Dating back to before America's Civil War days, Manchester, Vermont has long been a destination for tourists who flocked to this idyllic New England town nestled between the Taconic Range and Green Mountains to enjoy unsurpassed beauty, peace & quiet, and fly-fishing on the Battenkill. The town is home to Equinox Mountain - the highest summit in the Taconics with an elevation of 3,850 feet that features a spectacular Skyline Drive; the flagship store of Orvis - a family-owned retail and mail-order business specializing in high-end fly fishing, hunting and sporting goods founded in 1856; Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home which was the 412-acre summer estate of Robert Todd Lincoln and his wife Mary Harlan Lincoln along with their three children built in 1905; the Southern Vermont Arts Center - a nonprofit art center featuring both visual and performing arts in a National Historic Trust Mansion on the slopes of Mount Equinox; and the American Museum of Fly Fishing which was created by fly-fishermen in 1968 to preserve and exhibit the treasures of American angling.
Home also to the Manchester Designer Outlets which entice shoppers to the area from all over New York and New England it's easy to see that there's quite a bit to do in Manchester which means it's a very popular go-to destination. To that end there are over a dozen and a half places where folks can unpack their bags and settle down for a spell in this most quintessential of New England towns where front porches and rocking chairs offering relaxation are definitely de rigueur. Accommodation choices run the gamut from high-end resort to small bed & breakfast with a wide variety in between including the most recent addition to Manchester's lodging scene - the Kimpton Taconic Hotel.
Managed by the San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group (the largest chain of boutique hotels in the United States), the new hotel was inspired by the area's grand resorts of the 18th and 19th century and named for the mountain range that soars around it. Located just two blocks away from one of those grand resorts - the venerable Equinox Resort & Spa - Taconic occupies the spot in town where the Worthy Inn (later renamed the Village Country Inn) once welcomed travelers. Though placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, the former inn built in 1889 had been foreclosed upon in 2009 and stood abandoned as it deteriorated to the point where it was approved for demolition by Manchester Village's Development Review Board in 2011.
Following the purchase of the property by two Manchester residents in June of 2013 who also bought the adjoining property, the old inn was torn down and new construction began. In June of 2015, the Kimpton Group was selected to manage the property and in late fall of 2015 the new boutique hotel opened its doors under the leadership of General Manager John Burnham and Director of Sales & Marketing Jami Poe. A native of Middlebury, Vermont, Burnham has 20 years of hospitality service under his belt with leadership roles as General Manager and Director of Human Resources at notable Boston hotels including The Back Bay Hotel, Battery Wharf Hotel, Copley Square Hotel, Four Seasons, and Taj Boston while Poe, another Vermont resident, brought along her own 20 years of hospitality sales and marketing experience in the luxury leisure segment. Together they've combined their talents to make the Taconic worthy of taking its place in a historic area of town where locals no doubt raise their eyebrows at anything less than 100 years old.
The hotel features a variety of comfortable guestrooms in the main house with views of the Taconic mountain range as well as the Green Mountains, three cottages separated from the main building that provide a little more seclusion, and The Copper Grouse Restaurant & Bar which offers "elevated yet unfussy cuisine" either inside the tavern or outside on the patio when weather permits. For meetings, events, or weddings, Taconic offers 9,600 square feet of flexible indoor/outdoor event venues including a 2,600-square foot ballroom that opens onto a north-facing terrace and event lawn surrounded by lush arbor vitae and honey locust trees.
While on a trip to Manchester in mid-January to gather photos and information for an upcoming "Escape" feature on the area that will appear in the March 2016 issue of Norwich Magazine, my cousin Amy and I had the chance to spend a night at Manchester's newest lodgings and check things out. As southern Vermont wasn't exactly having a booming snow season which was negatively impacting all of the local ski areas (of which there are several) the hotel definitely wasn't hopping and popping as one might expect during a Vermont winter but that's okay as anyone who knows me, knows that I'm not a huge fan of crowds and prefer things a little more laid back - especially when I'm walking around taking photos of everything!
Now then ... speaking of all those photos I walked around and took, how about I share some of them with you?
