Tag Archives: vacation

Manchester Vermont – Our Winter Kingdom

Let me start off by providing some context about myself and family. We come to Manchester, Vermont for weekends and holidays during the winter as we live in Westchester County, NY. I’ve been coming up here ever since college and now with young children (6, 4), we are increasing our frequency. This post should answer lots of questions that I normally receive about this Manchester – restaurants, food, skiing, lodging, etc. Hope it helps you!

Route

Manchester is about 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 hours from our home in Westchester County. We take the Taconic straight to 90 and then up Vermont 7. Very simple and straight forward drive – though via the Taconic there are no rest-stops. If you have children who like to stretch their legs or have issues holding their bladder, the i87 might be a better route to select.

What I like most about the drive is that it’s fairly peaceful. There aren’t a ton of buildings or homes along the highway so you pretty much get a ton of foliage and mountain views. The Taconic is known for it’s law enforcement presence so I recommend downloading Waze on your mobile device and watching for/logging the police presence. This is by no means perfect – but it has helped me a couple of times when I didn’t expect a police officer to be present and I was driving a couple of miles above the speed limit.

Ski Mountains

We typically stay in the town of Manchester, VT. There are many bordering towns but we prefer it here because of its proximity to pretty much everything – shopping, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. Manchester is not the most remote of towns because of this – so if you are looking for a completely remote escape, then check a town or two over.

If you are coming up in the Winter, then chances are pretty good that you like to ski or board. You’ve got three immediate options for skiing – Bromley, Stratton and Magic Mountain. From our home in Manchester, Bromley is 15 minutes and Stratton & Magic are 25 . All are super accessible and on most days, you can see all three from each resort.  Okemo, Mt. Snow, and Killington are also relatively close but take more like 50, 60, and 75 mins respectively from Manchester. Having all of these mountains close is a major plus, IMHO.  If you are up here for a week or so, you can have variety in the mountains you ski. You are not stuck at any one mountain and can get to plenty of good mountains centrally from Manchester.

Lodging

My wife and I love staying at The Reluctant Panther when traveling sans children which is self proclaimed as a fine luxury small hotel. They have one of my favorite rooms which features a fireplace in the middle of the room. Next door to The Reluctant Panther (just west of it) is The Equinox Hotel – probably the most famous of all here. The Equinox is a mini-city in itself with condos, the hotel, different schools (Falconry, Land Rover Driving Experience, etc) and is a big draw. My wife and I have never had a good experience with The Equinox when we’ve stayed in the past so we prefer to stay elsewhere… but many friends have stayed there and enjoy it.

We have children now so we’ve been renting homes. We’ve rented everything from 1800 sq. foot barns to 5500 sq. foot luxury homes. This season, we rented on the larger side as we’ve been up a lot and had friends and family join us up here. We’ve had a ton of luck with VRBO and Airbnb. Mid-size modern homes rent from $650-1500 per night which might seem like a lot but divide the amount of bedrooms of the home and you can figure out what the approximate hotel room rate would be.

Just driving around Manchester this winter, we’ve found a ton of homes for sale – and many of these homes need updating. If you are like us and into the modern or contemporary modern aesthetic – there are few selections to pick from. If you are looking for a home to purchase and like the traditional Vermont look… then this is certainly a buyers market.

Food, Restaurants

There are two main grocery stores in Manchester: Price Chopper and Shaw’s. Both are perfectly fine – I believe the Shaw’s is a bit bigger than the Price Chopper. My children like the Red Box movie/game dispenser at the Shaw’s which allows us to rent a film by the day for a very low price. We usually eat breakfast at home on ski days and bring some snacks for the lodge. This is where the grocery stores come in handy and we stock up for the weekend or week whenever we come up. (Dad pro tip: Let the kids pick the cereal)

We enjoy a consistent set of restaurants – but note, restaurants can be super crowded during holiday times and I highly recommend you make reservations months in advance. It’s always easy to change reservations but it’s hard to make them in a time crunch. Some of the restaurants here are on OpenTable… but not all. Restaurants are a most booked during Christmas Week and New Years.

