I don’t ski but I’ve been to Stratton Mountain the past few winters as the guests of friends who have a ski house there. The area in winter is very much ski-centric and I wouldn’t recommend a visit if no one in your group skis - it’s cold and it’s not incredibly built up outside the ski mountain area. But having been a few times now, I’ve learned some solid things to do off the slopes while the skiers in my group ski.
Stratton Mountain Resort Area
Stratton Mountain Resort is an incredibly popular east coast ski resort. It’s not too far from the NYC area and it’s got a nice base at the mountain with restaurants and shops. It’s pretty happening if you’re into that apres ski sort of vibe. And if you’re not? Don’t worry. There’s still some super cool stuff minutes from the Stratton base.
Just about ten minutes from Stratton Mountain Resort in Jamaica, VT is a small trifecta of worthwhile stops. There’s a killer little specialty craft beer store, Meulemans’ Craft Draughts, where you can pick up some of Vermont’s most coveted beers that are hard to find back in the Tri-State Area. The owners are kind and knowledgeable and there’s always a few beers on draft, too. It’s my husband’s first stop each visit to Stratton. Right next door is Underground Coffee Roasters, a pleasant place to stop in for a freshly roasted cup of coffee.
Directly across the road from the beer and coffee stores is Honeypie, a hip burger and shake spot appropriate for all ages from the same folks who own the nearby well regarded (but alas not kid friendly), Solo Farm & Table. This counter-service spot serves up some great burgers and other sandwiches.
If you continue about another 7 minutes into Jamaica, VT, do not miss Workhorse Cafe, a really solid small food and drink counter serving up farm fresh eats for breakfast and lunch. Just be aware as of my visit this year, there is a high top table to eat at, but no accompanying stools or chairs.
Wintry Fun Off the Slopes Is Just 20 Minutes Away
Drive just about 20 minutes north into Vermont to Taylor Farm in Londonderry for a picturesque horse drawn sleigh ride and smores roasting. Reservations for the sleigh must be made in advance by calling the farm at (802) 824-5690. While there also pick up some of the farm’s well regarded cheeses and be sure to say “hi” to their farm animals.
Another 10 minutes from the farm is the Weston, VT location of the Vermont Country Store. This massive store is admittedly commercialized (see their huge online presence for evidence) but it is still a ton of fun to walk through. There’s a large section of candy sold by the pound and all kinds of maple syrups, jams, cheese and crackers from the state of Vermont. On the other end of the store is woodsy gear and clothing and assorted soaps and bath products. The middle of the store holds all the toys, games and gadgets for kids and kids at heart. Walking around the store and buying a few souvenirs is a fun way to spend a Vermont afternoon.
Spend an Afternoon in Manchester, VT
Manchester is the big tourist town in Southern Vermont. It’s an easy drive from Stratton and various other ski areas and it’s worth visiting for a few hours. It’s got some standalone chain store outlet shops and some mom and pop offerings. The best of those mom and pop offerings is Northshire Bookstore, a beautiful 10,000 square foot independent bookstore. As a mom, I’ve spent the most time in the store’s large children’s book section on the upper level. It takes up the entire level and has what feels like every book you could possibly want for a child of any age. That upper level is a great pit stop for any family. The little bit I’ve gotten to see of the adult books downstairs are also well curated. It’s a very special store and well known around the country in the world of independent bookstores.
Another must hit store in Manchester is Mother Myrick’s Confectionery. You cannot come to Manchester and not visit to Mother Myrick’s to pick up its unbeatable Lemon Lulu Cake. This pound cake is one of the best desserts on the planet and I highly recommend taking one back home with you (and getting one for your stay in VT). They freeze well and they are so delicious. The lemon flavor is subtle and the cake is so airy. This cake with a hot cup of coffee is winter morning bliss.
Last But Not Least
I don’t think our group is alone in thinking that the best possible off-slope activity in Vermont in winter is day drinking by a fire. Whether it’s at your hotel, at one of the many restaurants in Stratton Mountain Resort with outdoor fireplaces or, in our case, at our friends’ house, find yourself a warm fire, open up a bottle of wine or a can of craft beer, put on your winter hat and enjoy.