Manchester, a pretty town about 95 mi/155 km south of Burlington, has been a summer resort since the 19th century and becomes the cultural capital of Vermont in the summer, with world-class performing acts scheduled throughout the season. Manchester is also a retail capital—there are more than 50 outlet stores and 50 more galleries and specialty shops.

Located in the heart of Manchester Village, the posh Equinox Resort dates to the 1700s and offers two unusual activities: a Land Rover 4x4 driving school and the British School of Falconry, which teaches you to handle your own birds of prey—hunting hawks and falcons. Among the town's other attractions is the American Museum of Fly Fishing, which includes a display of celebrity tackle once owned by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bing Crosby.

The historic Georgian Revival mansion Hildene, the summer residence of Abraham Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, has appealing formal gardens and excellent mountain views; it plays host to concerts by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. Theater performances take place at the Dorset Theater and the Weston Playhouse.

The Northshire Bookstore is one of the state's largest and finest independent bookstores, and it frequently sponsors readings by well-known authors, some of whom live in the area.

After you've seen Manchester, drive the winding toll road up Mount Equinox (be sure your car's brakes are in good shape) for spectacular views of four states and a bit of Quebec. For more high-altitude fun, hit the slopes at Stratton Mountain Resort, which offers more than 90 trails suited to a variety of skill levels. The 12-passenger high-speed gondola known as Starship 12 whisks skiers and snowboarders to the summit in less than eight minutes. It has helped alleviate some of the long lift lines created by the large number of skiers, many of them vacationing New Yorkers.

At the base of the mountain is an alpine-style village with shops, restaurants and lodges.

Bromley Mountain Resort is also located in the Manchester area. South-facing Bromley Mountain claims to be a good deal warmer than Stratton Mountain, and it's popular with families (children younger than age 5 ski for free). During the summer or fall, try Bromley's alpine slide. The curved course has as many thrills as you desire—you control the speed of your sled, from pokey to terrifying.

For some genuine Americana, drive southwest of Manchester to Arlington, home of the Norman Rockwell Exhibition. An 1800s church displays hundreds of the artist's works, including many of his cover illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post. The artist lived there for nearly 25 years, until he moved his family to Massachusetts in the 1950s.

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