In the spirit of Valentine's Day, Travel and Leisure has calculated America's most romantic towns, and two New England spots made the top 10.
The list was decided upon a number of factors, including brunch spots, farmer's markets, wine scenes, picnic-friendly parks, and gay friendliness. Burlington, Vt. came in at No. 6, while Portsmouth, N.H. was No. 9.
Here's what the publication had to say about each:
Burlington - Rudyard Kipling supposedly once said that Lake Champlain -- the centerpiece of America's best college town -- was the sweetest place in the world to watch a sunset. Readers, meanwhile, loved Burlington for other romantically oriented times of day, such as cocktail hour (it ranked in the top 10 for cool bars), brunch, and the all-important dessert. One sip of Lake Champlain Chocolates' decadent hot cocoas is all it takes to see why the town also scored highly for caf￩s and ranks among the top 10 for winter wonderland holiday-season visits.
Portsmouth - Even if winters get chilly here, readers didn't care, giving it high marks for snuggle-ready weather. A great indoor date spot: The Music Hall, a refurbished 1878 theater that presents classic movies and live, unplugged music. Good wine was a major indicator of romance in the readers' survey, but this historic waterfront town woos lovers who love craft beer. The town was once the biggest beer producer in America and is now home to charming breweries such as Portsmouth Brewery and Smuttynose.
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — It kind of gives a whole new meaning to the phrase Apple picking.
Sixteen Vermont pick-your-own orchards are participating in this year’s version of a special contest, in which lucky pickers coming across a wooden apple will win an Apple iPod, iPod Shuffle or iPad.
The promotion is being sponsored by Woodchuck Hard Cider, Small Dog Electronics, Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.
The state Department of Tourism and Marketing first launched the promotion in 2007 with hopes of growing participation at Vermont pick-your-own orchards. Officials say the results have been fruitful so far.
Twin Farms, an all-inclusive, five-star Relais & Chateaux property in Barnard, Vermont, is going Hawaiian Aug. 23-25. The resort will host Hawaiian chef, Alan Wong, to celebrate its 20th anniversary, while giving a nod to the Hawaiian roots of several of its owners. Wong is author of “The Blue Tomato: The Inspirations Behind the Cuisine of Alan Wong.” Guests that weekend get special programming and meals with the chef at no extra cost. Those staying over Aug. 25 will get half-off the weekday rate of $1,450. Weekend rates start at $1,650, and both rates don't include tax. Rates are based on double occupancy and include all meals, alcohol and tips.Twin Farms is about 15 minutes north of Woodstock, and has a unique culinary program, with dishes specially prepared for each guest, using seasonal local ingredients. The property was once owned by Nobel Prize winning writer Sinclair Lewis. For more information and reservations visit www.twinfarms.com
A $15-million renovation of Topnotch Resort in Stowe, Vermont, is done, with the inn now open and offering a deal to mark the occasion. Book the introductory special, starting at $275 a night, dubbed the “Ta-Da Topnotch” offer, before July 31, for stays before Aug. 31, and get a $100 resort credit which can be spent on the spa, restaurant, tennis facilities and additional resort services. Also included in the introductory offer is the chance to come back a second time this year at a one-time savings of 30 percent. Rates after July 31 start at $350 for midweek nights, and $395 on weekends.
Improvements made to the resort, which was built in 1959, are many, said resort general manager Aaron Black, including orienting the lobby to show more of Mt. Mansfield; renovating guestrooms with hand-made furniture, native textiles and hand-painted artwork; new treatment experiences called “Pathways to Wellness” at the spa; new outdoor spaces for weddings and retreats; and a new design for the ballroom and meeting spaces. Also new is a restaurant and bar, The Roost, with a second restaurant, Flannel, replacing the former Norma’s. The hotel, a pet-friendly one, is part of the MetWest Terra Hospitality collection of boutique hotels. For information and booking, visit www.topnotchresort.com, or call 800-451-8686.
A couple of years ago we wrote about a National Park Service walking tour of Woodstock, Vermont during the Civil War period. It was researched and developed by historian and author Howard Coffin, who was born in Woodstock and scoured the historic records to piece together what life was like on the home front during those tumultuous years. The tour will be offered again this summer; see www.nps.gov/mabi for details.
