Stipulated: the perfect travel time for a three-day weekend getaway is four hours. More, and you waste your vacation. Less, and you’re still near home. Hence our series, The Four-Hour Rule, dedicated to revealing the best destinations that are far away, yet still close to home.
This month, we head due north to Manchester, Vermont, an eater's paradise with a rather unexpected twist: it's home to some of the best outdoor and adventure experiences in all of New England, no matter the season you visit.
Manchester Vermont Kimpton Taconic Hotel (3 images)
Head south on Main Street from Manchester's quintessentially New England downtown area and you'll eventually happen upon a row of hotels and BnBs. The most famous of them is The Equinox, an inn with a 200-plus-year history that's frankly well overdue for a facelift. Instead, try the nearby Taconic Hotel, which opened in 2015 after an extensive restoration project by Kimpton Hotels (it was formerly the Village Country Inn). The 87-room guesthouse manages to wed old-school New England charm — think manicured lawns, in-room fireplaces, a white clapboard exterior and photography curated from the annals of the local historical society — with all the creature comforts you'd expect of a more modern hotel brand. It's also exceedingly canine-friendly: we brought our Doberman, and she was greeted with water bowls, dog treats and belly rubs around every corner.
Manchester Vermont Copper Grouse Restaurant (2 images)
Images via the Copper Grouse / Kimpton Hotels
For the best eats in town, you won't have to go far: simply head downstairs from your room to the Copper Grouse, the Taconic's superb, local-leaning American bistro. They do three meals a day and you can't go wrong with any of them, from corned beef hash and poached eggs on avocado toast for brunch to seared sea scallops and a silky cauliflower gratin for supper. But the real standout for us was their signature burger. It's piled high with fried onions, house-brined pickles and the world's best spreadable: bacon jam. If you must leave the premises for a meal, try Union Underground for beer flights and pub fare overlooking the river. And finally, be sure to make two stops on the way out of town: North Meadow Farms for the region's famous cheese, and the Crooked Ram to fill up a couple crowlers (read: can growlers) of Vermont's exceedingly rare sour beers and wild ales.
From left: images via Orvis, Land Rover and Orvis
Stereotypes aside, your raison d'etre on this trip is not getting fat on the beers and cheeses we just told you to stock up on (though you should very much do that). What you're really here for is Vermont's vibrant outdoors culture, which rivals anything you'll find east of the Mississippi.
First and foremost, you've got the legacy of the Orvis family, whose name is plastered all over the town. Five minutes from the Taconic, you'll find their massive flagship retail center, which peddles any camping, fishing or hunting good a man could need. Proceed across the street, and you'll find a pair of world-class “schools”: one for fly fishing, and one for wingshooting.
Prefer your adventures from the comfort of a car? Manchester is home to one of only three Land Rover Experience centers in the country (the others are in North Carolina and California). Spread across 80 acres, the program gives intrepid offroaders the opportunity — and expertise — to navigate “purpose-built” obstacles and courses year-round, including a special winter-driving program.
Another thing to do once there's snow on the ground? Head to Stratton Mountain, which dubs itself “the best ski resort near NYC” and lies just a 30-minute drive away. And if you're looking to get one last hike in before the leaves are gone, we recommend Lye Brook Falls (a 4.6-mile out-and-back with a seriously picturesque payoff) or the more challenging Equinox Mountain (a 6.8-mile summit with some gnarly elevation gains).
Main image via @SunnyCoastlines