In three miles west from White River Junction and the I-91/I-89 freeways, US-4 climbs upstream into the valley of the Ottauquechee (AWT-ah-KWEE-chee) River. You cross Quechee Gorge almost without warning, but adjacent parking on both sides of the gorge gives you a chance to take a longer look at the dramatic little canyon or to stretch your legs along the rim-side hiking trails. East of the gorge there’s a tacky Quechee Gorge Village souvenir shop, which boasts a tiny train and a well-preserved streamline-style 1946 Worcester pre-fab that’s been incorporated into the Quechee Diner (802/296-2006), a retro all-American roadhouse serving up locally sourced versions of the usual standards.
Also on the east side of the gorge, Quechee State Park (802/295-2990) provides access to the Ottauquechee River and also has camping with hot showers. Next to the park is the nature center of the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (802/359-5000, daily, $13 adults), an outdoor museum dedicated to local wildlife, especially raptors. Enclosures let you get up close and personal with hawks, eagles, owls, and falcons.
West of the gorge, you can turn north off US-4 into old Quechee, a quaint town famed as the home of renowned glassblower Simon Pearce’s lumber mill-cum-art gallery. Norman Rockwell-esque Quechee is a fine example of how pleasant life can be once you turn away from the fast lane. Soak up the ambience with a stay (or just a memorable meal) at the Quechee Inn (1119 Main St., 802/295-3133, $90 and up), a half mile from town.