What are the best things to see and do in Burlington?

Sarah Tuff

Nestled between Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains, Burlington is ripe with outdoor activities, but this college town also has a bevy of arts and entertainment options to hit between ski runs and boat rides. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors have scoured the city to find the five best things to see and do in Burlington:
 
1. Church Street Marketplace. More than 100 shops and restaurants line this four-block cobblestone pedestrian mall, but Burlington’s hub is about more than bistros and boutiques — it’s also the cultural center for impromptu political marches, street performers and quirky events like the World’s Largest Cowbell Ensemble.
 
2. Lake Champlain. Some 120 miles long and up to 12 miles wide, the sixth largest body of fresh water in the United States sits directly west of Burlington. It serves as a glittering backdrop to the city year-round, but is primarily a playground May through October. Begin with a stroll through scenic Waterfront Park before taking a cruise on the Spirit of Ethan Allen III where you’ll hear interesting historical tidbits and see some spectacular vistas of the lake and beyond.
 
3. The Green Mountains. Just outside of Burlington, rolling foothills rise up to create world-class hiking and skiing terrain. In the warmer months, visit the peaks at Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump; once the snow falls, grab your skis to carve your way down the mountain at the nearby resorts — Bolton Valley, Stowe, Mad River Glen, Sugarbush and Smugglers’ Notch are all within a one-hour drive.
 
4. Factory tours. Artisanal foods and beverages — not to mention tasty free samples — abound here. In the heart of Burlington’s funky South End is Lake Champlain Chocolates. Farther south in the buzzy suburb of Shelburne you’ll find the Fiddlehead Brewing Company and Shelburne Vineyard — each offers tours. Head 30 minutes east of the city to Waterbury to visit the Ben & Jerry’s factory.
 
5. Flynn Center for the Performing Arts. This former movie theater features live music (we like the annual Discover Jazz Festival in June), comedy, Broadway shows and dance performances. Its downtown location makes it an ideal spot for dinner and a show.

  • On September 18, 2012
    Sarah Tuff answered the question: Sarah Tuff

    Where is the best nightlife in Burlington?

    As a bustling college town you can bet Burlington has several great nightlife options and our Forbes Travel Guide editors have searched the scene for the best spots in town. For those interested in performing arts, theater, music and dance performances are held nearly every night at the Flynn Center and occasionally at Memorial Auditorium. The live music scene here is alive and hopping at Higher Ground, about a 10-minute drive from downtown in South Burlington. Here you can expect to see indie and mid-level bands play in the intimate space known for its state-of-the-art acoustics. Smaller bands often play at the popular Red Square, a solid bet for a fun, lively night out.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Sarah Tuff answered the question: Sarah Tuff

    What are the five best places for outdoor recreation in Burlington?

    Nestled between Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains, Burlington is known for its laid-back outdoorsy vibe and seemingly limitless outdoor recreation options. Forbes Travel Guide picked the five best places for outdoor activities in the Vermont town:
     
    1. The Burlington Bike Path. This paved 7.5-mile trail stretches along Lake Champlain from Oakledge Park to a bridge crossing the Winooski River.
     
    2. Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center. No boat? No problem. This facility rents sailboats and stand-up paddleboards, and also offers lessons and racing programs. Landlubbers will enjoy the yoga classes held on the dock from June through August.
     
    3. Catamount Outdoor Family Center. Here you can mountain bike and trail run in the summer, and cross-country ski and sled in the winter. It’s about 15 minutes southeast from Burlington, in the town of Williston.
     
    4. Bolton Valley. Though not as big or fancy as Stowe or Sugarbush, Bolton Valley is Burlington’s closest ski resort and offers surprisingly good terrain for just a 20-minute drive out the city. There’s also an extensive Nordic skiing network, along with backcountry options and night skiing.
     
    5. North Beach. A wide stretch of beach, a greasy snack bar and lifeguard towers make Vermonters feel as if they’re in Florida at this in-town summer hot spot. Rent canoes, kayaks or stand-up paddleboards, play beach volleyball or just soak in your vitamin D while looking out across Lake Champlain toward the Adirondacks.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Sarah Tuff answered the question: Sarah Tuff

    What are the best race events held in Burlington?

    Burlington hosts a slew of competitive athletic events each year and our Forbes Travel Guide editors can recommend a few, from the gorgeous to the grueling. Aside from the marquee Vermont City Marathon on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend (you can split the 26.2 miles among members of a relay team), there’s also the New Year’s Day 5K, September’s Downtown 10K, the Santa 5K Run, and the Green Mountain Athletic Association Marathon held in October in the picturesque Champlain Islands. All are beautiful, fun ways to see the city and meet the locals. If you really want to go for the gold, sign up for one of Burlington’s many national triathlon events — you might want to start training now.
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  • On September 18, 2012
    Sarah Tuff answered the question: Sarah Tuff

    What are the best Burlington food experiences?

