Springtime in Smuggler's Notch

During April school vacation we headed for the mountains to enjoy spring in this family-centered alpine village. But when we got there we discovered the resort was in off-season mode, so we headed out into the hills and valleys of the Green Mountains to keep ourselves busy.

Springtime in Smuggler's Notch

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by nonniepazonnie on April 25, 2004

The Green Mountains are quintessential Vermont. Rolling green fields with square patches of farmland create an idyllic quilted landscape. Here, Vermont is still primarily rural and devoted to agriculture. Dairy farms, horse farms, cornfields, and other agricultural interests are all around you. Tourism and travel hasn't taken over as the primary commercial industry.

Stowe (which is just down the road) is an area that is a popular tourists destination and as a result has a dense offering of restaurants, country inns, and art galleries.

However, most of the other towns are rustic, remote villages offering a typical, local flair that doesn't attract or entrance tourists: nothing fancy, nothing pretty, just a country s tore, gas station and a post office. . ${QuickSuggestions} One point of advice: do your grocery shopping for the week on your drive up to the resort. Within six or seven miles of the resort there are a few small towns with general stores, but your selection will be limited and the prices will be higher.

The closest "super store" grocery stores are 45 minutes to an hour away. In winter, Morrisville is 17 miles away. I say in winter because the road through the Notch is only open in summer, which makes getting around slower and more difficult in the colder months. Essex Junction is about 22 miles away, but it offers a lot more and is well worth the few extra miles. Essex Junction has a Price Chopper and a Hannaford market, plus is has an outlet center and a large movie theater. If you need to pick up some other supplies or you want to drop the kids off at the movies while you do some clothes and/or grocery shopping, Essex is well worth the trip. Essex also has fast food restaurants. Morrisville, on the other hand, is bare bones and rural in its offerings. ${BestWay} This is an area that is very spread out. Daytrips and even basic supply trips mean traveling about an hour in any direction to get to a desired destination. Be prepared for long, but truly, scenic car trips to get anywhere. Don't let the time in the car deter you from getting out and exploring. This is a beautiful and magical area of the country. See it while you are there.

Smugglers' Notch Resort

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by nonniepazonnie on April 25, 2004

Best Things Nearby:
Mountains, farmlands, forest, Cities of Burlington and Montreal.

Best Things About the Resort:
Alpine setting. Ski in and ski out convenience. All inclusive village.

Resort Experience:
We had a two-bedroom condominium at Smugglers Notch for one week. We were in Willows, where we had purchased a bonus vacation for off-season use in April. The building is etched into a mountains side, so each level has walk out capability, which is an added plus for privacy, convenience, and safety. We also had a small lawn area and patio, which was landscaped to provide privacy. The unit was large and very welcoming. A family of four, we had more than enough room and were able to comfortably relax and spread out. The unit was well designed to maximize natural light. living room featured a gas burning fireplace, which was a quick and convenient way to get the warmth and ambience of a fireplace. I enjoyed the gas fireplace tremendously. Since we were there in spring, I might not have bothered to build a fire, but it was nice to have a luxury for a half an hour or so at night. The kitchen was very well appointed. I cooked several full-scale diners and found everything I needed and more. I even came across, rolling pins and pie plates. Many people celebrate the holidays here, and with the exception of a good sharp chef's knife, you'd have all the kitchen tools you need to serve a holiday feast.

The master bedroom had a large bath with a two-person Jacuzzi tub and separate shower stall. It also included a wall-mounted televisions positioned for viewing from the tub. The second bedroom had two twin beds and a full-size bed. An ample closet and drawer space provided adequate storage for up to four people. The adjacent bath to the second bedroom included a stackable washer and dryer.

The unit was not as clean as I would have expected. It wasn't dirty, but it wasn't impeccably clean, in that it wouldn't have passed a white glove test. Dust was collected on sills, lamps, and TV set. There were also a few cobwebs in the ceiling and on lampshades. This is a Gold Crown resort so I find the fact that the unit hadn’t been dusted in some time inexcusable. The resort has only dirt roads and the entry way and stairwell were filthy when we arrived and not cleaned once during our stay. Leaves, salt stains, gravel, and dirt were trailed up and down the stairs and through the hallways. The utility closet in the condo was well appointed with a vacuum, mop, broom, dustpan, and stepladder. If I hadn't been there on a bonus vacation, I might have started my vacation by calling the housekeeping staff and requiring that the whole unit be dusted.