We bring our children to all of the below restaurants. We don’t have a nanny or babysitter up here so the kids accompany us virtually everywhere… so family friendly for the most part. Here are our regular places:

  • Mulligans – bar/pub food. Very solid and low key. Lunch + Dinner.
  • The Perfect Wife – *exception to no kids. Most upscale of all. Fancy menu, but good. Dinner.
  • The Other Woman – the tavern next to The Perfect Wife (same owners). Kids love it. We love it and always come. Dinner.
  • Brasserie L’Oustau – excellent french brasserie. On the fancy side. Not overly kid friendly but we certainly take them here. In the location of one of our previously favorite restaurants, Laneys. Dinner.
  • Firetower Restaurant – at Stratton Mountain. Eclectic menu but solid. Kids welcome. Bar scene too. Dinner.
  • Up for Breakfast – one of our favorite spots for breakfast. Cash & check only. Fills up quickly and is small.
  • Nippers Cafe – at the Stamford Motel – don’t let looks throw you off. Had great dinner and breakfast here. Breakfast/Dinner.
  • Bobs Diner – it’s exactly how it looks and sounds. Super old school diner that does what it needs to do. A lot of food and a tiny bit of grease. On way to Bromley/Stratton/Magic so makes it easy to stop in before a long ski day.
  • Jake’s Cafe & Tavern – located in Londonderry. Best nachos we’ve had in town. Super well priced. Kid friendly. Breakfast and Dinner.
  • The Reluctant Panther Inn Dining Room – *not ideal for kids (if they even allow). One of the more formal dining rooms but great food. Good for date night and if you are staying at the inn.
  • Cilantro – It’s a local version of Chipotle – but solid. Braised beef is amazing. Super kid friendly.  In the heart of Manchester but also a small hut close to Bromley and Stratton.
  • Spiral Press Cafe – it’s not just a coffee shop! The soups and sandwiches/panninis are really good and it’s a super comfortable atmosphere.
  • Maplefields – looks like a gas station, which it is… but go inside and find the varieties of coffee and freshly baked goods.  Delicious.  Perfect for a recharge or snack on the way to the mountains.

If you like ice cream, make sure to stop by the local Stewarts gas stations. Yes, gas stations. The ice cream bar is phenomenal and Stewarts has been long known for their ice cream.

Skiing

We love Bromley, the sun mountain, the only mountain in the area that faces the sun most of the day. Trust me – the sun feels good when its beating down. Bromley isn’t the biggest, isn’t the most vertical, isn’t the most plush, nor the highest rated. Bromley is Bromley and that’s what we love about it. Bromley is a bit more laid back and chill than Stratton and isn’t about “the scene.” Bromley has a great lodge – and by great – simple and old school. It probably could use a renovation but then it would lose it’s old school aura which is what makes it special. The food in the lodge is mediocre-lodge-expensive as you could imagine (I think a coffee is $3) but it is what it is. The mountain is divided approximately 30/30/30 between green, blue and black trails and has one high speed quad to the summit (from the base). There are lift lines during holidays but the lines tend to be in the afternoons. Pro tip: use the singles line as much as you can in order to get the most amount of runs in.

Snowboarding is allowed (and taught) at Bromley but apparently it’s decreasing in popularity. I was riding up with an instructor recently and he mentioned that the glade skiing and side-mountain skiing is of the rage. Bromley supports this and apparently has a ton of terrain that’s set aside.

The ski instruction at Bromley is really good. Our kids never skied before this season and my son is now on blue trails and my daughter is doing well on the magic carpet. We gave our kids private lessons pretty much each day we were up here this season – a luxury we could afford – but gets pricey. If you get a chance, request Harold Meehan for your children. He’s been incredible to us and we’ve spent a ton of time with him this season and our children really adore him.

One of the recent additions to Bromley which appeal to us is the valet. We buy a seasons pass as we use it often – but pretty much each weekend and holiday week – you drive up to the front and drop off your car. The attendants (Alec and co) help take the skis out of the car and really make life easier. Highly recommended. I think it’s $25/day if you don’t have season passes.

I don’t ski, what else is there to do?

