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Guide to Vermont and New Hampshire

Web Exclusives: Everything else you need to know about New Hampshire and Vermont, including a calendar of great annual events. PLUS: Download audio clips of Vermont and New Hampshire stories. From New Hampshire, Bill O'Neil's electrifying general store tales, and from Vermont, syrupy stories, plus Harold and the Tampax.

Audio clips courtesy of the Vermont Folklife Center.

Inside: Where to Stay - New Hampshire | Where to Stay - Vermont | How to Live the Life | Ultimate Drives | Worth Checking Out | Quintessential Towns | Mark Your Calendar | Coolest Covered Bridges | Indispensable Guidebooks | Five Key Sites | Vermont in a Nutshell | New Hampshire in a Nuthsell | Parlez-Vous Yankee? | Differences Revealed

I have lived in New Hampshire and I have lived in Vermont and I can say with absolute certainty that the state I love best is...yes, indeed...uh...no question about it...well...both. Maybe that explains why I now live smack on the border and why, when out-of-town friends ask me where they should take their family hiking, for instance, I waffle between sending them into the sweet green hills of Vermont and the spiced wooded slopes of New Hampshire. Boating on Lake Champlain or Lake Winnipesaukee?Definitely. Pedaling the dirt trails of the Northeast Kingdom or the back roads of the Upper Valley?For sure. Green Mountain country inn or White Mountain resort hotel?A-yuh. Really, it's all good: even Robert Frost thought so. Of New Hampshire, he wrote, "She's one of the two best states in the Union," then added, "Vermont's the other."

That's not to say that the twin states, which form a sort of long, blocky yin and yang on a map of New England, are identical; on the contrary, they often exhibit—and take major pride in—distinctly different personalities. Much of Vermont, for example, exudes a kind of artsy rural chic; New Hampshire is just plain rural. While New Hampshire is not afraid to be campy (Trained bears?Bring 'em on!), Vermont strives to maintain its dignity at all times (Billboards?Perish the thought!). New Hampshire counts among its big seasonal happenings Motorcycle Week, during which tens of thousands of Harley riders descend on the lakeside town of Laconia. One of Vermont's hottest tickets?A Mozart festival on the hushed and exquisitely groomed grounds of the Shelburne Farms waterfront estate. Politically, Vermont leans way to the tree-nuzzling left, New Hampshire to the don't-tell-me-how-to-live right. Even the states' landscapes reflect their disparate characters: Vermont—open and rolling—soothes. New Hampshire—forested and craggy—thrills.

Still, when you look beyond their differences, and their to-be-expected bouts of sibling rivalry (over everything from who has the most colorful leaves to who makes the sweetest syrup), there remains one indisputable truth about the two states. New Hampshire and Vermont are guaranteed to deliver the kind of instant nostalgia-fests you want for your kids, full of red barns, rope swings, twilight bandstands, spontaneous cartwheels, cool lakes, goofy souvenirs, spectacular belly flops, quiet valley roads, fast streams, and sweet berry pies. And the really good news?You don't have to pick a favorite. Here, we present the best of both worlds.

WHERE TO STAY - NEW HAMPSHIRE

BALSAMS GRAND RESORT HOTEL
You can be forgiven for grumbling as you drive the last, long, undulating miles through cornfields, by half-collapsed barns and abandoned farm machinery, on your way to one of New Hampshire's two surviving Victorian-era grand hotels. Hang in there: nearly in Canada amid 15,000 wilderness acres on little Lake Gloriette, surrounded by 800-foot cliffs, the schloss-like Balsams—more Old Country than North Country—is worth the trip.

There are 204 pretty floral-papered rooms, some in princess-worthy turrets and many with knockout views. Two golf courses, an outdoor pool, small boats to borrow, endless miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, downhill and cross-country skiing in winter, and a packed daily slate of movies, lectures, concerts, ballroom dances, and games (plus plenty of child-care options) will keep the whole family entertained—if not exhausted. Meals are wonderful, over-the-top events attended by an army of hop-to-it staffers who handle antsy kids with aplomb. All this, and the near certainty of seeing moose: Try Lake Two Towns, about a half-mile from the hotel. Dixville Notch; 800/255-0600 or 603/255-3400; www.thebalsams.com; doubles in summer from $432 (kids $10 per year of age—for instance, $60 for a six-year-old), including all meals, entertainment, and greens fees; doubles in winter from $200, including breakfast, dinner, and lift tickets for their ski area, the Balsams Wilderness.

