Check out that gorgeous sunset vista. With that kind of view and a beautiful body of water nearby, you’d probably guess this was somewhere tropical. The Bahamas? Wrong, try again. San Diego, perhaps? Not that either. This sweet view can only be found in Burlington, Vermont: a little gem of a town nestled in the northern half of the state along the shores of mighty Lake Champlain.
Let’s be honest – unless you’re into winter sports, Vermont is an awfully cold place to visit during the winter. Which is exactly why Summer is when the state of Vermont comes out to shine (pun intended). The state’s beautiful virgin outdoor spaces are green and in bloom, ready to be explored, hiked and camped. Its many picturesque lakes lie cool and still, waiting to be plied by swimmers, kayaks and sailboats. And unique Vermont cities like Burlington offer a surprising wealth of activities, ranging from top-notch food and shopping to cultural attractions galore.
Not only is Burlington the perfect base for some summertime Vermont exploring, it’s also relative easy (and cheap) to get to from the major urban centers of the East Coast, including New York and Boston. Click below and let’s explore Burlington, shall we?
The City Sights
Although Burlington has a population well under 100,000, it packs a big city punch, including plenty of great activities you wouldn’t expect for a town of its size.
Most visitors start their day downtown, home to a picturesque collection of shops, cafes and restaurants. The biggest concentration of stores is along the Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian-friendly outdoor shopping district fronted by stores representing locally made Vermont products as well as larger national chains. Meal options are also readily available and refreshingly eclectic, ranging from Brazilian to Thai to pizza and burgers.
If you’re in the mood for dessert, stop by the Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop on Church. The now-famous ice cream franchise got its start in Burlington back in the 1970’s. Ice cream junkies can arrange tours of the company factory in nearby Waterbury. Church Street is also a great spot for people watching – Burlington is home to the University of Vermont, ensuring a cosmopolitan mix of students, tie-dyed hippies, urban professionals, outdoor lovers and out-of-town visitors passing by. Snowboard aficionados should also make a pilgrimage to Burton Snowboard Flagship Store. The now famous snowboard and apparel manufacturer is another homegrown Burlington favorite.
During the Summer, Burlington weekends are also packed with all manner of local festivals. The first two weeks of June bring Burlington’s annual Discover Jazz Festival, featuring big-name Jazz artists like Branford Marsalis. Come July, beer lovers congregate at the Vermont Brewers Festival, featuring sud samples from 30 craft brewers located across New England. In August it’s time for the annual Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival, pitting local teams in a friendly race for charity.
The Great Outdoors
Chances are if you’re coming to Vermont, you’ve heard about the state’s legendary natural beauty and want to experience it firsthand. Thankfully, Burlington makes a great base for exploring all manner of natural Vermont landscapes, all within easy driving distance.
Before jumping in your car however, spend some time along the shores of nearby Lake Champlain. Burlington is situated along the edge of one of the Northeastern United States’ biggest lakes, covering more than 430 square miles filled with unspoiled islands, hiking and wildlife. Any sunny Summer day will find the lake dotted with a mass of tiny sails – want to try yourself? Visitors can rent a sailboat to ply the lake’s scenic shores. If you’re feeling less ambitious, consider hiring a charter sailboat captain or renting a kayak for some mellow paddling around the calm waters. The Burlington Department of Parks and Recreation also has plenty of information about nearby campgrounds, hiking, swimming and other great summertime activities.
Just an hour south of Burlington is the unspoiled enclave of Green Mountain National Forest, situated on more than 400,000 acres of pristine wilderness, waterfalls and mountain trails. The park has activities to match just about any interest, ranging from horseback riding to hiking to camping and fishing. Make sure to stop in at nearby Middlebury, Vermont on your way back for some small-town Vermont charm.
Where to Stay
Burlington has all kinds of accommodation options, ranging from the small and quaint to the traditional brand-name hotel chains. Thrifty travelers should check out the Burlington Sheraton, well-situated between both the airport and city’s downtown. Though you’ll need to drive to most attractions, the hotel typically offers some good deals, starting at around $120 per night. Guests also speak highly of the Doubletree Burlington, located a few miles away in South Burlington with rates starting as low as $118 per night.
Those looking for the quintessential Vermont Bed & Breakfast experience should check out smaller properties like Lang House, located in an 1880’s era Victorian mansion, or the Willard Street Inn. Though the rooms at both B&B’s are a bit pricier (starting at $145 per night), the unique old world atmosphere will more than makes up for the difference for some travelers.