Staycations in Vermont07/01/2022 07:15PM ● By Phyl Newbeck
Sure, you can spend a lot of money to fly to distant locales for vacation, dealing with crowds and delays at the airport. Another option, however, is to stay closer to home. There are three resorts in the Green Mountain State that are perfect locations for a cheaper, less stressful summer staycation: The Essex Resort & Spa, Woodstock Inn, and the Equinox Golf Resort & Spa.
THE ESSEX RESORT & SPA
At The Essex Resort & Spa in Essex, it’s all about food. Director of Sales and Marketing Keith McManus notes that this begins the moment a guest enters the premises and encounters the reception desk, a.k.a. Front Desk Café. “It’s kind of a mini coffee shop,” he says, “with cappuccino, espresso, and a lot of sweet and savory treats.” Of course, the Front Desk Café is hardly the only eatery at The Essex Resort. There is also Junction, which is the resort’s signature restaurant. “It’s a Wine Spectator and AAA award-winning restaurant,” Keith says. “But it still has a casual feel. It’s not an uptight place with white tablecloths, but it’s fine dining.”
The Essex Resort is also known for its Cook Academy. “It’s where you get to experience the life of a chef,” says Keith. “You learn how to source, prepare, and entertain. You can learn to put together a three- or four-course meal or focus on things like knife skills or pasta and sushi making.”
Kristen Mackenna, area marketing manager, notes that the spa at the Essex Resort draws visitors with Dr. Dennis Gross products, derma planing, stress recovery facials, and hyaluronic facials. Other amenities include the resort’s six clay tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools, and rental mountain bikes. There is live music nightly and a variety of outdoor games, including corn hole and bocce.
The Essex Resort has its own vegetable and flower garden, as well as two dwarf Nigerian goats named Stuart and Penelope. Keith describes the guest rooms as culinary-inspired with themes like spice racks, harvest, or baking. “Even the little touches like the shampoo and conditioner are garden-themed,” he says, “and guests sleep on platform beds with headboards designed to look like a cutting board.”
“It’s all about the experience of being surrounded by what is culinary from our guest rooms to our outlets and even the spa,” says Keith. “It’s a true culinary experience. We say that the resort feeds your mind, body, and spirit, and what it means to each individual is what they take from that. Everyone’s interpretation of culinary is different.”
WOODSTOCK INN & RESORT
Director of Marketing Jennifer Vincent is quick to point out the many recreational activities offered at the Woodstock Inn & Resort in Woodstock. One of the most popular is our fly-fishing program, she says. “We partner with Orvis to provide lessons and trips with endorsed guides, and we are a retail outfitter as well.” The resort also has an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Sr. golf course, mountain biking, walking trails, and an athletic club, with tennis courts and daily fitness classes. Guests can swim in either the indoor pool at the athletic club or the outdoor pool located right at the inn. Local hiking trails wind up Mt. Peg and Mt. Tom, with direct access from the inn.
Those preferring pampering to recreating can enjoy the 10,000-square-foot LEED-certified spa, which has ten treatment rooms for facials, massages, Reiki, and more. The Spa uses organic skin-care brands, including Tata Harper, which is made in Vermont. Tata Harper products can also be purchased in The Spa's boutique shop.
Cruiser bikes are available for those who want to ride into town. In fact, Jennifer notes that visitors to the inn can pretty much park their car for their entire stay and walk or ride to the resort's facilities as well as the town of Woodstock. “Woodstock is a walking village with amazing shops and art galleries,” she says. “It’s also half a mile to the Billings Farm & Museum, where visitors can meet the dairy cows and learn the history of farming. That’s across the road from Vermont’s only national park, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, which was once the home of Laurance and Mary Rockefeller.”
The Rockefellers are integral to the Woodstock Inn & Resort, with three of the 142 rooms named for the couple. Other rooms have themes like the Links Room for golf, the Long Trail Room, and the Alpine Room.
The Inn has many dining options, including the Red Rooster, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as Richardson’s Tavern. Specialty Red Barn Dinners are held on select Sunday evenings in the summer and fall. Visitors get tours of the Kelly Way Gardens, and chefs prepare the freshly picked ingredients for dinner as guests look on in the culinary studio.
THE EQUINOX GOLF RESORT & SPA
“In pandemic times, people figured out they could work remotely from their homes,” says Rob Booth, director of sales and marketing for the Equinox in Manchester. “But you can also do that from a hotel or resort.” Rob believes the Equinox would be a great location for a Vermonter’s staycation. The hotel even has special packages designed for residents, including one where a fourth night is free.
Rob touts the 914 acres of pristine wildlife preserve right behind the hotel. “We own and maintain the hiking trails there,” he says, “and every Saturday morning at 10am, our general manager leads hikes with his golden retriever Cooper, who is our Chief Happiness Officer.” Other recreational opportunities include the 18-hole golf course, which was originally designed by Walter Travis in 1927 and refreshed in 1991 by Rees Jones.
Another popular form of recreation is fly fishing. “The Orvis flagship store is here in Manchester,” Rob says. “It’s the original store opened by the family.” A less contemplative activity is the Land Rover test drives on an 80-acre driving trail with options ranging from classic 1960s vehicles to new models available for one, two, or half-day excursions. Other guests prefer to explore the various outlet stores in town.
The Equinox has 199 guest rooms, with 150 in the main building and others in the Orvis suites next door. Restaurants include the Marsh Tavern, where Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys met to plan to overthrow the British. Other options are the upscale Chop House, the Dormy Grill at the clubhouse, and the Falcon Bar, which is a favorite for cocktails, sunset viewing, and grilling s’mores over the fire pit.
There is live music every Friday and Saturday night during the summer and fall, and guests can also take advantage of special packages like axe throwing and visits from the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum. “There are some great packages online,” Rob says. “Particularly, mid- week, you can find a lot of value.”
The Essex Resort & Spa
70 Essex Way
Essex Junction, VT
Woodstock Inn & Resort
14 The Green
(802) 332- 6853
The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa
3567 Main Street
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE ESSEX
RESORT & SPA, WOODSTOCK INN, AND THE EQUINOX GOLF RESORT & SPA