Native Americans called this part of Vermont "Manicknung," meaning "home of the bear." There's a bearish feel to the place as Ursa, the trademark giant bear, greets visitors at the bottom of the access road. Here, lush, verdant hills and mountains are bisected by rushing rivers and flowing streams. Nearby, wonderful and historic Vermont towns, such as bustling Manchester, bucolic Dorset, and charming Weston, enchant visitors.

Stratton is four-season, upscale and beautiful. Everything you and the family might need to keep you amused is found on-site, but allow plenty of time to explore the nearby countryside for shopping, playing, dinner, and professional theater. 

The Dorset Theatre Festival offers a fine line-up of plays, as does the Weston Playhouse, adding a musical or two, as well. Both are Actors Equity companies, bringing in professional actors and directors from New York and Los Angeles. For those who enjoy high-quality stage productions, an evening at one or the other, or both, is essential.

The Stratton Country Club golf course ranks among the most beautiful mountain courses in America. The Stratton Golf University is renowned. There are plenty of mountain biking trails, and hiking routes are endless on the mountain and nearby. There's a hockey camp in nearby Manchester with plenty of coaches and public ice skating time at Riley Rink.

The Stratton village has a European flavor to it and comes alive all summer with music, festivals, and entertainment for all age visitors. The shops are an eclectic mix and, if you ski, you can drool over some of the clothing in the only Bogner Boutique this side of the Alps.

Lodging is scattered all over the resort with hundreds of condominiums, lodge rooms, Tyrolean-style hotels, and private homes. There will be something to fit every budget, and summer rates and packages can be surprisingly reasonable.

This is farm country. Lovely to look at and soul restoring, these hills and mountains provide the adrenaline rush of great mountain biking and hiking. Local rivers and streams offer superb kayaking and canoeing, and make fly-fishing dreams come true.

Many of Vermont's first skiers came from New York and Boston and stayed at the stately Equinox Hotel in Manchester Village (Abe Lincoln was to spend the summer here in 1865, but met his unfortunate end at Ford's Theater instead). The lovingly restored Equinox is a hub from which visitors can take in many of the pleasures of Vermont's summer and fall. If something less grand is your style, there are historic inns, bed and breakfasts, and motels scattered throughout the region.

Towns in the area range from tiny, sleepy general store and post office kinds of places to the retail outlet mecca of Manchester and historic Dorset. Fly-fishing fans and outdoor sportsmen won't want to miss visiting the Orvis headquarters in Sunderland.

You'll want to pay a visit to Bromley, the venerable southern Vermont ski area across the valley from Stratton, especially if you have the kids or grandchildren with you. Bromley turns into a theme park during the summer and fall, with its Thrill Zone, including the original and longest Alpine Slide in America, DevalKarts, Big Splash, Zipline, Volcano, Kiddy Bumper Boats, an 18-hole miniature golf course and scenic chairlift rides.

Many residents of Southern Vermont are transplants from big cities who were looking for a simpler, less hectic lifestyle. But they didn't want to give up some of the perks of big city living, like really fine food. To that end, many started restaurants where you can find cuisine to rival just about anywhere. The only problem with a vacation in this part of Vermont is finding enough time to do all the things you'll want to do.

To get to Manchester from the New York City area, go north on the Garden State Parkway until it becomes the New York State Thruway (I-87). Take 87 North toward Albany, then follow directions from Albany.

Flying into Albany Airport?  Take 87 North to New York Route 7 East through Troy, N.Y. into Vermont, where it becomes Vermont Route 9W. Turn right in Bennington onto Vermont Route 7 North to Manchester/Peru/Dorset exit (allow about 1/5 hours). For the historic route, take Route 7A through Bennington, Shaftsbury, Arlington (where Norman Rockwell painted all those Saturday Evening Post covers), and Sunderland, into Manchester.

It's easy to get to Manchester from the Boston area. Take Route 2 West to Interstate 91 North. Take Brattleboro Exit 2 and follow Route 30 North toward Manchester. You'll pass the access road for Stratton Mountain Resort. Once Route 30 meets Route 11, turn right to go to Bromley or left to go to Manchester and Dorset.