Audubon effortlessly glided from a nearby perch, making a beeline for my heavily gloved arm. He snatched up the beef bit and then proceeded to use my limb as his throne, while the paparazzi took pictures.
He knew he was a good-looking guy and soaked up the attention. Occasionally, he would eye me and engage in an intense staring contest. I was instantly smitten with this striking creature.
Audubon is a four-year-old Harris’s Hawk, one of several birds of prey at New England Falconry in Woodstock, Vermont. This type of southwestern raptor is known for its long legs, long tail and broad markings. It’s a cooperative hunter and more sociable than other hawks.
Jessica, our falconer guide for this unique experience, led the group through a demonstration. During which she shared a wealth of knowledge about birds of prey and this ancient 4,000-year-old sport. The session included handling and free-flying a trained Harris’s Hawk.
Audubon, we were told, possesses telescopic vision and has the ability to zoom in and out with his eyes. He can “read” a newspaper one football field away and a headline from two fields. And he’s very smart, alert and quick to anticipate the actions of those around him.
We had fun watching Audubon test Jessica, just like a tot or teenager does with his/her parents. He would pretend not to listen to her whistle and instead go grubbing for snails and slugs, which he eagerly snarfed down.
He was obedient most of the time but took delight in knowing he could shape her behaviors. And he most definitely liked showing off for his adoring admirers.
Each individual in the group had numerous opportunities to handle Audubon during the hour-long session. Being up-close and personal with such a powerful bird was a thrill and a definite highlight of my visit to Woodstock, Vermont.
This experience was one of several that guests of the Woodstock Inn & Resort can arrange during their stay.
History of the Woodstock Inn, Vermont
Woodstock Inn’s sterling reputation precedes itself and the photos will make you drool. When you see the place for the first time, I guarantee you’ll do plenty of oohing and aahing.
The property seamlessly blends elegance with laidback comfort and takes pride in its attentive service and authentic Vermont hospitality. Its stately appearance, plush accommodations, beautifully landscaped gardens and divine food make it a magnet for visitors to the Green Mountain State.
This inn cherishes its New England history and heritage. Its roots can be traced back to 1793 when Captain Israel Richardson built one of the first lodgings – Richardson’s Tavern – in the newly designated town of Woodstock, Vermont. The place changed ownership over the next fifty years and was eventually renamed The Eagle Hotel.
Flash forward to the late 1890s when the new Woodstock Inn was constructed on the site of the original Eagle Hotel. It was notable for its grand architecture, expansive verandah and more than a hundred guest rooms.
In 1967, Laurance Rockefeller, a conservationist with a penchant for creating eco-friendly resorts, bought the inn. However, the place needed major renovations for modernization. It was determined that the feasible solution would be to tear it down and build an entirely new property.
Since the opening of the new hotel, there have been subsequent revisions, additions and upgrades, inside and out, but its charm and character have been retained.
The Woodstock Inn Experience
Upon entering the Woodstock Inn, you’ll be greeted by a living room-style lobby. The lobby comes complete with an oversized wood-burning fireplace. It’s an ideal spot for curling up with a good book, a libation, or a coffee to start your morning.
There are also a number of other rooms, including a handsome library, that provide more intimate spaces for quiet conversation or contemplation.
As for accommodations, you’ll have options. These options include the famed Collection Guestrooms, themed suites that celebrate Vermont. The Sugar House room, for example, is all about the state’s maple syrup and comes complete with maple syrup-colored walls and native plant paintings. The Alpine room has vintage skis, poles and even an antique sled.
I stayed in one of the Tavern Wing Suites. I loved the cozy sitting room and appreciated the large bathroom with plenty of places to put all my necessities. It seems the older I get, the more lotions and potions I require.
For those who want to bring Fido with them, the inn also offers pet-friendly garden-level rooms.
Fabulous Food at the Woodstock Inn
When it’s time to eat, head to the inn’s Red Rooster for an unforgettable meal or two. The award-winning restaurant is known for its farm-to-table, fresh cuisine and seasonal menus.
Chefs get their produce from the inn’s nearby Kelly Way Gardens, working with the master gardener to select ingredients for their innovative dishes.