You’re in luck. Manchester has a ton of outlet shopping (not sure if you get good deals but my wife thinks so) and even has a small movie theater (Village Picture Show) with two screens. The Northshire Bookstore is the oldest bookstore in the north east and is a great place to also take children. If you are into the spa thing, check out the Equinox and other large inns.  You could also go ice skating, snow shoeing, and snow mobiling.  I mentioned the Land Rover Driving Experience above and that’s something I love doing with family and friends who come up – no matter the weather conditions.

The larger movie theater and bowling alley are in Bennington which is a 30 minute drive from Manchester. On rest-days or foul weather days these come in super handy.

It’s a Magical Place

We love it up here – and what I’ve written here only cracks the surface. We’re still exploring new places to eat and play throughout the region. If you’re heading up – let us know, maybe we’ll be here and can grab some Magic Hat #9 together.

Observations from 2 Weeks in South Africa

safariI just came back from spending the past 2 weeks in South Africa as my father has not been back in roughly 35 years.  For those unfamiliar, my father and his entire family are from Johannesburg (or Jo-Burg as they call it).  He is the youngest of his family and has a twin brother, an older brother, and two twin sisters; it’s a large family to say the least.  I’ve got 20 first cousins and out of all of them, I am the first American born and Kenny, my brother, is the second.  As my dad likes to say, I’m the first Yankee in the family.

After 35 years of not being back, things changed.  We noticed this first when showing my children the street my father grew up on a few years back using Google Earth.  His once childhood home is now an entire apartment complex.  The down-the-street gas station is now a sprawling strip mall.   All of this is expected as the country has grown tremendously and only recently (within 20 years) freed itself of Apartheid.

We traveled thru Johannesburg, a safari in Manyeleti (southeast corner of Kruger National Park), Cape Town and Stellenbosch.  My folks stayed a few extra days and did the Garden Route drive.   I noticed a few things re: technology + marketing and thought I’d share.

1.  Ubiquitous Connectivity:  No matter where we were traveling, we pretty much had Vodacom or similar service to our mobile devices.  While I did not use the service (my iPhone is not unlocked), I theoretically had access.  The infrastructure in South Africa for mobile service is pretty solid and even in the safari, I had access.  I remember my phone ringing while being on a game drive in the middle of the ManyeletiI barely get cell signal in the basement of our home in Westchester County!  Go figure.

2.  Where Were All the Phones??  We walked around a few shopping malls and saw no less than 3-4 cellphone stores per mall.  That’s a lot.  But, unlike NYC, most cellphones were in people’s pockets while they were walking rather than in their fingers and in front of their noses.  The culture wasn’t about being on the cellphone at all times, but rather having the phone purely as a utility to compliment whatever someone was doing.  Maybe this is because of the rate plan structures but it was certainly noticeable.  The Samsung phones seemed to have large share of market (when we got to see people holding their phones).

3.  Safety with Credit Cards I actually felt safer using my credit card in SA than I do in NYC.  When you want to pay with your credit card, the waiter brings over a small device that scans your card at the table in front of you and your card never, ever, ever leaves your sight.  Contrast this to the USA where your credit card might be out of your sight for 3-5 minutes while the waiter charges your card and does whatever else with it (scans it, copies it, etc).  I know there are some edge technologies that are being tested where you don’t need to even take out your credit card but this has not hit South Africa yet, at least based on what I saw there.

4.  Coca Cola signs  Seemed like Coca-Cola was the universal sign for business/commerce.   While walking thru District 6 in the townships, if a shanty had a Coca Cola sign, it didn’t necessarily sell coke but rather sold *something.*  You knew walking by that the shanty was selling some good/service/product, not necessarily coke.  Some interesting branding for Coke!

Over the next week or so, I’ll be posting our official pictures but they are still sitting on our SD Card.  A few simple pics can be found on my Instagram feed.

It’s good to be back!  Oh, and I didn’t tweet once the entire time and strangely didn’t miss it.  Though I did scan the twitter headlines whenever I had access to wifi.

Random tidbit from trip:  50 Cent (and his entourage) was on our flight down to Johannesburg and Busta Rhymes (entourage as well) was on our flight back.  I didn’t feel it was appropriate to bring up my Dave Matthews Band music with them.