MOUNT WASHINGTON HOTEL & RESORT
Everything is big about this 100-year-old, red-roofed hilltop hotel, including the mountains of the Presidential Range that form its astonishing backdrop. The hotel was nearly demolished in 1991 before being saved by investors who refurbished—and winterized—the 200 high-ceilinged rooms and ornate common areas. This is a fine choice for families who want to experience vintage-resort grandeur without the middle-of-nowhere feel of the Balsams. Summer guests can swim, play golf or tennis, ride horses, hike, take the historic cog railway to Mount Washington's summit, or head for the tax-free outlets in the resort town of North Conway, 25 miles away. Winter visitors ski cross-country on the grounds or downhill at nearby Bretton Woods, one of New Hampshire's top family ski areas. Rte. 302, Bretton Woods; 800/258-0330 or 603/278-1000; www.mtwashington.com; doubles from $369 (kids 5—12, $35; over 12, $70), including breakfast and dinner.

ROCKHOUSE MOUNTAIN FARM-INN
High on a hill above the hamlet of Eaton Center (population 360), this 450-acre farm is the real deal. Guests stay in the 110-year-old farmhouse (kids can choose to sleep in a children-only bunk room) or in detached guest cottages, and can milk the cows, collect breakfast eggs from the chickens, or just cuddle the barn kittens. The farm has a private beach, with small boats and a raft, on nearby Crystal Lake. After a swim, have a frappe at the classic Eaton Village Store. Eaton Center; 603/447-2880; doubles from $136 (kids 1—5, $28; 6—11, $34; 12—16, $40), including breakfast and dinner.

ROCKYWOLD—DEEPHAVEN CAMPS
On the cool, wooded shores of unsullied Squam Lake—where Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda summered in On Golden Pond—these two adjacent camps were founded at the end of the 19th century as rustic, wholesome retreats for city families. Now merged, they continue to thrive, thanks to clans who return each summer to stay in one of 61 weathered pine cottages, all of which have fireplaces, plenty of twin beds, antique iceboxes (ice blocks cut in winter from Squam Lake are delivered daily), and their own docks. Days are spent on the lake, in the woods, and on the clay tennis courts. There are also organized kids' activities. Guests take their meals in two dining halls near the lake. Take note: cabin bookings are doled out according to a point system based on seniority and generational connections. New families hoping to break in should jump at any available week offered—most likely early or very late summer. Rte. 113, Holderness; 603/968-3313; three-person cabins from $2,870 a week (kids 2—5, $297.50; over 6, $595), including all meals; no credit cards.

WHERE TO STAY - VERMONT

BASIN HARBOR CLUB
From its columned main lodge overlooking a quiet Lake Champlain cove to its 77 trim clapboard and stone cottages, Basin Harbor—run by fourth-generation descendants of the original 1886 innkeepers—is the picture of gentility. That doesn't mean you can't let your juiced four-year-old run wild on the grounds, however. The resort's large outdoor pool, its fleet of small boats and mountain bikes, and its hayrides, golf and tennis clinics, and supervised kids' camps keep children happily on the go—and, one prays, compliant enough at day's end to sit through the formal dinners served in the inn's pretty water-view dining room. (If your kids can't quite rise to the sports coat—and—party dress routine, there are casual options—including weekly beachside lobster bakes.) Smallish rooms in the main inn are best suited for couples; families can choose from one- to three-bedroom cottages, many with private decks, screened porches, lake views, and working fireplaces. Vergennes, Vt.; 800/622-4000 or 802/475-2311, fax 802/475-6545; www.basinharbor.com; one-bedroom cottages from $230; kids under 10 free, 11-14, $75, over 15, $95; including breakfast. .

TRAPP FAMILY LODGE
Not the treacly lederhosen purgatory you may fear. This just-cheery-enough 93-room Tyrolean-style hotel—with its painted armoires, fluffy eiderdowns, and overflowing window boxes—is set on 2,700 glorious acres above the Nebraska Valley. Founded by the von Trapp family (of The Sound of Music fame) in 1950—and rebuilt after a fire in 1980—the inn has miles of walking trails that, in winter, make up the best Nordic ski center in the East. The slopes of Stowe's Mount Mansfield, one of New England's premier ski resorts, are just a few miles away. 700 Trapp Hill Rd., Stowe, Vt.; 800/826-7000 or 802/253-8511, fax 802/253-5740; www.trappfamily.com; doubles from $120 (or $180 in main lodge); kids under 12 free, 13 and older, $25.

