by Mike Dunphy
Before becoming editor in chief of The Bridge, I spent more than 10 years in the travel and tourism industry. I continue to do so on the side, and, indeed, I am currently in the middle of updating the Fodor’s Travel Guide for Vermont. This means poking around the entire state for the best restaurants, pubs, hotels, attractions, and activities.
Readers of The Bridge benefit, too. Once a month, Abridged Vermont will highlight what’s the buzz in one Vermont town or city in hopes of inspiring some weekend getaways. In some cases, the experiences are sponsored by the venues, but I have selected according to quality and appeal only.
Kelly Way Gardens
The Woodstock Inn remains one of the most exclusive hotels in Vermont, but you don’t need to be a guest to enjoy it. And in the case of the Kelly Way Gardens, a mile south of the inn on Route 106, it won’t even cost you a penny. Tended by master Gardener Benjamin Pauly, the three-acre, hilltop garden sprouts more than 200 varieties of vegetables, 50 varieties of herbs and edible flowers, 75 varieties of berries and orchard plantings, a mushroom glen and 200 varieties of cut flowers—much of which find their way into the meals and rooms at the inn.
A great way to see the garden is to join one of the inn’s weekly 45-minute Kelly Way Gardens Five Senses Tour, which engages in the “unique tastes, smells, textures, sights and sounds of the season.” Best of all, it’s totally complimentary to non-guests. Go a little deeper by signing up for a number of events, including Slow Tea in the Garden ($5), A Garden Tour and Tasting ($45), Red Barn Dinner Series ($55), and more.
4 The Green, (802) 457-6609, woodstockinn.com
Farmhouse Pottery Workshop
It would be hard to find a Vermont potter not admiring the success of Farmhouse Pottery, 2.5 miles west of downtown Woodstock. In 2017, the shop even won the seal of approval from the Oprah, who included a “gorgeous rustic stoneware crock” on her annual list of Oprah’s Favorite Things. A rustic, Vermonty pottery barn this is not, but instead, a pristine, elegant showroom with jugs, salt cellars, pitchers, cheese stones, match strikers, and more placed as if pieces in a high-end art gallery.
Always looking for new, talented potters, co-founders and artisans Zoe and James Zilian invite visitors to take a turn behind the wheel in any of the regular workshops. Included are a workshop tour, wheel throwing demonstration, personal pottery lesson, and for a few dollars more: mimosas, wine, and cheese. However your piece of stoneware comes out, Farmhouse will ship it directly to your home.
1837 West Woodstock Rd., 802.457.7486 farmhousepottery.com
Worthy Kitchen/Soulfully Good
Thanks to the plethora of wealthy visitors from New York and Boston, Woodstock is never short of fine dining options, but for buzz and chatter, look to Worthy Kitchen, a mile east of town. Channeling the farm-to-table mentality, Worthy adds playful twists to classic American comfort dishes, like brisket topped with root beer BBQ sauce. The beer list is prob the best in town, with Hill Farmstead, Upper Pass, and Foley Brothers, among many more. Enjoy them in the industrial-bistro interior or outside on the patio.
For the classic, sun-drenched breakfast, brunch, and lunch experience—and an ideal perch to share a tête-à-tête with a close friend (or someone you’d like to be a close friend), pop into the very aptly named Soulfully Good Cafe on Main Street. The waffles, frittatas, salads, pastries, paninis are topnotch, but the buttermilk fried chicken salad sandwich is one of the best things I’ve eaten on this entire summer journey through Vermont.
Worthy Kitchen: 442 Woodstock Rd., (802) 457-7281, worthyvermont.com
Soulfully Good Cafe: 67 Central St., (802) 457-7395, soulfullygood.com
506 on the River
Don’t let the bland, pre-fab frontage of this sprawling hotel two miles west of downtown Woodstock fool you, the interior is a whole different world, influenced largely by its ever-traveling, Africa-based owners. The rooms, common areas, corridors, and restaurant are stuffed to the gills with trinkets and knickknacks, turning sections into a virtual 19th century-esque curiosity cabinet. Add in a pool and sauna, gift shop, toddler playroom, video game arcade, and there’s little need to leave the property.
That also goes for the six-acre property’s expansive back lawn—about a football field’s worth of green—that stretches all the way back from the hotel to the Ottauquechee River, where Adirondack chairs and a fire pit look out to a picturesque bend in the water. Most guests get the same view from their balcony. All and all, it’s a tremendous value for money.
1653 RT4 West Woodstock Rd., (802) 457-5000, ontheriverwoodstock.com