The sun glinted off the windshield and I turned my car down a tranquil, Vermont country lane. As the road wound past a meadow, the quiet buzz of whatever critters lived among the swaths of wildflowers could be heard through our open windows. Marshland Farm, our first destination, came into view just beyond a lily-studded pond. My daughter and I would be spending the next few days exploring the Quechee area—one of central Vermont’s most picturesque locations.
This is the Vermont of our imaginations—the Ottauquechee River flows beneath quaint covered bridges. Mom and Pop shops line the main streets. Hand painted signs advertise homemade ice cream and local maple syrup. And everything is the lush green for which Green Mountain State is famous.
With the arrival of autumn and several weeks of perfect fall weather on the horizon, now is an excellent time to head to Quechee. Another of Vermont’s fantastic, four-season destinations, Quechee is home to charming, family owned inns, seasonal field-to-fork dining, locally made crafts, farmers markets, and an abundance of nature. Here is a taste of some of the best of Quechee for families looking for a truly quintessential Vermont experience.
The Art of Glassblowing
Perched above the Ottauquechee River resides the flagship store and workshop of renowned glassblower and craftsman Simon Pearce. Hailing from Ireland, Pearce set out from the family pottery business to explore his own passion—fine, hand-blown glass—and set up shop in a restored Quechee mill in the early 80s. The location continues to house a café, retail store, and demonstration space where guests can watch glowing, molten glass being crafted into Pearce’s signature pieces right before their eyes.
The morning we visited, my daughter and I stood mesmerized as the master glassblower and glass gatherer worked in sync with one another. With nary an error they traded bits of glass between one another with impeccable timing and precision. The result of this harmonious dance was the Essex Goblet, a piece with a lovely bowl, wide stem, and substantial base.
Vermont’s Covered Bridges
Few things say Vermont like an old-fashioned covered bridge and the area around Quechee is home to a few of the prettiest. Right in town, Quechee’s own bridge was built in 1970 when residents wanted to adopt a more historical feel to the structure that spanned the Ottauquechee River. After taking a beating during Hurricane Irene in 2011, the bridge was rebuilt in 2012 and is once again a focal point along Quechee’s Main Street.
A short drive along Quechee Main Street will take you right over the Taftsville Covered Bridge. Built in 1836, this bridge is one of Vermont’s oldest and the tiny hamlet of Taftsville begs for a photograph.
After crossing the bridge, turn right onto VT 4 toward and continue into the quaint village of Woodstock. Just past the Village Green, is the Middle Bridge, a beautiful bridge that was reconstructed in the late 1960s.
Nature Takes Flight
We arrived at the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences, a.k.a. VINS, just as the skies opened up and rain began to fall, but we had no trouble enjoying everything the institute had to offer. Opening our umbrella, we made our way down to the raptor enclosures along a trail that was lined with protected snapping turtle nests. The docents in the visitor’s center had given us a scavenger hunt to guide us on our tour, which really engaged us in each of the exhibits. The hunt required us to read through the signage at each display, look more closely at the birds in each enclosure, and really think more deeply about what we were seeing.
The highlight of our visit was the seeing the show, “Predators in the Sky,” a 30-minute presentation by VINS’ knowledgeable naturalists. During this time we met several of the institute’s raptors and were able to watch them in action as the naturalists encouraged them to demonstrate a variety of innate behaviors.
Hike the Gorge
Sometimes called Vermont’s Grand Canyon, Quechee Gorge is a 165-foot ravine that was carved by receding glacier over 13,000 years ago. Depending on water levels, the base of the gorge is covered in wide, flat rocks that are perfect for picnicking and create small pools where kids can wade and search for critters. My daughter loved the Gorge so much that we hiked it twice—once along the trail past Dewey’s Mill Pond from the Marshland Inn and a second time beginning at the Gorge visitor’s center. She was determined to swim in the river and because we hadn’t worn suits on our first trip down, I promised her we’d return later in the week.
Both trails are short and easy making the Gorge accessible for even young kids. Keep in mind that the hike back to the trailhead is up a fairly steep hill. We loved our walk by Dewey’s Pond—the first part of the trail leads through a beautiful meadow abundant with goldenrod and Queen Anne’s Lace. For an added adventure, in partnership with Wilderness Trails Vermont, canoes and kayaks can be rented at the Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm for some paddling on the pond.
The Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm
The wood floors creaked beneath our feet as we stepped into the entryway at the Quechee Inn, an historic farmhouse set amidst rolling fields in the Vermont countryside. Outside, enormous maple trees shade sweeping lawns and a big, red barn stands guard out back. Inside, an inviting living room is home to comfortable chairs and a big fireplace and I found myself wishing snow was falling so I could curl up with a book and a glass of wine. The covered porch was a lovely place for breakfast and we spent a peaceful, rainy afternoon out there while my daughter played her flute and I wrote in my journal. A delicious meal in the inn’s dining room capped off our day.
The Parker House Inn
Staying at the Parker House Inn I felt like I’d landed in a petite corner of Provence. Owned and operated by Alexandra Le Noue-Adler and her husband Adam Adler, the Parker House Inn is a charming, boutique property located right beside Simon Pearce. The bar and front of the house is handled by Adam, a British expat who called us ‘darling’ and kept us entertained before dinner with a steady stream of banter. Surrounded by locals, my daughter and I partook of Ms. Le Noue-Adler’s delicious creations like Drunken PEI Mussels and Ginger Roasted Beets in the aptly named Bistro Irene before heading upstairs for a good night’s sleep. Morning greeted us with a fire crackling in the breakfast room, divinely strong coffee, and berry-laden pancakes dusted with powdered sugar.
A Word About the Quechee Club
Established in 1970, the Quechee Lakes Landowners Association (QLLA) is a home owners community, the center of which is the Quechee Club. Several local inns, including the Quechee Inn and the Parker House Inn, have an affiliate relationship with the club offering their guests exclusive access to the Club as well as discounts on amenities like golf and skiing. At an additional fee, guests may also utilize the club’s facilities, pools, lake, fitness center, and children’s programs.
Owners may also register their homes as a Certified Quechee Property (CQP), a program that helps to connect QLLA members with potential renters. For families looking to have an extended stay in the Quechee area while enjoying all the comforts of home, renting through CQP enables you to become fully immersed in the Quechee Lakes community. Spend the day playing tennis and relaxing by the pool while the kids head off on an excursion with the Adventure Camp. Sign up for a family kayaking outing through the recreation department and return to enjoy dinner on Dewey’s Deck. Yoga classes, two championship golf courses, and more than 10-miles of hiking trails are all right there.
Gina Vercesi is an award-winning freelance writer with an adventurous spirit and unwavering wanderlust. Despite growing up in New England, Gina didn’t don a pair of skis until February 2014—the result of being raised by a beach-loving dad who eschewed everything having to do with snow and cold. When she finally took her first lessons and hit the slopes at Stowe Mountain Resort, she became an instant convert. As an All Mountain Mama, Gina loves sharing the joys of Vermont skiing with powder-lovers and novices alike.
Chronicling journeys on land, water, and snow, Gina’s words and images have appeared numerous print and digital publications including National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Sierra, the Boston Globe, Delta SKY, Afar, Yankee, and many more. She is passionate about helping families (including her own!) unplug from electronics and the frenetic pace of modern life and believes that travel and adventure are the best ways reconnect to one another and the world around us. Gina lives in a friendly village on the Hudson River with her husband, three daughters, and a good dog. www.ginavercesi.com