WILDFLOWER INN
It would be hard to find a more tranquil place to plant your family than this ridgetop retreat in the rolling hills of the Northeast Kingdom. Kids will relish their freedom to roam—to pet the baby animals in the barn, shoot hoops, and bike the tree-canopied dirt road that bisects the property. A hillside granite-edged swimming pool compensates for its size with a waterfall and far-off views. In winter, there's sledding and ice-skating on a lit-up rink. Lodging (including several rooms with bunk beds) is in the old farmhouse, carriage house, or school house, or in a newer five-suite building. Meals are served in the main house; kids can eat dinner early while parents linger over appetizers and cocktails. 2059 Darling Hill Rd., Lyndonville, Vt.; 800/627-8310 or 802/626-8310; www.wildflowerinn.com; doubles from $95, children 4-11, $15, over 12, $20.

HAPGOOD POND RECREATIONAL AREA
This was the first land purchased, in 1932, for what is now the 383,500-acre Green Mountain National Forest. You can set up camp at one of 28 shaded, secluded sites, then fish, swim, or launch a canoe in the serene stocked-with-trout pond. Brawny 1930's Civilian Conservation Corps—built log pavilions provide shelter for waterfront picnics. Feel the peace, then feel your wallet—a reminder that you're just seven miles away from the outlet shops (Armani, Polo Ralph Lauren, J. Crew) of Manchester, Vermont. Peru, Vt; 802/362-2307; $5 per car.

HOW TO LIVE THE LIFE

HIKING
The 2,000-mile Georgia-to-Maine Appalachian Trail snakes through Vermont's southern Green Mountainsfords the Connecticut River to Hanover, New Hampshire, then makes its way to the wind-whipped 6288 foot summit of Mount Washington before disappearing into Maine. While the trail in its entirety is daunting, to say the least, there are stretches that you and your gang can easily tackle. And thanks to the eight huts maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club that provide lodging—with bedding—and meals, you won't have to overload backpacks with gear. Most huts are open May through September; a few welcome hearty visitors year-round. Some of the most family-accessible are in New Hampshire. One stand-out is Lonesome Lake Hut, reached via a sometimes muddy but never overly-steep two-mile trail from the Lafayette Place Campground just off Route I-93 in Franconia Notch State Park. Its octagonal main lodge overlooks a shallow, swimmable glacial tarn and affords fine views of Kinsman Ridge; two nearby buildings sleep 46 people in a series of small bunk rooms. Hearty meals are prepared by the hut "crew"—usually affable, hearty college students who pack in all the hut's supplies and also serve, quite handily, as naturalists on round-the-lake family walks, and entertainers during impromptu evening productions. Other good choices with kids: Zealand Falls, via the flat three-mile river-shadowing Zealand Trail, (trailhead begins of Zealand Road, off US 302 near Twin Mountain); and Carter Notch, four miles in on the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail (trailhead is off Route 16 in Pinkham Notch; for information and reservations call Pinkham Notch Camp, Gorham; 603/466-2727).

PADDLING
The broad, benign Connecticut River, which divides New Hampshire from Vermont, seems made for lazy paddling. (The state boundary is the low water mark on the Vermont shore, so the river is actually in New Hampshire.) Rent a canoe out of the big red barn headquarters of North Star Canoes (Route 12A, Cornish, New Hampshire; 603/542-5802 $TK 1/2 day; $20/day); a shuttle will drop you four miles upriver for the paddle back. Along the way, you'll pass under the Cornish-Windsor covered bridge—the nation's longest—and float by some of the states' most fertile farmlands. Just upriver in Hanover, New Hampshire, you can rent canoes or kayaks by the hour ($5) at Dartmouth College's historic Ledyard Canoe Club (603/643-6709.)

PEDALING
Among the choice regions for pedaling with children are the flat, quiet Lake Champlain islands (interconnected by bridges) north of Burlington, especially tiny Isle La Motte: rent bikes, including tandems and children's trailers, at Bike Shed Rentals, (1071 West Shore Rd., Isle La Motte; 802/928-3440). There are also wonderful bike paths in Stowe and Burlington. Bike Vermont (phone TK), is one of several outfitters that offer multi-day inn-to-inn tours throughout the state for experienced riders over the age of 10. For the off-road—inclined, there are seemingly endless mountain biking trails and dirt roads to explore.

Many Vermont ski resorts, including Killington (877/458-4637) and Mount Snow (800/245-7669), keep their lifts running all summer to bring off-road riders to their summits—and miles of marked descent routes. If you think it would be, ah, prudent, to improve your biking skills before launching yourselves off the top of mountain, consider enrolling yourself and your kids in a multi-day camp at the Catamount Family Center (592 Governor Chittenden Road, Williston, VT 05495; 802/879-6001).

