Wendy Altschuler |

The eclectic college town of Burlington sits on Lake Champlain’s eastern shore, just two hours south of Montreal. From Downtown to the New and Old North Ends to the South End to the University District, there’s much to explore.

The Ethan Allen Homestead Museum is here, as are other historic buildings, and Vermont is the only place you’ll discover the World’s Tallest File Cabinet. Of course, no visit to the Green Mountain state is complete without seeing some of the natural beauty as well. You’ll find that state parks, as well as farms and agriculture, are easily accessible and located just outside of the city’s center.

Keep reading to learn about the best things to do and experience while visiting this dynamic nature-heavy lakeside milieu.

People Watch on Church Street

If you can ramble down the pedestrianized Church Street Marketplace without purchasing a soft bathrobe from Vermont Flannel Company, a mid-layer from Outdoor Gear Exchange, and a scoop of The Tonight Dough ice cream in a waffle cone from Ben & Jerry’s, than you have more willpower than most.

The marketplace, with a red brick path and strung lights, is the place to be for not only shopping, but also, for dining, drinking, and dancing—the Summer Concert Series happens until the end of August and Halvorson’s Street Music Series lasts through October.

Celebrated Vermont-made Church Street businesses include: Catamount StoreDanforth PewterFrog Hollow on the MarketplaceGlobal Pathways, and Lake Champlain Chocolates.

Sail on Lake Champlain

Dividing New York and Vermont, Lake Champlain is the picture-perfect setting for a sailing adventure. You’ll marvel at Vermont’s Green Mountains, see Burlington from a whole new perspective, and spot New York’s Adirondacks. Bring a picnic with noshes and drinks on the Let’s Go Sailing family and pet-friendly cruise, captained by the amiable Gideon Bavly.

Hike to a Waterfall

Say goodbye to Lake Champlain and Shelburne Bay and head west to Smugglers’ Notch State Park, located near Stowe Mountain Resort. (Enjoy the Gondola Skyride, ZipTour Adventure, and Auto Toll Road to the summit of Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort during the warmer months.)

Smuggler’s Notch is a narrow pass that cuts through the Green Mountains, allowing for only one car to travel at a time. It’s easy to see why fall is the best time of year for a visit along this snaking road, with 1,000-foot cliffs, for leaf peepers and photographers.

The Notch was how Vermonters conducted illegal trade with Canada in the early 1800’s when President Thomas Jefferson prohibited Americans from trading with their neighbors to the north with a ban. Later, the Notch was the escape route for fugitive slaves, en route to Canada, and the pathway for liquor hauling during Prohibition.

Begin at the Barnes Camp Visitor Center and drive the 3.5-mile scenic highway, where you’ll find hiking opportunities along the way on the Long Trail, Hell Brook Trail, Sterling Pond Trail, and the popular Bingham Falls.

  • Sterling Pond Trail: Difficult, 1.1 miles, 1,000-feet of elevation gain. There’s an extra 1.4-mile easy loop around the pond.
  • Hell Brook Trail: Difficult, 1.8 miles, 2,660-feet of elevation gain.
  • Long Trail, North to Sterling Pond: Difficult, 3.4 miles, 1,500-feet of elevation gain. After hiking 2.3 miles, you’ll reach the Elephant’s Head side trail (.01 miles), offering great views.
  • Long Trail, Nose to Chin: Moderate, 1.2 miles, 550-feet of elevation gain. This trail leads you to the summit of Mt. Mansfield for bird’s-eye views.
  • Bingham Falls Trail: Moderate, 0.8 miles, 700-feet of elevation loss. This family-friendly hike is great for soaking in the multiple pools and viewing the stunning falls.

View Unique Locally Made Art

For an inside look into the local artsy scene, visit Burlington’s South End Arts District, home of The Soda Plant. Scan stalls and small boutiques, where you’ll find over 30 makers, producers and artists in a diverse space that was once a Venetian Ginger Ale soda bottling plant. Peruse pickles at Pitchfork Farm and Pickle, ponder paintings at Soapbox Arts, drink espresso at Brio Coffeworks, and get a new notepad from Recycle Moe.

Drink Good Beer

Of course, no college town would be complete without a good brewery scene. A number of great tasting rooms and beer gardens showcase the finest Burlington has to offer, from ciders to handcrafted ales to robust lagers.

  • Zero Gravity: Enjoy a Green State Lager, Cone Head India Pale Ale, or a Madonna Double IPA at this beer garden that keeps sustainability in mind. If you want to bring home a souvenir, visit the gift shop.
  • Citizen Cider: In a state that grows a copious amount of apples, is it any wonder why a cider joint would be a fan favorite?
  • Foam Brewers: A menu of rotating beers, cheeses, and charcuterie bring folks back to this foam-centric brewery, situated on the waterfront, again and again.
  • Switchback Brewing: Vermont employee owned and operated, this brewery focuses on handcrafted unfiltered ales and lagers. Don’t miss out on the brewery tours and tastings.

Wander Around a Working Farm

Known as a “gentleman’s farm”, a visit to Shelburne Farms, once owned by William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb, offers nature seekers the opportunity to walk on cow-studded trails, see the cheesemaking process in action, sample freshly made cookies and bread, and hear roosters and chickens cluck and coo. This farm, forest, and National Historic Landmark, located just 20 minutes south of Burlington’s downtown, has activities throughout the year like gardener’s tours, forest bathing, and youth programs.

Rest Your Head

For a well-designed home base, near Church Street Market, Lake Champlain, and the University of Vermont, book a stay at Hotel Vermont. Dine at the in-house Juniper Bar & Restaurant, open for breakfast and dinner, and enjoy inventive cocktails on the terrace.

Plants, naked wood panels, green felt desk lamp shades, natural stone tile, and bright white linens make the rooms (125 guest rooms on six floors) feel comfy and oh-so Vermont in style. Throughout the space, you’ll notice locally made and produced items like Lunaroma custom aromatic bath and body products, Vermont Flannel robes, AO Glass soap dishes, books written by local authors, soap from Vermont Soap Company, and coffee mugs from Jeremy Ayers.

Pro Tip: To take the guesswork out of planning activities, Hotel Vermont can book sailing voyages for guests. Complimentary bicycles are available for exploring Burlington on two wheels. For music fans, check the hotel’s calendar for live acts and special events.