Best Hudson Valley Fall Getaways and Vacations in 2012
Seven historic hotels and fall getaways that make it easy to celebrate the season
(page 7 of 8)
The Grafton Inn’s manicured lawn and cozy front porch
The Grafton Inn (Grafton, VT)
By Melissa Esposito
Driving into Grafton, Vermont is like taking a journey into the past: vinyl siding gives way to restored Colonials, cell phone reception dwindles to a single struggling bar (if that), and one of the three routes into town is actually a nine-mile dirt road (Route 121 — take heed in inclement weather). The miniscule village (population 600)is only two hours northeast of Albany, and is under the auspices of the Windham Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve the heritage of Vermont’s rural villages and small towns. The center of town is the Grafton Inn, established in 1801.
Luckily, the inn has been updated since then. “Until the 1960s, it still had no private bathrooms, and people were demanding more modernized amenities,” says Melissa Gullotti, communications director of the Windham Foundation. Currently, it consists of 45 rooms, including seven suites and four separate guest houses. Guest rooms range in price seasonally from $165-$295; suites go for $235-$395. The four guest houses (with up to five bedrooms) cost $396-$884. All the rooms feature décor inspired by Victorian furnishings and local history — eight beds were made by a local woodworker. Each room has its own personality, with individual styles of wallpaper (traditional floral in one, bold damask in another) and solid wood furniture. “We have some regulars who have been coming here so long they’ll only stay in a particular room because they’ve grown so comfortable there; if we change one thing — a slipcover, a painting — they’ll complain as though we rearranged their personal furniture,” Gullotti laughs. Each suite also has a Jacuzzi or two-person tub, complimentary local cheese, central air, and tall, fluffy beds. (Overheard in the dining room: “I can’t believe how well I slept — if I hadn’t set my alarm, I would have slept for three weeks.”)
The only possible drawback is the thinness of the walls in the main house, but guests remain respectful of each other. Very young children are not permitted to stay in the main building, but the guest houses provide much more space for a kid to be a kid. “We do see families here, and it’s actually quite an amazing thing,” Gullotti explains. “They come in from city living: mom’s stressed, dad’s overworked, and the kids have their faces glued to electronics. But by the end of their stay, they’re smiling, relaxed, and outside riding our rental bikes together, doing some leaf-peeping.”
Though the past is precious here, innkeepers John and Kathy Cray understand the importance of updated amenities. While cell phone and Wi-Fi services are shaky, they are available; there are no TVs.
Dining options are limited to the Old Tavern Restaurant (reservations are suggested) or the casual Phelps Barn Pub next door. The Old Tavern has a list of small plates, entrées for omnivores, and a dessert list that’s a true homage to its former life as a tavern: Alcohol is incorporated into almost every dish.
The rustic Phelps Barn Pub is decorated with award-winning quilts — created by Kathy Cray — that are hung like tapestries. The barn is also the place to catch nightlife, with themed-menu evenings and live dance-rock or blues bands.
Within walking distance of the inn are three museums, three art galleries, a gourmet food and wine shop, a blacksmith’s forge, and a library. Take a short drive down the road and you’ll find Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center, with hiking and biking trails (occasionally they do wine and cheese-themed hikes), and the Grafton Village Cheese Company’s production facility, which offers cheese-making demonstrations.
Still, some people visit the Grafton Inn just to relax. “You’d be surprised how many people check in, spend all day on the porch in a rocking chair with a book and a glass of wine, then go to sleep,” Gullotti says.
To get there: 92 Main St. 800-843-1801; www.graftoninnvermont.com
What to do
Three tiny museums add a splash of culture to a tiny town. The Grafton Historical Society Museum (www.graftonhistory.info/Museum.html) is open Thurs.-Mon., through fall foliage season. At the Vermont Museum of Mining and Minerals (www.vtmmm.org), you can see a very large grossular garnet, Vermont’s state gem, and one of the largest ammonites ever found. The hands-on Nature Museum at Grafton (www.nature-museum.org) lets visitors crawl through an underground bear den or dig for fossils. Don’t miss the beloved Annual Fairy House Tour (Sept. 29-30). The woods behind the museum will be filled with dozens of magical fairy houses.
With more than 40 farms producing cheeses from the milk of cows, sheep, and goats, Vermont boasts more artisan cheesemakers per capita than any other state.
The Grafton Village Cheese Company (www.graftonvillagecheese.com) has a retail shop located next to the inn, and a larger facility down the road that hosts cheese-making demonstrations. Its most popular line is the aged raw cheddar; the new “cave-aged” cheeses includes the award-winning Leyden, a cow’s-milk cheese flavored with cumin for a uniquely spicy taste. The shop by the inn also has a selection of wines (don’t be shy about asking for pairing options) and other items for sale.
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