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Southern Towns

Southern Towns
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Brattleboro, Newfane, Manchester, Arlington, Bennington, VT
Website: www.newengland.com/itins/itin.vt.southerntowns.html

Southern VT Itinerary

Vermonters often refer to the southeastern corner of the state as the “Banana Belt” for its warmer climes, gentler hills, and proximity to Massachusetts and New York. The region is anchored by eclectic Brattleboro and laid-back Bennington, with a cluster of pretty towns in between.

Vermont’s first settlers made the Connecticut River their highway to Brattleboro. Today’s travelers drop in on this red-bricked bastion of music, art, and culture using I-91 (exits 1 or 2), 2.5 hours from Boston. Start at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center (admission $; Main and Vernon Sts.; 802-257-0124), housed in a 1915 train station, to view a changing display of art and local history. Have lunch at the Latchis Grille (802-254-4747) inside the Art Deco Latchis Hotel, where you might also sample from the on-site Windham Brewery.

Then head for country diversions. Follow Route 30 north from Brattleboro through the lush West River Valley to arrive in pretty Newfane. You can have a view of that grand village green from a room at the elegant Four Columns Inn (double room rates Moderate to Expensive; 802-365-7713), and the homey Old Newfane Inn (Moderate; 802-365-4427), where the rooms with curved ceilings were once part of the ballroom. Nearby is the country estate that is the Inn at South Newfane (Moderate, including breakfast; 802-348-7191). Each inn also serves excellent dinners.

Stop by the Windham County Historical Society (open Wed.-Sun.; 802-365-4148) for a peek at local history and to pick up a free walking-tour folder to Newfane. Then leave this pretty town heading north on Route 30. If it’s Sunday morning, you’ll pass Newfane’s famed flea market. In Jamaica, stretch your legs at the state park (day-use fee $1.50), where an old rail bed winds along the West River with walks and easy hikes. Then have a midmorning repast at The Jamaica Coffeehouse (802-874-7085), which also sells maple syrup, crafts, clothing, and jewelry.

Continue via Route 30 west, then turn north onto Route 100, which will snake beside scenic brooks and hay fields. At Londonderry, turn west on Route 11. In Peru, look for J.J. Hapgood General Store (802-824-5911), built in 1827, a true country grocery and a good stop for a light lunch. The town of Peru may look familiar: It starred as “Hadleyville” in the movie Baby Boom.

Back on Route 11, the youngsters on your trip will want to stop at the Bromley Mountain alpine slide (single rides $, three for $$; 802-824-5522).

Home base for the next two nights is at one of more than two dozen inns in and near Manchester. Drive through the outlet shopping for now, turning left onto Route 7A to reach peaceful Manchester Village. The Equinox (Expensive to Deluxe; 802-362-4700 or 800-362-4747) is the grand resort, with golf and a spa. The elegant ten-room Inn at Ormsby Hill (Moderate to Expensive; 802-362-1163) is a rambling Federal manse. The town of Dorset is home to the Dovetail Inn (Inexpensive to Moderate; 802-867-5747) and the Inn at West View Farm (Inexpensive to Moderate; 802-867-5715). The Seth Warner Inn (Inexpensive; Rte. 7A; 802-362-3830) is a tidy Colonial with stenciled walls and four-poster beds.

Dinner depends on your budget. The Equinox offers dining fancy (Colonnade; $$$-$$$$) and casual (Marsh Tavern; $-$$$). If you dine at the Dorset Inn ($-$$$; 802-867-5500), you can stroll to the Dorset Theatre Festival (802-867-2223) for a play.

Put on your shopping shoes. Manchester Depot has become a haven for outlet stores — Giorgio Armani, Polo/Ralph Lauren, Anne Klein II, Vanity Fair, the list goes on. Best attack is to start early in the morning.

Spend the afternoon on more lofty pursuits — a drive to the top of 3,835-foot Mount Equinox. Skyline Drive ($ per car), off Route 7A just south of Manchester Village, takes you to the top for hiking trails and views of the mountains. Back on terra firma, stroll the grounds and the house at Hildene (admission $; Rte. 7; 802-362-1788), the summer retreat of Abraham Lincoln’s son. There are nearly a dozen galleries to explore at the Southern Vermont Art Center (West Rd. off Rte. 7A; 802-362-1405).

In case you picked up a snazzy new outfit at the outlets, have dinner in the greenhouse of the Arlington Inn ($$$; 802-375-6532 or 800-443-9442). The Black Swan ($$-$$$; 802-362-3807) offers stylish cooking in three dining rooms inside a brick Federal house.
Continue south on Route 7A, passing through the pretty village of Arlington; in Shaftsbury, look for the Chocolate Barn (802-375-6928), mecca for chocoholics. Bennington is punctuated by its 306-foot Bennington Monument (802-447-0550).
Bennington’s South Street Cafe (105 South St.; 802-447-2433) offers light fare for lunch. You can work off dessert by shopping at the adjacent Bennington Potters (802-447-7531). Finish your trip with a visit to the Bennington Museum (admission $; 802-447-1571) to view its Grandma Moses paintings: quintessential Vermont.

— J.B.

Please Note: This listing was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

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