Holiday Dining in Vermont – how to avoid the crowds.

Ludlow restaurants can get a bit overwhelming for families or even couples seeking some relaxation after a day of great skiing.  Christmas, New Year’s, Martin Luther King weekend and Presidents’ Day weekend are the area’s busiest times of the year for Vermont ski towns like Ludlow.  But a little bit of planning and strategy can go a long way in making dinnertime an enjoyable event.  Here are a few dining tips that we think should make your fantastic vacation even better.

Make Reservations

This is a great way to ensure your seat at a table without a wait, but there are a few tricks to making reservations, as well.  Some restaurants only take reservations for larger parties; for example, Stemwinder in Ludlow will only take reservations for groups of six or more.  Other restaurants might be booked for the holiday period far in advance.  The Downtown Grocery is a fine dining restaurant featuring local ingredients; if you want to try it out during the holiday season, call for a reservation immediately when planning your trip.  Another amazing locally-sourced dining experience is the Inn at Weathersfield.  While they welcome walk-ins, reservations are highly recommended during holidays and weekends, especially for large parties.

Stemwinder Restaurant Ludlow VT

A view of the Stemwinder bar from the upstairs seating!  Image from www.stemwindervt.com.

Seek Out New Restaurants

Perhaps you can beat the holiday dining crowd – and the trends – by eating at a newly opened establishment.  There are a few new restaurants in the area that are worth a visit.

Homestyle Hostel offers a community dinner with homemade entrees every night at 7:00 pm.  They request advance notice of 24 hours if you’ll be joining them.  This is more of a family-style meal than a restaurant experience, but rest assured that the food is hearty and fresh, with friendly company.  There is also a coffee bar, open from 8 am to 8 pm, and beer and wine are served from noon to 8 pm.

Mojo Cafe is a really fun spot to check out.  The name of the restaurant was inspired by The Doors, and the orange interior is decked out with rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia.  The food is creative Tex-Mex fusion, offering tacos, Po’ Boys, gumbo, enchiladas and creative appetizers.  Order a local brew on tap or a glass of wine.  Mojo is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner (closed between 2 pm and 4 pm).  While it is a new restaurant, word is getting out and the space is small, so ordering carry-out might be a safer path to take.  (For more on ordering take-out, see below!)

Finally, The Free Range in Chester, VT is a 20 minute drive from Golden Stage Inn, and is located right in the quaint village green.  This is more of your typical New England fare, open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner, with brunch served on Sundays.

homestyle hostel salad

A fresh salad from Homestyle Hostel in Ludlow, VT.  Image from homestylehostel.com.

Order Take-Out

If you’re staying at our bed & breakfast, you’ll already know how comfortable it is to eat at the Inn once you’ve had breakfast in the solarium. Maybe ordering take-out wouldn’t quite work when staying at a hotel or motel, but at our B&B, you are welcome to use the common spaces on the first floor whenever you like. You may use our utensils and wine glasses to complete your dining experience.  There are a couple great places for take-out in the area, but as with reservations, your best bet is to call early. Call in your order at the end of your ski day, but well before you want to pick it up.  You’ll have time to head back to the Inn, take a hot shower, enjoy a bowl of homemade soup, and then pick up your supper by the time your belly starts to rumble!  Our Inn is BYOB, so grab a bottle of wine at Wine and Cheese Depot, or find beer and liquor at Singleton’s or Brewfest Beverage Company.

For a pizza night, place your order at Goodman’s American Pie early in the day.  Goodman’s is certainly the best pizza around, so during the holidays you should place your order before 4 pm.  Better yet, leave your order with Mike or Julie in the morning, and they’ll take care of placing the order for you (a great idea if you’re tearing up the slopes all day!).  After 4 pm, there is usually an hour wait time or more for a take-out pie.  (Goodman’s does have eat-in available too, and they now offer beer and wine.)