First off, there's very good news for those who like to travel with their pets - the hotel is very pet-friendly and there are no extra charges to bring your fur-kids along with you for a stay. Not only are there no restrictions on weight or size but Taconic's four-footed guests are given a very nice welcome in the main lobby by the front desk while the hotel offers a selection of amenities and extras including plush pet-bed loaners in your guest room, food, water bowls and mats. A door hanger alerts other hotel guests and staff that your cat, dog, or other beloved pet is in the room and should you require pet setting, pet walking, or even pet spa services just contact the friendly folks at the front desk and they'll be happy to take care of that for you.
Nearby the Reception Area (pictured above) is the hotel's Living Room which has a double-sided fireplace with the other side located in a sitting area of The Copper Grouse, There's lots of comfortable seating as well as plenty of reading material in case you didn't bring any of your own and find yourself wanting to thumb through a book or two.
As it's Vermont and each Kimpton hotel strives to be unique to the area that it's located in, there are numerous pine cones to be found in the lobby but these aren't your regular old pine cones by any stretch of the imagination as these suckers are huge! Just in case you weren't going to believe me, I took a photo of one along with my hand for comparison!
Just off the Living Room you'll find The Shop at Taconic where you can purchase clothing, chocolates, candles, one-of-a-kind accessories and jewelry, stuffed animals, and more for either yourself or the folks who weren't fortunate enough to make the trip with you.
Further down the hallway with its wide plank wooden floors past comfortable seating areas and lots of nature prints on the walls, you'll find the Library where there are more books and also a selection of board games as well as a display of local pottery and more comfy places to sit.
During our stay at Taconic, the dark of night came down pretty early and it was somewhat on the quite cold side so I didn't venture out on the wide wraparound front porch where there were a number of tables and chairs along with some very inviting looking rockers. Trust me, I wanted to but common sense said to stay inside as I didn't have my coat with me and I was just getting over a nasty upper respiratory thing!
Had I been there while the rockers on the front porch were looking like they are in the photo from the hotel's website above, I definitely would have gone out and had a sit no matter how cold it was - after all, isn't that what the blankets are there for? I'll be honest, I'm a sucker for a grand porch and Taconic definitely has a grand one that I bet is even grander in the warmer months.
Upstairs the hallways are nice and wide and have the most awesome lighting which was a little hard to photograph but I just had to try regardless!
Our room for the night was a Junior Suite on the third floor with a view to the front of the hotel which featured a King-size bed and a nice sitting area in a space about 350-375 square feet in size.
One of the room's features that I simply have to point out are located on the nightstands on both sides of the bed which are something that I think every hotel should run right out and get - pronto! In this day and age not only are nearby electrical outlets a big plus for travelers but if you make them with a USB port and put them right next to the bed where they can be easily reached - wow! It may seem like a simple thing but it's thoughtful little touches like this that make me think the Kimpton folks really get it.
Speaking of getting it, should you get the munchies while you're hanging around in your room watching your ridiculously huge Hi-Def flat-screen TV, you need not worry about having to put your shoes on to pad downstairs to find something to munch on but can simply raid the mini-bar in your room.
Our in-room snack bar had all sorts of goodies including local favorites like "Battenkill Brittle" and in the mini-fridge there was soda, juice, wine, beer, water, and a nice big bottle of Switchback Ale from the Switchback Brewing Company in Burlington, Vermont. As good as it is straight out of the bottle, keep it in mind for a little further down in this post!
In the room's closet was not just the obligatory iron and ironing board but an umbrella should the occasion call for one, two very nice robes, and unique to Taconic - a walking stick to help out when you're exploring the local area. There's also an exclusive Kimpton amenity in there - a custom-designed Gaiam yoga mat which is available for guests' use at no charge should you feel the need to stretch out into a Dolpin or Camel, assume your best Warrior stance, or do a couple of Upward Facing Dogs. All Kimpton hotels also offer a complimentary "Roll-Out Service" which - upon request - will bring staff to your room to roll out the mat while also furnishing extra towels, flavored water, an assortment of fresh fruit or an energizing mix of dried fruit and nuts. They'll then set your TV to Kimpton's complimentary on-demand yoga or Pilates channel for inspiration. With all that, perhaps the next time I stay at a Kimpton property I may have to try posing or planking a bit myself!
