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From Manhattan to Manchester With Love

  • Submitted by: Susan Cava, United States
  • Submission Date: 03rd Jan 2007

So, you are a Manhattanite who can’t afford a summer share in the Hamptons, are Long Beach’ed out and need an escape from the city before cold weather. Don’t fret; a fabulous weekend is a short car ride away! Pack your overnight bag and head to Manchester Village, Vermont – one of New England’s greatest overnight getaways and you don’t need snow or foliage to enjoy it.

First, you’ll need a car to get there; a two-day rental averages $100-120. The ride is three and a half hours north of Manhattan with much of the trip on the scenic Taconic Parkway. You cannot consider yourself a true Vermont-bound visitor if you do not stop at the infamous diner, now called O’s Eatery, 125 miles north of Manhattan.

In operation since 1953 (formerly Roscoe’s Diner) one might wonder if they have made any updates since then, however, it is a pilgrimage one’s bladder usually must make. One look at the menu and you’ll see that Manhattan prices are long gone. For around five dollars you can eat a hearty brunch of eggs, home fries, bacon, toast and coffee which will leave you understanding the rest of the country’s disdain for New York City prices.

Returning to the Taconic, just a mile past the diner, be sure to look up at the grassy hills on the right – you will see an enormous sculpture of a head, among other statues, residing on a front lawn. If you look real close you will see the giant head mouth, “Eighty miles to Manchester.” Okay, maybe not, but it’s still an oddly wonderful sight.

From the Taconic, head to Route 22, the scenic route to Manchester. As you pass through Lebanon, New York you’ll see a multitude of true blue antique stores, well worth a stop. And just one mile out of Lebanon on Route 22, be sure to drive slowly and stop at the infamous watering pipe located on the right, protruding from a concrete slab with little fanfare. Some days there are scores of cars waiting to fill up water bottles, other days there are none. Be sure to get some water from this mythical water pipe, supposedly from the purest springs in New York, it’s quite refreshing.

Continuing on you will hit the picturesque town of Bennington, home to the famed Bennington College, location of the film Baby Boom, and the monolithic Bennington Battle Monument (a mini Washington Monument); you are now just twenty minutes to Manchester Village.

Arriving in Manchester Village you will see a perfectly manicured region featuring exquisite homes, breath-taking mountains and the best factory outlet shopping your eyes will ever see! From Polo to Movado to Nine West to Coach, it’s a smorgasbord of true discounted shopping!

But first, check in to your inn. I recommend the dashing Reluctant Panther, a purple and yellow Victorian house in the center of Manchester Village that has twenty-one rooms. This cozy bed and breakfast is located just steps from the stunning, legendary (and pricey) Equinox Hotel and sits at the base of the Green Mountains. As with just about everything in Manchester Village, and everything mentioned in this article, it is located on Route 7A. Do note that most inn’s run off-season specials so check the Web before you go.

Aside from shopping, and trust me, the outlets are magnetic, try to fit in a trip to Bromley Mountain. Bromley is just six miles from Manchester Village and is Vermont’s largest outdoor fun park. It features America’s longest alpine slide, picturesque miniature golf, an outdoor water slide and of course hiking, all with spectacular views of Vermont’s Green Mountains.

Somewhere between Bromley and your shopping, head to the Jelly Mill in Manchester Center, a barn of a shop with a Christmas tinge and a jukebox organ that never stops playing. There are four lively floors and on the top they have an adorable café called The Buttery. It offers striking views of Vermont country (much of the immediate land outside is owned by outdoor retail giant Orvis), and while you might have to wait a short while for a table, the food tastes just like your mom’s, dare I say better, and is certainly worth it. Besides, the Jelly Mill has lots of fun things to look at, be it Native Indian jewelry or folk art or…jelly!

At some point during your stay, be sure to park your car near the Equinox (if you don’t stay nearby) and walk to Prospect Street where the enormous houses on the block are breath taking. Continue to where Prospect Street meets Taconic Road (about a third of a mile) and up the dirt road slightly to the left. Walk to the top of the road and then a bit deeper in the woods. Off to your left, you will find one of the most beautiful views you will ever see; a large, gorgeous lake at the base of the Green Mountains. The vast lake perfectly reflects the endless mountain trees – an incredibly peaceful sight, made more tranquil by the lack of even one other visitor. Rumor has it that way back when this lake was created for the posh guests of the Equinox – whatever the case, you’ll be thankful someone created it.

The great thing about Manchester Village is that it is small enough to navigate, but large enough to drive and discover such brilliant finds as Hildene, the 412 acre public estate formerly of Robert Todd Lincoln, President Lincoln’s son that features polo matches, walking tours, antique shows, etc.

Manchester Village never has and never will have a thriving nightlife (greatly due to strict town codes) but they do have good restaurants. If you are looking for a romantic dinner the Black Swan (with chef/owner Richard Wisenhunt, former owner of NYC’s Le Cirque) is an upscale restaurant in the heart of town and features old fashioned staples like fried chicken along with newer takes on venison and pheasant. The warm sourdough bread is hard not to fill up on.

For a more casual dining experience, try Mulligan’s, a restaurant that reminds me of the bar in Cheers, good people, excellent food and a gorgeous wooden bar. Whether it is the gargantuan nachos or the enormous burgers, this place not only does their food right, it is the rare restaurant that feels like home…with better lighting.

On your way back to lady Manhattan, do take the time to drive up the skyline of Mount Equinox, located just outside Manchester Village. If you can survive the heart-stopping drive up, you will be greeted with a stunning five state view of New England.

After your descent of Mount Equinox, directly at the bottom is the popular Basketville store. It is a gigantic barn with more Vermont chachkas then you’ll ever see again. It’s worth stopping to see the furniture, the Vermont foods (syrup, cheese) and appropriately, the wide array of baskets.

As you head home, do note that it is normal to ponder living in Manchester full time. Matter of fact, I’m convinced Manchester realtors put something in the water at that mystical pipe in Lebanon that leaves every visitor wanting more Manchester.

May is known as Black Fly Season in Vermont, a time to avoid due to the abundance of black flies. Columbus Day Weekend is the single busiest weekend in Manchester Village due to foliage seekers and the holiday, another time to avoid.