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Schmidtke family photo

From The Blog Why I moved to Woodstock: Young family edition (take 2)

Meet the Schmidtkes, a family of four that in 2019, moved over a thousand miles from South Carolina to Woodstock in search of a tight-knit community, great schools, and spectacular outdoor spaces...

Schmidtke family photo
Jennifer Schmidtke
Meet the Schmidtke family!

Q: Thanks for joining us for this (virtual) chat, Jennifer! Let’s jump right in with a little background on you and your family...

A: Happy to be here! My husband and I met in Florida, moved to Charleston, got married, had both our children, and bought our first home in the low country. After nine years there, we were looking for a change.

We moved to Woodstock in March 2019. My husband is a chef and has been in the industry for over 15 years. Since our second was born, I have stayed home with both of our children, before that I was in the real estate industry.

I first learned about Woodstock researching quaint towns like Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls...

Jennifer Schmidtke
Woodstock village shops in autumn

Q: How did you first learn about Woodstock and what motivated you to move here all the way from South Carolina?

A: If I'm being honest, I first learned about Woodstock researching quaint towns like Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls to visit for a winter vacation. It's kind of embarrassing, but true! I'm a mega Gilmore Girls fan. I'd always been drawn to Vermont and wanted to visit during the fall as a bucket list wish.

Jennifer Schmidtke middle covered bridge winter
Jennifer Schmidtke
A winter visit to Woodstock set the stage

Because my husband is in the restaurant/hospitality industry, his downtime is limited. I wanted our family to spend quality time together and I was too impatient to wait a whole year to get away. So I googled small towns like Stars Hollow in America, focused on Vermont, and saw information about Woodstock and Wassail Weekend. It was the perfect time to visit. In the back of my mind, I knew if I visited a place in winter and still enjoyed it, I would love it in all four seasons. I spent close to 20 years in Florida so winter was a big deal to me.

My husband was also looking to take the next steps in his culinary career, but we weren't sure where we would end up. After our vacation to Woodstock, we researched the town, school systems, and outdoor accessibility—and my husband applied to local job postings. A few months later, he got an offer and somehow we ended up selling our home, picking up our whole life, and moving to Woodstock, VT.

I do look back on that and think it was a crazy risk, but we knew we wanted a different setting for our children to grow up in. We're so happy to be in this beautiful state and are thankful our kids get to be outside and enjoy being kids.

Q: What was the most difficult part about relocating a thousand miles away? Do you have any tips for those planning to do the same?

A: Of course, organizing a huge move is stressful with a lot of moving parts. I was happy we hired a moving company. But I would say the hardest part for me personally is being so far away from family. When we lived in South Carolina, my grandparents were close and my parents were near enough that they could visit for long weekends. Now we’re very far away from both our parents and all of our siblings.

For people planning to move, especially those with young kids and no relatives nearby, my advice is to reach out. Make connections, talk to people, and try to create a little village for yourself. It's not always easy, but getting to know as many people as possible can really open doors and make you feel more connected to the community. Genuinely people here have been so friendly, which I'm very thankful for. I'm still trying to create my support system and would welcome answering questions like others did for me.

Mila Schmidtke walking
Jennifer Schmidtke
A hike through Woodstock's beautiful backyard

Q: How did your first impressions as a visitor differ from first impressions as a new resident?

A: My first impressions haven’t changed much, it’s just as nice as the first time we visited.

Before moving, we wanted to get away from the commercial shops and hour-long commutes. Here, you don’t have the same conveniences, but the trade off is being able to hike up a mountain right in your backyard.

Q: Can you describe a day in the life of your family?

A: If it’s the weekend, I love going to Abracadabra for some coffee. I bring snacks for the kids and we often hang out and meet friends at East End Park or walk the Ottauquechee River Trail that’s right down the road.

We’re very thankful to be in a town where they can run and play outside a lot, with a school/daycare system that takes health and safety seriously

Jennifer Schmidtke

When my husband is off work, we try to do one outdoor activity and then spend the rest of the time at home together. We recently discovered new parks just outside of the village that are perfect for bike riding.

