Church Street in Burlington, Vermont | Things to Do in VermontPhoto Credit : Aimee Tucker
Located on the widest portion of Lake Champlain, with views of the Adirondack Mountains looming in the distance, Burlington, Vermont, packs big-city perks with big-country access. Small shops and fine dining dominate the downtown — Church Street, in particular. Just beyond the city center, visitors can find islands, farmland, ski trails, and bike paths. Looking around this vibrant, outdoor-centric town, the options for what to do in Burlington, Vermont, seem endless. Where to start? Read on for a selection of our favorite options.
At this open-air mall in the heart of downtown Burlington, street performers and more than 100 shops and eateries fill a four-block stretch of cityscape. Browse, stroll, and take advantage of the free public Wi-Fi to update your Instagram feed with the highlights from your ramblings.
Although not located within Burlington’s city limits, this award-winning shop in nearby Shelburne is a worth a visit. Featuring more than 40,000 titles and knowledgeable staffers who have seemingly read every single one, the Flying Pig makes its home in the former Shelburne Inn. Named one of New England’s best independent bookstores on NewEngland.com.
The “ECHO” in the name stands for Ecology, Culture, History, and Opportunity — and this waterfront resource delivers on all counts. America’s “Sixth Great Lake” is the focus here, and visitors will come face to face with Lake Champlain’s denizens as they also learn about the area’s ecological history, shipwrecks, and legendary monster “Champ.” Named a 2015 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Place to Learn the Lake.”
Vintage Inspired Marketplace in Burlington’s burgeoning South End Arts District hosts a bustling flea market on the third Sunday of each month from May through October, featuring antiques, handicrafts, artwork, brewery tours and tastings, and lots of food. Named a 2015 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Browsing.”
Cyclists skirt the city shoreline, cross the Winooski River, and connect with suburban Colchester’s own bike trail. The fun really begins as the route heads out onto Lake Champlain along a 3½-mile former railroad causeway. A seasonal bike ferry links with scenic roads threading the Champlain Islands. Named a 2015 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Bicycling.”
The art and anthropology museum of the University of Vermont houses the state’s most broad-ranging collection of painting, sculpture, decorative arts, and cultural artifacts from civilizations ranging from antiquity to the contemporary U.S. The cache of some 20,000 objects includes African masks; an Assyrian bas-relief; works by Corot, Goya, Rodin, Homer, and Warhol; and an Egyptian mummy in its coffin. The book-filled museum shop also has a pleasant café serving snacks and desserts. Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Art Museum.”
In the state that appreciates the “go local” movement more than just about any other, this legendary farmers’ market, now nearing its fifth decade, is not to be missed. Every Saturday from late spring through autumn, 90-plus vendors fill City Hall Park with seasonal produce, flowers, prepared foods, and more. You won’t leave disappointed (or hungry).
Nobody should ever leave Burlington on an empty stomach. For a memorable dining experience during your visit, head for any of these favorites:
As a young student-chef, Bistro de Margot owner Hervé Mahé trained at France’s elite Ecole Supérieure de Cuisine Française. Then he spent 30 years honing his skills at Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris, London, and Seattle. In Burlington, he carefully crafts each dish — from an exquisite foie gras torchon to a pan-seared cod filet — in a way that’s refined yet approachable. Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best French Cuisine.”
Award-winning chef Eric Warnstedt and his partner, William McNeil, who also operate a popular establishment in Waterbury, have created restaurant magic at this chic spot next to the Hotel Vermont, the menu features an ever-changing but always sophisticated selection of locally sourced foods, including the signature hen-of-the-wood mushroom toast for which the restaurant is named. Named a 2016 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Fresh Vermont Fare.”
It’s all about the spuds at Al’s: freshly cut, quickly blanched, and double-fried. A local institution since the late 1940s, Al’s was dubbed one of “America’s Classics” by the James Beard Foundation.
What to do in Burlington, Vermont, when you need a place to rest your head? Check out these great lodging options:
This downtown destination offers bright, modern accommodations featuring wood and stone accents from Vermont forests and quarries. Locally sourced ingredients are the rule at Juniper restaurant; other hotel dining options include a satellite location of the James Beard Award–nominated Hen of the Wood and seafood-oriented Bleu. Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best City Hotel.”
Luxe B&B or micro-hotel? Burlington’s newest inn blends 19th- and 20th-century styles — including for-sale Vermont artworks — in a classic, cupola-crowned Victorian mansion. Enjoy gel-topped mattresses, in-room fridges stocked with local delicacies, a sauna, and an outdoor hot tub. Beer and wine are available, too. Named a 2015 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best New B&B.”
Looking for more lodging? Check out our roundup of favorite Burlington hotels and inns.
This post was first published in 2018 and has been updated.