 

 

Ava and Dad

Trading the Work Grid for the Family Grid

This past week, I took my family to the Outerbanks for a beach vacation.  It was actually the first time my two kids flew on an airplane and it was quite the experience (they did well, FYI).

I made it a point to be “off the work grid.”  While I uploaded some Instagram photos and updated Facebook every now and then, I did less work this vacation than on any of my previous ones.

While I was off the “work” grid, I was on the “family” grid.  It felt amazing – bonding with my kids and wife and some other family and friends who came down with us.

I traded in emails, meetings, vendor pitches, startup pitches, subways, commutes, business lunches for Candyland, donuts, trolley rides, and sandcastles.  The associated smiles were priceless.

I urge any and all of you to shut off every now and again.  I’m juiced and charged and ready for what lies ahead for the remainder of 2012.

Going Big but Staying Local

This week, I’ve taken the family to West Hampton to relax and reset.  We’re all excited to be together and this is David’s first vacation.  With me is a signed copy of Chris Anderson’s Free and look forward to reading it.

While I’m out here, I’m spending lots of time thinking about the local space.  This space has scared most venture capitalists as many have gotten burned by entrepreneurs who couldn’t figure it out.  I think it has huge opportunity and apparently so does AOL and the Huffington Post based on recent announcements that they have made.

I’ve been tracking a company for a bit over a year now who is starting to make some waves in the local space and am becoming a formal adviser to the company.  I’ll be posting about them probably sometime this week.  In a nutshell, these guys move into small to midsize market with feet on the street and within 3 months, have dozens of paying customers all advertising on a local website that ranks extremely high in search engines.  As once daily newspapers are moving to once weekly or defunct in each of these markets, small business advertisers need ways to advertise and we look to capture that.

Additionally, Sherri and I have been talking about seeding a startup that will be the Last.fm or Pandora for real estate.  My thesis about the market is that there is no lack of listings online, but there is a total lack of discovery about where to vacation, where to move, etc.  I think we’d like to figure that space out.  Anyone else trying this space?  I’ve done some research and haven’t found anyone.

If you are thinking local, lets chat.

Thursday Afternoon Update

As many of you know, I’m down in North Carolina on a little R&R (vacation) and have spent quite a bit of time catching up with family, friends, and my RSS feeds.  There are a few things I’d like to address with this post:

  • Contact Form – If you have tried contacting me through the “contact form” on this blog and didn’t get a response, please try submitting again.  I realized that my mail-que was building and we had to delete all contact form responses.  The form has been fully updated and is hosted by a 3rd party so that I will receive all inquiries.
  • FutureMeme.org – Last night, I soft launched FutureMeme.org, a project (not a business) to get many thought leaders to participate and write-in their predictions.   There is a wish list of folks we’d like to have participate but YOU should participate as well.  Check it out.
  • Outerbanks Pics – I uploaded some of our NC pictures to Flickr.  I love the pic of the BBQ sandwich.  Sherri has been blogging about our trip over on HermanWeb.

Back in NYC on Monday…

Greetings from Sand Hill

Sand Hill PicMost readers of this blog know that Sand Hill Road is hub for many venture capital firms in California. I’m spending the week down at Sand Hill Lane, in North Carolina with family and friends. Blogging may be light during this time, but I’m in the midst of reading a few books that many of us would find interesting and will blog about them.

Here are some pics from the first day.

It's Almost Ski Season…

SkiFor those of you who really know me, I love to get away on winter weekends and travel to Vermont.  Sherri and I took our first step this weekend by solidifying a sloapside condo rental at one of my favorite Vermont mountains, Bromley.  We’ll be heading up in December, January, February, and March.  If you happen to be up in southern Vermont during that time, let me know.

While not the toughest or largest mountain in Vermont, Bromley is the Vermonter’s mountain with it’s sister mountain, Stratton, about 15 minutes away.

Skiing isn’t the only thing I do in Vermont… I spend quite a bit of time reflecting on the year and getting away from the hustle of Manhattan.  Usually, I have longer blog posts when I come back because I can analyze things better.

Our first trip up is scheduled for late December… and I’m already excited!  Time to go get the skis tuned-up.