Summer Resorts 2000-Northeast, Stowe, Vt.

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In winter, you might wonder what drew early farmers to as cold and snowy a place as Stowe. Return on a soft summer's eve and you'll understand. Summer is Vermont's little secret-virtually unknown to the untold skiers and leaf-peepers who clog its secondary roads in other months, yet just as beautiful as sandy Cape Cod or downeast Maine. Stowe is a lovely spot to sample Vermont's summer magic. Part classic Yankee village, part resort playground, this 250-year-old hill town bustles with just the right amount of activity during Vermont's brief-but-beautiful warm months. Stowe Mountain Resort (800-253-4754) and the historic village serve as twin focal points, catering to hikers and strollers, respectively. In between, the 10-mile Mountain Road offers lodging and restaurants to suit any taste, plus bike paths and golf (Stowe Country Club and Golf School, 800-253-4754). The surrounding countryside is laced with meandering back roads. Vermont's highest peak, 4,393-foot Mt. Mansfield, can be summited either on foot or via the Toll Road ($12/car). The Gondola Skyride ($10) unloads just below the Chin, where the Cliff House offers fine dining and gorgeous views. Across the way is Spruce Peak, with its alpine slide, Launch Zone (an in-line/BMX/ skateboard park) and lift-served mountain biking. Between them, the Mountain Road ascends into Smugglers Notch-a spectacular destination in and of itself.

DON'T MISS Special events abound: The Mozart Festival (July 23, July 30, Aug. 6, 800-247-8693) and The Stoweflake Balloon Festival (July 7-9, 800-247-8693) are just two of the dozens.

BEST DEAL The Stowe Getaway Golf Package ($110) includes mountainside lodging, greens fees and cart. Call (800) 253-4754, or visit www.stowe.com