As with any hotel room it's always hard to get a decent photo of the bathroom as - seriously - who wants to see the toilet but I really do wish I could have gotten a better photo of the absolutely phenomenal shower that our room had. Between it and the big, soft, fluffy towels I was in bathroom heaven which I just can't obtain here at home with my circa-1972 pink bathtub! If you look closely in the second photo, you can make out part of the shower which was quite divine. Should your definition of 'divine' be a nice long soak rather than a nice long shower, the hotel's King Studio Suites have a modern interpretation of a claw-foot soaking tub that would probably put you in your own state of bathroom nirvana.
While we're in the bathroom, I should point out another amenity that Kimpton provides called their "Forgot It? We've Got It!" program which provides you with essentials that you may have forgotten like toothpaste which I had totally forgotten to restock in my travel bag. There's a pretty impressive list of things that you could forget and they'd get including things like lint rollers, Static Guard, and even fashion tape so this really is a terrific amenity. Thank you again for the toothpaste!
Before I leave our room with the late afternoon view from our window looking out towards the Green Mountains (please excuse the texture from the screen!) I'd like to take a moment to just say what a great night's sleep I had during out stay. Granted, some of it might be because I ate really, really well at dinner but I believe the majority of it was due to the comfort of the bedding. The bed linens are from Frette which has been in the business of producing linens and home furnishings of unparalleled quality since the company was established in Grenoble, France in December of 1860. Official Purveyors to the Italian Royal Family since 1881, Frette linens have been featured everywhere from the altar of St Peter’s Basilica to the dining car of the Orient Express so if they're good enough for them, they are certainly more than good enough for me - it's no wonder I slept like royalty!
Now then - on to dinner! The photo below taken from Taconic's website shows how The Copper Grouse looks before it's open for business minus any diners milling about and cluttering up the shot. I'm including it here as I didn't take any myself during the daylight hours and it gives a good overview of what the tavern looks like.
This is how The Copper Grouse looked the evening that Amy and I had dinner there which was just your basic run-of-the-mill mid-January Thursday night. It was nice to see that there was a decent crowd there which spoke well for Manchester's newest dining venue.
The menu at The Copper Grouse features American comfort food crafted by Executive Chef Adam Raftery who is no stranger to Vermont cuisine as he owns both the Wooden Spoon Bistro and the St. Paul Street Gastropub - popular eateries in the Burlington, Vermont area. Chef Raftery was chosen to head up Taconic's restaurant based on his expertise and ability to create Vermont-focused fare and he certainly does not disappoint.
For her starter, Amy chose Cheddar-Ale Soup made with Grafton Village Cheese and - remember I mentioned it above? - Switchback Ale. Topped with a pretzel crumble and a little extra shredded cheese, Amy proclaimed the soup to be some of the best she'd ever had and I had to concur that the one spoonful that I got to taste was almost enough to make me ask our server Billy if he could bring a second bowl over! I behaved myself though and happily devoured my own starter of Deviled Eggs with Chives and a Bacon Chip. Very tasty! Oh - and while it's in the photo, allow me to just say that the coffee was absolutely delicious, too! Usually it's pretty easy for me to tell the difference between decaf and regular but in this case nope, not at all - and I had three cups so there was plenty of taste-testing going on!
As a special treat "Compliments of the Chef" - Billy presented us both with a seared sea scallop floating on a bed of cauliflower purée with champagne butter and topped with a chutney. Amy seemed rather disappointed that I had gotten over my whole "I don't eat scallops" thing awhile ago as she watched me chewing happily on the very tasty treat. Sorry cousin!
Next up from the Small Plates portion of the menu, we split an order of Poutine made with short rib gravy, cheddar curds, and rosemary. It was my very first foray into a dish that my oldest daughter has been raving about for years and though it was quite good, I didn't want to overdo and not have room for my Big Plate entrée of Cider-Brined Half Chicken with rosemary roasted new potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and cider gravy. I'm glad I had left some room as the de-boned chicken was fork-tender and flavorful with a wonderfully crisp and tasty crust and there was no way that I was going to leave any of it on that plate if I could hep it!
