Want to see Hallmark cards come to life? Visit Vermont during the winter and see them come to life beyond the greeting cards.
TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE
RELEASE: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2018
Winter in Vermont
Beyond the Greeting Cards
By Jim Farber
Winter in Vermont has been depicted so many times and for so many years — from prints by Currier and Ives, to the paintings of Grandma Moses, to 1,000 Hallmark cards — it’s an American cliche. Just mentioning it brings to mind images of village churches with their steeples reaching for the sky, their graveyards draped in snow; snow-covered fields leading to distant woods; picturesque covered bridges across icy streams.
The fact is, all these scenes really exist. And if you’ve never actually experienced them, you owe it to yourself to make the trip.
My journey began at Penn Central Station in Manhattan as I boarded Amtrak’s Vermonter bound for the town of Brattleboro. About five hours later, after passing through New Haven and Hartford, Connecticut; Holyoke and Springfield, Massachusetts; the train pulled into the small station in Brattleboro.
From spring to fall Brattleboro bustles with tourists there to enjoy outdoor activities, arts and literature festivals, fresh-food markets and, of course, fall color viewing. But in winter, when the weather can be freezing (or below freezing) cold and the roads can be sheeted with black ice, the flow of tourists slows down considerably.
Of course there is no way to guarantee the type of weather you’ll encounter. And I have to admit I was amazingly lucky to have three consecutive days of sun. But using those days to explore Brattleboro and the surrounding villages of Guilford, Bellows Falls, Saxton’s River, Cambridgeport and Grafton was like entering a Norman Rockwell painting.
Where I come from, Los Angeles, any building more than 75 years old qualifies as a historic landmark. In Vermont, where people commonly put the year their house was built above their address, it’s not unusual to see 1730, 1741 or 1776. Victorian houses are modern architecture!
Brattleboro in Wyndham County, 10 miles north of the Massachusetts state line at the confluence of the West and Connecticut rivers, was founded as a defensive position/stockade in 1723. It became a chartered community named for Col. William Brattle in 1753. But it was as a mill town that Brattleboro flourished, and by the mid-1800s it had a population of more than 3,000.
Today the downtown is a bustling combination of 19th- and early 20th-century brick buildings with one standout exception — the art deco Latchis Theater and Hotel with its inlaid Italian terrazzo and fantasy Grecian motif. Its modest rooms are quite comfortable, and the Latchis makes an ideal base camp from which to explore the town and beyond.
Fodor’s Travel rates Brattleboro as one of its 10 Best Small Towns in America, “the Vermont of your dreams.”
The town’s great culinary surprise is T.J. Buckley’s Uptown Dining. This intimate seven-table restaurant with its adjacent open kitchen is made from a restored 1925 Worcester dining car. For more than three decades chef/owner Michael Fuller has been preparing organic, seasonal cooking (with edible floral accents) at a level you would expect to find in New York City or Napa Valley. It’s pricey but more than worth it. Reservations (which are much easier to obtain in winter) are a must.
If you’re comfortable with winter driving, the best way to explore the towns around Brattleboro is to rent a car. Then you can travel some of the most scenic back roads in the country, where all those Hallmark cards come to life. Visit Christ’s Church (on U.S. Route 5) in Guilford, originally built in 1817. Wind your way into the Green River Valley with it cascading mill pond and covered bridge. And if you want to find a cozy Vermont inn worthy of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” look no farther than the Grafton Inn (established in 1801) in the picture-perfect town of Grafton.
There’s plenty left to explore in Vermont. Just remember to bundle up.
WHEN YOU GO
- For general information on Brattleboro: www.brattleborochamber.org/visit-brattleboro
- T.J. Buckley’s: www.tjbuckleysuptowndining.com or 802-257-4922
- The Grafton Inn: www.graftoninnvermont.com or 800-843-1801
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