The exit to Lake George, the always-popular upstate New York summer destination, spans half a mile on the highway, and the restaurants and parking lot lines are almost as long. Instead of a weekend getaway, many couples pack the cacophony and frustration of everyday life into their suitcases.
For a less stressful alternative, consider Killington, Vermont, just an hour east. No long lines, no sky-high summer rates, no waiting for a parking spot. Famed for its skiing and foliage, Killington is very quiet during the summertime, which makes it a perfect destination for couples looking to relax for a few days. As an added boon, hotels and resorts cut their prices dramatically, often 50% off their peak winter rates, allowing you to live in luxury at a discount price.
Fore! Golf and Other ActivitiesGolf is the major attraction for summer tourists to Killington with a 270 holes within an hour of Killington, but you needn't venture outside the town. Killington Golf Course, 4763 Killington Road (tel. 802/422-3833 or 877/458-4637; www.killingtongolf.com), and the public Green Mountain National Golf Course, Barrows Towne Road (tel. 888/483-4653 or 802/422-4653; www.gmngc.com) both offer 18 holes, private lessons, driving ranges, and four tee boxes for all levels. Package deals are also available at both courses.
For the driving range-challenged, a host of other outdoor activities await. The Killington/Pico Adventure Center (tel. 800/621-6867 or 802/422-3333) offers 45 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails in addition to less physically taxing activities such as mini golf and water slides. Tennis, canoeing, kayaking, mountain climbing, and fishing are available at locations throughout Killington. Contact the Killington Chamber of Commerce at 800/337-1928 or 802/773-4181; or check out their website at www.killingtonchamber.com for more details.
A fan of the outdoors? A few years ago, New England Culinary Institute graduate Brent Black hung up his chef's hat and returned to his native Vermont to start Back Country Adventures (tel. 802/773-3975; www.vtadventuretours.com). Brent offers half-, full-, and multi-day programs for one or two people-though he will accommodate larger groups--in fly fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking/backpacking, bird watching, and mountain biking. He accommodates all skill levels and will customize the tour to match your ability. Along the way, he'll also teach you a thing or two about food, too.
Where to Stay
With only 10 rooms, the Birch Ridge Inn, 37 Butler Road (tel. 800-435-8566 or 802/422-4293; www.birchridge.com), proves that less can be more. The cozy lodge, entered by driving through a covered carriageway, harbors a unique gentle quality. Innkeepers Bill and Mary personally show all guests to their refreshingly elegant rooms, none of which feature the same furniture or decorations. With only a single queen- or king-sized bed in each, the accommodations are decidedly geared toward couples. Some people may find the rooms a bit small, but they are among the cleanest and most impeccably kept that I have ever seen. The Birch Ridge Inn also features a graceful and relaxing restaurant that offers a completely different menu every week. Summer rates: with shower are $70, $80 on weekends, while a room with fireplace plus tub and shower $100, $120 on weekends. If you want a room with a fireplace and 2-person whirlpool, the cost will run you about $140to $150, and $160 to $170 on weekends.
The 96-room Cortina Inn (103 US Route 4, tel. 800/451-6108 or 802/773-3333; www.cortinainn.com) lacks the personalized attention given at the Birch Ridge, but its size allows it to offer a wide array of amenities. All guests have access to an indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, workout room, and reading room with computer and internet access. There are also tennis courts, a children's playground, badminton courts, massage therapists, a tavern, and a restaurant on premise. Some rooms are equipped with refrigerators, private balconies, separate rooms with bunk beds for children, jacuzzis, or stoves. The lounge and common areas are beautifully decorated and inviting. The rooms are spacious with comfortable furniture, though there are a few signs of aging scattered throughout. Summer rates are as follows: single $99, $109 on weekends; double $119, $139 on weekends; suites are also available at a higher price. As an added bonus, all stays of 2 or more nights include a delicious hot breakfast buffet at the Inn's restaurant.