This organic garden specializes in unique and heirloom varieties. They have over 200 types of veggies, 50 different herbs, flowers, berries, orchards, honeybees and even a mushroom glen. During the summer months, they host tours, events, tastings and dinners.
When I ate at the Red Rooster, dinner entrees included such specialties as Grilled Atlantic Salmon, Seared Georges Bank Scallops alongside Braised Short Rib of Beef, Veal Osso Bucco, and Mustard & Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb.
For vegetarians, there was the Crispy Cauliflower Vegetable Bowl. I wanted to try some of the scallops but also have the veggie bowl. So, the kitchen gracefully accommodated my request by putting the scallops in the bowl. Very tasty!
The restaurant has a good wine selection, as well as some creatively crafted cocktails with names like the Robert Frost, Vermont Apple, No. 14 Maple Old Fashioned and Quechee Quencher (named for Quechee Gorge, Vermont’s Little Grand Canyon).
Make sure you save room for the Vermont Maple Cake, Chocolate Coffee Pave or the Vermont Artisan Cheese Tasting Plate. Then waddle on back to your room, or better yet, take an evening stroll around the gardens and work off some of those calories.
You can also opt to dine at the Richardson Tavern, another of the inn’s establishments. A crackling fire awaits in this casual eatery where seafood stew, chowder, cheese fondue, salads, steak frites and more await your palette.
If you’re itching for some activity and can drag yourself away from the relaxing confines of the inn, you’ll be delighted to hear that Woodstock, Vermont and the surrounding Green Mountains area is rich in recreation and outdoor adventure.
Talk to those in the know at the resort’s Activity Center. The helpful staff will set you up with maps, guides, recommendations, complimentary Village Cruisers and more for all your hiking and cycling needs. There are sixty miles of trails that wind through the village.
One of my favorite places to walk was nearby Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Here I enjoyed peaceful colonial carriage roads and iconic covered bridges, amid a verdant setting.
Additionally, the inn’s staff can arrange a variety of local experiences. They can set you up with fly fishing lessons, schedule a tennis or tee time or reserve a falconry session.
Other options include local attractions like the Billings Farm & Museum, the aforementioned Kelly Way Gardens, Middle Covered Bridge and Simon Pearce’s flagship glass workshop, just to mention a few.
The Billings Farm & Museum is free to guests of the inn and is an easy half-mile walk away. It’s a working dairy farm and museum of Vermont’s rural past. There are educational exhibits, animal barns, an 1890 farmhouse and a Dairy Bar, featuring Vermont-made ice cream, Billings Farm cheddar cheese and other assorted goodies. Vermont is a dairy lover’s dream.
Return to the inn to soothe sore muscles and get pampered in the luxurious, 10,000 square-foot spa, featuring a menu of treatments using locally sourced products. Take a dip in the outdoor swimming pool or soak in the hot tub.
Downtown Woodstock, Vermont
With the resort’s convenient in-town location, you’ll be able to amble down Main Street at your leisure to the numerous shops, galleries and restaurants.
Check out Gillingham’s General Store, a fixture since 1886, where you can find traditional, nostalgic and specialty items. And if you’re looking for local, artisan-made crafts and jewelry, stop in at Collective. Note all the classic, picture-perfect New England-style homes that dot the streets. I had no problem picking out a few I would move into without hesitation.
Book This Trip
Ready to experience the beauty of Woodstock, Vermont? Start planning your trip with knowledge on local shops, restaurant reviews, tips on the best hikes and more with TripAdvisor and Travelocity. Then book your flight and car rental all at once through Kiwi.
Author Bio: Debbie Stone is an established travel writer and columnist, who crosses the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers and listeners. She’s an avid explorer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for places, culture, food, history, nature, outdoor adventure, wellness and more. Her travels have taken her to all fifty states and nearly 100 countries, spanning all seven continents. Her stories appear in numerous print and digital publications, including Luxe Beat Magazine, Big Blend Radio & TV Magazine, Parks & Travel Magazine, Northwest Prime Time, Los Alamos Monitor, Northwest News, Santa Fe Fine Lifestyles Magazine and Travelworld International Magazine, among others. She can also be heard sharing her travel adventures on Big Blend Radio. Her work reaches over three million readers and listeners, representing a demographic of primarily affluent professionals and active retirees.