“Something’s different,” I gasped to my husband upon returning home from our weekend at the Woodstock Inn & Resort in central Vermont. “I’m… I’m… not crabby anymore!”
It’s now been a week since we finished our stay, and I can definitively state that this mini-vacation has had potent, positive, and lasting effects.
Let’s back up and investigate: WHAT about that destination transformed these two harried middle school teachers and double parents back into balanced, connected humans?
Last Friday when our car screeched out of our driveway in Boston to launch a Woodstock Inn getaway (thank you, grandparents, for lovingly caring for our kids!) I was a snippy mess. With my exhausted, squabbling brain in full effect, you would not have wanted to be in the vehicle with me right then.
Now, here’s the first unanticipated benefit of Woodstock, Vermont: at 2.5 hours from Boston, it’s the perfect distance to have unhurried adult conversation at last, uninterrupted by wails of, “Mama, I wanted to cut the waffle myseeeeelf! Waaahh!”
By the time we pulled up at the hotel, my breathing had steadied, and the astounding reality had set in: I would not need to pack lunches or wash dishes for the next THREE DAYS! But that was only the beginning.
Walking into a historically-decorated work of art…
It turns out that the Woodstock Inn — rich with history since its 1793 inception — just put $16.5 million into renovating its public spaces and guest rooms. This meant that we strode into the best yet incarnation of one of the most beloved and storied resorts in New England.
Want an important fact about that moment you first walk into the inn? The central lobby fireplace is bigger than your car. Ok, well not quite, but if that fireplace and your car got into a fight, the fire would probably win. It’s a beast. But a cozy beast!
Ok, but what about the Woodstock Inn cookies?
I’m glad you asked. This is, indeed, a topic we must hit immediately. Upon check-in, we were informed that each afternoon at 4pm, Tea Time would be served in the Conservatory, replete with freshly-baked cookies, coffee (aka, “superior tea”), and tea.
I’d heard of the famed pastry chef, Philippe, before, and so knew I was in for a treat with his baking. At 3:58pm precisely, I stationed myself in the Conservatory — feeling very posh to be in a thusly named room — and prepared to pounce on Tea Time.
Chef Rhys did not disappoint! Not only were there classic chocolate chip cookies, but Tom’s team also produced: gingersnaps (chewy and flavorful), chocolate chocolate chunk, peanut butter cup (!), oatmeal raisin, and more.
Unfortunately, there is a side effect to this Tea Time decadence: I now have 4pm Cookie Expectation Syndrome (4CES) which means, now that I’m home, that I fly into a rage each time 4:01pm hits and I have no baked goods in my mouth. Darn it!
What is the history of the Woodstock Inn & Resort?
I’ve recently become fascinated by Historic Hotels of America: a group of more than 300 properties that combine our country’s heritage with delightful places to stay — all while preserving treasures from the past.
Since it’s a HHA member, you better bet that the Woodstock Inn has history. Way back in 1793, it began as Richardson’s Tavern (a wood-graced eatery which still lives on in the hotel today), then became the Eagle Hotel in 1830. The eagle that graces the resort’s walls and logo today derives from that name!
In 1892, the original Woodstock Inn was constructed. Admire its pointy tower in this painting of the long-gone building, below…
My favorite aspect of the original Woodstock Inn comes from the hotel’s history timeline:
“The inn quickly attracted many affluent visitors and became known as Vermont’s first winter-sports center for tourists, with “riotous” winter parties that were the talk of Boston and Montreal.”
WHAT?! What in the name of maple syrup was going on at these parties to wag the tongues of gossips three full hours north? One can only imagine, but that tidbit sure makes me grin. History ain’t boring!
Anyhoo, in 1967, Laurance Rockefeller — yes, of the illustrious Rockefeller family — bought the Woodstock Inn and spearheaded a total reconstruction of the worn-down building. Was it all that partying that took its toll on the structure??
In 1969, the new inn flung open its doors, and has since been expanded via a MASSIVE fitness facility and golf course (more on that soon — it’s awesome!), and a world-renowned 10,000-square-foot spa. Oh — and the $16.2 million dollar renovation from 2016 to 2018, of course.
The resort now has 142 guest rooms in a range of styles, which means that when the inn is sold out — as it was when we visited in mid-November — there can be over 300 guests on the property!
Pair this with the over 300 staff members (counting the athletic center and ski area), and the Woodstock Inn becomes its own bustling town within a town. What is lovely, however, is how this life meshes well with Woodstock, itself, which sits in all its New England charm, just outside the inn’s emerald lawn.
What is there to do around the Woodstock Inn?
While it’s tempting to stay inside all day, snuggled in the beautiful furniture of the inn’s Lobby Living Room and eating a stashed pile of Tea Time cookies, there ARE some options for activities beyond.
The most dramatic option? Giant birds landing on your hand! New England Falconry is a 5-minute drive from the inn, and is a spectacular way to work with a trained birds of prey expert to learn the art of this 4,000-year-old pastime.
Believe it or not, I’ve been falconing once before at Ireland’s School of Falconry, but there was something particularly charming about this Vermont incarnation due to the adoration the trainer clearly had with the birds. The falcons are treated very well, and were a wonder to watch.
Next up is the 42,000-square-foot Athletic Center at the Woodstock Inn. I HIGHLY recommend you check it out, even if you don’t always love exercise, because merely wandering around is a feast for the eyes.
We are talking state-of-the-art equipment, here, from the large pool (with a mountain view!), to the co-ed sauna, to the racquetball and tennis courts, to fitness and pilates equipment and classes, to the U-shaped treadmills which my husband tried unsuccessfully to stuff in his suitcase so he could live with them forever.
