WHY GO: Granted, not many people rhapsodize about Rutland VT. But come here and you’ll see another side to this much-maligned Vermont city. Whatever challenges Rutland has faced, it has done so with heart and soul and has come out on top.
How else would you describe a town of 17,000 beating out Boston’s Fenway Park in its annual Gift Of Life Marathon Blood Drive for several years running? Nearby, there’s a homespun Maple Museum, a cool Marble Museum, a collection of Norman Rockwell magazine covers, good eats, beautiful inns, and of course, ski resorts. Read on:
Things to Do in and Around Rutland VT
SHOP: Handmade in Vermont, Wallingford VT
The last thing you’d expect before walking through the door of this historic stone building, America’s first pitchfork factory built in 1848, is an assemblage of contemporary home décor, crafts and lighting.
It’s quite the surprise. As the largest Hubbarton Forge dealer, Handmade In Vermont features gorgeous lighting fixtures and other home accessories and furniture hand-forged in Vermont.
Unlike the official Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge MA, this museum holds no original Rockwell oils. Instead, it’s one of the largest collections of original Saturday Evening Post covers, movie posters and advertisements displayed in chronological order.
I was told that when this museum was established in 1976, Rockwell himself came by to give it his “stamp of approval.”
There are over 2,000 Rockwell renderings here, on decades-old magazine covers that offer a look at the issues of the day. Most intriguing? The September 2, 1939 headline ominously alerting the populace to “Communist Wreckers in American Labor.”
As famous as he was for his magazine illustrations, however, Rockwell’s ads for Ticonderoga Pencils, Mobil Oil, Beacon Blankets and other products were just as homespun. You can purchase any number of original Saturday Evening Post magazine covers (some with address label still attached) for just $35 at the shop next to the museum.
TOUR: Vermont Marble Museum, Proctor VT
New Hampshire might have its granite, but Vermont has marble: Beautiful, white, veined stone. Not all iconic national monuments were made of marble quarried in Vermont, however.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery, for example, was excavated in Colorado by the Vermont Marble Company, and sent to Vermont to be carved. The museum is housed inside the company’s industrial building, with a gleaming white marble plaza.
A tour imparts information about geology, history of the marble industry, and brings you to past US Presidents, carved in bas-relief, in the stately Hall of Presidents. Open mid-May to October, daily 10-5. $9 adults, $4 kids.
TOUR: New England Maple Museum, Pittsford VT
What at first appears to be one big gift shop is just a small part of this old-fashioned, low-fi, quirky museum. Within the exhibits, there’s not a computer screen in sight.
What makes this so compelling, especially for travelers who appreciate learning about a way of life from the horse’s – or in this case, the farmer’s – mouth is the unfiltered commentary along the way. I actually laughed when I heard the farmer’s wife griping about the drudgery of it all, after her husband declares maple sugar time, “the best part of the year.”
At the entrance to the museum, a motion sensor activates a robotic farmer, sitting atop a ladder. He pontificates about life on the farm in late winter.
Continue on to see, antique buckets, sugaring kettles, and other implements of the trade. Push a button in front of each diorama to hear sugar-makers, Mr. and Mrs. Hitchcock, comment on what you are seeing.
To supplement income, farmers made maple syrup in the off-season. Despite its romantic allure, this spring enterprise was hard work. While Farmer H. called sugaring “a labor of love,” waxing lyrical about it being his favorite thing to do, the Mrs., sounding tired and annoyed, described it as “the hardest work on the farm. Hot and boring.”
And the odor? At first, heavenly, but towards the end of the season, “it smells like socks.” And on that note, you are invited to try out as many samples as you’d like. Open daily 10-4 or 5 depending on time of year, $5 adults, $1 kids.
DO: Spa Treatment at Mountain Top Spa, Chittenden VT
Even if you don’t stay there, plan a treatment at Mountain Top’s barn-chic Spa. Treatment rooms, for facials, body wraps and all kinds of massage, are stone-tile chic.
Participate in Yoga, Guided Meditation, X-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in season. If your time is limited, revel in the mountain and lake views while soaking your feet in hammered copper bowls filled with warm water and soothing salts. 50-min. massage and treatments from $110-$135.