THE ULTIMATE DRIVES

NEW HAMPSHIRE
The Kancamagus National Scenic Byway: Route 112, Conway to Lincoln
Leave the moccasin shops and mini-marts of Conway behind and wend your way into the primeval wilderness of the White Mountain National Forest. The serpentine 35-mile-long "Kanc" feels enough like a roller coaster to keep the back seat interested; ditto the strong possibility of seeing moose. Plan to stop at one of several roadside Swift River swimming holes—perhaps the buffed boulders and cold pools of Lower Falls, a little less than seven miles from the Route 16 junction in Conway. The Kanc ends just south of the 6,440-acre Franconia Notch State Park (603/823-8800), where the Old Man of the Mountain rock formation, New Hampshire's emblematic 40-foot-high natural stone face, gazes out from a sheer cliff above Profile Lake. To have about as impressive an outing as you can for an hour's investment, explore the nearby Flume (off Rte. 3 in Franconia Notch State Park; 603/745-8391), a natural 800-foot-long chasm flanked by sheer granite walls, on a series of wooden walkways and stairs.

VERMONT
Middlebury Gap
Hancock to Middlebury, Route 125
From Hancock, head west and watch for signs marking the Texas Falls Recreation Area, where an easy trail leads to one of Vermont's prettiest cascades and best picnic spots (if, that is, you can get the kids off the log bridge that spans the deep gorge here). Back on the road, you'll wind your way up to the crest of the Middlebury Gap (elevation 2,149 feet), then plunge down through deep forest to emerge at the rambling Bread Loaf campus, the site of Middlebury's famed summer writers' conference. Just beyond Bread Loaf, look for the Robert Frost Wayside Picnic Area and Interpretive Trail, a lovely mile-long loop with information about the poet and excerpts from his poems posted along the way. If the literary references are lost on your children, tell them to keep a lookout for wild blueberries (in July and August) and beavers in the pond. From here, continue driving down to the hamlet of Ripton. Then, at the junction of Route 7, head north to the handsome shop-and-gallery-filled college town of Middlebury. Walk over the Main Street bridge for a giddy-making view of the waterfall on Otter Creek—a scene that's about as Vermont as you can get. n

WORTH CHECKING OUT

NEW HAMPSHIRE
America's Stonehenge (Haverhill Rd., North Salem, NH. 603-893-8300.) The mysterious 4000-year old rock formation with chambers and passageways, put here in the middle of southern New Hampshire by who knows who, is just the kind of weirdness that will appeal to a mini-van full of boys. As the hour-long self-guided tour reveals, it's also the oldest-known megalithic site in North America.

Musterfield Farm North Sutton, NH 603/927-4276. Local militia marched and trained for the Revolutionary and Civil wars on the field beside the Matthew Harvey homestead, just one of the collection of historic buildings on this little-known 250-acre hilltop museum and farm planted and maintained wonderfully by volunteers. It's free to the public except during annual events such as Farm Days, held in late August, which transforms the farm into an encampment and muster with participants in period dress. Here's an opportunity for kids to try everything from feltmaking to walking on stilts.

Story Land Route 16, Glen, NH; 603-383-4293.: $TK per day including all rides. Don't judge this theme park by its rather lame-looking storybook-cutout entrance gates and discouragingly packed parking lot. This is a terrific place, especially for the under-10 set. On 30 well-laid out and gardened acres, there are dozens of rides and attractions, not the least impressive of which is a 40-foot octopus "sprayground" for cooling off, a pumpkin coach ride to Cinderella's castle, and a nifty antique German carousel on which the horses rock rather than rise as they go round.

Weirs Beach Lakeside Avenue, junction of Routes 3 and 11B. Clanging video games, tattoo parlors, bumper cars, go-carts, T-shirt shops, water slides, and crowds of giddy children with sticky fingers. Along the western shore of 28-mile long Lake Winnipesaukee, the focal point of this so-touristy-its-fun Victorian-era town, is the arcade-lined boardwalk that fronts a sandy beach and the landing dock for the stately 1250-passenger, 230-foot M/S Mount Washington (603/366-5531) tour boat. It travels a two and a half-hour, 50-mile route around the lake twice daily.

VERMONT
Church Street Marketplace, Burlington, Vermont Proof that there is more to Vermont fashion than Polarfleece and clogs, this thriving four-block-long pedestrian promenade in Vermont's largest (population 32,000) city, hums with outdoor cafes, art galleries, street performers, a plethora of boutiques—and the hippest-looking people in the state, thanks partly to the presence of the University of Vermont, just up the hill. Stop into Lake Champlain Chocolates to sample fudge made on teh premises; or head to their nearby factory (7 Pine St.; tel-TK), where you can buy discounted candy with dented foil wrappers or misplaced drizzle. An annual Kid Day, with TKTKTK, takes place May TK.

