Plan to spend at least a day or two in Burlington ; the city’s isolation on Lake Champlain, together with its vibrant student population, has given it a quirky character unlike any other city in New England. Historically, it was home to Vermont’s very own Robin Hood; the Ethan Allen Homestead  is open for tours. Another prime attraction in the city is the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center , which details the lake’s unique natural history, including the story of the sea monster  purported to be plumbing its depths. If you are trained in scuba diving, you can’t miss the chance to check out Lake Champlain’s collection of well-preserved shipwrecks, managed through the Burlington branch of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum .
If you have another day or two, escape to the windswept Lake Champlain islands, which are filled with small farms and forested campgrounds. While you are there, catch the amazing leaping Royal Lipizzaner Stallions , or bask in the quiet tranquility of St. Anne’s Shrine .
(Note: By and large, restaurants in the cities and the islands alike stay open with regular hours year-round, but many don’t serve all meals. Call ahead when planning.)
In the lower valley, base yourself in the delightful college town of Middlebury , which in addition to restaurants and museums provides prime access to the hiking trails of the Green Mountains . The Robert Frost Interpretive Trail  is one of the most moving tributes to the poet, who used to summer in the area. For a different view of the mountains, a hot-air- balloon ride is unforgettable, especially when foliage lights up the hills in fall.
On the other side of the valley, the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum  gathers together the history of the lake from Native American to modern times. Farther north, Route 7 passes through a schlocky area of family vacationland; the exception is the Shelburne Museum , a miniature village filled with fine art and historical artifacts.