Shelburne, VT | Where Shelburne Museum and Shelburne Farms Meet

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Visit Shelburne, Vermont on the shores of Lake Champlain, where animals and folk art rule at the town’s top attractions — the Shelburne Museum and Shelburne Farms.

Call it a seriously bizarre case of mistaken identity.

Steamboat Ticonderoga

The Ticonderoga at Shelburne Museum

Annie Graves

Barn at Shelburne Farms

Barn at Shelburne Farms

Annie Graves

It’s hard to believe that Shelburne Museum and Shelburne Farms are frequently mistaken for one another, or sometimes lumped together into a single entity.

Shelburne Farm Animal

Farm resident.

Annie Graves

Shelburne Museum Toy

Museum resident.

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Both are national treasures, outstanding resources in their respective fields (sustainability and Americana), but only one is plunked down in an actual field.

Shelburne Farm View

Farm vistas.

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That’s not to say there aren’t gardens galore at the museum, too: 22 of them, in fact.

SShelburne Museum Garden

Museum garden.

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There are further obvious clues to differentiate between the two, not the least of which are their names. Museum. Farm.

Shelburne Museum Monet

Yes, it’s a Monet!

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Shelburne Farm Goats

Still Life with Kids.

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But you get the point. And in fact, these two grand attractions, separated by a five-minute drive, actually share a few things, too. For starters, a first name that clues you in to the location (Shelburne, Vermont). Spectacular settings, although one is right in town (museum) and the other one’s off the beaten path (farm). Endless quantities of entertainment. And unpredictability.

Shelburne Museum is impossible to categorize. Thanks to wealthy founder Electra Havemeyer Webb’s obsession with folk art and Americana, the enormous collection includes 38 buildings, among them a tiny (50-ton) slate jail and a very pretty lighthouse, along with 150,000 other surprises.

Shelburne Museum Circus

Kirk Bros. three-ring circus with 3,500 pieces!

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The vintage carousel draws kids to itself the way J.K. Rowling does.

Shelburne Museum Carousel

Shelburne Museum’s vintage carousel.

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The collection of 400 quilts is the largest in the country. Not to overlook the Impressionist masterpieces, mechanical toys, gardens everywhere, 500-foot-long carved circus parade, and steamboat Ticonderoga, dragged two miles overland to its resting berth.

Whereas Shelburne Farms is a spectacular, Frederick Law Olmstead-designed 1,400-acre working farm with the best fairytale barnyard on earth.

Shelburne Farms

Fairytale farmyard.

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Yes, this National Historic Landmark has a mission of sustainability, but it’s also got adorable pet bunnies. Cows to milk and some pretty sweet chickens.

Babies of all kinds.

SShelburne Farms Baby Cow


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Cheese and bread are made onsite, and the elegant main-house-turned-inn serves garden-fresh meals overlooking sparkling Lake Champlain. The views are incomparable.

It’s a heady mix, and that’s not hyperbole. Between the farm and the museum, there’s enough on hand in Shelburne to fill a weekend or two, easily. Shelburne Farms and Shelburne Museum couldn’t be more different. Or more the same (which is to say, fabulous). It’s all right to confuse them–it happens all the time.

Ticonderoga at Shelburne Museum

Shelburne Museum’s Ticonderoga.

Annie Graves

Just don’t leave one out.

Girl with a Chicken at Shelburne Farms

Farm Girl with a Chicken

Annie Graves

  • Wonderful article about two exceptional places. But there is another thing they have in common: both were founded by members of the same family. The Museum’s founder was the daughter-iin-law of the Farms’ founders, Dr. William Seward Webb and his wife, Lila Vanderbilt Webb. And the Farms (now a nonprofit conservation and education organization) is still owned and run by two of the original Webbs’ grandsons, Alec and Marshall. The whole story, including the Museum’s origin in Electra’s collecting passion, is told in “The History of Shelburne Farms” by Erica Donnis (2010).

  • Love this story and the beautiful photos! So creative, imaginative and definitely makes me want to visit both places……although I do lean heavily toward baby animals! :)

  • Heather

    Until my cousin told me about her stay at the Shelburne Farms a few weeks ago, I kept thinking they were the same place!! I was sooo wrong. I cannot wait to visit both.

  • Good distinction! And great pictures. Neither is to be missed. Most interesting museum I have EVER been too. Takes at least 2 days.

  • WOW!!! Who could not love New England!!! It’s so great that we have such wonderful writer/photographers showcasing all the gorgeous gems surrounding us. It’s too easy to take for granted our own backyard.

    Those photos are spectacular. I want to go live at the farm (or the museum)!!! Or at least vacation there….the picture-perfect landscape, the funky collections (love the 3500-piece mini circus), the sweet baby animals, and you could not have chosen a lovelier day.

    Thank you for this amazing tour of Shelburne—can’t wait for your next! Keep ’em coming!!! :-}

  • Such a fun post, Annie! Seems like the kind of place you could spend the day in sheer New England bliss. Love the baby kids…


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