If a place like Stowe didn't exist, it would need to be invented. There is something soothing about getting away to the mountains, and this quaint village in northern Vermont has for decades offered sanctuary to those looking to escape the intrusions of the outside world, if only for a weekend. In all seasons, Stowe caters to both outdoor enthusiasts and those whose idea of a strenuous afternoon is running a pleasant gantlet of specialty shops, galleries, and restaurants. For a destination known for its ski resort, it's equally enjoyable to visit in summer, when the only thing steep and white is the town's church spire
Visitors have the luxury of choice with a variety of resorts and bed-and-breakfasts to fit nearly every budget. The Trapp Family Lodge (700 Trapp Hill Road, 800-826-7000, www.trappfamily.com, $257-$520), on a hilltop four miles from the town center, is an exquisite hideaway reminiscent of the Austrian countryside. Amenities abound at the gracious Topnotch Resort and Spa (4000 Mountain Road/Route 108, 800-451-8686, www.topnotchresort.com, $225-$700), where one can pursue everything from fly-fishing to horseback riding. Located in the heart of the village, the Green Mountain Inn (18 Main St., 800-253-7302,www.greenmountaininn.com, $119-$389) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 1860 House (73 School St., 800-248-1860, www.1860house.com, $120-$165) is a cozy B&B situated one block from Main Street, while the Brass Lantern Inn (717 Maple St., 800-729-2980, www.brasslanterninn.com, $129-$219) sits in a peaceful setting just outside the village
A favorite among locals is Jamie's on Main (One Depot Building, Main Street, 802-253-0077, sandwiches $4.25-$6.25), an ideal spot for watching the foot traffic and noshing on homemade sandwiches and baked goods. Even if you're not staying there, don't miss the Lounge at the Trapp Family Lodge (700 Trapp Hill Road, 800-826-7000, www.trappfamily.com, lunch entrees $9-$16) for casual dining and stunning mountain views. Order the Austrian sausage plate with house-brewed Vienna lager for a real treat. For a sweet snack, stop by Laughing Moon Chocolates (78 South Main St., 802-253-9591, www.laughingmoonchocolates.com) for its handmade chocolate truffles with Vermont chèvre ($8.50 for six). Just outside of town, Michael's on the Hill (4182 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Waterbury Center, 802-244-7476, www.michaelsonthehill.com, dinner entrees $25-$43) specializes in using local ingredients to enhance dishes such as pan-seared trout and honey-glazed pork chops
DURING THE DAY
Make the most of the great outdoors. Head to Stowe Mountain Resort (5781 Mountain Road, 800-253-4754, www.stowe.com) to glide down their 2,300-foot alpine side (adults $21 for one ride) or to journey by gondola to the top of Mount Mansfield (adults $18 one way; $24 round trip). You can either take the easy way down from Vermont's highest peak or descend the trails to the base. The adventurous should also drive through Smugglers' Notch State Park (6443 Mountain Road, 802-253-4014, www.vtstateparks.com). There you'll encounter hairpin turns and terrain punctuated by birches and boulders. There are miles of hiking paths, but for a short excursion try the 2.2-mile round-trip on the Sterling Pond Trail, which leads to a pristine mountain pond. Back in town, explore Stowe Recreation Path, which meanders for 5.5 miles through woods and farmland, providing ample opportunities to picnic or to dip your feet in the West Branch River. Bike rentals can be found at A.J.'s Ski & Sports (350 Mountain Road, 802-253-4593,www.ajssportinggoods.com, $18 half-day rental), near the path entrance. The village center offers its own diversions. Among the many galleries that feature works by local artists are the Green Mountain Fine Art Gallery (64 South Main St., 802-253-1818,www.greenmountainfineart.com) and Stowe Craft & Design (55 Mountain Road, 802-253-4693, www.stowecraft.com). Shaw's General Store (54 Main St., 802-253-4040, www.heshaw.com) has been family owned since 1895 and is worth a visit. So is the Vermont Ski Museum (1 South Main St., 802-253-9911, www.vermontskimuseum.org, adults $3 donation), which traces the history of the sport in the Green Mountain State
Stowe is fairly sleepy at night, but there is still fun to be had. Head to the Stowe Theatre Guild (67 Main St., 802-253-3961,www.stowetheatre.com), where performances of "The Sound of Music" run Wednesday through Saturday until Sept. 4. For something completely different, the Pub at the Grey Fox Inn (990 Mountain Road, 802-253-8921, www.greyfoxinn.com) offers a variety of live jazz and acoustic music on Friday and Saturday nights, while Matterhorn Bar & Restaurant (4969 Mountain Road, 802-253-8198, www.matterhornbar.com) features rock bands on most weekends.
Matthew Bellico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2010 For The Boston Globe