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These two villages, about 5 miles apart on Route 30, are the picture-perfect epitome of Vermont. Set within the serpentine West River Valley, both are built around town greens. Both towns consist of impressive white-clapboard homes and public buildings that share the grace and scale of the surrounding homes. Both boast striking examples of Early American architecture, notably Greek Revival.

Don't bother looking for strip malls, McDonald's, or video outlets here; Newfane and Townshend seem to have idled on a sidetrack for decades while the rest of America steamed ahead. Yet these villages don't have the feel of a mausoleum. During a breezy autumn afternoon, teenagers might skateboard off the steps of the courthouse while a lively pickup basketball game gets underway at the edge of another village's green. There is life here, even if it's sometimes hidden from view.

For visitors, however, little activity is often the point. Guests find an inn or lodge to suit their temperaments, then spend a few days strolling the towns, undertaking aimless back-road driving tours, hunting for antiques in local shops, or striking off on foot for one of the rounded, wooded peaks that overlook villages and valleys.