Other nearby places for take-out include Harry’s Cafe, Sam’s Steakhouse, Mr. Darcy’s, DJ’s, and The Killarney.  See our full list of Southern Vermont restaurants here, and peruse our dining guide in the sitting room when you arrive.

Avoid “Rush Hour”

Maybe you forgot to make reservations.  Or maybe you want to dine at two of our favorite restaurants Mr. Darcy’s or Sam’s Steakhouse (who do not take reservations).  Most area restaurants open at 5pm.  Try being there by 6 or 6:30 and you should be able to be seated promptly, leaving yourself plenty of time for a relaxing meal.  If early dinners aren’t your style, , try waiting til 8:30 or so.  The crowds should have already done their thing and you can kick back and do yours!

Enjoying meals together should be a treasured part of your vacation.  Hopefully with these tips and a little bit of advanced planning, your dinner time can be as special as the rest of your trip.

 

Okemo’s Other Offerings

Okemo is not just for skiers anymore…

Maybe you’ve booked a ski vacation and the weather isn’t what you’d hoped for downhill and cross-country skiing – pouring rain or extreme windchill.  Perhaps there’s someone in your group who doesn’t ski or snowshoe and is looking for different things to do.  Some families might have young children who can only spend half a day on the slopes, or want various activities and extra excitement.  There are plenty of reasons one might pursue winter activities in Vermont aside from cross-country and downhill skiing.  So, we’ve compiled a resource list of the many, many things to do at Okemo Mountain: kid’s snowmobile tours, mountain coaster rides, snow tubing, ice skating, massage & spa services, fitness & pool center, snowcat excursions – even indoor golf!

Okemo clock tower

New this year: Kid’s Snowmobile Tours

At Jackson Gore, kids can experience a snowmobile ride for $29.  Tours are 20 minutes, with 15 minute ride time.  There are only 4 sleds available per tour.  You can purchase tickets in advance, or when you get there at Jackson Gore’s Resort Services desk.  Children between 5 and 12 years old, under 120 lbs and less than 5′ 4″ are eligible to ride.  More details here or by phone: 802-228-1600.

Through March 30th, the coaster is open on Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday from 11 am to 4:30 pm, and on Saturdays from 11 am to 6 pm.  Timber Ripper is also open for extended hours during holiday periods: from 11 am to 6 pm on January 18th, from 11 am to 6 pm February 14th through 21st, and from 11 am to 8 pm on March 14th.

Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster

Imagine flying smoothly through the air down a mountain, and you’ve got the Timber Ripper.  This mountain coaster operates out of Jackson Gore, taking off by the Coleman Brook Express Quad.  Each sled can hold two people, but you can go it alone as well.  To drive the sled, you must be over 48″, and to ride with a driver, a child must be over 36″.  The mountain coaster operates in most weather conditions, so it’s an outdoor alternative to skiing that maintains a thrill-seeking element.  Call 802-228-1600 if you’re wondering if the coaster will be running in the current weather.  Hours are the same as listed above for kids’ snowmobiling.  

Pricing:

  • 1 ride: $13 driver, $9 rider
  • 3 rides: $36 driver, $24 rider
  • 5 rides: $55 driver, $38 rider
  • 10 rides: $100 driver, $72 rider

Indoor Golf Simulator

For golf lovers missing the course over the winter, keep up your game at Okemo’s indoor golf simulator.  The course includes a 6,000 square-foot practice area, a putting green, three swing stations, and a locker room.  The simulator is booked fairly frequently during the winter, so call ahead to reserve your spot: (802) 228-1396.  You can reserve the course as a group of up to 16 players, or as an individual.  

Pricing:

  • Simulator Group Fees: $50/hour
  • Simulator Individual Fees: $30/hour
  • All-day access to hitting stations and putting green: $15
  • Hourly access to hitting stations and putting green: $7/hour

Snowcat Excursions

This is a unique opportunity to book a ride in a snowcat, which grooms the mountain’s terrain.  On this hour-long journey, you’ll get to see the mountaintop view of Vermont at night – lit up under a starry sky.  Seats are $39 per person – unless you want to ride shotgun, a privilege which will cost you an extra $10. Rides are weather dependent and consistently fill up; we recommend making your reservation several days before you plan to go.  (For example, if you plan on taking a Friday ride, call on Monday.)  Holiday excursions fill up more quickly, so reserve your spot at least a week in advance.  Call 802-228-1600 to book your spot on the tour.