Shelburne Farms Shelburne, Vermont; 802/985-8686. You'll see the velvety green meadows, the grand 1880 brick mansion-turned-swanky-inn once owned by William Seward Webb and Lila Vanderbilt Webb, and the cavernous five-story barns that are now part of a non-profit experimental farm, cheese-making operation, and educational center. Your kids, however, will only have eyes for the beyond-cute miniature donkey named Penelope at the children's barnyard (along with kids, lambs, and piglets) who they can pet—and fantasize about taking home to join the family cat. Hop on the hay wagon at the visitors center for a ride to the barnyard.

QUINTESSENTIAL TOWNS

CRAFTSBURY COMMON, Vermont
It's everything you want Vermont to be: a peaceful ridgetop village, one of the state's oldest (founded DATE-TK) and most beguiling, With a rectangular town green surrounded by white clapboard houses, picket fences, a tiny library, a faded cemetery, stirring far-off views to the east and west—even a country store down the road with pickled eggs in a big jar by the register. If you can't bear to leave, check in to the Inn on the Common (doubles from TK; 800/ 521-2233, Craftsbury Common, 05827), which welcomes children. Its 16 rooms, in three elegantly-restored Federal era buildings, are made all the more attractive by an exceptional dining room, walking and cross-country skiing trails, and outdoor pool. Aerobic exercise junkies congregate at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center (Craftsbury Common; 800/729-7751; WWW.CRAFTSBURY.COM), set on a small, bean-shaped lake just north of the village, to mountain bike, run, or cross-country ski—on guided tours or independantly—the miles upon miles of of unpaved farm roads and forested trails surround this former boarding school. There are also weekly sculling and canoeing summer camps. Families overnight in former dorm rooms, most with shared bathrooms, or in one of three lakefront housekeeping cottages. Meals served in the open dining hall make use of garden-grown vegetables, local berries, homemade maple nut granola, and the house specialty: killer chocolate chip cookies. In nearby Greensboro, Circus Smirkus (800/ 532-7443), the internationally-famed childrens' circus camp, stages performances throughout July and August (call 802/533-7443 for schedule).

GRAFTON VILLAGE, Vermont
Once a thriving wool town, Grafton was saved from extinction by the deep pockets of the Windham Foundation, which has acquired more than four dozen buildings over the last 40 years, including the 1801 Tavern Inn, and even sunk the power lines to create a kind of utopian Ye Olde Yankee Land. What saves it from creepy perfection is the fact that people actually live and work here (the more arcane professions are subsidized by the foundation). You can walk through backyards on marked trails, say hey to grazing sheep, watch a smithie doing traditional iron work (custom pieces are available; 802/875-3986, fish in the town trout pond (children only; tackle available at the information center), and see prize-winning cheddar being made at the Grafton Cheese Company. Pick your own apples, blueberries, raspberries, and pumpkins at nearby Hidden Orchard Farms (TK; 802/843-2499).

STOWE, Vermont
Sure, its been cute-ified by the presence of one of the state's major downhill ski resorts, but downtown Stowe, with its needle-steepled white church and 19th-century storefronts remains deeply appealing. Stop into the casual Restaurant Swisspot (802/253-4622) for fondue, then browse the crammedd shelves of the 1895 Shaw's General Store for thick socks and refrigerator magnets. Take to the forest trails at the Edson Hill Manor riding stable (1500 Edson Hill Road; 800/621-0284) or head up the Mountain Road to the in-line skate park at the base of Spruce Peak (802/253-3000, rentals available). Ten miles south of Stowe, on Route 100 in Waterbury, is the hugely popular Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory (802/244-8687) a whimsical complex celebrating the magic of butterfat and all things bovine. Thirty-minute tours ($2 adults, kids 12 and under free) fill up on summer days; ; arrive before lunch for the best chance of getting tickets. Or, skip the sometimes-agonizing spiel and head straight for theh take-out window, for B&J's finest, in a chocolate-and-nut—dipped waffle cone.

