What to do in Woodstock
In the foothills of the Green Mountains, 30 miles east of Rutland, Woodstock is postcard-pretty with a modern, edgy flavor. In town you'll find restored 18th- and 19th-century clapboard homes, a church with a towering steeple, a village green, weathered barns, a covered bridge, and the casually elegant Woodstock Inn & Resort. In short, this is a town for families who want city amenities in a country setting.
In summer, hike the trails of 1,250-foot Mount Tom in the morning, then spend the afternoon browsing the boutiques and art galleries along Central Street, the burg's main street. The whimsical pet-centered art at the Stephen Huneck Gallery pleases children with its furniture and photos that incorporate dogs, cats, and fish. Bring Fido along, too, as dogs are welcome and some of the artwork is thoughtfully mounted low on the wall for easy viewing by the family pooch.
The Billings Farm and Museum, just a few miles from downtown Woodstock, is a beautiful Victorian-era spread where prized cows graze in lush pastures. Explore the dairy barn with its milking stations. Interpreters demonstrate how to milk cows, how to quilt, and even how to train oxen (slowly and with much repetition). Adjacent to the farm is the 550-acre Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, dedicated to telling the story of conservation. More interesting than the exhibits to most kids are the forest quest programs, two-hour hikes with clues given by rangers to lead walkers to facts about the region's natural history.
Find out about another kind of wildlife at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science and Raptor Center, in nearby Quechee. This living museum devoted to birds of prey serves as a rehabilitation center. Follow a path to view more than 40 native, non-releasable hawks, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, barred owls, snowy owls, red-tailed hawks, and ravens. Because the flight cages are big, shaded, and contain rafters and tree branches, bring binoculars so that kids can more easily spot the often well-hidden birds.
The Quechee Gorge is a dramatic site, especially in fall when the birch, maple, and oak trees form a quilt of colors that stretch along the rock-strewn banks of the Ottauquechee River. From Quechee Gorge Bridge, look down to the cascading waters of the river 163 feet below, or take the stairs to a flat trail alongside the river for an easy stroll to a waterfall and old mill.
In winter, ski the trails of Suicide Six or nearby Killington, whose seven mountains make it the largest ski area in the East. In summer, hike these same paths, mountain-bike in the Green Mountain National Forest, horseback ride along wooded paths, and canoe and kayak in nearby Cornish, New Hampshire. For something a little offbeat, trek into the woods with a llama, which is a bit like taking a walk with Big Bird. A two-hour family session with Woodstock Llama Treks includes lots of interaction with these loveable creatures, plus a short hike. Half-day outings are also available.
Tip: The Mountain Creamery, Woodstock, serves good sandwiches as well as homemade pies and ice cream.
Recommended Side Trips: Burlington, Montpelier, Rutland, and Cornish (New Hampshire)
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