If your idea of the perfect New England experience involves a big green space surrounded by stately brick buildings, be sure to visit Hanover, a thriving university town in the Connecticut River Valley about a half-hour's drive north of Cornish and right across the river from Norwich, Vermont. Settled in 1765, the town was first home to early colonists who were granted a charter by King George III to establish a college here. The school was named for the second Earl of Dartmouth, its first trustee, and ever since it has had a profound impact in shaping this community.
The handsome, oversized village green marks a permeable border between college and town. In summer, the green is an ideal destination for strolling and lounging. The best way to explore Hanover is on foot, so your first job is to park your car, which can be trying during peak seasons (fall foliage and whenever school is in session or when there are events here). Try the municipal lots west of Main Street if you can't find a meter. Once here, the chief attraction is the campus of Dartmouth College itself. But downtown also offers fine restaurants, galleries, bookstores, and taverns.
Just south of Hanover on Route 120 is the working-class town of Lebanon, a commercial center that has a well-grounded feel to it. (If you're looking for the New York Times, stay in Hanover; if you need a wrench, though, head for Lebanon.) The town has its own village green to do it proud, as well as a handful of shops and appealing restaurants. Nearby, there's a quirky not-that-bad mall carved out of an old brick powerhouse in the West Lebanon section, where there's also a small airport and a gaggle of big-box stores and fast-food restaurants lined up along a strip of Route 12A.