HANOVER, New Hampshire
The ultimate college town, with Dartmouth's handsome 18th-century buildings extending from the campus green to awninged shops lining main street—plus enough artsy free-thinkers to be an honorary member of Vermont. You'll recognize visiting alum; they're the hale fellows in the green sport coats and straw hats soaking in the palpable air of superiority, cheering the hard-luck football team, and waiting in line for still-warm donuts at Lou's (30 South Main Street; 603/643-3321). Cross the bridge into Norwich, Vermont, to visit the Montshire Museum of Science (address-tk; 802/649-2200), named for the two states it straddles (VerMONT and New HampSHIRE) on 100 acres of wooded Connecticut riverfront. The high-ceilinged building is filled with interactive exhibits—fog makers, bubble tubs, x-ray machines and the like. Thoughtfully laid-out interpretive trails crisscross the property and terminate in a new outdoor science park-cum-playground behind the museum. Make a pilgrimage across the river to Norwich, Vermont and the King Arthur Flour Company Baker's Store (Route 5 South; 802/649-3361), which stocks an inspiring collection of cookie cutters, sugars, flavorings, decorations, breadmaking supplies, and, yes, baked goodies.

JACKSON, New Hampshire
Reached via a red, one-lane covered bridge, Jackson has managed to remain blissfully out of the loop, though it was once the fashionable vacation spot among 19th-century upper class New Englanders who came to stay in one of the many large hotels in town. Only two of them have survived: the hilltop Eagle Mountain House and golf-course-fronting Wentworth Resort. These days, people come to escape the North Conway crush, hike the nearby Pinkham Notch area, take a dip in the Jackson Falls swimming hole in the Wildcat River near the village, and eat a memorable meal at the cozy Wildcat Tavern. Jackson is most enchanting in winter; 70-year-old Black Mountain (603/383-4490) a low-key, low-tech family ski area with 20 trails, is just up the hill, and the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation's 55 miles of nordic ski trails are New Hampshire's best.

WALPOLE, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Pretty little Walpole, above the Connecticut River, has played muse to a range of artists from one-time residents Louise May Alcott and Emily Dickenson to current inhabitant filmmaker Ken Burns. Its orderly white 18th and 19th century houses surround a village green where weekly band concerts are held on summer Sundays. Stop in at L.A. Burdick's Cafe (Main Street; 800/229-2419) to nibble one of this master chocolatier's signature chocolate mice with almond ears and silk tails. Then take a tk-minute drive to Boggy Meadow Farm (River Road; 603/756-3300), where a herd of Holstein cows produce standout Fanny Mason Baby Swiss and Farmstead Jack cheeses. Douse your pancakes in freshly made maple syrup at Stuart and John's Sugar House (Route 63 and Route 12 in Westmoreland, 12 miles south of Walpole; 603/399-4486.)

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

MAY
Lilac Sunday, Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont (802/985-3346) A festival of 19th century games and food at this sprawling museum of Americana, when the abundant lilacs on the property are at their fragrant best.

JUNE
Market Square Day, Portsmouth, second Saturday in June; 603/436-5388. Vibrant, historic and surprisingly trendy, this seacoast city welcomes summer by closing its streets to traffic and stuffing them with crafts and food booths, entertainment on several stages and throngs of celebrants. A huge public clambake kicks off the festivities the night before.

JULY
July 4th Pick a town, any town—and you'll find a community parade that will bring tears to your eyes. Among the sweetest: North Sutton, New Hampshire, where th etwo-minute parade is led by the funkiest Miss Liberty, and the fantasy-fullfilling, white-washed village of Warren, Vermont.

Vermont Quilt Festival, Northfield, Vermont. mid-July; 802-485-7092. New England's largest display and sale of handmade quilts, plus appraisals, classes, and opportunities for kids to try sewing.

AUGUST
League of New Hampshire Craftsmen's Fair, Mount Sunapee State Park, Newbury, NH early August 3-11, 2002 603-224-3375; $7 adults, children under 12 free. One of the country's oldest and most respected, this nine-day event features 500 juried artisans, children's workshops, musicians and storytellers.

Festival of Fireworks, Jaffrey Airport, Jaffrey, NH, August TK; 603-532-7760. Atlas Advanced Pyrotechnics, which produces the spectacular Boston and Washington D.C Independence Day fireworks displays happens to be based in this small town. Every year they dazzle the locals (and about 40,000 savvy visitors) with a private show of their own.

SEPTEMBER
TUNBRIDGE WORLD'S FAIR, Sept.TK-TK, Tunbridge, Vermont. Originated in 1867, this four-day fair has it all: a midway, livestock competitions, pig racing, horse pulls, a fiddler's contest, fried dough, all in an extraordinarily beautiful riverside setting surrounded by dairy farms.

OCTOBER
Dummerston Apple Pie Festival Dummerston Center, Vermont; October TK; 802.254.9185. From the pancake breakfast to the Grange Craft Fair and 1500 apple pies for sale under a tent on the church lawn to the fresh-pressed cider-what more could you want?

