Beautiful Dorset, Vermont consists of several neighborhoods, including Dorset Village, East Dorset, South Dorset, and the Dorset Hollow. The town is often cited as one of the most beautiful towns in all of Vermont and directly adjacent to the commercial hub of Manchester.
One of the Most Picturesque Towns in Vermont
Dorset, Vermont is a picturesque New England town situated between the rolling hills and peaks of the Taconic Mountains and the Green Mountains in Southern Vermont. One of the most attractive towns in Vermont, Dorset features wonderfully maintained clapboard homes, a historic village center and lush town green, and breathtaking mountain views in every direction.
Dorset offers residents a quiet community with unique, locally-owned shops, fantastic restaurants, limitless recreation opportunities, and great schools.
During summertime in Dorset, visitors flock to the nation’s oldest marble quarry, now a world-famous swimming hole, and the United States oldest continuously operated golf club, The Dorset Field Club. They also take advantage of a pristine, well-maintained network of trails, lakes, ponds, rivers, and woodlands, including some of New England's best hiking - The Long Trail and Appalachian Trail - and waterways such as the Battenkill and Mettowee Rivers. Each summer, the Dorset Theater Festival brings world-class productions of new and classic plays to town. Winter brings close proximity to world-class skiing and boarding at Bromley and Stratton, just a stone’s throw from town. Winter adventurers can also snowmobile, snowshoe, hike, and cross country ski on Dorset’s miles of trails.
Dorset residents love the year-round outdoor recreation, friendly community, fantastic schools, commanding mountain views, and the endearing yet sophisticated lifestyle Dorset offers. Visitors love the picturesque charm, fresh air, slower pace, great food, and sense of calm contentment. Dorset truly has something for everyone.
The Birth of a Nation and State
During the Revolutionary War, the American patriots who fought a delaying action against Burgoyne during his march to Saratoga escaped through Dorset and eventually took refuge at Bennington. They later battled the British there before the decisive and crucial defeat of the British at Saratoga, which paved the way for the Colonies’ eventual victory over Great Britain. Before those events, in 1775 and 1776, Dorset hosted the Dorset Conventions, which established the foundation for the establishment of the Republic of Vermont (and later the state of Vermont) in 1777. Many of the homes and establishments that housed these historic events remain an integral part of Dorset Village, which has been painstakingly maintained and preserved over the subsequent 240 years.
Stately and Historic Inns
For more than two centuries, visitors on overnight and extended stays in Dorset have laid their heads at the Dorset Inn, the longest continually operated inn in Vermont. Established in 1796, the inn is situated on the town green in Dorset Village. Nearby you will find the Barrow’s House, a hotel that began serving guests in 1900 as a summer destination for vacationers from New York City. Just across town in East Dorset is the famous Wilson House, a hotel built in 1852 and where Bill Wilson, author of the Twelve Steps was born. Though now owned by a non-profit and operated by volunteers, regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are still held there to this day.
Home of Historic General Stores
In 1816 the Dorset Union Store was opened across the town green from the Dorset Inn. A charming store and a must-visit, it is a great spot to grab various on-the-go meals and sundries. Head south from the village and you will find the ever-so-charming HN Williams General Store, the longest continually operated general store in Vermont. Family owned and operated since 1840, the store is a true “general” store in every sense of the word. And just a bit further south is J.K. Adams, a retailer, and manufacturer of authentic Vermont-made wooden kitchen items. Founded in 1944, J.K Adams products are sold across the world in major catalogs and online stores.
The Nation’s First Marble Quarry
There is a reason marble lines the sidewalks in Dorset Village, is used architecturally throughout the town, and that people travel for miles to swim in the world-famous Dorset Quarry. In 1785, Isaac Underhill founded the United States' first marble quarry here in Dorset. Dorset marble can now be found in the New York Public Library, the library at Brown University, the Memorial Continental Hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and many other notable early American structures. Today, these quarries are beautiful reminders of an important industrial past and a source of outdoor activity from hiking to swimming.
A Mecca of Cultural and Social Activity
During the summer months, you will not want to miss the Dorset Theater Festival. These world-class productions bring the talents of some of the country’s best playwrights, directors, and actors to Dorset. Housed in two pre-Revolutionary War barns, the intimate theater has been hosting productions since 1929. In winter, the Dorset Theater is home to the Dorset Players, whose plays feature regional stars in both revivals and new, original works.
