When one thinks of winter in New England, many places come to mind, but none perhaps as quintessential as Vermont. The land of maple syrup, vast countryside, mountains, and snow for miles and miles beckons a winter wonderland. Some of New England’s biggest ski areas are in Vermont, and people from all over the East Coast head to this northern state to hit the slopes. We recently went on a ski trip and stayed with friends in the adorable town of Wilmington, in the county of Windham in Southern Vermont.
Wilmington in Winter
Wilmington is everything I love about New England – 18th and 19th century brick and carpenter style Gothic buildings, charmingly settled along a river; a classic main street with pubs, farm houses, antique stores and restaurants still outfitted with their Christmas décor. Time seems to have stopped in Wilmington. Located in the Deerfield Valley of the Green Mountains High Country, it is said that Wilmington gets some of the highest snow-fall in the entire state. Snow-fall can vary in its neighboring towns, but in Wilmington, with its elevation, it is consistently heavy. Snow banks drift from one into the next, making local eateries and shops more picturesque than ever. The town almost looks like a wintertime movie set.
Though Wilmington is also a summer destination with all of its green country land and abundance of outdoor activity, there is something about visiting in the winter that makes it so appealing. The cutest of restaurants (Dot’s, Cask & Kiln Kitchen, The Anchor, Mangia e Beve to name a few) with their snow-banked entrances just beg you to come in and get a hot drink and a bite to eat. Quirky antique stores, cheese and maple syrup shops, hand-made jewelry boutiques, art galleries such as the popular The Art of Humor Gallery, and quaint inns are all there to wander about after a day of skiing or snow shoeing. The business owners are all very nice in a salt-of-the-earth kind of way; Wilmington is a town that feels genuine in so many ways.
Activities in and beyond Wilmington
Walking about town is a pleasure, but if you want to explore further out of “downtown” (Vermont is, after all, most known for its outdoor beauty, vast farmland, mountains and recreation), there are plenty of options. Mount Snow ski area is a 15-minute drive away, and a popular ski mountain with New Englanders. Wilmington is also home to Haystack Mountain which is owned and operated by The Hermitage Club, a private club; however, the Ice Skating Rink at the Hermitage is open to the public, should you fancy a skate about.
Adams Family Farm in Wilmington
The Adams Family Farm is one of Wilmington’s highlights – a family owned and operated farm since 1865, the farm is open year round with seasonal activities. Winter activities include horse-drawn sleigh rides, which by all accounts are a fun and dreamy way to see the Vermont countryside; the Indoor Live Stock Barn, where you can see the farm animals brought inside for the wintertime; or visit their farm store in a renovated dairy barn and stock up on those cooking essentials. During the rest of the year, other activities include pony rides, wagon rides, fishing and more. Adams Family Farm is a beloved part of Wilmington, and a real-working family farm.
Harriman Reservoir, also known as Lake Whitingham, is technically in the town of nearby Whitingham, yet just 5 minutes away from Wilmington. A beautiful lake full of hiking trails and water activities in the summer months, however I did see people out and about on the lake this past weekend, perhaps ice fishing, a past time here. Regardless, it’s a scenic place to see in the wintertime, even for a drive, with its pristine wintertime landscape. Personally, I love driving around the New England countryside and mountains in the winter, as I’ve talked about before in our road trips through the Berkshires.
The fascinating thing about Harriman Reservoir, though, is not its beauty, but its history. The site of what is now the reservoir used to be an old logging village called Mountain Mills. In the 1920’s the New England Power Company deemed the Deerfield River, which makes its way throughout the area, the perfect place to build a dam and generate power. So they flooded Mountain Mills and built a hydroelectric lake called Harriman Reservoir. Homes and businesses had to be vacated, and three cemeteries had to be moved. Today, when water levels are low and clear, you can occasionally see remnants of tree trunks and old buildings, including a mill. How intriguing. Now you know when you look out onto the lake, there is an old village below it, a sign of an era long ago, a time passed.
Wilmington is a special little town, one that has beauty and character, and one I hope to visit again soon. I definitely recommend a stay or pass through.
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