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The Dorset House at Shelburne Museum

Family-Friendly Hotel near Shelburne Museum

If you’re a history buff, an architecture buff, or an enthusiast of all-around Americana, you must visit the Shelburne Museum on your next getaway to Basin Harbor. Only about 45 minutes from our Lake Champlain resort, this outstanding institution offers a one-of-a-kind collection focused on history, heritage, and art, and it’s one of the real cultural treasures of our region.

The Shelburne Museum

Established in 1947 by collector Electra Havemeyer Webb, the Shelburne Museum sprawls across 45 lovely acres a few miles from the shores of Lake Champlain to the north of Basin Harbor. It’s hard to neatly summarize the 100,000-plus-strong collection here, comprising as it does an amazing spread of historical artifacts and memorabilia as well as folk art, French Impressionist paintings, Hudson River School masterworks, textiles, and other art pieces.

Dollhouses to circus posters, vintage wildfowl decoys to centuries-old Vermont firearms, close to 200 horse-drawn carriages from the late 1700s to early 1900s: The Shelburne Museum’s holdings offer an eclectic and extraordinary survey of American history and culture.

It’s not just the objects on display, but where they’re displayed. The museum grounds include nearly 40 structures, many of which are historic buildings and other installations from across New England that were transported here for preservation and interpretation. Among them is a covered bridge from 1845 that once spanned the Lamoille River in Cambridge, Vermont; a circa-1800 blacksmith shop (now hosting daily demos); the 1830s-vintage Greek Revival Dorset House; and the 1840 Meeting House from Charlotte, Vermont.

Two of the most prominent structures are intimately tied to Lake Champlain: the great steamboat Ticonderoga, which plied the lake’s waters for much of the first half of the 20th century, and an 1871-built lighthouse that formerly guided ships past the Colchester Reef.

Exhibitions at the Shelburne Museum

Besides its permanent displays, the Shelburne Museum hosts temporary exhibitions as well in its Pizzagalli Center for Arts & Education and elsewhere on the grounds. You can check out a list of current exhibitions—which right now include Playing Cowboy (through October 21st), delving into the myth of the American cowboy and the flipside stereotypes pegged on American Indians, and New England Now (through January 13th), a showcase for regional contemporary artists—right here.

Visiting the Shelburne Museum

Just a short (and beautiful) day trip away from Basin Harbor, the Shelburne Museum is open year-round, though its operating days shift with the season. The entire grounds are open daily from May 1st through October 31st; many buildings remain open each day in November and December; and from January 2nd through April 30th the museum welcomes visitors Wednesdays through Sundays.

Definitely check the Shelburne Museum out—a magical place!