Equinox Resort & Spa (Manchester, VT)
From points south, Equinox, a Luxury Collection Golf Resort and Spa, in Manchester suggests that drivers take Historic Route 7A, a winding country road lined with Victorian inns and shops selling Christmas ornaments despite the season. There's a faster way to get there, via Route 7, but like so many other New England resorts, the Equinox puts you firmly in charm's way.
In spite of its quintessential Vermont quaintness, however – the liveried bellhops and colonial-era buildings, the rocking chairs on the front porch, the presidents on the guest register – the hotel encourages visitors to get down and dirty with an encyclopedic roster of activities.
There's a golf course, naturally, designed in the traditional heathland Scottish manner by Rees Jones; a spa and fitness center with an indoor pool; and an accumulation of outlet stores down the street, if that's your cup of tea. But there's also kayaking, tennis, trapshooting, mountain biking, and hiking in the Equinox's 955-acre wilderness preserve. Trout fishing, whether on the Battenkill River or the lodge's own 14-acre stocked pond, is world-class; in fact, the hotel was once owned by the Orvis family, and the company's sprawling flagship store is only a mile away. You might commandeer one of the resort's Land Rovers or Hummers for an off-road driving lesson. On the gnarled tracks of its 80-acre course, you'll learn to manipulate gears, brakes, and steering to conquer hills and deep ruts. In the winter, there's snowshoeing and cross-country and downhill skiing at nearby Stratton Mountain.
All this ruggedness has a documented precedent: Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys gathered at the hotel in 1769, when it was called the Marsh Tavern, to plot against the British – and ended up seizing the inn from its Tory owner. You can drink a toast to those revolutionaries and pioneers in the original tavern building, which still serves as the hotel's restaurant, and bask in the historical aura of the place. Just take the faster route back home.
More information: The Equinox is located four hours by car from New York City and three hours from Boston. The resort consists of a main building with rooms starting at $229; a cluster of townhouses with one bedroom ($439) or three ($749); and the elegantly restored Charles Orvis Inn, with spacious suites for $609 and up.