The Old Man and the Sea(food)Vermont is the nation's leading producer of maple syrup, and there's a maple syrup shop seemingly every tenth of a mile in Killington. If you live on syrup and maple sugar candy, this section won't be of use. The prices at even mediocre restaurants tend to be high, so, if you can afford it, you're better off swapping price for quality.
The multi-award winning Hemingway's, 4988 US Route 4 (tel. 802/422-3886; www.hemingwaysrestaurant.com), works tirelessly to justify its reputation, not to mention its hefty price tag. Chef and co-owner Ted Fondulas is an absolute master at working with vegetables and seafood. The desserts are rich in flavor without overloading on sugar. The service is likewise impeccable, with a waitstaff that is friendly and professional, with a sense of humor that puts you at ease. Special mention goes to the easily overlooked non-alcoholic Mango Madness drink, which at $3.50 for a large glass, is a steal. Incidentally, Hemingway's does not belong to the author's family. Owners Ted and Linda Fondulas are simply admirers of Papa's writing style and have decorated each room to reflect a period of his life. Three and four course meals range from $55 to $65, with a vegetarian menu also offered; The Wine tasting menu is priced at $85-$95. The dress is business casual.
Two stone pillars flank the entrance to the Grist Mill Restaurant, Killington Road (tel. 802/422-3970), and the long drive up to the restaurant doors builds anticipation of something wonderful inside. Unfortunately, the food does not match the beautiful exterior. Though, there is a lovely outside dining patio, right under an old-fashioned spinning waterwheel, that beckons diners back to a former era, the food is the standard pub fare, and its greasiness is unsettling. Appetizers are priced between $2.95 and $8.95; while entrees cost $14.95-$18.95. Lower-priced lunch and children's menus are also available.
For those who love garlic, (moi included), there is finally a place that lets you indulge in your passion with the reassurance that everyone else at the restaurant smells just as bad. The Garlic, Killington Road (tel. 802/422-5055), serves up, well, a lot of garlic. There are garlic-free dishes, but if you're surrounded by the savory bulbs, chances are the aroma will get baked into your clothes, so why not splurge? Just remember to bring plenty of breath mints for when you leave unless you have an unconquerable fear of vampires. Appetizers are $4.95-$9.95 and entrees cost $13.95-$24.95.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for . . .Killington's location near the center of Vermont makes it an ideal anchor point for those wishing to explore the Green Mountain State.
An hour and a half from Killington lies Waterbury VT, home to the famous Ben & Jerry's Factory (tel. 866-BJ-TOURS; www.benjerry.com). Say hello to the cows grazing next to the factory, stock up on bovine paraphernalia in the gift shop, and weep with grief at the Flavor Graveyard for flavors of days past (Blackberry Cobbler, we hardly knew ye!). The popular factory tours run every 10 minutes in July and August and often fill up an hour in advance. While you're waiting, indulge in Ben and Jerry's famous ice creams and sorbets at the Scoop Shop, where you'll find flavors not sold in grocery stores. The tours are somewhat disappointing, but at $3 for adults, it's still worth it for the great ice cream if you're in the area.
When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. Even if you've sworn off buying more clothing because your closet is bursting, you'll still want to check out Manchester VT, where there is a bonanza of designer outlet stores. Burberry's, J. Crew, Armani, Versace, Tommy Hilfiger, Liz Claiborne, Coach, Ralph Lauren, and the rest of the nouveau-riche clique are available at huge discounts. (Though with these brands, it's hard to fit some items in your budget even with the sales.)
If the Ben & Jerry's factory has made you weight-conscious, and Manchester has made you money-conscious, it's time for a trip to the charming and rustic village of Woodstock VT. The entire town has resisted the push toward modern architecture with many houses dating back 200 years or more. The Billings Farm and Museum (tel. 802/457-2355; www.billingsfarm.org) lets you explore farm-life in the 19th century with a peek inside the historically-decorated farm house and live cow milking. Close-by is the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (tel. 802/457-3368; www.nps.gov/mabi), a 550-acre lot donated by the Rockefeller family where you can tour their mansion.