Excursions leave from Jackson Gore on Tuesdays at 5 pm and 7 pm, on Fridays at 7 pm, on Saturdays at 5 pm, 7 pm and 9 pm.  There are special extra tours on MLK weekend and President’s Day Week.

snowcat excursions at Okemo Mountain

Snowcat Dining Adventure

An added layer of luxury to the typical snowcat excursion, this trip takes you to Epic, Okemo’s fine dining restaurant.  Snowcat Dining Adventures are offered every Saturday night through March 7th, 2015, as well as Sunday, January 18th (for the Craft Beer Dinner Special) and Sunday, February 15th.  Call 802-228-1600 to reserve your spot; $125 includes a snowcat ride and fireside 5-course meal (but does not include tax and gratuity).  You’ll want to make your reservation about a week in advance, and perhaps even earlier during holiday periods.  Childcare is offered for $20 per child with the Kid’s Night Out Program.

The Spring House

The Spring House has excellent indoor recreational facilities, including pools, exercise classes, spa services and a fitness room.  Contact the Spring House at 802-228-1419.   

  1. Aquatics:  Open from 8 am to 10 am for lap swimming, and from 10 am to 9 pm for open swim, hot tub and splash pool.  Heated recreation pool, maximum depth 4.5 feet.  Heated splash pool for small children with fountain and slide, maximum depth 1.5 feet.  ADA-accessible hot tub.  You can host a pool party at the Spring House too, but only between April and Thanksgiving; call the number above for more info.
  2. Fitness:  Open from 7 am to 9 pm.  Reserve time in the courts between 7 am and 9 pm to play racquetball or volleyball.  There are locker room facilities with saunas.  The Studio offers fitness classes of all types: Zumba, yoga, aquatics and kickboxing.  Check out the schedule and sign up by calling the number above.  The fitness room features ellipticals, treadmills, bikes, weights, mats and other various strength training equipment.
  3. Spa Services: Massages of all kinds (even for mommies-to-be!), facials, body scrubs (Vermont maple and brown sugar, anyone?) all offered by trained, accredited therapists.  See all of Okemo’s spa options and pricing here.  By appointment only at 802-228-1419.

Pricing:

  • $14 day pass ($4 for seniors 65+, free for children under 3.)
  • $10 per fitness class
  • $3 Racquetball court fee (includes equipment)

Snow Tubing

This is one of the best options for an affordable day of fun.  Each hour on the hill is $12, which includes snow tube rentals.  Children must be over 42″, and all snow-tubers must sign a waiver.  Snowtubing hours are the same as listed above for kids snowmobiling.  Call 802-228-1600 for information on conditions.

The Ice House

Another affordable option for non-skiing winter fun.  Skate and helmet rentals are $5 each, and unlimited skating pass is $5. The ice is kept in great condition for smooth skating, and there is a warming area as well.  The Ice House is open Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10 am to 9 pm.  Monday through Friday, skate anytime from 1 pm to 9 pm.   Call 802-228-1406 for more information.

Vermont Theater: the 2015 season

This year promises to be a great one for Vermont theater!  Arts enthusiasts will enjoy plays at Weston Playhouse during the summer and Northern Stage through the spring.  A Christmas Carol is just finishing up at Northern Stage, and the 2015 season will kick off soon.  Next Stage Arts Project in Putney, VT will also sometimes offer theater, but primarily features concerts, film showings and poetry readings.

 

Northern Stage is located in White River Junction, a 45-minute drive from our VT B&B.

 

Blithe Spirit, by Noel Coward, will show from February 11 through March 1.

A ghostly comedy in which a novelist encounters the spirit of his dead wife through a spiritual medium, Madame Arcati.