Smugglers Notch is a large resort comprised of numerous distinct "neighborhoods" in a self-contained planned alpine village. The neighborhoods are condo developments, each with a unique style and design, apparently developed at different points in time. Most of the condos here are wholly owned.

Smugglers Notch is an alpine village, laid out on the steep slope of a mountain. There is a lot of walking, up and down hills. This is a splendid setting, with majestic snowcapped peaks, bubbling mountain streams, and fresh crisp air. The wind here is awesome—it doesn't howl as much as it encompasses—fully surrounding you with incredibly intensity. It is an environmental element like the roar of ocean surf. Nothing stands in the way of the wind, so you feel and hear the full force of it on a breezy or blustering day.

Smuggler’s is known for its diverse offering of amenities and activities. However, while we were there, nothing was open or operating. This is important for the off-season traveler to know. We went for April school vacation, hoping to take advantage of some of the kids programs. However, no programs were offered and all of the children's activity centers were locked tight. We had access to one indoor pool, indoor tennis, outdoor basketball and an outdoor mini golf course. Apparently the lack of off-season activities has disappointed more than a few travelers, so depending on your travel dates and your needs for entertainment, it is recommended that you cal and specifically inquire about what is available when you plan to visit. None of the materials we received or reviewed prior to our visit accurately stated what would or would not be available during our visit. We assumed that what we had read about the resort was what we would find, but they were in a partial shut down mode. None of the restaurants were operating either.

In peak season, however, this resort is a virtual self-contained recreational fantasyland. In winter, snow sports dominate the offerings:
-alpine skiing
-cross country skiing
-snow shoeing

In summer, outdoor activities are widely supported with resort supplied facilities and equipment:
-mountain biking
-water parks

Winter and summer sports, adventure, and social programs are offered to children of all ages. Adults can opt to participate in arts programs, nature walks, fitness, sports and spa activities. There are lessons and clinics for golf and tennis.

Nearby there are facilities for
-horseback riding
-art galleries
-fine crafts
-hand gliding
-fine dining
-museums and historic places
-mountain climbing
-fine art and folk life museums
-agriculture tours: chesses, ice cream, chocolate, maple products

Smugglers' Notch Resort
4323 Vermont Route 108 South
Smugglers' Notch, 05464
(802) 644-8851

A Single Pebble

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by nonniepazonnie on April 25, 2004

The first time I went to A Single Pebble, I was reluctant. I was working with a film crew from NYC on a three-day shoot. We were all tired, but the local guy who was responsible for seeing that everyone got fed insisted that we all go out to this place. He gushed absolutely about this place and said it was not to be missed. The reservation was made more than a week in advance as it was so widely popular it was hard to get seated. These were some seasoned diners used to NYC restaurants and we were blown away at how terrific our meal was. We just kept eating and eating in amazement. After I went I told everyone I knew to go. It's been more than a year and I've finally gotten back to A Single Pebble in VT.

To say that it is a Chinese restaurant isn't really fair because this is not shiny, black sauces on tired meat. This is elegantly prepared gourmet food that happens to be Chinese. They say this is absolutely authentic, of a quality, that can't be found anywhere outside of China (or Chinatown).

Head Chef Steve Bogart studied in China and is committed to authenticity of his craft. In 1986 he served as the food guide for a group of American Culinary Federation chefs and in 1994, as a guest of the Chinese government. He is widely celebrated and recognized locally, nationally, and internationally. His fans insist he studied with the best chefs in China. To this day, he still studies the language everyday. He imports his ingredients from NYC Chinatown daily.

The menu is separated into small, medium, and large dishes. You order from each size dish, but it is not a strict three-course meal because each dish is individually prepared to order and brought immediately to your table. There is a large red lazy susan in the center of the table that allows you to easily share foods.

This is a restaurant that comfortable integrates vegetarian and meat dishes. Both times I dined with vegetarians and we all were able to share these exotic, tasty, dishes, which are superb with or without meat. Consider hot and sour soup, Napa cabbage, dry fired green beans, mock eel, and Buddha's sesame beef.

But do go. Check out Church Street Marketplace while you are there.
A Single Pebble
133-35 Bank Street
Burlington, Vermont, 05401
(802) 865-5200

The Snowflake Bentley Exhibit At the Old Red mill

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by nonniepazonnie on April 25, 2004

802-899-3225 or www.snowflakebentley.com
Limited hours, call ahead

Our family learned about Wilson A. Bentley (1865-1931) who discovered that “no two snowflakes are the same” in Jericho, VT in 1885 from the children’s book entitled “Snowflake Bentley.”

