As Route 4 winds its way along the Ottauquechee River into the heart of the state, it passes through a region beset by contrasts. On one hand is the natural beauty of the river, which reaches its peak at the stunning Quechee Gorge . On the other is the runaway development of condos and schlocky tourist shops of Quechee, which somewhat mars the tranquility. Even so, there is something endearing even about all the schlock, which seems more beholden to a retro era of car-touring and motor lodges than modern strip-mall development.
Colored canvas lights up the sky above Quechee Gorge at the annual Quechee Hot Air Balloon, Fine Arts, Craft & Music Festival (802/295-7900, www.quecheeballoonfestival.com , June), a tradition for more than 25 years. The event features musical performances, kids’ games, and—of course—rides “up, up, and away” in more than two dozen brightly colored balloons.