summer camp for talented high school students here. It's a more intimate version of places like the Tanglewood Music Center. The final session wraps up Aug. 4, but till then you can enjoy free weekend performances. Student orchestral and chamber music concerts are Fridays at 4 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., with faculty chamber music concerts Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sundays on the Hill Concerts (Lawrence Hill Road, vtchurchonthehill.org, adults $5, children free), most of them featuring classical music, take place from 4-5 p.m. on selected Sundays through mid-September at the nondenominational Weston Community Church, an 1838 Gothic Revival building known locally as the Church on the Hill. Weston opens its expansive historical museums to the public only during warmer weather, so this is the time to visit the Farrar-Mansur House and Old Mill Museum (Village Green just off Route 100, 802-824-5294, vmga.org/windsor/farrar.html, donations appreciated). Farrar-Mansur House Museum is located in the oldest house in the village, built in the 1790s. Museum displays include 18th- and 19th-century furniture, artwork, guns, toys, portraits, clothing, tools, and other artifacts. One of the highlights, though, is from the 20th century: murals painted during the Depression by Works Progress Administration artist Roy Williams. Williams used local residents as models in his depictions of early Weston life. Next door is the old mill and dam, where the waterfall still surges. The mill is filled with a fabulous collection of old tools and machinery. They are also grinding corn again for the first time in decades. A tinsmith has his working studio on the property. Guided tours and demonstrations are Wednesday and Sunday afternoons and all day Saturday through August; Saturdays in September; Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through the first two weeks of October; and by appointment.

Bryant House Restaurant (657 Main St., 802-824-6287, vermontcountrystore.com, entrees $8-$10) is next door to, and part of, the Vermont Country Store. You can have lunch - or dinner on Fridays and Saturdays - in the sunny front parlor of the 1827 former home, or in the circa-1885 bar room, complete with antique mahogany bar and wall paneling. Among the New England specialties is the chicken pie with homemade biscuit topping. The Inn at Weston has a Wine Spectator Award-winning restaurant (630 Main St., 802-824-6789, innweston.com, entrees $28-$37) which features locally-raised game, beef, and other products, served by candlelight with live music from a pianist who takes requests. The dining room doubles as a gallery of the owners' private artwork collection and local artists' work. You can also eat in the pub, on the back deck, or, if you reserve early, at the single table (seats up to six) in the orchid-surrounded gazebo. The inn also operates the Café at the Falls (Village Green just off Route 100, 802-824-5288, entrees $19-$30, open only on theater nights), on the bottom level of the Weston Playhouse. At Woodcock Farm (just south of town on Route 100, 802-824-6135, vtcheese.com/members/woodcock/woodcock.htm), owners Mark and Gari Fischer raise East Friesian sheep organically and specialize in award-winning raw sheep's milk cheeses, and also make cow's milk cheeses. You can sample and buy cheeses on site.

The Weston Playhouse Theatre Company (Village Green just off Route 100, 802-824-5288, weston playhouse.org, main stage $28-$55, kids' stage $8) is a professional, regional theater offering Broadway musicals, dramas, and children's productions on three stages during the summer season. It also has now expanded to offer programs during the off-season. "The Light in the Piazza" is finishing its run. On tap: Obie award-winner "No Child . . ." and the ever popular "Les Misérables." Outdoor lovers can fish or swim in the West River right in town. The Vermont Country Store (see Shop) has a nature trail that's great for young children starting at the edge of its parking lot. If you're looking for something to boost your pulse, Extreme Adventures of Vermont (3342 Weston/Andover Road, Andover, 802-875-5626, extremeadventuresvt.com) offers caving, rock climbing, white-water kayaking guided trips, adventure camps, and more.

The parking lot at the Vermont Country Store (657 Main St., 802-824-3184, vermontcountrystore.com) has a special section just for tour buses, a sure sign of the destination's popularity. Even if you're not a serious shopper, you might enjoy the sprawling store anyway. What's the attraction? Fisher-Price toy rotary phones, View-Masters, Evening in Paris perfume, cod liver oil, 1949-model Big Ben alarm clocks, long johns and nightshirts, Horlicks malted milk tablets, LemonUp shampoo, light blue ice bags to relieve a headache, and Fizzies drink tablets are but a few of the gazillion old-fashioned items sure to bring back memories. Most galleries don't let you carry in food or drinks, but Village Green Gallery (661 Main St., 802-824-3669) serves organic coffee, artisan teas, and homemade pastries. The gallery's main focus is still art, though, including the work of longtime photojournalist and co-owner Wayne "Nobushi" Fuji'i, who grew up in rural Japan. Photos of the Vermont landscape are a dime a dozen, but Fuji'i's, influenced by Japanese painters and haiku master Basho, are something else. The mountains of Vermont might seem an odd place for a gallery devoted primarily to whales. But Vermont artist Wick Ahrens has been obsessed with the sea and carving and sculpting whales for more than 30 years, showing his work around the country. His Whales in Vermont gallery (9 Mill Lane, behind the Inn at Weston, 802-824-3604, wickahrens.com), located at his home, displays his work and that of other nationally known wildlife artists.

The circa 1848 Inn at Weston (630 Main St., 802-824-6789, innweston.com, $185-$325 double, higher in foliage season) has romantic, luxurious rooms with air conditioning, private baths, and small touches like fresh flowers and Lindt chocolates. A number of rooms have whirlpool tubs, sauna steam showers, and private decks as well. Innkeepers Bob and Linda Aldrich raise hundreds of species of orchids in their greenhouse on the property. The 10-room Brandmeyers Mountainside Lodge (913 Route 100, 802-824-5851, brandmeyers lodge.com, $109-$129 double, higher in foliage season, includes full breakfast in the lodge restaurant) is a relaxed, no-fuss, family-friendly spot on 7 1/2 acres. The motel-style rooms, some with bunk beds, include private baths, cable TV, small fridges, and wall safes. If you bring a computer, there's wireless access in the restaurant lounge and some rooms. The family- and pet-friendly Colonial House Inn & Motel (287 Route 100, 800-639-5033, 802-824-6286, cohoinn.com, doubles in summer $70-$112, fall $85-$131, includes full breakfast and homemade afternoon cookies and drinks, pets $10/night in motel rooms only) gives you a choice of bed-and-breakfast rooms in the early-19th-century inn, or motel-style rooms with covered porches.

If you want night life, you have probably picked the wrong town. But an exception to check out is the Weston Playhouse's Act IV Cabaret (lower level of Weston Playhouse, 802-824-5288, westonplayhouse.org/on stagecabaret.html, reservations required, $9-$10). The cabaret begins about 15 minutes after the end of the play on the main stage. It's irreverent, late-night fare, often poking fun at local life (think actress in a slinky gold lame dress with horns and an udder as a glammed-up cow). If you laugh a lot and sit up front, be prepared - you're likely to get hauled up on stage along with the entertainers. Drinks and light food available.

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