Weekend in New England

Posted on 14 Dec 2012 at 8:00am

As marriage equality takes hold nationwide, gay travelers remain justly loyal to Vermont, where same-sex unions have long been recognized

Burlington

CHAMPLAIN TOAST | Sunset over Lake Champlain in Burlington is heavenly in the fall, while in January gay skiers will descend on Stowe for the annual Winter Rendezvous gay ski week.

In 2000, Vermont became the first state to legally sanction civil unions for same-sex couples, and in 2009, the state extended full marriage rights to gays and lesbians. Although neighboring states now also have same-sex marriage, and marriage equality is hitting a nationwide tipping point, Vermont has remained a favorite romance destination among LGBT travelers, some coming to exchange nuptials, others visiting simply to enjoy this stunningly scenic state’s relaxed pace, mild and wild recreational opportunities, charming inns and B&Bs.

From north to south, this narrow swath of forests, meadows and mountains has plenty to offer, with several key regions making excellent hubs for exploring. In southwestern Vermont, close to both the Berkshires of Massachusetts and the Albany region of upstate New York, the town of Manchester is a favorite weekend getaway — it’s home to dozens of outlet shops, but beyond these mostly expected retail establishments you’ll find a charming downtown with some great restaurants, plus several historic attractions and well-known ski areas. Just a two- to three-hour drive from Boston, the Upper Connecticut River Valley is rich in culture and outdoor recreation. And along the shores of rippling Lake Champlain, you’ll find

Vermont’s largest community, Burlington, a lively and liberal college town that’s also an excellent base for great skiing at several resorts, including nearby Stowe.

Although Vermont has a high proportion of LGBT residents, it’s sparsely populated. Nightlife options are minimal, although Burlington has some fun bars on or near downtown’s Church Street pedestrian mall, all of which are ostensibly gay-friendly. Vermont is ideal for couples seeking romance or groups of friends looking for both summer- or wintertime outdoors adventures.

It’s very easy to find information on planning gay weddings and other trips to Vermont — sites including VermontGayTravel.com and VermontGayTourism.com provide excellent guidance and list welcoming businesses, and the official state tourism site, VermontVacation.com, is great for general trip-planning information.

Burlington and Stowe

The largest city in the state, Burlington is home to the University of Vermont and claims the state’s most visible gay community. It’s just 100 miles south of Montreal and enjoys a stunning setting, with Lake Champlain on one side and the rugged Green Mountains on the other. Visitors appreciate the vast opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, plus downtown’s network of redbrick sidewalks, cozy coffeehouses, great music and bookstores, and affordable eateries.

Just 35 miles away, Stowe ranks among the nation’s best ski getaways, but this charming, gay-friendly village offers a genuine balance of outdoor and indoor fun. An abundance of plush lodges and inns, sophisticated eateries, and first-rate spas contribute to the town’s ardent following. And shoppers appreciate Stowe’s many one-of-a-kind shops.

Stowe is popular all winter with gay visitors, especially in late January when the town is host to Winter Rendezvous (Jan. 23 to 27 in 2013), a five-day gay ski gathering that draws enthusiasts from throughout New England and includes not just skiing and snowboarding but also a wealth of other activities, as well as parties and entertainment.

In Burlington, the Courtyard by Marriott Burlington Harbor and Hilton Burlington are both great, gay-friendly chain properties with central locations, large rooms and friendly service.

Just six miles south on a secluded peninsula overlooking Lake Champlain, the elegant Inn at Shelburne Farms (ShelburneFarms.org) occupies a former Vanderbilt summer home and now contains 24 rooms and suites furnished very much in the style of the Gilded Age. The surrounding 1,400-acre working farm includes a working dairy — note that the inn is closed mid-fall to mid-spring.

The quaint town of Waterbury, famous for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, is convenient both to Burlington and Stowe and contains one of the best gay-owned accommodations in the state, the Moose Meadow Lodge (MooseMeadowLodge.com), an upscale log home with three plush rooms, a hot tub and a peaceful setting with alluring views. Hosts Greg and Willie are great resources for what to see and do locally.

Stowe’s personality is low-key yet urbane. Virtually all the town’s businesses are gay-friendly, but a few inns are especially so, among them the excellent Timberholm Inn (Timberholm.com), a 1940s cedar lodge with great mountain views; and the luxurious Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa (Stoweflake.com), which provides the sort of indulgent pampering that can make it tempting never to leave the premises. The famed Trapp Family Lodge (TrappFamily.com) is another favorite resort, especially during Winter Rendezvous (it’s the host hotel in 2013).

— Andrew Collins

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 14, 2012.

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