In keeping with the theme that when you're in Vermont, you eat lots of cheese (truthfully I was rather surprised she hadn't orderd Mac n' Cheese from the Sides!) Amy chose Chef Raftery's Copper Burger as her main entrée which was accompanied by Applewood smoked bacon, Grafton Cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, hand-cut fries, and a Copper Sauce that was extremely good and really made the burger. We asked Billy about the possibility of taking a bucket of it back to Connecticut with us but I don't think he took us seriously!
By the time the end of the meal rolled around with neither of us succeeding in cleaning our plates despite our best efforts, we weren't really thinking we had any room left for dessert even though the choices that Billy named off for us all sounded absolutely delicious. Curiosity got the better of us though when Billy mentioned a Salted Caramel Budino which neither Amy nor I had ever heard of so we opted to split one. Presented in a Mason jar, the budino (Italian for pudding) featured butterscotch pudding thickened with cornstarch that was topped by a layer of caramel then a layer of whipped Crème fraîche sprinkled with sea salt.
What can I say? Yea, it was just that good!
Following our wonderful dinner with its delicious food and fantastic service by our very professional, knowledgeable, and friendly server, we adjourned to our room where we watched part of "Gone With the Wind" before calling it a night. As mentioned above, I slept wonderfully and was quite reluctant to get out of bed the next day but we had appointments to keep so there was no time for lollygagging. While Amy made use of that wonderful shower, I made my way downstairs for the complimentary coffee and tea service set up in the Living Room where I was able to get another cup of delicious coffee - this time with caffeine! - and just as good as the brew I'd had the night before at dinner. We could have eaten at The Copper Grouse again as they serve breakfast until 10:00 a.m. but as neither of us are really breakfast-eaters, we opted to just grab something a little later on after our planned visit to the American Museum of Fly-Fishing.
All in all, it was a very lovely stay at a very lovely new hotel that offers their guests a lot of thoughtful amenities that I've not seen at other hotels before. In addition to the complimentary morning coffee and tea, in the evenings guests are welcome to attend a nightly manager-hosted wine hour from 5 pm to 6 pm in the Living Room. Though neither one of us made use of it (I do always have good intentions for what those are worth!), there's a 24-hour state-of-the-art fitness center that even has weighted hula hoops and guests can also order an in-room spa service including an assortment of body wraps and massages. They've got loaner bikes for guests to use should they wish to pedal around the town and at Taconic they don't forget about the little ones either with their special Kimpton Kids program that welcomes your child to the hotel with a special Welcome Gift and offers activities such as snowman-building contests in the winter, a build-your-own-birdhouse project, and movie nights on the Green in the warmer months.
For more information on booking a stay at the beautiful Kimpton Taconic Hotel which looks to have seamlessly become a very worthy inn of its own making and a wonderful part of the iconic Manchester landscape, you can visit their website which is very comprehensive and easy to navigate, check out their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter or Instagram, or go the old-fashioned route and give them a call at (802) 632-0147. An easy walk down Manchester's marble sidewalks to both downtown and other attractions nearby, I think you'll find it's a fantastic place to stay when you're doing your own wandering around the Manchester, Vermont area.
In closing, I have to say that this was my very first stay at a Kimpton property (I have NO idea why I hadn't discovered them before!) and I was really impressed and am quite looking forward to checking out more of their boutique hotels in the future. They really know the meaning of the word "hospitality" not just in regards to adult travelers but to the rest of your entourage including your children and pets and appear to have thought of pretty much everything that can make traveling a true joy. Not only can you get a great room at a great price with lots of thoughtful touches but if you join Kimpton's free Karma Rewards program, you can start getting some great perks right off the bat including free WiFi, exclusive offers, a $10 "Raid the Bar" credit, dining exclusives, the chance to earn free nights, and more. Naturally the more times you stay, the better the rewards but it's free so why not sign up and give yourself a few nice perks? It would be simply silly not to and with so many great choices available out there for travelers these days, no one wants to be silly, right?