Whether you are a horse lover or not, you will definitely want to check out the Vermont Summer Festival that is held in East Dorset during July and August. Horse enthusiasts from around the country arrive to compete, sell and buy horses, and enjoy the glorious Vermont summer. Spend the day watching the sports' best athletes and horses compete while imbibing good drinks and great food. There are also fantastic onsite boutiques to scratch your shopping itch.
Not far from Dorset are the Weston Playhouse and the Southern Vermont Art Center, each offering culture, art, and music.
The area also hosts several annual music and art festivals, including the Manchester Music Festival, the Taconic Chamber Music Concerts, the Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots Festival, and numerous other smaller concerts and performances throughout the year.
Three Active Outdoor Seasons
Residents of Dorset take advantage of three amazing and active outdoor seasons. Winter features skiing and snowboarding (Bromley Mountain is just 20 minutes away, while Stratton and Magic Mountain are just 10 minutes more), as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Summer brings golf or tennis at the nation’s oldest golf club – the Dorset Field Club, swimming and fishing at Emerald Lake State Park, in the Mettowee and Battenkill rivers, and incredible hiking with amazing views. Fall is an enchanting time with stunning foliage that attracts visitors from across North America.
Dorset is bordered by both the Green Mountain National Forest and the Taconic Mountain range, which provide diverse recreational opportunities and incredible views.
Plenty of Traditional and Modern Dining
Dorset is home to some of the best restaurants in Southern Vermont. Enjoy freshly prepared meals with wholesome and locally sourced ingredients prepared by chefs committed to Vermont-style cooking and flavors. The Dorset Inn and Barrows House are both excellent options for New American and New England fare, while the Inn at West View Farm features an inventive twist on modern Chinese food. Meanwhile, Chantecleer in East Dorset offers American favorites with European refinement. Delicious breakfast, lunch and coffee can be found at Dorset Bakery, a European-style cafe with fresh-baked bread, sandwiches, soups, pastries, desserts, and even beer and wine.
Just five minutes away in Manchester you can also experience a wide range of great restaurants. Because the area supports a robust tourist economy with tens of thousands of visitors each season, Manchester has dozens of quality restaurants. They range from gastropubs like Union Underground, the Copper Grouse and Firefly, to lovely cafes like Bonnet & Main, Crooked Ram, and Mystic Cafe & Wine Bar. Other favorites include breakfast institution, Up for Breakfast, pizzeria Christo's Pizza & Pasta, Asian restaurants Thai Basil and Sushi Boat, as well as more upscale establishments The Reluctant Panther and The Silver Fork. With so many excellent choices, Manchester and Dorset can confidently lay claim to having the best food in all of Southern Vermont.
Excellent Public and Private Schools
Want school choice? Dorset offers school choice for high school and boasts one of the best elementary and middle schools in the state.
Dorset Area Elementary and Middle Schools
The Dorset School: The highly-rated Dorset School is a K–8 public school that prides itself on academic excellence. With a small average class size and committed teachers, Dorset provides students with an excellent environment for learning and growing.
Private: Maple Street School in Manchester (Grades K–8), The Mountain School in Winhall (Grades Pre-K–8), Stratton Mountain School in Stratton (Grades 7–12), Long Trail School in Dorset (Grades 6–12), The Downtown School in Manchester (Grades Pre-K–3)
Dorset Area High Schools
Burr and Burton Academy (Manchester): Perhaps one of the best all-around independent high schools in Vermont, students from Dorset can choose this highly-regarded and resource-rich high school that is free to attend for Dorset residents.
The Long Trail School (Dorset): Another top private high school in Vermont, The Long Trail School is a smaller high school than Burr and Burton and is located right in Dorset. The school offers Vermont’s only International Baccalaureate degree. Dorset students can attend tuition-free.
Stratton Mountain School (Londonderry): A highly-lauded college preparatory private school that specializes in educating students who want to pursue Alpine and Nordic skiing excellence. Partial tuition assistance is provided by the state.
Getting Here and There
Dorset and the Southern Vermont region is close to many of the Northeast’s major metropolitan areas. New York City, Montreal and Northern New Jersey are each around a 4-hour drive, while Boston is around 3 hours and Providence is around 3.5 hours.
The area is served by train in Albany, New York (1.5 hours away) and Rutland, Vermont (around 40 minutes away), providing easy and reliable access to New York City. The closest major international airport is also in Albany, but there are regional airports close by in Rutland, Vermont, and West Lebanon, New Hampshire with daily service to Boston and other major Northeast cities.