Among the villages in New England that beg you to park your car once and return to it only when it’s time to go home, Woodstock is without rival in its variety of outdoor and indoor treats within a short walk of its center.
Across the village green from the stately Woodstock Inn & Resort, a honey-colored covered bridge spans the Ottauquechee River. The brilliant fall colors reflect in the cold, clear waters. Follow guide Marty Banak behind the Colonial and Federal homes and down the steep banks for a fly-fishing lesson. A cast plunks a tiny, dressed fishhook on the surface of the knee-high waters. The fly bobs along with the current. The trout stays hidden behind the small boulders. It’s only until the trout is nearly at your feet that you see it. The light-pink streak down its side is a striking contrast to the mats of garnet and ochre leaves along the pebbly bottom.
Just a few steps away, people cast for other pleasures in the stores and art galleries downtown. Central and Elm Streets are home to a mix of shops that includes bookstores, a general store, and boutiques with designer clothing, high-end home decor, and furnishings. When you’re busy shopping, however, it’s easy to miss the town’s most unique feature: The power lines in this district are buried. It’s one of many improvements funded through Laurance and Mary French Rockefeller, whose largess has helped preserve the town’s historic architecture and rural heritage.
In 1968, when the town’s inn needed updating, the Rockefellers stepped in. An entirely new inn was built just behind the existing building, which was then razed. Today, the Woodstock Inn’s 142 guest rooms feature an upscale country look, many with elegant dark-wood four-poster beds and marble tiling and sunflower shower heads in the bathrooms.
How to spend the next morning? Let’s count the ways. Rent a bike and tour the country roads where maple trees arch overhead. Tee off at the inn’s Robert Trent Jones-designed golf course. Hike up Mounts Tom or Peg, two small mountains with vistas, the trailheads of which are both less than six blocks away. Explore the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and the abutting Billings Farm & Museum. Twenty miles of paths lead from the carriage barn, which is also the national park’s visitors’ center. A guided tour takes visitors through the property’s mansion, the Rockefellers’ home until 1992. The first floor of the brick Victorian Queen Anne is filled with exquisite architectural details such as Tiffany stained-glass windows and parquet wood floors, as well as a notable art collection. The tour then continues outside to the gardens.
At the bottom of the hill is Billings Farm, another gift of the Rockefellers. The farm opened to the public in 1983 and is run as a working dairy farm. Nestled in the Ottauquechee Valley, it’s one of the loveliest places to take in the fall color. Russet-tinged foothills roll into mature lowlands. Children laugh as they run across the lawns, sheep bleat in the grazing pasture, and the cows moo from the milking barn. It’s a place where you wonder upon arrival, “How interesting could this be?” but by the end of the day, you are inspired to start a small farm.
Back at the inn, unwind at Richardson’s Tavern. On Friday and Saturday nights, this cozy wood-paneled pub hosts live jazz. Often, people stand in the doorway just to hear the music. When you can snag a table, order from the tapas-style menu or choose an entrée from the inn’s dining room.
When it’s time to depart from Woodstock, days after having not gotten in your car, will you remember where it is parked?