It’s almost impossible to deny the appeal of a classic New England inn, especially in winter—when fires in guest rooms are actually encouraged, hearty roasts appear on dinner menus, and old-fashioned sleigh rides are the best way to enjoy a quiet snowfall.
While New England inns cannot lay claim to hospitality traditions that date back millennia, the New England Inns & Resorts Association did celebrate its 100th anniversary last year; some of its 300 members even have registries as old as America's Constitution.
Fortunately, many inns across the Northeast provide travelers a chance to experience American hospitality as it has existed for centuries, and to steep in history—to live like a Boston Brahmin for a night on Beacon Hill (Charles Street Inn), to enjoy afternoon tea surrounded by turn-of-the-century canvases in a living museum (Cliffside Inn), and to splash around in a pool underneath one of Vermont’s five remaining round barns built by the Shakers, who believed the devil could hide in corners (Inn at Round Barn Farm).
"A classic New England inn is comfortable, but there’s also a unique warmth that comes from the region’s style of hospitality," says Jane Sandelman, who together with her husband, a self-described corporate refugee, bought the Inn at Weathersfield in Perkinsville, Vermont, in 2002. "You think about how many people have come through here since 1792 (when the building opened as a stagecoach stop), and it's pretty amazing. We're carrying on the tradition."
Beyond the history, it’s often the little things that keep guests coming back. "In the winter, we set people up with snowshoes, send them out on one of our trails, and have hot apple cider waiting for them by the fire when they get back. The city people especially think it’s pretty cool," says Sandelman.
Travelers will find inns scattered far and wide throughout New England, down country roads, on village greens, and even hidden in its cities—Boston; Newport, Rhode Island; Portland, Maine. Often, they are destinations in and of themselves (Old Inn on the Green in the Berkshire Mountains), places where the floorboards creak with history, where innkeepers welcome guests as they would friends into their homes, and where it’s possible to fall asleep to the tremolo of a loon (Manor on Golden Pond in New Hampshire).
While there’s no foolproof recipe blending comfort, character, and quirky details to make an inn "cozy," one thing is for sure: you know it when you're there.
Here are 10 special inns whose warm hospitality is guaranteed to take the season's chill out of the air.