Pumpkin Festival, Keene, NH. After a day-long festival including crafts show, pony rides, roving jugglers, barbershop quartet performances and a huge children's costume parade down this unassuming town's broad Main Street, some 23,000 jack-o-lanterns are lit (nearly) simultaneously—a Guiness Book world record.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER
The Polar Express, North Conway, New Hampshire. Polar Express, PO Box 456, North Conway, NH 03860 447-3100. 14 performances; Thursday through Sunday between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Aboard a vintage train that departs from the North Conway depot, the children's book by Chris Van Allsburg is reenacted: Santa appears, cocoa is served, everybody goes home with a silver bell. Hugely popular, tickets are awarded by lottery in October.

JANUARY
Stowe Winter Carnival, January 19—27, Stowe, Vermont. Eight days of goofy fun on the snow and ice: snow golf, snow volleyball, parades, ice carving contests and ski races showing off some of the country's top collegiate competitors.

MARCH
Maple Sugar Festival, March TK, Whitingham, Vermont 802-368-2387. The sap's running and many of the area's sugarhouses, some accessible only by horsedrawn sleigh, open their doors for this two-day event. Watch the sugaring process, then savor the finished product at The Lions Club pancake breakfast and the Ladies Benevolent Society ham (maple-cured, we can assume) supper.

THE COOLEST COVERED BRIDGES

Vermont has more than 100, New Hampshire more than 50 covered bridges. Among them:

Cornish, New Hampshire to Windsor, Vermont. The country's longest covered bridge at 460 feet, built in 1866.

Langdon to Drewsville, New Hampshire: At 36 feet the smallest in New Hampshire

Hopkinton Bridge, Contoocook Village: The oldest in the US. No longer in use.

The Swanzey, New Hampshire area has three covered bridges spanning the Ashuelot River, including the white, red-roofed Winchester to Ashuelot bridge built in 1864.

West Woodstock, Vermont. The red Taftsville bridge off Route 4, built in 1836, span a raging hydro-dam waterfall. Still in use.

North Hartland, Vermont. Opened in October 2001, it's the only covered bridge to ever replace a failing concrete span.

Middlebury to Weybridge, Vermont. Straddling Otter Creek, the Pulp Mill bridge is the oldest in Vermont (1808) and the last two-lane span still in use.

INDISPENSABLE GUIDEBOOKS

Best Hikes With Children: Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Cynthia C. Lewis,Thomas J. Lewis ; Mountaineers Books, April 2000

Fun with the Family in Vermont and New Hampshire: Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids by Lura J. Rogers and Barbara Radcliffe Rogers, Globe Pequot Press, 2001

New Hampshire: An Explorer's Guide by Christina Tree, Christine Hamm; Countryman Press, 1999

Vermont: An Explorer's Guide, by Christina Tree and Peter Jennison; The Countryman Press, 1999.

Where Should We Take the Kids?The Northeast by Elin McCoy, Fodor's Travel Publications, 1999.

High Huts of the White Mountains, by William E. Reifsnyder, Appalachian Mountain Club, TK.

HERE AND THERE: FIVE KEY SITES

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Muster Field Farm Harvey Rd., North Sutton; 603/927-4276; free. Local militia marched and trained for the Revolutionary and Civil wars on the field beside the Matthew Harvey homestead, just one of the historic buildings on this little-known 250-acre hilltop museum and farm (call for schedule of annual events).

Story Land Rte. 16, a quarter-mile from junction with 302, Glen; 603/383-4293; $19 per day (kids three and under free), including all rides. Don't judge this theme park by the tacky entrance gates. It's a terrific place, especially for the under-10 set. On 35 well laid out and gardened acres, there are dozens of rides and attractions, not the least impressive of which are a 40-foot octopus "sprayground" for cooling off, a pumpkin coach ride to Cinderella's castle, and a nifty German carousel.

Weirs Beach Lakeside Ave., junction of Rtes. 3 and 11B. Clanging video games, tattoo parlors, water slides, and crowds of giddy children with sticky fingers. Along the western shore of 28-mile-long Lake Winnipesaukee, the focal point of this so-touristy-it's-fun Victorian town is the arcade-lined boardwalk that fronts a sandy beach and the landing dock for the stately 1,250-passenger, 230-foot Mount Washington (603/366-5531) tour boat. It travels a 21/2-hour, 50-mile route on the lake twice daily.

