Manchester is many things to different people: a ski town, a shopping destination, or a summer getaway for golfing and fly-fishing. For me, Manchester is home. To celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary, Dave and I opted to get out of Burlington for a child-free weekend in my hometown. We enjoyed two days of fly-fishing on the Battenkill, hiking in the Green Mountains, shopping at the Northshire Bookstore, and sampling excellent food.
Our weekend getaway in May revolved around a two-night stay at The Taconic, a Kimpton boutique hotel with 78 rooms and three cottages that opened last year. It’s located at the former location of The Worthy Inn and The Village Country Inn (where I waited tables back in high school).
Kimpton prides itself on exceptional guest service and an element of surprise, which we experienced first-hand at The Taconic. Upon our arrival, we found in our room a bottle of Prosecco, chocolate-covered strawberries, and a photo of our wedding in an oval frame. The Taconic staff have an extraordinary way of making guests feel special and right at home.
5 Things to Do in Manchester
Much of our weekend revolved around exploring the outdoors, wandering around town, and relaxing at the hotel. If you’re thinking about heading to Manchester for a getaway, here are five things to make your trip complete.
1. Hike to Prospect Rock
For a beautiful view of Manchester, look no further than Prospect Rock. With an elevation of about 2,000 feet, Prospect Rock offers a view to the west of Manchester and Equinox Mountain, the tallest mountain in the Taconic Range. The intermediate hike is about 1.5 miles each way, with streams and waterfalls to the right as you make your way up. Near where the trail meets up with the Appalachian/Long Trail is a spur trail to the right that leads to Prospect Rock with a stunning lookout over Manchester.
*Getting there: From Manchester, take Route 11/30 to East Manchester Road, where you’ll turn right just past Raven’s Den (If you pass Bistro Henry, you’ve gone too far). Take an immediate left onto Rootville Road and go to the end. Park on the side of the road and follow the trail entrance straight ahead, with the water tower on your right. Visit www.fs.usda.gov.
2. Shop at the Northshire Bookstore
The Northshire Bookstore in Manchester is hands-down the best bookstore in Vermont. Aside from its robust fiction and nonfiction book selection, the Northshire offers an extensive children’s section, play area, and Zutano clothing store for babies and toddlers. The bookstore is also home to the Spiral Cafe, where you can grab breakfast, lunch, coffee, and snacks.
*Getting there: The Northshire Bookstore is located at 4869 Main St. in Manchester Center. Visit www.northshire.com.
3. Go Fly-Fishing
Two years ago, I gave Dave for Christmas a fly-fishing class at Orvis, where he spent a day learning about casting technique, tying knots, insect entomology, and stream biology. He’s been hooked on the sport ever since. While he occasionally still uses a guide for instruction, he’s skilled enough to go out on his own. If you’re new to fly-fishing, sign up for a class at Orvis or hire a guide through the store. If you want to go out on your own, stop by Orvis to pick up some flies, waders, or a new rod and try fly-fishing in Roaring Branch in Sunderland along Kelley Stand Road or in the Battenkill River along Route 313 in Arlington.
*Getting there: Roaring Branch is located on Kelley Stand Road. From Route 7A, take East Arlington Road to Old Mill Road to Kansas Road. Turn right onto Kelley Stand Road. To access the Battenkill, take Route 7A south to Route 313 west in Arlington. After about ¼-mile, take a left onto River Road for river access. Visit orvis.com.
4. Get Inspired at Southern Vermont Arts Center
The Southern Vermont Arts Center is home to the largest sculpture garden in the state, as well as bountiful gardens, impressive galleries, and scenic grounds. Enjoy exhibits, performances, music, workshops, lectures, camps, children’s programming, and more. Established in 1922 and situated on 120 acres, the Southern Vermont Arts Center is also home to extensive outdoor trails, where you can enjoy wildflowers, birch trees, and wildlife.
*Getting there: The Southern Vermont Arts Center is located off West Road at 930 SVAC Drive in Manchester. Visit www.svac.org.
5. Visit Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home
Hildene was built in 1905 as the summer home of Robert Lincoln, the son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. The 412-acre estate’s Georgian revival mansion is the main attraction, but there’s so much more to this historic home, including a formal garden and observatory; Welcome Center and The Museum Store in a historic carriage barn; a 1903 Pullman car; a solar-powered goat dairy and cheese-making facility; and the Dene, which serves as a campus for environmental and agricultural education for high school students and includes a teaching greenhouse, composting facility, vegetable gardens, apple orchard, and 600-foot floating wetland boardwalk.
*Getting there: Hildene is located off Route 7A at 1005 Hildene Road in Manchester. Visit www.hildene.org.
Where to Eat
The Copper Grouse
The Copper Grouse at The Taconic was recently named the best hotel bar by Men’s Journal. The bar offers everything from Vermont brews on draft—Fiddlehead, Switchback, and Northshire Brewery—to classic cocktails like Manhattans and Moscow Mules, to signature drinks named Green Mountain Grog and War of the Roses.
The atmosphere is warm and intimate, and it’s hard to beat sipping a cocktail or glass of wine on the hotel’s impressive front porch overlooking Main Street.
Since opening last fall, the bar has become a popular spot for locals and visitors. Likewise, the restaurant draws hotel guests and regulars from Manchester, Dorset, Bondville, and beyond. Executive Chef Adam Raftery uses the best of the region’s ingredients, creating inspired dishes such as a delicious spring chop salad, flavorful pulled pork tacos, herb-grilled flat iron steak, spring pea risotto, and the signature Copper burger.
The menu offers small plates ($11-$15), soups and salads ($9-$11), and big plates ($17-$31). Snacks, including house made potato chips, marinated olives and peppers, and baked pretzels are available, as is a kids’ menu. Visit www.coppergrouse.com.
Where to Stay
The Taconic is more than a boutique, luxury hotel. The hotel takes pride in reflecting its connection to the Manchester community. Each guestroom comes with artwork from the local historical society (our room featured artwork of The Worthy Inn), walking sticks handcrafted by Manchester Woodcraft for both kids and adults, staff picks from the Northshire Bookstore, and custom adult coloring books offered in collaboration with the Southern Vermont Arts Center.
The hotel’s amenities are many, and some additional perks include public bikes, yoga mats, and an evening social hour in the lobby to get acquainted with other guests.
For our anniversary, we were so impressed by the great care and attention we received on this special occasion. It turns out that personal attention to detail is the hallmark of Kimpton’s success.
“We definitely conduct our own guest research before guests are to stay, especially if they are visiting for a special occasion like anniversaries, birthdays, engagements, and milestones,” Jami Poe, director of sales and marketing at The Taconic, told me after our visit. “Some examples include personalized journals for guests who enjoy writing and engraved walking sticks for outdoor enthusiasts.”
The wedding photo that was framed in our bedroom was taken in May 2004. It’s not on Facebook and not that easy to find. I can think of one or two places where the staff might have found it, and it’s clear they had to do some digging to track down the photo.
“Knowing our guests and understanding their preferences allows us to curate and create thoughtful amenities that lead to memorable experiences,” Jami told me.
Thanks to the staff at The Taconic, our anniversary weekend was all that and more.
*Getting there: The Taconic is located at 3835 Main St. in Manchester Village. Rates start at $269 per night. Call 802-362-0147 or visit www.taconichotel.com.
*The Taconic provided us with a complimentary dinner for two at The Copper Grouse.