Vermont's Twin Farms

Twin Farms has been called the finest small hotel in the nation. What makes it so special? And is it worth the money?

By: Sherri Dalphonse

Senior editor Sherri Dalphonse can be reached at sdalphonse@washingtonian.com.

Is any getaway worth $1,650 a night? I asked myself that as my husband and I were driven through the unmarked gates of Twin Farms, a secluded resort in Vermont.

A private van had met us at the Burlington airport, 90 minutes to the north. That was included in the price, but what else would we get for this much money?

We arrived around lunch, which that summer day meant a barbecue feast on a patio overlooking the Green Mountains. It was a hint of meals to come. For two days, we dined on lobster, jumbo shrimp, lamb. Waiters poured drinks and wine—Twin Farms is a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner for its wine list—at no charge.

If you really like to eat and drink, Twin Farms looks more reasonable. After all, you can spend the same money for a Saturday stay with dinner at the Inn at Little Washington. While we didn’t find Twin Farms’s food quite as dazzling, it is excellent and ambitious—I can vouch for an appetizer of chilled mango soup with scallop hash and caviar, and a vanilla-bean soufflé.

Twin Farms, unlike the Inn at Little Washington, offers a lot to do. Want to learn fly-fishing? Take a free lesson. Like to hike? Trails wind through the property, and a picnic basket with Champagne and lobster might await beside a pond. In winter, snowshoers can picnic with hot chowder beside a waiting fire.

There’s a small gym, a pub with billiards, lake canoeing and swimming, tennis, croquet, skiing and skating, and a spa (spa treatments cost extra). The Japanese-style Furo features men’s, women’s, and coed soaking pools.

With 40 guests at most, a staff of 75 handles every whim. Don’t want to hike down the hill? A van can whisk you back. What do you tip for all this service? Nothing—that’s included too.

It wasn’t until I stepped inside our room, Barn Cottage, that I appreciated why Twin Farms has been voted the number-one US small hotel in a Zagat survey, and the top US hotel by readers of Condé Nast Traveler.

The little luxuries were there, like wonderful cotton sheets. A deep soaking tub offered a view of the woods and enough bath products to fulfill any Cleopatra fantasy.

Also impressive was the cottage’s Scandinavian style and the craftsmanship, from the bleached-pine walls to the stone fireplace to the two-story window framing a panorama of meadow and mountains. Every turn held surprises: a lovely painting of a horse, a birch-bark grandfather clock, artful jigsaw puzzles.

The 20 accommodations range from suites in the main house ($1,050 to $1,200) to lodge and farmhouse rooms ($1,200 to $1,650) to cottages tucked in the trees ($1,650 to $2,700). “Cottage” is misleading—at 1,500 square feet and up, a few are larger than my Arlington house.

Each room is as fantastical as the next. Moroccan-inspired Meadow Cottage boasts gorgeous tile and a tentlike ceiling. The Studio, styled like a modern New York apartment, is hung with art by the likes of David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein. The soaring Aviary is for bird lovers, while the cozy Perch lures with antique fish carvings.

The cottages feed a fantasy of holing up at your own weekend cabin—fully staffed. Dress leans fairly casual. At no point will you be presented a bill; payment is handled before arrival. Service is discreet.

One of our favorite memories will be the rainy Saturday we spent at the Barn. With a fire in the fireplace, we read, lost ourselves in the mountain view and in a jigsaw puzzle, sat on the screened porch and listened to the rain, and melted under the strong hands of a massage therapist detailed to our cottage. If the idea of Twin Farms is to be totally indulgent, we were hooked.

Twin Farms, Barnard, Vermont; 800-twin farms (894-6327); twinfarms.com.

Special SplurgesCloser to Washington

These two nearby luxury resorts, like Twin Farms, offer lovely rooms, excellent food and service, and lots of diversions.

Inn at Perry Cabin, St. Michaels, Md.; 800-722-2949; perrycabin.com. If special to you means being on the water, this 80-room retreat should float your boat. Part of the Orient-Express chain, the resort has the elegant yet comfortable feel of a yacht club. Relax beside the heated horizon-edge pool—framed by flower gardens—or on Adirondack chairs by the water. Work out in the fitness center, then unwind with a massage or afternoon tea. Borrow a bike to pedal around beguiling St. Michaels. Cap off the day with a romantic meal—signature dishes include crab spring rolls and Chesapeake Bay oysters poached in Champagne. Rates start at $175.

Keswick Hall, Keswick, Va.; 800-274-5391; keswick.com. This Tuscan-style, 48-room resort—also an Orient-Express property—is perhaps the region’s best small luxury getaway. Stylish rooms with canopied beds offer views of the Blue Ridge, Keswick’s gardens, an Arnold Palmer golf course, or the infinity-edge pool. Tennis courts and a fitness center provide a way to work off delicious meals—offerings include foie gras brûleé with roasted banana, pickled blueberries, and caramelized apple; and lamb rib eye with roasted pepper, spinach and zucchini lasagna, and tomato-mint chutney. Weekend rates start at $310.