Be Charmed by the Inn at Shelburne Farms
Driving up the winding road that connects the multiple barns, buildings and the Inn at Shelburne Farms, it’s impossible not to be floored by the sheer beauty and size of this well-manicured property. Located on Lake Champlain in the picturesque town of Shelburne, Vermont, near the vibrant city of Burlington, there’s plenty to do in the area. From wineries and hard cider tastings to organic bakeries and vegan restaurants, this area of Vermont has it all.
The Inn at Shelburne Farms
The 24-room inn itself is a stunning three-story brick castle complete with turrets. We stayed in the quite spacious Overlook room on the second floor, which had fantastic water and garden views. The drapes were made of silk and the bed was firm yet comfortable. The toiletries were made locally by Sweet Grass Farm. There’s a reason why Fodors included The Inn at Shelburne Farms in their list of the 100 Best Inns Worldwide. The location is simply stunning and the inn couldn’t be more charming.
The bathrooms are the only prickly part about the inn. Some of the rooms have bright bathrooms with ample space; some have tiny NYC-size bathrooms with no windows, while others use a shared bathroom down the hall. It’s hard to tell what’s what from their website, so if the bathroom is important to you, make sure to call and ask about that before booking.
If you forget to bring anything, not to worry. The nearby town has several extremely hip and well-curated clothing stores and an adorable general store where you can get pretty much anything you could need. If you’re looking to stock up on snacks, there are a couple of Whole Foods-style grocery stores within a 15 minute drive that are wonderful.
Dining: In & Out
The restaurant at The Inn at Shelburne Farms serves 5-star quality food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with an incredible selection of cocktails. Want a fresh muddled berry mojito? You got it. Your favorite scotch — or maybe a new, organic variety? No problem. The cocktails are mixed with fresh ingredients from the farm, and they taste as delicious as they look.
The dining room is a sophisticated blend of old-world glamour with a modern edge, and the menu keeps with their farm-to-table mantra. In addition to all the animals, Shelburne Farms has a massive organic garden that grows 150 different types of plants and around a third of the produce, meats, dairy and maple syrup served in the restaurant are grown on the property. 75% of the food served is sourced locally. The menu is definitely not vegan or vegetarian-friendly though, which was surprising since being vegan is far, far more sustainable, in every way, than eating meat.
If you’re a meat-eater, this is your heaven.
The meat served here is “Certified Humane”, which is clearly the most ethical way to eat animal flesh possible. However, the thought of putting the mother of the baby lamb we just cuddled with during our “educational tour” on our plate for dinner was a bit too much for us, so we went into town instead.
We ate at an absolutely wonderful organic plant-based restaurant called Revolution Kitchen, in downtown Burlington. In fact, we loved it so much that we ate there two nights in a row. They, like Shelburne Farms, have a farm-to-table ethos that permeates both the food and the cozy farmhouse atmosphere at Revolution Kitchen. The staff seemed genuinely happy and passionate about working there, and it was easy to see that their enthusiasm was clearly rubbing off on the patrons. We left feeling healthy, satisfied and ready for a casual walk down some of the many charming streets of Burlington.
For breakfast and lunch, Pingala is a wonderful spot with healthy and delicious food that is definitely worth checking out. Afterwords, treat yourself to an organic hard cider tasting (yes, it’s alcoholic, but hey — it’s 5pm somewhere, right?) and experience the fun social scene at the nearby Citizen Cider. They make 12-or-so varieties of hard cider from Vermont apples, plus a non-alcoholic not-so-hard cider. All are shockingly delicious (sober or otherwise, I promise).
Things to Do
The Shelburne Museum is an absolute must-see. It’s an entire pioneer town where 39 buildings have been restored and stocked full of antiques. Many of the houses have been converted into art galleries full of fun and beautiful art and sculptures (150,000 works of art, to be exact), and you can purchase art and jewelry made by locals in one of them. Make sure to check out the functioning printing house, the dozens of carriages, and the fascinating (and sometimes creepy) dolls in the toy factory.
Staying at the Inn at Shelburne Farms gives you access to a lot of activities on the property. There are numerous walking trails and hikes. You can take a row boat, kayak or canoe out on the lake. You can play tennis or croquet and then help yourself to the afternoon snacks and tea that’s provided in the lodge late every afternoon. You can also milk cows, help make cheese, pet the sheep (they love it), take historic tours or check out the Farm Store.
One of the most memorable things we did while at Shelburne Farms was to simply sit and watch a very happy sheep hop and skip and try to play with her friends for about half an hour. She had such a sunshiney zest for life. So adorable and care-free, she reminded us of our kitten, who shares the same color of fur, and the same happy-go-lucky personality.
If you’re around on a Saturday, check out the Shelburne Farmers Market, a few minutes from the Inn. Pick up some jewelry or wood crafts while munching on local foods.
The Farm Barn
Part of the “educational” component of Shelburne Farms is the petting farm. Here, you can meet a variety of animals including sheep, pigs, chickens and baby or full-grown cows, up-close. Each pen has a little sign that tells you the animals name and when they were born (leaving out when they’ll end up on someone’s plate, of course). I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a fun but emotionally conflicting activity. If Shelburne Farms was simply a sanctuary, then it would be 100% fun. I’d love to learn more about these animals through that lens.
While we were there, we were fortunate enough to see a hawk with his trainer, explaining the usual stuff about hawks like how to tell them apart by their feather color. What I’d love to see, and what I asked (he was quite knowledgeable), were questions about sustainability, like: “Is the population of these hawks healthy or declining? Why?” (Answer: declining), and “How can everyone here today help to ensure the survival of this species?” (Answer: consume less in general, don’t litter, and don’t put out mouse or rat poison.)
Don’t forget to check out the Farm Cart, which is full of wholesome organic snacks like fresh sandwiches, soups, salads, drinks and cookies (yum!), located in the Farm Barn courtyard. The farm-affiliated O’Bread Bakery is here too for fresh organic baguettes and breads.
Overall, the Inn, the restaurant and the sheer number of activities available at The Inn at Shelburne Farms is impressive. We’d certainly recommend it to any of our non-vegan readers who are looking to get away for a weekend, or longer. It’s just under a 6-hour drive from NYC, so make sure you spend enough time in Vermont to make the drive worth it; we think three or four days is just about perfect.
Read more: Our thoughts on Shelburne Farms’ Education for Sustainability Programs