Six of Coffin's ancestors served in the Vermont regiments and his fascination with the Civil War knows no bounds. He has just published a new book, Something Abides: Discovering the Civil War in Today's Vermont (Countryman Press, $35), that sheds the same light on the entire state. Based on six years of research and numerous miles of driving through the Green Mountain State, Coffin identifies more than 2,500 extant sites that were affected by the Civil War and organizes them by county.
“Vermont's Civil War sites are everywhere, on back roads, at the ends of roads, by busy downtowns, at crossroads, in store blocks, on islands, in remote woods, in fields, in churches and cemeteries, and on college campuses and school grounds,” Coffin writes. And he fully expects readers to seek them out. “Take with you an 'Official Vermont Road Map,'” he advises, “one of the best maps in all 50 states. And it's free.”
Windham Hill Inn, a Relais & Chateaux property in West Townshend, Vermont is marking spring with its first Gardener’s Luncheon and Market May 18, bringing together local Vermont vendors to showcase the area’s seasonal offerings. The inn’s gardener Claduia Dekany will also be on hand to give garden tours and tips. Spring-inspired paintings, prints and notecards will be available in the hotel’s Sun Lounge and gift shop.
Activities include seasonal lunch, cooking demos with the inn’s chef, with an eye on how to prepare early-spring veggies, and herbs and perennials available for purchase from local gardeners at Griffin Gardens. For information, visit www.windhamhill.com
Children 10 to 16 years old can gather eggs from a chicken coop, collect fresh ingredients from veggie and herb gardens, and then whip up mouth-watering dishes during The Essex Resort & Spa’s Camp Cook program. The resort hosts nine summer camp sessions beginning June 17. Book the Five Night Holiday Package for $199 per night, based on double occupancy, and then pay $400 per child for the five-day Camp Cook program. While your kids immerse themselves in culinary adventures, you can go hot air ballooning, fly-fishing, or biking, visit the resort’s spa, or explore nearby Burlington and Stowe. 800-727-4295, www.vtculinaryresort.com
By Kari Bodnarchuk, Globe Correspondent
Go on a wild mushroom hunt and then dine on fresh morels at Twin Farms resort in Barnard, Vt., during one of several special events this year that celebrate the property’s 20th anniversary. This all-inclusive five-star resort, once home to Nobel prize-winning author Sinclair Lewis, hosts a morel and wildcrafting weekend June 1-2, when wildcrafters Les Hook and Nova Kim show guests how to properly forage for mushrooms, and discuss mushroom lore and spring edibles. Then hike along wilderness trails on this 300-acre property, swim in Copper Pond, and fly fish in nearby rivers. Leave time for the Japanese-style soaking tub and the spa. Rates: $1,400-$3,100 per night, based on double occupancy. 800-894-6327, www.twinfarms.com
By Necee Regis, Globe correspondent
Take the family to Baby Animal Day at Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock (March 30, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.) to see cuter-than-cute chicks, ducklings, goslings, lambs, and calves. Programs include learning how to care for and feed the animals, and craft activities for children. Got a green thumb? Learn the importance of heirloom seeds and select a few varieties to plant at home. Admission includes all programs and activities, farm life exhibits, plus the working dairy farm and horse-drawn wagon rides. Adults $12, age 62 and over $11, children 5-15 $6, 3-4 $3, under 3 free. 802-457-2355, www.billingsfarm.org
More than 100 maple sugar producers are opening their doors this weekend throughout the New England, as both Vermont and New Hampshire host open houses, giving visitors the chance to enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the process of making maple syrup.
Open houses will be held in both states March 23-24, featuring free samples of the goods, and in some cases, horse-drawn rides, snowshoeing, and pancake breakfasts. Here’s a complete list of participants and activities in Vermont, as well as a list of who’s who in New Hampshire.
If you can’t make it this weekend and are still interested in the process, here’s what you need to know.
