Fabulous outlet shopping, magnificent golf and the historic and elegant Equinox make this a compelling Vermont retreat

Manchester Village is a small community in the southwest corner of Vermont with a dual personality. A four hour drive south of Montreal, half of the village is as picturesque as a Norman Rockwell painting while the other half is widely known as one of the largest outlet shopping meccas in the New England states.

Arguably the most beautiful building in the village is The Equinox, a historically significant resort hotel whose past spans more than two centuries and its famous guests include Ulysses S. Grant, four U.S. presidents and Mary Todd Lincoln. In the latter part of the 18th century, the hotel was a meeting place for American Revolutionaries who gathered there to plot against the British.

Today, however, this 195-room resort property isn’t just the iconic centrepiece of the village; it’s a resort destination unto itself. I visited there a few years ago (prior to the $20 million in renovations that recently took place) and I was thoroughly impressed with what The Equinox has to offer. With its extensive roster of things to do it’s a getaway destination unto itself while village shopping serves to sweeten the pot.

In addition to a full-service spa, among the Equinox’s host of activities is The British School of Falconry, the first of its kind in the nation where hotel guests can learn how to handle and fly hawks and other raptors. Sessions led by trainers skilled in this ancient sport of kings take place at an off-site facility minutes from the hotel.

Also at the site of the Falconry School is an archery academy where a team of instructors specializes in tutoring adults and children over eight years old in the intricacies of archery.

The Equinox also offers an all-seasons Land Rover Driving School where participants learn to navigate Rovers over a diverse landscape on the hotel’s 80-acre purpose-built course. The extensive trail system runs through a mountain terrain and lessons are devised for beginners through advanced. Under expert supervision, there’s also a junior off-road driving school for children ages five to 12 years old. Vehicles used are miniature, electronic Land Rovers and instruction is given on a customized jungle course where vehicles are equipped with speed controls and instant shut-off features.

Hotel guests can also learn the finer points of fly fishing at the hotel’s world-famous Orvis Fly Fishing School. Fishing instruction is given at the resort’s private pond and also on a nearby river where guests learn how to fish with different types of flies. The school supplies rods, reels and waders and video recording equipment is used to assess each students casting technique.

In addition to the fishing school, the hotel also has a private game preserve available in the fall for deer and grouse hunting.

However, the activity that drew me to the hotel and the village was none of the above. Instead, it was The Golf Club at The Equinox, an 18-hole gem widely recognized as one of the best resort courses in the country. Situated at the base of Mt. Equinox and built in 1927, its championship-calibre layout was fully restored in 1992 and some say it‘s the nicest course in southern Vermont. The mountain and surrounding scenery is exceptional and unlike a lot of today’s courses, its rolling well-groomed fairways are not lined with either vacation homes or permanent residences.

Notwithstanding the hotel and its many attributes, what brings hordes of people to Manchester Village is outlet shopping. With more than 100 stores selling name brand goods at anywhere from 30 to 70 percent off, this is shopping nirvana. Visitors can find anything here from a Giorgio Armani suit to that perfect Coach purse.

There’s Banana Republic, Polo Ralph Lauren, Yankee Candle, J. Crew and a new cashmere mill shop. People thinking about a shopping excursion to the village should go online at www.manchesterdesigneroutlets.com where there are printable coupons for extra money saving deals. On the same website there are also shop and stay deals for The Equinox and a variety of other charming Manchester Village inns, motels and cabins.

While shopping is undeniably a big draw for the town, other area attractions include year-round tours of the Hildene mansion, former home of Robert Todd Lincoln, the only child of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. Other additions to the village entertainment scene include a large arts centre and a regional theatre.


For more information on The Equinox go online at www.equinoxresort.com or call 1-800-362-4747. Also see www.villageofmanchester.org .

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