A farmer, who became fascinated with ice crystals at a young age, Snowflake (as he came to be called) Bentley developed early microphotography equipment and techniques that allowed him to photograph snowflakes. Bentley devoted his life to studying and capturing snowflakes on glass plates. He discovered trends in the shape and design of snowflakes based on temperature. He made 5000 prints of flakes, rain, dew, frost and crystals. . . and no two were alike.

The exhibit features original plates, prints, and equipment of Bentley’s. In addition, there are framed limited edition prints, cards, posters, and decorative gifts featuring and inspired by his study of snowflakes. There are also many books about and by Bentley.

The exhibit encompasses one room and part of another room at The Old Red Mill in Jericho. The mill contains a craft store, the Bentley Exhibit, and the Jericho Historical Society. Also on exhibit are historic photographs, post cards, and documents from the area. There’s a limited selection of handmade crafts from accomplished local artisans including photography and art prints of Vermont scenes, plus needle, wood, glass, and metal crafts.

Wear your ski pants or pack a picnic lunch and sneakers because the setting is quite impressive with a waterfall, tables, and nature trails. The Old Mill Park, abutting the parking lot, is a 12-acre complex of hiking trails, cross country skiing and show shoeing trails, and a children's sledding hill to allow visitors to enjoy the beauty of snow and snowflakes in winter.

Snowflake Bentley Exhibit
Old Red Mill
Smugglers Notch, Vermont, 05465

ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by nonniepazonnie on April 25, 2004

ECHO is a children's science center focusing on Northern Vermont ecology and natural history. It was an impressive facility--large, new, and modern--of a metropolitan caliber, but with a distinct local focus.

ECHO is an aquarium, science, and history museum all in one. It features live exhibits of fish, reptiles, and amphibians native to the area, some of which are endangered or extremely rare. It also includes many hands-on interactive displays where children can learn about wind, water, and trees.

What I enjoyed most was the emphasis on the natural history of the Lake Champlain basin. Some 13,000 years ago, the lake was connected to the Saint Lawrence Bay. Glacier changes turned this lake into a sea and then back into a lake. As a result many fascinating species of fish and plants survived and adapted to these changes. In addition, the region boasts salt-water vegetation in a fresh water setting. The glacier exhibits were really exciting for all of us to see because we were in awe of the mountains already during our visit. It was perfect timing to educate ourselves about the geologic evolution of the mountains as well as the lakes of the region.

The ECHO center is scenically located on the Lake Champlain waterfront, providing constant views of the lake and mountains. It's a great daytrip destination and within easy walking distance of all the trendy and stylish shops of downtown Burlington. It’s also located on the scenic waterfront bike path that borders the lakefront.

ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center
1 College St.
Burlington, Vermont, 05401
(802) 864-1848

Snowflake Chocolate

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by nonniepazonnie on April 25, 2004

For more than 15 years, I have enjoyed the handmade chocolates from this Northern Vermont small business. I discovered them shortly after they were founded in 1986 and I enjoy them just as much today. I wandered by this tiny handmade confectionary store while out sightseeing. I came to love their chocolates so much, I'd used to order them through the mail and send them as gifts. Then I moved and fell off the mailing list. With this latest trip to Vermont, I rediscovered this sweet shop.

My all-time favorite is the peanut butter bar. About the size of an adult thumb, this treat is a thick chocolate-coated bar filled with smooth, sweet peanut butter. In milk or dark chocolate, they are sold individually wrapped for about a dollar apiece. They also offer chocolate snowflakes, fish, moose, ballerinas, and solid bars inscribed with messages like “thank you” for gifts. Although I tend toward the solids, they have a large selection of crèmes, caramels, and nuts that are sold by the pound or in gift boxes. Although I haven’t tried them, they also have a very popular line of fudges. When you visit the home store in Jericho (there is a store in Burlington, too), you can watch candies being made by hand through a large window and see the entire operation at work.