    From that famed Vermont syrup to fresh-from-the-farm goods, here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best Burlington food experiences:
     
    1. Visiting a maple syrup sugarhouse. You’ll find these spots cooking up the sweet stuff in March and April, but if you miss the spring window, Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks (about 45 minutes southeast of the city) is open year-round and offers a good overview of the process.
     
    2. Tasting the street food at Church Street Marketplace. Food carts sell everything from steamed dumplings to sausages, but you won’t want to miss the fresh kettle corn.
     
    3. Having dinner on a farm. Intervale Farm in Burlington schedules suppers featuring locally grown fare. You can also head 25 minutes south of the city to Pizza on Earth in Charlotte for a sublime summer evening experience next to Stony Loam Farm.
     
    4. Eating a “creemee.” Use the local New England term for soft-serve ice cream cones, which are ubiquitous around Vermont all summer long.
     
    5. Taking a picnic to the top of Camel’s Hump. Even a PB&J tastes like gourmet fare after a hike to the summit of this peak. Take your picnic to a luxe level by packing local cheese, meat, fruits and veggies from the Burlington Farmers’ Market.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Sarah Tuff answered the question: Sarah Tuff

    What is the best way to see Burlington in one day?

    The best way to see Burlington in one day is to live like a local, balancing outdoor pursuits with the city’s laid-back pleasures. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest you begin with a run along the waterfront Burlington Bike Path before a breakfast of crêpes at the Skinny Pancake and a mid-morning exploration of ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. Next, head to Church Street Marketplace for some shopping. Stop for a leisurely lunch at Leunig’s Bistro and ask for a table on the outdoor patio. After you’re sufficiently fueled, hop in the car and head south through the artsy South End district along Pine Street for an afternoon excursion to the Shelburne Museum, which features a wide array of American art. Back in Burlington, rent a stand-up paddleboard from the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center to watch the sunset and work up an appetite for dinner at the American bistro Pistou. End your day with a nightcap at the bar and live music venue Red Square.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Sarah Tuff answered the question: Sarah Tuff

    Where is the best shopping in Burlington?

    The best shopping in Burlington is on Church Street Marketplace, a cobblestone pedestrian-only thoroughfare recommended by the editors at Forbes Travel Guide. The four-block area is lined with mostly local boutiques, though you’ll also find a Lululemon showroom, a Banana Republic and a City Sports alongside shops like Sweet Lady Jane (for edgy women’s clothing) and Apple Mountain (for Vermont-centric goodies). The independent Crow Bookshop has an impressive collection of used, rare and new book. If the weather isn’t conducive to walking outside, duck into the adjacent mall Burlington Town Center or into one of the several cafés and bistros that line Church Street. Just off Church Street, head east on Main to check out vintage home goods at Anjou & the Little Pear, outdoor goods at Skirack and second-hand clothing at Dirt Chic.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Sarah Tuff answered the question: Sarah Tuff

    What are the best things to do with kids in Burlington?

    While there is a lot for kids to do and see in Burlington, they’ll also like the laid-back, outdoor vibe. Forbes Travel Guide found the five best things to do with your kids in this Vermont town:
     
    1. Visit ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. On the edge of Lake Champlain and a stone’s throw from downtown Burlington, this kid-friendly museum has a playroom, tanks full of turtles and myriad hands-on exhibits. Refuel on a “creemee” (the New England term for soft-serve ice cream) before hitting the adjacent Burlington Bike Path for a waterfront walk that leads to an outdoor playground.
     
    2. Check out Shelburne. This pretty little town just south of Burlington is home to the famed Shelburne Farms, a working 1,400-acre farm. Its Children’s Farmyard is open from May to October. Also in town: the Shelburne Museum, which has an old-fashioned carousel. Explore the steamboat Ticonderoga on the museum’s grounds before stopping into the Shelburne Country Store for penny candy.
     
    3. Take a cruise. Onboard the Spirit of Ethan Allen III, families can learn about the history of Lake Champlain or look out for Champ, the legendary lake monster, while eating lunch on the deck. The 90-minute cruise is just right for short attention spans.
     
    4. Go sledding. Find sledding hills at Catamount Family Center in Williston (about 15 minutes southeast of Burlington) and throughout city parks all winter. For a more serious plunge, hit the waterpark at Jay Peak’s Pump House, about 40 minutes north of the city. When it’s cold, the facility is indoors; when the mercury rises, the roof retracts.
     
    5. Shop the Burlington Farmers’ Market. Every Saturday from May to October, this farmers’ market in City Hall Park features face-painting, locally grown and produced products (kids clothing, pies, candies) and live music.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Sarah Tuff answered the question: Sarah Tuff

    What are the best things to see and do in Burlington?

