Jordan Silverman  /  Getty Images file
Laura Kadish walks along the waterfront in Burlington, VT. At 120 miles long, covering 435 square miles, Lake Champlain is one of this nation's largest lakes.
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Special to msnbc.com
updated 3/27/2007 4:26:12 PM ET 2007-03-27T20:26:12

Tie-dyed t-shirts, socialism, organic foods, protests — sometimes it seems like Burlington, Vt. is stuck in a ‘60s time warp. Not so long ago, it elected Bernie Sanders mayor (he’s now the only Socialist in the United States Senate), a few years before that it gave birth to the ever-so-groovy band Phish, and about a decade and a half before that, two buddies named Ben and Jerry started their ice-cream empire here. Tantalizingly, it also retains much of its old time New England charm, with a thriving ski culture zooming down nearby Mount Mansfield and enough steepled churches and colonial-style homes to keep even the most traditional visitors satisfied. In a day here, you can take the hippie or the preppie route — you decide.

8:30 a.m - 9:30 a.m.: Students, truckers, yoga instructors, lawyers, ski bums — everybody in the area heads to The Penny Cluse Café for breakfast and so should you. It boasts a menu as diverse as its clientele (and the city that houses them) — everything from scrambled tofu with peanut ginger sauce to classic omelets to breakfast burritos.

10 a.m. - noon: If you visit Burlington during the warmer months (by which I mean mid-May through the end of October), the place to go is the Shelburne Museum . Really a mini-city, made up of historic houses and structures imported from all over Vermont, it’s filled with treasures. In one morning you might wander across a covered bridge, into a 19th century jail, through a forester’s 1820 home, up to the top of the lighthouse that once reigned over Lake Champlain, and then onto the famous Steamship Ticonderoga. Each structure (and there are about two dozen) is filled with artifacts, furniture and art from the period it represents, and some even have historical re-enactments going on (such as the blacksmith’s shop). Sounds hokey, but it’s absolutely fascinating.

If you happen to be here in winter, take advantage of the fact that you’re only 45 minutes from Vermont’s tallest mountain, and head up to Stowe to ski. Yes, it’s pricey, but the slopes are challenging, and even when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, state-of-the-art snowmaking equipment keeps the trails white.

Noon - 2 p.m.: The New England Culinary Institute keeps the area up to the minute on all the latest foodie trends, with several area restaurants providing a training ground for its soon-to-be-chefs. Right in the heart of Burlington is the bustling restaurant, the NECI Commons , where part of the fun of lunching is watching the frantic looking students grilling, sautéing and sweating (ask for a table on the first floor so you’ll have a view of the open kitchen). And don’t worry about your stomach: the salads, pastas, hearty soups and grilled dishes that arrive at your table will be professionally prepared and absolutely delicious.

2 p.m. - 6 p.m.: Spend the afternoon wandering the pedestrian mall downtown, chatting with the groups of long haired lads and lassies strumming guitars on street corners; staring at the flyers announcing the latest rallies against global warming, the war in Iraq, bio-engineered foods, you name it; and taking in the public art works scattered here and there, attesting to the fact that this remains one of the most left-brained cities in the US. You’ll also enjoy the shopping opportunities here, with over 100 stores and street vendors selling everything from hemp clothing to high fashion duds, scented candles to antique furniture.

Afternoon Alternative
Hop in the car for a trip to nearby Waterbury, where the Ben and Jerry’s Factory is busy making the world happier and fatter. You will be, too, after a tour (which of course includes samples). If beer’s more exciting to you than Chunky Monkey, make your way to the Magic Hat Brewing Company which has its own tours, Thursdays to Saturdays only in winter (in summer you can tour the “Artifactory” on Wednesdays, too). Bottoms up! — samples are included.

6:30 - 9 p.m.: Thanks to a fellow named Steve Bogart, who’s about as white bread and un-Asian as you can get, Burlington’s become a hotbed for Chinese banquet cuisine. No joke. Fascinated by Chinese food since he was a small child, Bogart studied cookbooks and video tapes, eventually making several culinary pilgrimages to China to improve his art (he also keeps a loft in N.Y.’s Chinatown). In 1998, Bogart opened A Single Pebble and has been making magic with his Peking Duck, Emporer’s Beef and other classic Cantonese specialties ever since. Periodically he drives to Boston to get ingredients, and to Montreal’s Chinatown to swap recipes with chefs there. If you’re still worried about having Chinese in Vermont, peek into the kitchen: there’s not a jug of maple syrup to be seen anywhere.

9:30 p.m. - on … Settle in for a night at Nectar’s , the oldest and still the most happening of Burlington’s live music clubs. Who knows? You might see the next Phish (yup, they made their debut here).

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer guides in bookstores now.

Penny Cluse Café,169 Cherry Street, phone 802/651-8834; www.pennycluse.com/

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Shelburne Museum is located on US Route 7, in Shelburne, VT about seven miles from Burlington. Phone 802/985-3346 or go to www.shelburnemuseum.org/ for more information. It’s open from May 20 to October 28 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; admission is $18 adults, $9 for children over six (under $6 are free) and $13 for students and teachers with valid ID.

Lift tickets at Stowe Ski Resort cost between $70 and $78 per day, depending on the time of year. Multiple day tickets are less. For driving directions, hours and other information, go to www.stowe.com/.

NECI Commons (is now also known as the Main Street Grill), 118 Main Street, phone 802/223-3188; www.necidining.com/. Closed Mondays.

Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory is located on Route 100 between Waterbury and Stowe. Tours are $3 for adults, $2 seniors, free for kids under 12. Go to www.benjerry.com/ for full information.

Magic Hat Brewing Company, 5 Bartlett Bay Rd, South Burlington; phone 802/658-2739; www.magichat.com/. Tours are offered Thursdays and Fridays at 3 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. and Saturdays at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. In summer there are also Wednesday tours. Free admission.

A Single Pebble, 133-35 Bank Street, phone 802/865-5200; www.asinglepebble.com/

Nectar’s, 188 Main Street, phone 802/658-4771;www.liveatnectars.com.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer guides in bookstores now.

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