Orwell in America, by Joe Sutton, will show from March 11 through March 29.

A drama about George Orwell’s book tour through America, in which a chaperone tries to convince him not to preach his socialist views.

Songs for a New World, by Jason Robert Brown, will play from April 8 to May 3.

This play is described as a ‘song cycle/musical revue’ embodies stories of new beginnings in song.  A generational piece with a strong cast.

Weston Playhouse, in Weston, VT is a hit for summer theater-goers.

 

The first show will be ‘Pump Boys and Dinettes’ from June 30 to July 11.

This off-Broadway country musical has received great acclaims for its “down home music, joy and laughs.”

From July 16-25, see ‘Peter and the Starcatcher.’

This is the grown-ups prequel to Peter Pan, and winner of 5 Tony awards!  A dozen actors play over a hundred characters.

‘Guys and Dolls’ will show between July 30 and August 22.

Enjoy this classic musical, an “oddball romantic comedy” set in a fantastical New York City.

And finally, between August 27 and September 5, see The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.

An American masterpiece, in which a nostalgic Southern belle wishes for a better life for her children.

 

Weston Playhouse also has a smaller venue, called “Other Stages”.

Junie B. Jones, a musical for children, will debut on June 25th and plays through July 12th.  This hilarious little girl sings about the trials and triumphs of being in the first-grade.

The Other Place is a dramatic mystery, playing from July 23rd to August 9th.  Described as “a riveting new psychological drama” and “a brilliantly crafted work, in which nothing is as it seems.”

There will be one last play (or musical) that has yet to be unveiled.  It will take place in the second half of August…stay tuned!

Vermont Winter Activities

Not a skier or snowboarder?  Need a different way to get outdoors and explore other Vermont winter activities?

Luckily, near Golden Stage Inn, there is no shortage of winter activities.  Whether you want a relaxing day enjoying scenic beauty, a thrilling adventure, or are a more “indoors-y” type, we have you covered.  Check out our Top Ten List for non-skiing wintertime activities in Vermont!  Book your room for a winter-y wonderland vacation.

  1. Dog Sledding in the Moonlight

  2. Snow Tubing

  3. Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides

  4. Cross-Country Skiing

  5. Snowmobiling

  6. Ice Skating

  7. Cozying up by the fireside

  8. Snowshoeing

  9. Build a snowman and a snow fort!

  10. Spa & shopping day

dog sled dogs 2013

Dog sledding with Great River Outfitters of Windsor, Vermont is a fantastic way to get on the snow.  You can go during the day, get a custom tour, or even have a moonlit dogsled ride!  Meet all the dogs before you zoom along over the snow through gorgeous Vermont winter scenery.  Best of all, you won’t have to do any of the work!  This is what the husky sled team loves to do, and you’ll feel the dogs’ and trainer’s enthusiasm, too.  You may have the opportunity to do a bit of the sled driving yourself!  Dog-sledding is new this year to Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center as well.

Snowtubing is a thrilling way to spend an afternoon! Take the kids (or kids at heart!) to Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center, which also offers snowshoeing, XC-skiing, and sometimes ice skating. Magic Mountain and Okemo also have snow-tubing hills.  You’ll have a hard time wiping the smile off your face.  :)

“Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh…o’er the fields we go, laughing all the way!”  Take an old-fashioned horse drawn sleigh ride, one of the most classic family-friendly Vermont winter activities.  Horse-drawn sleigh rides are offered at several locations around Southern Vermont.  You’ll want to call in advance to be sure of times, weather conditions and cost.  Here are a few places within driving distance from our Inn:

Billings Farm & Museum: (802) 457-2355

Great River Outfitters802-674-9933

Kendron Valley Stables: (802) 457-1480 or (802) 457-3015

Taylor Farm: (802) 824-5690

Green Mountain Orchards: (802) 387-5851

Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center (December 20th and 24th-28th only; 11 am-3pm)

Cross-Country Skiing may not seem as thrilling as downhill skiing, but there are tons of benefits.  Vermonters love cross-country skiing because you really get into nature – no mechanized ski lifts, no crowds – it’s just you and the trail.  Cross-country skiing is a fantastic workout if you like to get your heart rate up, or if you miss running and hiking during the snowy season.  And, best of all, it’s way less expensive than downhill skiing!  Check out Viking Nordic Center in Londonderry, Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center, Okemo’s cross-country trails, or Wild Wings in Peru.  Wild Wings offers yoga, and Viking Nordic Center has a cookie trail…cool!