By Necee Regis, Globe Correspondent
Indulge your passion for food while getting away from it all. In the village of Brandon, Café Provence and the Lilac Inn have teamed up to offer Vermont Culinary Retreat Weekends for couples (March 22-24, April 5-7, 19-21) that celebrate farm-to-table cuisine with a focus on Vermont ingredients. Chef Robert Barral, former executive chef of the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston, leads a hands-on class where you’ll help prepare (and later eat) a four-course meal, and a Sunday brunch cooking demonstration. Includes a champagne reception, two nights’ lodging at the luxury inn, all meals, and a tour of goat cheese-making facilities at the nearby Blue Ledge Farm. Limited to six couples, $995, includes taxes and gratuities. 802-247-5463, http://lilacinn.com
Topnotch Resort at Stowe mountain in Vermont is scheduled to unveil the final phase of its multimillion-dollar renovation this summer, with the 68-room resort on tap to debut it all in early July. The renovations include a new, modern “arrival experience,” resort officials said, along with a new lobby bar with views of Mt. Mansfield, the state’s tallest peak; a new wedding and events venue, with fire pit; full renovated meeting and events facilities; and revamped guest rooms in keeping with the resort’s style of an English country manor. The resort is adding a new restaurant to go with its signature eatery, Norma’s, which opened in 2006. The four-season resort has consistently snagged awards, including three in 2007 from Conde Nast Traveler, which ranked it first in service in its reader’s choice spa poll; 16th on the list of North America’s Top 50 ski hotels; and the 10th best resort spa in North America.
For information and reservations, visit www.topnotchresort.com
The recent frigid and warmup trends we’ve had in New England recently are even atypical of normal winter weather in the Northeast (If you don’t like the weather…), but as seen in the video above, the effects on nature can be drastic. This is a video taken by Barre-Montpelier Times Argus photographer Jeb Wallace-Brodeur, as an ice jam broke up on the Mad River in Moretown, Vt. on Thursday.
By Kari Bodnarchuk, Globe Correspondent
Stay at the Woodstock Inn and Resort and ski for free at two mountains. The Ski Free Program includes complimentary lift tickets to the resort’s mountain, Suicide Six Family Ski Area, and free passes to the Nordic Center offering groomed cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. (Every day for ages 12 and under, Mon-Fri for adults). Includes use of the Racquet and Fitness Club and more. For twice the fun, the Killington Express Ski Package includes a Killington all-day ski pass for two, one night’s accommodation, and country breakfast for two along with all the benefits of the Ski Free Program. Package rate from $369 per night. 888-481-8802, www.woodstockinn.com
By Kari Bodnarchuk, Globe Correspondent
Slip on your favorite ball gown or double-breasted blazer and vest and head to The Essex Resort & Spa in Essex, Vt., the weekend of Jan. 5 and 6, to celebrate a new season of the TV hit “Downton Abbey,” which takes place during the Roaring Twenties. This culinary, cultural, and social event features a reception and an advance public screening of the Season 3 premiere. Some packages include accommodations, a period-style six-course dinner, and a customized pair of Simon Pearce’s Royalton optic flutes. Most also include access to a “Downton”-era arcade featuring etiquette and table-setting games, live music, ballroom dancing, and access to a green-screen photo studio. A portion of the proceeds benefits Vermont Public Television. Prices start at $225 for two people. 802-654-3663, www.vpt.org/daexp
"The update of being able to purchase it online was a no-brainer and we think we'll see the most successful year yet with the added ease of purchase," she said. "Being online also lowers our administration costs, allowing us to donate even more proceeds of the program to local dairy farmers."
This year will mark the third year that proceeds will go to Must Be The Milk, a campaign formerly known as Keep Local Farms, which supports New England dairy farmers. Last year the Fifth Grade Passport raised and donated $8,830 for Keep Local Farms. The total amount of donations from the past two seasons is $17,325. The goal is to break $10,000 this year, Neith said.
For more information on the Fifth Grade Passport program, visit www.skivermont.com/FGP. Fifth graders that participate receive a booklet of coupons for free tickets to Vermont's 18 alpine resorts and more than 30 cross-country centers. The cost of $10 covers the processing fees, and participants must be accompanied by paying adult. Adults can take up to two fifth graders.
It was such a hit the first time around, they decided to do it again: The 2nd annual Stowe Restaurant Week is on tap Oct. 21-27, celebrating the local Vermont culture. Restaurants will offer a prix-fixe, multi-course menu with prices of $15, $25 or $35 per person (in some cases per couple). Lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch menus are available as well as wine, beer and other cocktail options. Some restaurants are offering a new menu each day, and others will have the same fare throughout. Participating restaurants include Cactus Cafe, Charlie B's Pub and Restaurant, Harrison's Restaurant and Bar, Pie in the Sky, The Whip Bar and Grill and Winfield's Bistro.
