by Joey Phoenix
Burlington, VT is a vibrant, albeit slightly strange city on the banks of Lake Champlain. People are drawn to it for its quirkiness, its proximity to hiking, camping, and lakeside relaxation, and its progressive thinking. It’s crunchy in the best way, unabashed in its environmental-consciousness and dedication to making sure you know that composting is available everywhere.
Here, even the seagulls know how to compost.
A college city that’s doing its darndest to entice people to visit, and hopefully, even stay awhile, Burlington’s got all the events and happenings you’d expect in a city twice its size, but with much more charm and breathable air.
Here are some of the best, and some of the oddest, things to do, see, and explore in Burlington, VT.
Meander and Explore
If you pack a lunch, Burlington’s easy to explore if you’re on a budget. You can window shop along the Church Street Marketplace, maybe splurging on a book at Crow Bookshop or checking out the consignment and clearance racks at Outdoor Gear Exchange. The Marketplace is also the home of the flagship Ben and Jerry’s Store, but we’ll get back to that in a little bit.
Want to get away from the heart of downtown and see something weird? Maybe take a peek at some of Burlington’s famous landmarks like the Lake Champlain Monster Monument featuring “Champ,” Burlington’s favorite cryptid at the ferry dock, the Flying Monkeys statues on top of One Main overlooking the waterfront – the result of a never executed Oz-themed amusement park, the World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet on Flynn Avenue – a protest piece by artist Bren Alvarez, or, for those with a more morbid fascination, the birthplace of Ted Bundy on Shelburne Road.
For free exploration around the city, hop on a bike and head down to Oak Ledge Park on the 13.4-mile Island Line Trail, riding south along the waterfront with attractions like the Burlington Earth Clock, the Tree House, or north along Lake Champlain across the causeway and take the bike ferry ($8 roundtrip) to South Hero. The Island Line Trail is one of several bike trails around the city, so get out and explore. Don’t have a bike? You can rent one from North Star Sports or buy an upcycled one for an incredibly reasonable price from Old Spokes Home.
Rather explore nature on foot than on two wheels? You can always hike Mt. Mansfield, or, take it a bit easier and enjoy a more pleasant stroll around Indian Brook or Niquette Bay State Park. For more in-depth hiking ideas, check out All Trails.
See and Experience
Burlington isn’t just about the great outdoors, there are actually some great indoor spaces too. You can catch a live performance of theatre, music, or comedy at Flynn Theatre or listen to music at Higher Ground, Signal Kitchen, or Radio Bean. Looking for more daylife than nightlife? Why not examine Burlington local history and art at the Ethan Allen Homestead or the Robert Hull Fleming Museum of Art on the UVM campus.
The Shelburne Museum is probably the favorite spot of locals and visitors alike. Featuring over 150,000 works in 39 exhibition halls. The collections feature a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new and outright wacky, and with so much to see, there’s something for everyone.
For a purely modern and local feel, both the Frog Hollow Craft Center and Burlington City Arts Center have rotating local crafters, makers, and performers. The BCA also host classes and demonstrations on-site, so you too can take part in the art.
With so much to see, do, and explore in downtown Burlington, visitors are bound to get hungry. Fortunately, there’s lots of food to choose from.
For more upscale sitdown dining, try Hen of the Wood – featuring a menu of creative Americana that changes daily to make the best use of fresh local ingredients, or Leunig’s Bistro – a Parisian-inspired bistro that’s very much a staple of Vermont fare (read: lots of cheese). For the vegetarian/vegans out there, you need to try both Revolution Kitchen in downtown Burlington – which has a menu full of delicious plant-based offerings that also changes daily and Pingala – a cafe in Winooski that is heralded by all Vermont vegans as one of the best in the state.
If you’re on the breakfast hunt, there’s always the classic Skinny Pancake, which is tasty but you’ll be in for long waits on weekends. As an alternative, try Penny Cluse Cafe, which is (slightly) less crowded by just as delicious.
Ready for dessert? Vermont is the home of Ben and Jerry’s, with the flagship store right on Church Street downtown. Although, locals may argue that soft-serve from the Creemees stands by the waterfront are just as good as Ben and Jerry’s, if not better.
Vermont may be the home of the IPA but don’t let that fool you, there’s more to drink than just this hoppy variety. In fact, there are 56 operating breweries in Vermont and quite a few of those are in Burlington. In South Burlington, there’s Magic Hat, Switchback, and Queen City Brewing, among others. Four Quarters is in Winooski, Burlington Beer Company is in Williston, and Zero Gravity at American Flatbread downtown.
Not a beer fan? Burlington is also the home of Citizen’s Cider, and their tasting room is open Monday – Saturday 11am-10pm and Sundays from 11am-7pm.
Burlington may be a playground for the outdoorsy, beer-loving oddball, but it’s got a little something for everyone. It’s an incredibly welcoming place, that is, as long as you compost. If you don’t, just lie and say you do. It will go better for everyone involved.
Joey Phoenix is a performance artist and the Managing Editor of Creative North Shore. Follow them on Twitter @jphoenixmedia. If you have an idea for a story, feature, or pictures of adorable llamas, feel free to send them a message at email@example.com