    Nestled between Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains, Burlington is ripe with outdoor activities, but this college town also has a bevy of arts and entertainment options to hit between ski runs and boat rides. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors have scoured the city to find the five best things to see and do in Burlington:
     
    1. Church Street Marketplace. More than 100 shops and restaurants line this four-block cobblestone pedestrian mall, but Burlington’s hub is about more than bistros and boutiques — it’s also the cultural center for impromptu political marches, street performers and quirky events like the World’s Largest Cowbell Ensemble.
     
    2. Lake Champlain. Some 120 miles long and up to 12 miles wide, the sixth largest body of fresh water in the United States sits directly west of Burlington. It serves as a glittering backdrop to the city year-round, but is primarily a playground May through October. Begin with a stroll through scenic Waterfront Park before taking a cruise on the Spirit of Ethan Allen III where you’ll hear interesting historical tidbits and see some spectacular vistas of the lake and beyond.
     
    3. The Green Mountains. Just outside of Burlington, rolling foothills rise up to create world-class hiking and skiing terrain. In the warmer months, visit the peaks at Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump; once the snow falls, grab your skis to carve your way down the mountain at the nearby resorts — Bolton Valley, Stowe, Mad River Glen, Sugarbush and Smugglers’ Notch are all within a one-hour drive.
     
    4. Factory tours. Artisanal foods and beverages — not to mention tasty free samples — abound here. In the heart of Burlington’s funky South End is Lake Champlain Chocolates. Farther south in the buzzy suburb of Shelburne you’ll find the Fiddlehead Brewing Company and Shelburne Vineyard — each offers tours. Head 30 minutes east of the city to Waterbury to visit the Ben & Jerry’s factory.
     
    5. Flynn Center for the Performing Arts. This former movie theater features live music (we like the annual Discover Jazz Festival in June), comedy, Broadway shows and dance performances. Its downtown location makes it an ideal spot for dinner and a show.
  • On July 24, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in Burlington?

    People often visit the Burlington area for the closeness to nature and the bountiful outdoor activities, but you can also find a hotel that’s thoroughly luxurious. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors found the five best places to stay in Burlington:
     
    1. Twin Farms. About 90 minutes southeast of Burlington in Barnard, this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star resort is nestled into a secluded setting on 300 acres of land. Choose a private cottage or a sumptuous guest room and prepare yourself for a romantic, idyllic stay. Nightly Moet & Chandon toasts in the Barn Room, anyone?
     
    2. The Essex Resort and Spa. For spa lovers, dog owners, foodies, tennis players and even rock climbers, The Essex boasts all the amenities that make it worth the 20-minute drive from Burlington. The pet-friendly resort has outdoor rock and ice climbing walls in its backyard, along with an award-winning spa, tennis courts and cooking classes.
     
    3. Topnotch Resort and Spa. About 45 minutes outside Burlington in Stowe, this ski resort features a massive 35,000-square-foot spa and an old ski bar with oversized couches. Outdoor activities include tennis, swimming, horseback riding, hiking and, of course, skiing. When you’re ready to unwind, you can retreat to one of the 68 country-chic guest rooms.
     
    4. The Inn at Shelburne Farms. Though it’s only open from May to October (there is no heating or air conditioning), this 24-room luxury Victorian-style inn will make you feel like a Vanderbilt, as little has changed since members of the family stayed on the 1,400-acre, lakeside property for their summer retreats.
     
    5. Willard Street Inn. Located in downtown Burlington, this bed and breakfast is within walking distance of the University of Vermont campus and Lake Champlain. The 19th-century brick Victorian building has been lovingly restored with Laura Ashley-esque New England charm. The 14 rooms are uniquely decorated and of varying sizes.
  • On July 24, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to eat in Burlington?

    With a focus on local and sustainable food, Burlington is a first-class foodie hub. Here are five restaurants our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend as the five best in this Vermont town:
     
    1. L’Amante Ristorante. Looking for upscale Italian? Head to L’Amante for classic, hearty dishes such as potato-crusted sea bass and bruschetta with local squash. The dining space is simple and sleek — the focus is on the flavorful dishes made with local ingredients.
     
    2. Pistou. This bistro was open for only two months when it received a James Beard nomination in 2012. Pistou continues to win praise for local, inventive dishes inspired by both Vermont goods and high-end Manhattan eateries.
     
    3. Inn at Shelburne Farms. The historic inn, located just south of Burlington, has an elegant restaurant and a menu based on the seasonal ingredients grown locally (some on the property’s farm). Arrive early to enjoy a cocktail on the expansive terrace.
     
    4. A Single Pebble. Known for its addictive mock eel appetizer and oversized lazy susans on the table, this authentic Chinese restaurant is a far cry from the typical fried Chinese fare found around New England towns.
     
    5. The Kitchen Table Bistro. This charming restaurant is worth the drive about 20 minutes east of Burlington. Located in an 18th-century building, The Kitchen Table Bistro has several different cozy dining rooms and specializes in fresh, regional cuisine.