Ever considered snowmobiling?  Rent a sled nearby!  The Wood family tried snowmobile rentals through Snowmobile Vermont in 2013 – and loved it!  This snowmobiling company is less than a half hour from our bed and breakfast, and is located in the scenic Calvin Coolidge State Forest.  Read about their snowmobile experience here.

You can go ice skating at Okemo’s Ice House for $5.  Skates and helmet rentals are an extra $5 each.  There is a warming hut decorated with antique ice-harvesting equipment.

Grab a hot drink and cozy up with a blanket by our Inn’s fireside.  Grab your favorite book or browse our selection in the common room.  Choose one of our many games to play, or solve a puzzle on your own.  We also offer free Wi-fi connection, if you need to do some holiday shopping or browse the web.  Stay satiated with hot cider, endless access to the cookie jar, and hot coffee and tea.  Winter afternoons offer homemade soups!  Soups, cookies and beverages are all complimentary when you stay with us.

Snowshoe in style…with wine and cheese!  Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center offers wine & cheese snowshoe tours for $25 per person.  Call ahead for a reservation: 802-843-2400.  Difficulty level of the tour is determined by the group.  Enjoy wine and Grafton Village Cheese by a crackling fire in the warming hut.  Feel like staying closer to home (or, ahem, the Inn)?  Borrow our snowshoes for a tromp around Proctor-Piper State Forest, directly adjacent to our backyard!  (This option is completely free.)

Got kids?  After you’ve had your fill of our delectable homemade breakfast, bundle up and head out to play in the yard!  Build a snowman, snow sculptures or a snow fort…and prepare for the inevitable flinging of snowballs.  While you’re out there, say hello to our friendly sheep and backyard chickens (which supplied the eggs you ate for breakfast!)  Our latest addition is a young lamb…yet to be named.

Snow farm animal at Vermont lodging

Looking to get out…but not in the snow?  Enjoy a unique spa and shopping day.  There are plenty of year-round activities in our area of Vermont.  Get a spa treatment at the Castle Resort next door.  You can borrow our punch card to access their fitness room and pool for just $15.  Through us, you can also get $10 off of a pedicure at Salon 2000 and $8 drop-in yoga classes at Sama Yoga, both in Chester.  Ask about our other numerous coupons for shopping and dining.  Explore locally-owned bookstores, sugar houses, cafes, wine & cheese shops, galleries and craft stores.  Finish your day on the town with dinner at one of the fantastic restaurants in South Central VT.

Christmas Eve Smorgasbord 2014

Each year, Golden Stage Inn decks the halls for Christmas Eve festivities.  Innkeeper Julie celebrates her Swedish heritage with her family, and all are invited to participate in the feast.  Appetizers and beverages start the evening off.  Traditional Swedish dishes are served in a buffet-style dinner, followed by an array of desserts.  It is truly an evening of light and laughter!  Guests are invited to participate for $25 per person.  Dinner is served around 7, but arrive earlier for appetizers and mingling!  For more information, please read 2013’s blog post about the Christmas Eve Swedish Smorgasbord at Golden Stage Inn.  Here are a few photos from last year’s Smorgasbord:

Swedish Smorgasboard with decor at the Golden Stage Inn

Swedish decorations and tablecloth.

Delicious almond cake and apple cake

Santa Lucia offers Swedish desserts of apple cake and almond cake.  “God Jul,” as the napkin says, is pronounced “Good Yule” and means Merry Christmas!

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