Overnight accommodations are available from $85 a night during the week. Call Stowe's central reservation line at 800-467-8693 for lodging info. For the skinny and all that good food for restaurant week, visit www.gostowe.com/restaurantweek
It wouldn’t be Memorial Day holiday without a trip to Vermont for the fabulous statewide Open Studios weekend with scores of potters, glassblowers, fiber artists, furniture makers, wood artists, jewelry designers, painters and printmakers welcoming visitors to their work spaces. As part of the event’s 20th anniversary celebration earlier this month in Montpelier, the Vermont Crafts Council honored glassblower Harry Besett of Hardwick and furniture maker Robert Gasperetti of Mt. Tabor for participating every year. Recalling the first weekend, VCC executive director Martha Fitch told the audience, “We didn’t even have a map that year. We assumed people would know where to go.” Since then VCC publishes a detailed list and map with directions to all locations; this year there are 259 craftspeople and visual artists participating. The map is available at Vermont State Visitor Centers on major highways, online at www.vermontcrafts.com, and galleries. The map is organized regionally making it easy to select areas to explore Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Photo of glassblower Harry Besett by Wendy Besett
National Park Service will offer free admission to all its facilities and programs from Saturday April 21 to Sunday April 29 in celebration of National Parks Week. There are more than two dozen facilities in New England, with the bulk of them being in Massachusetts. If you happen to be traveling that week, the NPS maps out locations by state on its website.
Photo of Adams Mansion in Quincy by Mary Schiess
National Park Service says that all 397 national parks will offer free admission from Saturday, Jan. 14- Monday, Jan. 16 to mark Martin Luther King Day. In New England there are more than two dozen parks, with the bulk of them being in Massachusetts (15). On its website, the NPS maps out locations by state.
For those interested in King himself, BudgetTravel offers these suggestions:
Those wishing to learn more about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., can pay a visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia, where both the home he was born in and his tomb with the Eternal Flame are on display. Follow in his footsteps along the National Historic Trail from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, now a designated historic byway. If you happen to be on the east coast, visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and sit on the steps from which Dr. King delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech, or visit the newly opened Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in the National Mall. Events commemorating Dr. King's life will also take place at Fort Donelson National Battlefield in Tennessee, while the MLK Film Festival will be held at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington D.C. from January 14-16.
The research is finished and the results are in. In our unofficial tally, Vermont’s cutest cookie is, without a doubt, the Kingdom Cow. They are made at Bentley’s Bakery & Café in Danville, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hamlet in the Northeast Kingdom. The cow-shaped shortbread cookie is slathered with vanilla icing and dappled with chocolate spots. Look for them in the same case with the leaf-shaped, maple-glazed cookies and the Muddy Moose gingerbread cookies. Owners Jeff and Nancy Frampton hail from Montreal, so the bakery has a bit of French influence as well, with croissants in the morning and quiche at lunch. Plan on stopping by the next time you’re headed to Jay Peak.
Bentley’s Bakery & Café, 20 Hill St., Danville; (802) 684-3385; www.bentleysbakeryvt.com
We just returned from a research trip to central and northwest Vermont for next spring's "Food Lovers' Guide to Vermont & New Hampshire.'' We were amazed to discover that not only is there still good foliage around Lake Champlain, the colors are just now reaching peak. We know that Vermonters were worried that leaf-peepers would stay away because of the damage wrought by Hurricane Irene at the end of August. But as the proprietor of a cafe told us, she has been serving a lot of travelers who just have to see for themselves how bad it is. For those who haven't yet had a look, here's what we found. Roads were rebuilt almost everywhere we went?even though some of the formerly narrow streams and small rivers now spread 50 feet wide. And slowly but surely, bridges are being rebuilt or replaced. That means an occasional slowdown while two-way traffic shares a one-lane bridge, but even in rural areas like the village of Richmond (southeast of Burlington) drivers showed patience and good humor while waiting.
Photo by David Lyon for the Boston Globe.
We came to a screeching halt last week on Route 15 in northern Vermont and pulled into a muddy driveway because we saw a homemade food trailer painted with a Holstein roof and sporting the name ''Burger Barn.'' Having spent a fair bit of time earlier this year researching burgers for ''Kings of the Grill," we were intrigued by this unlikely lunch spot.
