A Local's Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Burlington, Vermont
You Can't Beat a Local's Guide
When I graduated from college, my sister and I flew to California with the intention of visiting as many destinations as we could between San Francisco and Venice Beach in the span of 10 days. When I say "as many destinations as we could," I do not mean that lightly. My sister is notorious for making excel spreadsheets whenever I visit her, even just for a few days.
What my sister and I quickly learned, however, is that flexibility is imperative when visiting a new area. This gradually sunk in as we ran into many locals who offered suggestions on how to maximize our trip, providing must-see places our online searches did not mention and changes to our driving route that may have sacrificed the beautiful views of US 1 but saved us from spending hours in our tiny rental car.
In my opinion, a local's expertise is far more valuable than any travel blog or website. This article is intended to provide a variety of places to visit in and directly outside of Burlington, VT based on my personal preferences being a local. Please note the content in this article is based on my own opinion. My goal is to inform readers of must-see places that may not be found otherwise. It is intended to be used solely as a guide. Enjoy!
The City of Burlington
Burlington, Vermont, was settled in 1783 and established as a city in 1865. Situated on Lake Champlain, the city was ideal for trade, which contributed to its growth. It is home to multiple colleges, including the University of Vermont and Champlain College.
Located in the northeastern part of the state of Vermont, Burlington has an ideal location as it is directly adjacent to beautiful Lake Champlain, 30 minutes away from rolling green mountains, and an hour and a half south of Montreal, QC.
In addition to its location, Burlington is a fun city to visit year-round. Although the summer and fall are hands down the most popular seasons to visit, Burlington is a desired getaway in the winter as well due to its close proximity to Montreal and several ski areas.
Burlington is known for its unique culture. Live music, art, local food, and quirky personalities are all celebrated here. Join me as we explore a few things this lovely city has to offer!
Going Green in Vermont
Burlington is a 100% sustainable city running entirely on renewable energy.
Church St Marketplace
You can't say you've visited Burlington unless you've been to Church St. This cobblestone street in the center of Burlington is full of life and energy. From live music to boutiques you won't find anywhere else, Church St is a must when in Burlington.
Church St also features many events, including First Night (a New Year's Eve festival), an annual Christmas Tree lighting, a sidewalk sale (August), and Mardi Gras festival, to name a few.
A Foodie's Dream
I cannot relay to you how great the restaurants are in Burlington. If a restaurant does not have great food and a unique concept, it won't survive here. For this reason, I have decided to compile my favorites into a list. I want to mention that this list is in no way exhaustive. There are so many amazing restaurants that it was very difficult to select only a few for each category.
- Best food carts: Skinny Pancake
- Best brunch: Leunig's Bistro & Cafe, & Penny Cluse
- Best cafe: Too many good choices to name them all. Here are a few favorites: Muddy Waters, Maglianeros (strong coffee), Uncommon Grounds
- Best pizza: American Flatbread (VERY popular, the pizza is excellent but expect to wait) & Pizzeria Verita (Neapolitan pizza)
- Best outdoor seating: Farmhouse Grill (gorgeous beer patio, serves local beer and food) & Spot on the Dock (waterfront)
- Best brewery: FOAM (waterfront, frequent live music) & Citizen Cider
- Best dancing: Metronome & Red Square (expect $5 covers on weekend nights)
- Best speakeasy: Lincolns (hands down, although hard to find) & Farmhouse Grill
- Best experience: ArtsRiot (restaurant, live music and arts venue, and host of a weekly food truck summer block party)
I can't talk about great food in Burlington without mentioning Winooski, VT. Only five minutes away, Main St in Winooski features excellent restaurants and bars. Located on the most poorly constructed roundabout you will ever see (drive at your own risk), there are three restaurants/bars worth mentioning. With local beers on draft and 16+ mac and cheeses to choose from, Our House Bistro is a must for those seeking "twisted comfort food" as well as the best-voted Bloody Mary in the state. Directly adjacent is Sneakers Bistro, known for its excellent brunches. On the opposite side of OHB is Mule Bar, which is known for its impressive cocktails. If you don't mind an egg-white in your drink, try the sweet disposition.
Situated on the beautiful Lake Champlain, gorgeous waterfront views are not scarce in downtown Burlington. Around the lake you'll find multiple beaches; Oakledge Park and North Beach are the most popular. If the water is high enough, Oakledge is a great spot for cliff jumping and paddleboarding (rentals available on the main beach.) Waterfront bike rentals at Local Motion are great for those wishing to bike along the water on the Burlington Bike Path. The paved path is also great for rollerblading. If you have an extra day, I highly recommend taking a day trip up to Kill Kare State Park in Saint Albans, VT (~30 minutes north of Burlington) and taking its foot ferry to Burton Island State Park. After enjoying a 10-minute scenic boat ride, you can grab lunch at the Burton Island Bistro Cafe or walk the island's perimeter. There are plenty of places to swim with beaches on both ends of the island (water shoes recommended) and plenty of activities to take part in including frisbee golf and paddleboard rentals.