One of my funniest stories about the indulgence of this shop was captured one day when we stopped for some chocolates before heading through the notch. As we made our way through the steep, winding roads of Smuggler’s Notch eating chocolate-dipped potato chips—yes, absolute decadence--we passed all these people biking, hiking, and walking on this steep mountain road. We felt so guilty and sinful in contrast, driving our car through the pass while munching on these sweet, salty, indulgences, we laughed out of guilt. During our weeklong visit at Smugglers, we visited Snowflake Chocolate, not once, but three times. Thankfully, it was the first time I had been in a decade. But I have to look out because I once again signed up for their mailing list. And they have a website.
Snowflake Chocolate
81A VT Route 15
Smugglers Notch, Vermont, 05465
(802) 899-3373

Church Street Marketplace

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by nonniepazonnie on April 25, 2004

The Church Street Marketplace is an exciting, thriving downtown shopping and dining district that spans four blocks and is fully self-contained in a brick-lined pedestrian throughway.

You might suspect you are in Colorado or Washington state, but this is Northern Vermont—Burlington is a liberal, cultured, youthful academic community with a rustic, artistic, organic flair. The Church Street Marketplace serves a central gathering point for this city and is the easiest and fastest way to get a sense of this highly desirable destination. As part of the downtown scene, you will see college kids, farmers, professionals, and families. It offers fabulous people watching, with a wide range of outdoor cafes, benches, boulders and seating options. You can see skaters, grunge, punk, and earthy crunchy types hanging out playing hackeysack or strumming guitars. At the same time, you may stumble across street performers that range from mimes to a barbershop quartet. There are also sculptures and street art in this pedestrian downtown district

The shopping is good, with a solid collection of the standard brand name shops (Gap, Laura Ashley, Old Navy), plus many local galleries and boutiques. A large underground mall located right on the marketplace provides comfortable indoor shopping during snow or rain. The mall contains typical mall stores, with a few more unique and local stores. There are two other malls in Burlington if your shopping needs are not met on Church Street.

Plan on enjoying at least one meal at one of the many cafes, restaurants, and bakeries in the downtown area. Also don't forget to wander off the brick walkway, as this is a safe, welcoming city (day or night) and there are many shops, restaurants, and clubs that are not located directly on Church Street.

Church Street Marketplace
2 Church Street
Burlington, Vermont, 05401
(802) 863-1648

Lajoie Stables

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by nonniepazonnie on April 25, 2004


We visited Lajoie Stables on the first full day of our stay at Smuggler's Notch. We had so much fun, we went back every day we could during our stay.

The first time we visited we did a trail ride. The trail ride was really fun and exciting for the kids--with enough hills, valleys, and trees to make it challenging, but still safe and easy for beginners. My two children (ages seven and eight) had never ridden by themselves before; they had done pony rides in which they were led around a ring. They had so much fun during their trail ride that we went back for three more visits during our stay for horseback riding lessons.

The kids made great progress during their lessons and gained a lot of confidence and skill. They adored their instructor and trial leader, Amanda, who is the daughter of the owner of the stable. Amanda was an excellent teacher and guide for children. She provided positive rewards and recognition when they showed progress and also was firm in her expectations and requirements. Safety was an utmost concern for the stable owners. During our visits, my youngest daughter, by chance, had a couple of dramatic situations that reinforced the need for safety with horses. The first time she panicked when she took a corner too sharp. The second time was when a thoroughbred near to the horse she was trying to mount reared up and spooked the other horses in the stable. In both cases, Amanda reacted quickly plucked my daughter from the saddle and safely got her away from the horses.

Lajoie Stables offers:
-trail rides
-sleigh rides
-wagon rides
-carriage rides
pony rides
Rates are reasonable. The stable is open year round. Call ahead for an appointment. Summer rates are lower than winter/spring rates.

The atmosphere at the stable is relaxed, suitable for leisure and recreational riding for a beginner or intermediate. Equipment seems to be for everyday, not show purposes. A more demanding or experienced equestrian might want to call ahead to inquire about their specific needs for equipment or horses. One rider was there while we were there to practice jumping on a thoroughbred, so it may be that riders of every level can be satisfied. Since I have little to no horse experience, I don't want to make a recommendation for riders at an accomplished level.

For the average, recreational rider, I highly recommend this stable. Lajoie was very friendly and welcoming. We were pretty much brought into the fold during our visits. Our girls were allowed to help out around the stable after lessons, brushing their horses or watching the ferrier shoe horses. We spent hours hanging out after lessons and got to know the owners quite well. We found them to be authentic, caring, hearty souls committed to the quality, safety, and sport of horseback riding.
Lajoie Stables
992 Pollander Road
Smugglers Notch, Vermont, 05464
(802) 644-5347


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