This is the fourth year for the roadside eatery operated by Jud Gravel (at the grill) and Kierstin Colaceci (at the window). They use grass-fed local beef--Boyden Farm is only about a mile west--and have come up with 31 combinations of toppings. The hot burger for 2011 is the ''Nutty Goat,'' which features chevre, maple-crusted walnuts, caramelized onions, and a touch of mayonnaise. The biggest seller is the classic with lettuce, tomato, and a slice of red onion. In both cases, the star is the burger itself—amazing rich and beefy and surprisingly tender for such a lean patty. It might be the best burger we have tasted in Vermont. We'll be tasting others, no doubt, as we continue our research for Food Lovers' Guide to Vermont and New Hampshire.
Many of the customers are locals, ''and we get a lot of traffic from Smuggs,'' says Colaceci, referring to Smugglers Notch Resort. She's anticipating a great foliage season, and notes that the river across the highway from the Burger Barn has receded back into its banks. Finding the Burger Barn is no easy feat. When people call, Colaceci says she gives the GPS coordinates, though when we asked, we got the street address: 4968 Route 15, Jeffersonville, VT. Just go east a little over a mile from the intersection of routes 104 and 15. It's a long way to go, and worth the trip. But go now: Burger Barn is only open through October.
Burger Barn. 40968 Route 15, Jeffersonville, Vt., 802-730-3441. Burgers $5-$9.75.
Photos by David Lyon for the Boston Globe
"These craftspeople depend on their livelihood at shows, so we couldn't cancel this weekend's event," said Laura Arnesen, manager of the Mad River Valley Craft Fair in Waitsfield, Vt.
Only 1 of the slated 115 juried potters, jewelry designers, glassblowers, metalsmiths, woodworkers, and mixed media artists has bowed out, she said during a telephone interview Thursday.
The 41st annual Labor Day weekend fair attracts craftspeople from Vermont and the Northeast and benefits the Valley Players, the local theater troupe. "It's artists helping artists," Arnesen said.
This year's featured artist is silversmith Irene Pluntky-Goedecke, an exhibitor for 25 years who splits her time between New York City and Waitsfield. Held under the big tent at Kenyon's Farm, the fair offers a food court, live jazz, kids' activities, demonstrations, and door prizes.
Mad River Valley Craft Fair, Kenyon's Farm, Rte. 100, Waitsfield. Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $4, ages 12 and under free. 802-496-3409. www.madrivercraftfair.com has directions to the site.
While portions of Vermont have been devastated by last weekend's brush with tropical storm Irene, the state is getting the word out that it is open for business on the heels of two of its busiest tourism seasons.
The Vermont Chamber of Commerce has launched a new Facebook page, dedicated to helping state business owners who depend on tourist dollars get the word out about what's open, what's closed, and how to get there. While portions of southern Vermont remain inaccessible due to massive road damage, much of the northern part of the state was spared the worst of Irene.
"We reached out to them on Monday and said tell us how you are doing," Betsy Bishop, the president of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce told WCAX. "Are you open? Are you flooded? What should visitors know? So we have reached out to them to sort of populate that information."
Vermont faces enormous challenges heading into the foliage season, as many roads that are popular driving routes like 100 and 4 remain badly damaged and probably will remain so well into the leaf-peeping period, leaving lodging and restaurant owners along such stretches with a serious hit to the wallet. That's an issue that spreads into neighboring New Hampshire, where two significant chunks of the "White Mountains Trail" - a popular foliage itinerary - the Kancamagus Highway and a portion of Route 302, remain closed. However, attractions along that stretch of 302, including the Cog Railway and Bretton Woods, may still be accessed via alternate routes.See VisitNH.com for more information.
But while Vermont and New Hampshire tourism bureaus and businesses have spent much of this week trying to relay to tourists what to expect, Irene has forced some event cancellations over the Labor Day weekend. Mount Snow, located in West Dover, Vt., was forced to cancel its annual brew fest this weekend, and as winter approaches, other resorts like Killington, which saw significant damage to various bases lodges, have major repairs and rebuilding to accomplish in time for ski season. Killington officials say they plan to open in time for the upcoming season.
Anyone travelling to Vermont is encouraged to stay up-to-date with the latest road conditions by calling 511, the state's travel information service. Meanwhile, Globe correspondents Patricia Harris and David Lyon just returned from a three-day trip to the Green Mountain State. Read their account here.