Although hard to miss, the Burlington waterfront should also be noted as it's a wonderful place to sit on porch swings while witnessing the city's vibrant sunsets. If around Lake Champlain, be careful to watch the water closely as you might catch a glimpse of the lake's famous monster, Champ.
Burlington Farmer's Market
If you are here during the summer, the Burlington Farmer's Market is a fun place to visit. Located in city hall park, the farmer's market features vendors selling fresh-baked bread and pastries, cheese, vegetables, flowers, jewelry, and art. Often, there is live music playing in the center of the park. Where else can you go and run into a Bernie Sanders casually buying vegetables?
Breweries in Burlington
Vermont has the highest amount of breweries per capita. If you are interested in brewery-hopping, the following breweries are my favorites to visit.
- Switchback Brewing Co: Down the street from Oakledge Park, this brewery is best known for its popular Switchback Ale.
- Foam Brewers (featured in the picture above): Started by a former brewer at Switchback Brewing Co, Foam has an ideal location on the Burlington waterfront with an awesome patio. If you enjoy trying new beers, Foam is the place to go as its taps are constantly rotating. In addition to rotating taps, the brewery features rotating food vendors every night.
- Citizen Cider (featured in the picture below): Located on Pine St in Burlington, Citizen Cider offers a variety of hard ciders. I recommend getting a flight or ordering a glass of Lake Hopper or Dirty Mayor.
- Zero Gravity: Down the street from Citizen Cider you will find Zero Gravity Craft Brewery. Offered at local restaurants, 16 of which are on draft at American Flatbread, they are also well known for their tasty stuffed pretzels.
- Growler Garage: Although they don't brew their own beer, Growler Garage on Main St serves a variety of local beers on draft. I decided to include it in this article because you can enjoy a beer while playing a game of shuffleboard or darts and the bar has free parking.
Breweries Worth Mentioning Outside of Burlington
Magic Hat: While arguably the most well-known brewing company outside of Burlington, only ten minutes outside, a tour of this "artifactory" is a must.
Fiddlehead Brewery: Located in Shelburne, VT, Fiddlehead's most popular beer is its Fiddlehead IPA. Adjacent to Folino's Pizza, this is a fun place to take the family as you can fill a growler at its tasting room before heading next door for some delicious wood-fired pizza.
And if you like wine . . .
Charlotte winery: My best-kept secret. Perched on a blueberry farm, Charlotte winery offers a variety of wines that you most likely have never tried. The semi-sweet blueberry is a personal favorite. The best time to visit this winery is in the fall however, when you can sit out on their deck while nursing a glass of warmed apple wine.
Boyden Valley Winery: The best wine in Vermont...
Places to Visit Outside of Burlington
As mentioned earlier in this article, Burlington is a wonderful place due to its location. Excellent hiking and skiing/snowboarding are only 30 minutes outside of Burlington.
Best hiking near Burlington:
- Stowe Pinnacle: A lesser known trail that features beautiful views of the Waterbury Basin and Stowe. If you see two golden retrievers at the top who are without parents, do not be alarmed. They are not lost and enjoy hiking just as much as you do.
- Camel's Hump: Arguably, the easiest mountain to spot in Vermont, Camel's Hump is the third tallest mountain in the state. The hike is fairly vertical and challenging which is why I recommend you pack a lunch and extra water when hiking this mountain.
- Mt Philo (pictured below): Although highly trafficked, Mt Philo is the shortest drive from Burlington, only takes about 40–50 minutes to get to the top, and features amazing views of Lake Champlain.
Best town/city to visit outside of Burlington:
Stowe: Regardless of the time of year, there are always a lot of things to do in Stowe, VT. You can tour and enjoy a free ice cream cone at the Ben & Jerry's Factory or sample aged cheddar cheese at Cabot less than five minutes down the road. Hiking trails and scenic drives are also common throughout this area.
Von Trapp Family Lodge: If you decide to visit Stowe, consider staying overnight at the Von Trapp Family Lodge. Its unique, Swiss decor and history in addition to its cross-country ski trails, live music in the summer, and on-site brewery make it a great place to bring the family.
Shelburne Farms: Another great place to stay is the Shelburne Farms Inn, a historic mansion overlooking Lake Champlain built by a member of the Vanderbilt family. Located on an enormous property, Shelburne Farms is ideal for people who like to walk as it features a beautiful coach barn and working farm with many animals, cheese making, and a bakery. Today a non-profit organization, Shelburne Farms is also a great place to visit for the day as well.
What are your favorite places to visit in Burlington?
In conclusion, I hope that this guide is useful to those planning to visit Burlington. Although I could honestly write for hours about my favorite places in this area, I would appreciate if readers would comment below with their own must-sees as I update this article often. I'd love to hear about your own experiences visiting Burlington, what you enjoyed, and if you visited any of the places I recommended.