VERMONT
Church Street Marketplace Burlington. Proof that there is more to Vermont fashion than Polarfleece and clogs, this four-block-long pedestrian promenade in Vermont's largest city (population 40,000) hums with outdoor cafés, art galleries, street performers, boutiques—and the chicest people in the state. Stop in at Lake Champlain Chocolates (61 Church St.; 802/862-5185) to sample bonbons made and hand-carved on the premises. Hooked?Head to their factory (750 Pine St.; 802/864-1809), where you can buy discounted candy with dented foil wrappers or misplaced drizzle.

Shelburne Farms Shelburne; 802/985-8686. You'll see the velvety green meadows, the grand 1887 brick mansion—turned—swanky inn that was once owned by William Seward Webb and Lila Vanderbilt Webb, and the cavernous five-story barns that are now part of a nonprofit environmental education center and working dairy farm. Your kids, however, will only have eyes for the beyond-cute miniature donkey named Penelope, which they can pet at the Children's Farmyard (along with kids, lambs, and piglets).

VERMONT IN A NUTSHELL

THE TOWN OF CRAFTSBURY COMMON It's everything you want Vermont to be: a peaceful ridgetop village, one of the state's oldest (founded 1781) and most beguiling, with a town green surrounded by white clapboard houses, picket fences, a tiny library, a faded cemetery, stirring far-off views to the east and west—even a country store down the road with pickled eggs in a big jar by the register. If you can't bear to leave, check into the elegant Inn on the Common (1162 N. Craftsbury Rd; 800/521-2233; doubles $250, including breakfast and dinner, children 3—7, $45; 8—16, $85), which welcomes kids and has an exceptional dining room, walking and skiing trails, and an outdoor pool. Aerobic exercise junkies congregate at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center (535 Last Nation Rd.; 800/729-7751; www.craftsbury.com; doubles from $140, kids under seven free) to mountain-bike, run, or cross-country ski—on guided tours or independently—the miles upon miles of unpaved farm roads and forested trails that surround this former boarding school. (There are also weekly sculling and canoeing summer camps.)

NEW HAMPSHIRE IN A NUTSHELL

THE TOWN OF JACKSON
Reached via a red, one-lane covered bridge, Jackson has managed to remain blissfully out of the loop, though in the 19th century it was the fashionable vacation spot among upper-class New Englanders, who came to stay in the town's many large hotels. Only two of them have survived: the hilltop Eagle Mountain House (Carter Notch Rd.; 603/383-9111; doubles from $80) and the golf course—fronting Wentworth Inn (Rte. 16A, Jackson; 603/383-9700; doubles from $185). These days, people come to escape the North Conway crush, hike the nearby Pinkham Notch area, take a dip in the Jackson Falls swimming hole in the Wildcat River, and eat a memorable meal at the cozy Wildcat Tavern (Rte. 16A, Jackson Village; 800/228-4245). Jackson is most enchanting in winter; 70-year-old Black Mountain (603/383-4490), a low-key, family ski area with 40 trails, is just up the hill, and the 100 miles of Nordic ski trails at the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation (Rte. 16A, Jackson; 603/383-9355) are New Hampshire's best.

PARLEZ-VOUS YANKEE?
N'ampsha: New Hampshire
Veh-mont: Vermont
jeezumcrow: oh my goodness
flatlanduhs: people who reside in non-mountainous states, especially Massachusetts and Connecticut
leaf peepuhs: tourists, usually "flatlanduhs," who come to view the fall foliage
wicked: very, extreme (as in, "those beans I had for suppah gave me wicked bad haht-bern")
ice-out: the exact date on which all the ice melts from a certain lake; often involves a "wayjuh" (see below)
wayjuh: a bet
peak: prized and fleeting period during which the leaves in a particular region are as bright as they are going to get. Yet another opportunity for a "wayjuh"
frost heaves: axle-annihilating bumps that form on paved country roads during late-winter freeze-and-thaw cycles
mud season: generally, mid-March through April, followed closely, alas, by "black fly season," generally Mother's Day through Father's Day

You say Vermont, I say New Hampshire . . . the differences revealed:

vermont new hampshire
favorite initials NPR NRA
signature stone marble granite
civility of choice civil unions civil liberties
contribution to music Windham Hill (tranquil village that inspired name of New Age record label) Aerosmith (steven tyler is a Sunapee townie, and the band got its start playing at New Hampshire proms)
state motto Freedom and Unity Live Free or Die
winter-sports invention rope tow snowmobile
fashion statement Birkenstock sandals blaze-orange knit cap
rallying cry No Wal-Marts! No taxes!

Meg Lukens Noonan, a mother of two, writes for the New York Times and is a correspondent for Outside.

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