COVID has made managing the kids on my own more challenging, but we’re very thankful to be in a town where they can run and play outside a lot, with a school/daycare system that takes health and safety seriously.

Q: Now that you’ve lived here a year (and then some), what’s your favorite activity for each season?

A: That’s a great question! While I wouldn’t consider us especially athletic, we’re always out and about trying to enjoy the fresh air here in Woodstock.

Mila Schmidtke unicorn float pond
Jennifer Schmidtke
A trip to the pond isn't complete without a unicorn float
Schmidtke kids at Kelly Way Gardens pumpkins
Jennifer Schmidtke
Keeping things festive in fall
Schmidtke kids igloo winter
Jennifer Schmidtke
Winter calls for a snow fort!

Pre-COVID, we loved the spring parades that the town put on. Because the village is easily accessible, we could enjoy a parade on the green and then take the kids to the children’s section of the Norman Williams Public Library. Once it warms up, we’d go to the Market on the Green on Wednesdays—my kids love the live music and treats.

Schmidtke Ice Cream billing farm
Jennier Schmidtke
It doesn't get any better than locally-made ice cream on a hot summer day

Summertime is all about enjoying the river and getting ice cream in town. We also enjoy camping and getting out on the lakes when we have the chance. Hiking on the trail systems in town and up both Mt Peg and Mt Tom is something we’ve done almost every season.

Fall of last year, we loved visiting apple orchards and pumpkin patches. I'm not sure all that will be available this year [due to COVID], but I'm looking forward to just enjoying the outdoors and our beautiful fall foliage.

Visiting Billings Farm and Sugarbush Farm is great any season—the kids love the animals and you can get great ice cream and cheese.

I tried skiing for the first time this past winter! It was a lot of fun and I can't wait to get out there again this year. Before the holidays, the whole village is decorated with twinkle lights and gives off the happiest holiday vibe.

The Schmidtke family sledding through town
Jennifer Schmidtke
Sledding in town

We always like to go to the Woodstock Inn's lobby and check out the giant gingerbread house.

But our absolute favorite thing to do with the kids in the winter is sledding—last year we even brought them through town when we got some heavy snow!

If you couldn't tell, our activities are centered around what young kids can do.

Q: Favorite place to shop?

A: I don't go shopping as much as I'd like to these days while watching the kids, but I do love running into Clover Gift Shop if I need to find a thoughtful gift and great candle.

This town is surrounded by beauty, community members who care about each other, and plenty of accessible outdoor activities where you feel safe and that you can easily socially distance

Jennifer Schmidtke
Schmidtke kids at Billings Farm sunflower house
Jennifer Schmidtke
Summer is for strolls through a sunflower house

Q: You moved here, became members of the community, and experienced each of Vermont’s seasons – then COVID-19 hit. Does the pandemic change the way you look at life in Woodstock?

A: Just like everyone, this pandemic has rocked our normal way of living. Not only has it brought on uncertainty about what our future holds, but it's also really put things into perspective.

I'm happy with the way Vermont has handled the pandemic and taken it seriously. Woodstock has been an extension of that, truly there’s no place I'd rather be. This town is surrounded by beauty, community members who care about each other, and plenty of accessible outdoor activities where you feel safe and that you can easily socially distance. I know not every town is experiencing COVID-19 like we are, so in a nutshell it's made me even happier we decided to move here.

Q: What would you recommend to anyone considering relocating their family to Vermont?

A: Be prepared for winter! I would say, too, that having a job lined up or the ability to work remotely is the best way to set yourself up for success.

Schmidtke river view
Jennifer Schmidtke
Family time + majestic views

And get ready for a whole new perspective on Vermont.

I had no idea how beautiful it was and how open-minded and friendly the majority of Vermonters are. If you're looking for a slower-paced life, natural beauty, and plenty of outdoor activities, then Vermont is the place for you.