Burlington, Vermont has been “my town” for over 40 years, and I have seen a lot of growth here. One of the most exciting things has been to watch it become a vacation destination, as I love being able to share my love of this place with visitors. If I see people standing on a street corner, looking at their phone or map, I have been known to approach them and provide directions and advice. So here is my take on how to maximize a couple of days in my town. Enjoy!
No matter how you get here, an autumn weekend in Burlington, Vermont is a fun getaway that can be as active as you want it to be. Burlington is an easy drive from Boston, Montreal, or New York City, and it is a train or plane ride away from those further away. Seventy-two hours in Burlington will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
Where to Stay: Courtyard Marriott, Hotel Vermont, or Hilton Garden Inn. Each of these hotels is centrally located, and most recommended activities are walkable.
A spa treatment is just what you need to help you get into a laidback Vermont vibe. My favorite way to enter a long weekend is with a spa service to hit the reset button. Jivana Green Spa & Salon on Church Street has a full menu of services, but the Tibet Revitalizing Foot Treatment is sublime. After soaking, being scrubbed, and otherwise pampered from the knees down, you may not want to travel too far right away.
Just downstairs from Jivana is Leunig’s Bistro & Café, one of Burlington’s oldest and finest European-style bistros. Steak, mussels, duck, whatever your pleasure, they do it well—often accompanied by live jazz and delicious cocktails. After dinner, a stroll down to the waterfront to watch the sunset is a must. For those unfamiliar, you will be watching the sunset over the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain, quite spectacular. While on the waterfront, grab a maple creemeeat Burlington Bay and then a swing on the boardwalk. If you are feeling energized and want to explore further, hit Foam Brewersjust off the waterfront for their ever-revolving tap selection. But be sure to get some rest as there is a lot to do tomorrow!
As Burlington often makes “best place to live for outdoor enthusiasts” lists, there are many classes for yogis, kayak and SUP rentals for paddlers, as well as hikes for all abilities. Cycling is also very popular and you can rent bikes by the hour or the day. We recommend starting off the day with a yoga class by the lake, with views and a cool breeze. The Community Sailing Center offers yoga on the dock in summer and boat rentals into the fall. After yoga, head to The Skinny Pancakeon the waterfront for crepes for every taste and locally roasted coffee. After breakfast, a quick walk up the hill will take you to City Hall Park for the Burlington Farmers Market. There you will find not only vegetables, baked goods, art, lots of kids and dogs, but also local distillery samples and ethnic foods produced by Burlington’s growing immigrant population. Oh, and don’t forget to grab a maple lemonade, you won’t regret it.
If all of this has whetted your appetite for more shopping, there are shops nearby on Church Street, selling local art and vintage clothing, or explore the new CBD businesses like Ceres Remedies that are cropping up. If you have had your fill of shopping and an adventure is what you seek, you can travel outside of Burlington a bit to get a feel for more of Vermont. Fifteen miles south of Burlington on Route 7 is Vermont’s oldest state park, Mt. Philo.This will provide a short hike by paved road or hiking trail to vistas of the Lake Champlain Valley and the Adirondack Mountains. As long as you are this far south, it makes sense to continue south for three more miles to Cookie Love, where you can choose the “Fall In Love” pumpkin/chocolate chip cookie or a hard or soft ice-cream treat.
Heading back toward Burlington, there are attractions in Shelburne worth visiting, such as Shelburne Farms, Shelburne Museum, and theShelburne Country Store. If time has gotten away from you and you find yourself hungry and/or thirsty, a stop at TheBearded Frog Bar & Grillis a must. Choose a cozy pub experience or drinks and appetizers on the deck, weather permitting.
Upon your return to Burlington you can choose a lakefront stroll or a sampling of the Church Street nightlife.
Visitors and locals alike will wait in line for breakfast at Penny Cluse Cafe, or its sister restaurant Lucky Next Door, founded to cater to the overflow. Go early to grab a spot, and don’t forget a coffee while you wait! After breakfast, head to one of Vermont’s premier attractions, The Causeway Bike Trail.Seven miles north of Burlington, rent bikes at Airport Park and hop onto the Causeway. You will be riding on a repurposed rail trail with Lake Champlain on both sides. Three-fourths of the way across, a bike ferry transports you and your bike across a gap and toward the Champlain Islands. Continuing on the bike way, you will find lunch stops such as Sebssnack bar or the Blue Paddle Bistro.
Once you trace your steps back to the hotel, it may be time for a bit or R&R before dinner. Dinner at the award-winning Hen of the Wood restaurant is a popular choice while staying in this neighborhood. Juniper Bar & Restaurant,in the lobby of Burlington’s Hotel Vermont is also a good, yet more casual offering. After dinner, one can choose to go to the lakefront for sunset or onto Church Street for a stroll. Check out Shy Guy Gelato’scart, if you have room for dessert. Sample local spirits in the form of classic or contemporary cocktails at Highball Social, where Stonecutter Spirits showcases their products.
Day 3 Stay Local Plan
If traveling to recreate is not your thing, turning either left or right on the waterfront bike path will provide you with ample recreation close by. There are pop up SUP and kayak rentals along the path, or take a tour on The Spirit of Ethan Allen for food, drinks, and a bit of history. The Swingin’ Pinwheel Café on Center street offers delightful breakfast and lunch options, as well.
Whichever way you end up enjoying Burlington, Vermont, there will always be things you did not have time for—until you come again!
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Beverly W. Spencer
Beverly W. Spencer is a hedonistic adventuress with highly attuned senses who teaches students with disabilities in Northwestern Vermont.