Skip to main content

To Plan A Trip

June 2024
1min read

Contact the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce (802-863-3489 for its brochure “The Lure of the Valley,” or try www.vermont.org ). You’ll find good tips on area accommodations and restaurants as well as star attractions. First among these is the Shelburne Museum, founded in 1947 by Electra Havemeyer Webb, an heir to the Vanderbilt fortune. This is a collection of all things American (plus some world-class impressionist paintings) housed in 37 buildings, many with histories of their own. Last year, the museum took a 1950s house that had been used as temporary quarters for staff and visiting researchers and made it into an exhibit. It radiates such an air of homey familiarity that it seemed natural to me to perch on the partly sprung living-room couch and leaf through an aged Saturday Evening Post . Realizing this was a museum, I jumped up in embarrassment, only to find out later that settling in (and schmoozing with the docent about aged and familiar household appliances) are just what you’re meant to do.

I also wanted to inhabit a cabin on the museum’s SS Ticonderoga , a fine example of a Lake Champlain steamboat, landlocked these days on a grassy hillside. Built in 1906, with a career lasting 48 years, it was saved from the breaker’s yard through efforts led by the same Ralph Nading HIM who championed the Ethan Alien homestead. The vessel is set up to reflect a single day, October 23, 1923, and several accommodations are furnished to bear evidence of the imaginary occupants of that date.

Descendants of another branch of the Webb family maintain the lush 1,400-acre expanse of Shelburne Farms, a few miles from the museum. This is a working farm and environmental center with tours, special events, and animals housed in an enormous turreted barn whose design suggests the architecture of northern France. Hiking trails cross the spectacular landscape. The former owner’s home, overlooking the lake, is now the lavish and pricey Inn at Shelburne Farms. I admired the Inn but checked in at the Radisson in downtown Burlington, which, although not architecturally distinguished, is very comfortable and has a wonderful waterfront location. Request a room with a view of the lake; it’s worth the additional tab.

Vermont becomes crowded in late September, as the leaves start their brilliant progression, so it’s a good idea to schedule a visit well in advance. Once you’re there, consult the state’s hot line (802-828-3239 or www.1-800-vermont.com ) to learn where the colors are brightest.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.

Donate