Getting in a pool workout and sauna time really MADE my vacation, because it added an exercise endorphin high to my already soaring spirits — and cleared some room in my belly for more cookies! Use the athletic center at least once during your stay, and thank me later.
Well, this is a nice segue… what follows is a photo of me flexing my bulging bicep muscles in front of a flock of cows at Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock. Here’s how this ridiculous picture happened.
Husband: “Make a pose. Oh my gosh — the cows are tromping towards you!”
Me: “I will flex my muscles to show I’m not afraid!”
Husband: “Really now?”
Me: “Take the darn photo.”
Ahem. On to more practical information. The Billings Farm and Museum is FREE to enter for Woodstock Inn guests, and is a must-see for adults and kids alike. It boasts a fully restored 1890 farm house, plus a working farm replete with fluffy and friendly animals.
Right nearby sits the only national park in Vermont: the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park which features a Federal style 1800s mansion, plus preserved lands for hiking and exploration.
There are googobs of other fun activities to partake in around Woodstock, including skiing at Suicide Six (part of the Ski Vermont consortium), hiking and biking, cooking classes or tours at Kelly Way Gardens, and shopping or wandering around the town and its covered bridges (article on those coming soon!)… but we have waited FAR too long to discuss a central feature of the inn, so let’s scamper to it.
What is there to eat at the Woodstock Inn?
“What is there NOT to eat the Woodstock Inn?” would be an easier question, because the menu has just about everything a tummy could want — with a focus on comforting local food. There are two restaurants within the walls of the property, meaning you don’t have to chill a hair on your head by trudging outside to eat.
The Red Rooster is a AAA four diamond restaurant with wide windows overlooking the garden. During our romantic dinner there, Colin and I devoured scallops with acorn squash and BACON, and seared tuna with corn so flavorful, it reached out of the plate and slapped me across the face. We didn’t know corn could be so fresh!
The delectable breakfast buffet is also served in the Red Rooster, and the biscuits and gravy were just one of 12 highlights of that buffet I could recommend to you. I’d also suggest looking at the plated breakfast options, however, as I thoroughly enjoyed the egg, quinoa, veggie, and ROASTED APPLE (!) bowl pictured below.
The second eatery in the Woodstock Inn is the rebirth of the 1979 establishment, Richardson’s Tavern. Praise be the shuttle driver who tipped me off to ordering the fondue there on our second night (ironically, on the drive back from the Athletic Center). If you’ve never dipped tiny pickles and carrots into molten cheese, you’re in for a treat!
In the dimly-lit, history-steeped, dark-wood-embraced tavern, mouth filled with cheese and giggles, I felt my sense of humor and humanity start to return. Food and atmosphere MAKE a vacation!
What else should I know about the Woodstock Inn & Resort?
If you’re wondering what clothes to pack, know that Woodstock Inn guests display a wide range of fashion styles. Flannel was a strong theme, so I sometimes was the least plaid person in a room, always sporting the travel dresses I am addicted to wearing from my friend Sarah’s dress company, Leota (yes, every dress pictured here is a Letoa, and I do even wear them to hang out with cows at farms). However, the general vibe of the resort welcoming and comfortable.
On that note, I was thrilled to hear several different languages spoken, suggesting that the inn is becoming a destination for visitors from around the world.
Next, if you’re an architecture and decor geek like me, know that the Woodstock Inn is chock-full of hidden visual pleasures.
Though the Lobby, Library, and Conservatory have a classic, Federal-era style, the public areas on the sides of the U-shaped building offer really cool brick and stone combinations that play with the sunbeams from the towering windows. Check this one out:
Meanwhile, the photo above highlights a feature of other Historic Hotels I’ve toured: Surprising seating nooks nestled around the property. I’m not really sure who ends up sitting in that cushy flowered chair in that back stairwell, but it sounds like a good time to me.
Let’s explore another inventive public places around the Woodstock Inn to set your rump for a spell. This next one is right outside the Library, and uses such creamy shades of pastel that it makes me hungry for ice cream. The one after it is decadent decoration, incarnate.
Moving on, we must acknowledge the hulking chandelier! Just outside of Richardson’s Tavern and behind the Conservatory, there is a grand staircase that is adorned with a crown of lights.
Now, for all you photography lovers out there, I shall warn you that this decoration is quite the challenge to photograph. I took about 40 different shots over the course of three days, and this was the best I could come up with, but the beauty more or less comes through, eh?
Next fun fact: The Woodstock Inn & Resort changes its decor with each season! Gourds were hither and thither when we stayed over in November, and a kindly staff member informed me that we had just missed a GOURD TUNNEL at Kelly Way Gardens: Yes, you heard that right: a tunnel adorned with hundreds of locally-grown gourds taller than my son.
In December, word on the street is that sometimes there is a life-sized gingerbread house (!) in the lobby (not to be confused with the fake, healthy “gingerbread house” activity I did with my kids at home), and I’m semi-relieved to have missed that, since I would have spent our whole visit eating it, piece by piece.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Woodstock Inn & Resort, but just as much as I loved being there, I am in awe of the change in my attitude that the mini-vacation produced. Does the inn have anti-crabby magic vibes? Was it all that good food that healed me? The beauty of the space? The revitalization of the inn’s big recent renovation rubbing off to revitalize MY soul?
All I know is that I didn’t realize how much I missed my sense of humor until it came back. I’m a much more enjoyable wife, Mama, teacher, and friend since that Vermont weekend, so on behalf of my whole family, we thank you, Woodstock Inn!
So what do you think? Have you ever visited the Woodstock Inn & Resort, or central Vermont itself? If so, what was your experience like? What did I miss in my exploration and write-up?
If you haven’t visited yet, does this seem like a place you’d like to see? Do share!
We were hosted guests of the Woodstock Inn, but all biceps and opinions are my own.