SKI: Killington and Pico
Both Killington and Pico are close by, and the reason most people visit here in winter. But if you are not a skier, use the above ideas to explore.
Where to Eat in Greater Rutland VT
EAT: Roots, Rutland VT
I’ve never had Chicken Thighs quite like these: tasty, tender and glazed in Vermont honey-butter. I’d return for these delectable treats alone. But this popular farm-to-fork eatery is also known for its craft cocktails, house-made pastas, Emu Meatloaf , and a Signature Cheese Fondue that incorporates local milk and cheese.
EAT: Red Clover Inn, Mendon VT
A destination restaurant at a stunning country inn (see below in “Where to Stay”), Red Clover is as innovative as it is excellent. You’ll find Escargot atop a bed of seaweed, Duck pan-roasted with pomegranate demi-glaze, and other remarkable dishes on a menu that changes seasonally.
EAT: Mountain Top Inn and Resort, Chittenden VT
Another destination restaurant, this is less experimental, but excels in Vermont Cheese and craft beer.
Where to Stay in Greater Rutland VT
STAY: Red Clover Inn, Mendon, Vermont
Just a few miles from downtown Rutland, and about 15 minutes from Killington Ski Resort, many consider The Red Clover Inn to be one of the top B&B’s in central Vermont.
This attractive yellow inn is fine enough for the local Chamber of Commerce to hold a monthly soiree, friendly enough to feel like family, and pretty enough to impress a jaded travel writer.
Built in 1849 as a summer retreat and 200-acre farm for the Ripley family of Rutland, what is now the Red Clover Inn became the SATCO Lodge in the 60’s and 70’s before falling into disrepair.
The Tyler’s (who also own the family-friendly Tyler Place Resort), purchased the property in 2009. They then renovated and updated all 14 rooms to striking effect. Thankfully, the 100+ year old apple tree out back was left alone.
First Impressions of Red Clover Inn
About a half mile off busy Route 4, the inn isn’t tough to find. Despite its name, The Red Clover’s canary yellow exterior shines like a beacon.
Check in is warm and welcoming. While touring the Federalist-meets-Adirondack style common rooms, the innkeeper points out towels available for a small hot tub outside. There are also complimentary water bottles, and popcorn near a microwave for the taking when you need a little snack.
Rooms at Red Clover Inn
Rooms are named after each of the 13 kids in the Ripley family. Ask for a corner one, like Emma. This sun drenched dormer with two skylights – one over an in-bedroom Jacuzzi, the other in a sizable bathroom – is romantic plus.
Tromp l’oeille stones peek out in sections of cream colored sponge-painted walls, lending Mediterranean flair. Sunset casts the whole room in amber.
Other chambers are smaller and more traditionally decorated, but all are elegant and fine. Apparently, the interior designer had a grand time creating a different atmosphere in each room.
Dining at Red Clover Inn
Breakfast here is as farm-to-table as it gets, with locally made raspberry jam, fruit, and made-to-order omelets with potatoes.
The Red Clover Inn is known for its destination restaurant, as innovative as it is excellent. You’ll find Escargot atop a bed of seaweed, Duck pan-roasted with pomegranate demi-glaze, and other remarkable dishes on a menu that changes seasonally. Rooms and suites from $125 – $350 per night. Includes gourmet hot breakfast, parking, wi-fi, popcorn.
STAY: Mountain Top Inn Resort, Chittenden
This high-end, newly renovated resort high on a hill has fantastic views of the Chittenden Reservoir and mountains. It’s also an Equestrian Center with miles of trails on 350 acres for horses. You can trailer your horse here, board it (limited stalls) and stay in luxury yourself.
Ask for a themed room, like the woodsy Adirondack or Elk Cove. Or book a family cottage or rustic cabin for larger families. The Spa is enticing and out of this world (see above). Rooms from $275 per night. Includes morning coffee, afternoon refreshments, us of hot tubs, pool, x-country ski trails, parking, wifi.
STAY: HandMade In Vermont Housing, Wallingford, Vermont
According to the owner, these 4 wonderfully renovated homes are “tricked out for people traveling with elderly parents and dogs.” And lots of kids. About 15 minutes from Okemo and Killington, homes have two or three bedrooms each. $180–$300 per night for each house.