Vermont is where I grew up and my absolute favorite place in the world. By the time I graduated college, I was ready to try something new (having grown up and gone to University of Vermont) and quickly fell in love with the city, however; it wasn’t until I lived in New York that I fully appreciated Vermont. It is the best city escape I could ever ask for, and I feel so lucky that I’m able to go back to visit my home and family often. Every time I go back, I’m in more awe than I was the last. Really. The fresh, crisp air, the laid-back vibe, the scenic green mountains, foliage in the fall, and my favorite- Lake Champlain.
When people think of Vermont, they assume I grew up on a farm with the closest neighbor being 10 miles away. While this is true in many parts of Vermont, I wouldn’t exactly say that rolling hills full of cows and tapping maple syrup is precisely the norm for everyone. I grew up in Chittenden County- Williston to be exact (15 minutes outside of Burlington) which is a town of ~10K people.
Burlington is the largest city in Vermont, and one of my favorite cities in the world! Those who visit Vermont (especially from New York) tend to visit southern Vermont (where the larger ski mountains/towns are), but I HIGHLY recommend everyone make their way up to Burlington. It’s also a great place to stop en route to Montreal, as it’s only about 1.5 hours away. Below I’m putting together my favorite things to do and places to eat in and around Burlington.
I can’t honestly give much input here since I stay at my parents’ house when visiting, but I’ve heard good things about the following:
Hotel Vermont: Gorgeous independent boutique hotel in the best location (walking distance to everything) that is loved by Vermonters just as much as tourists. As a local, I go here for brunch, drinks, etc (houses Juniper and Hen of The Wood - see below). Love the cozy lobby and hanging by the fireplace
Inn at Shelburne Farms
Williston Village Inn
Church Street Marketplace: Burlington’s most famous pedestrian-only street where you’ll find all of the best restaurants, shopping, coffee shops, activities and some interesting people watching. Walking these few blocks is one of my absolutely favorite things to do in Vermont (especially on a nice Saturday afternoon)
Waterfront Park: Via College Street, stop at Burlington Bay, pick up a maple creemee (aka ‘soft serve’ if you’re not a Vermonter) and walk down to the waterfront for some gorgeous views of Lake Champlain. You can stop by the Echo Center or head straight to the boardwalk/lawn area for some great sunset photo opps. My favorite makeup store is also right around here: Mirror Mirror
Burlington Greenway Bike Path: another way to check out the waterfront is by bike along the Burlington Bike path. This is a very easy, flat, and beautiful ride along the waterfront. You can go all the way out to the causeway on Island Line Trail which takes about 14 minutes (with 3 miles of it being in the middle of the lake). You can quickly rent bikes at: Local Motion, Downhill Edge/Ski Rack or North Star Sports
Burlington Farmers Market: Saturdays from 8:30am to 2pm
Lake Champlain Cruises: A good tour company is the Spirit of Ethan Allen
Pine Street / Arts Riot
Higher Ground: I used to go to concerts here almost weekly. Great venue right outside of Burlington (possibly the largest venue in the area?). Check out the calendar, they always have great artists performing.
Hike local mountains
Camels Hump State Park: A few good hikes that will challenge all. Amazing views at the top
Mt. Philo State Park: An easier hike with nice views of the lake
BREAKFAST & BRUNCH
Skinny Pancake: ALL the crepes (massive menu of sweet and savory) and definitely a favorite for most Vermonters. All local food. If you miss it, you can still get a taste of it on your way out of Vermont at the BTV airport. They also have yummy non-crepe items.
Penny Cluse: Feels like you’re in someone’s home! Food is always delicious but it’s a very popular spot so be prepared to wait on the weekends. I always get the huevos rancheros but people rave about the gingerbread pancakes and maple cornbread french toast.
Magnolia Bistro: Fresh and delish! Certified green restaurant with local, organic, vegetarian, vegan, meat-lovers and gluten-free items
Sneakers (Winooski): Two words: Eggs. Benedict. Very popular spot with relaxed atmosphere- right outside of Burlington in the heart of Winooski
Myer’s Bagels: If you’ve had Montreal-style bagels, need I say more? If you haven’t, I hope you’re already on your way
Red Onion: Little sandwich shop right on Church Street that locals swear by. Best sandwich = Red Onion Sandwich (freshly baked bread, turkey, bacon, apples, red onions, smoked gruyere cheese with sundried tomato mayo)
City Market: Go here if you’re looking to get groceries or pick up a quick bite- their prepared food is great and the sandwich counter in the back is a must
Al’s French Fry (South Burlington): Hands down- my favorite place to eat in Vermont. A 5-min drive outside of Burlington, this fast food joint hasn’t changed much since the 1940s. My go to order: Double cheeseburger (with the works), a corndog, pint of fries to share with everyone, followed with a creemee at their outdoor ice cream booth
Henry Street Deli: A (tiny) Burlington classic. My heart broke when I heard this establishment burned down last year. In college, I went here for the Pesto Chicken Sandwich at least once a week. I was just told that they are back up and running!! Also great for breakfast sandwiches. Order ahead of time and pick up
Four Corners of the Earth: 5-minute drive from Church Street is this little cash-only sandwich shop that makes delicious and unique creations inspired by countries around the world
Farmhouse Tap & Grill: Casual dinner with all locally sourced food and huge selection of local brews on tap
Leunigs Bistro: One of the oldest restaurants in Burlington. Great if you’re looking for a nicer, sit-down dinner
Pizza Verita: Chill vibe with delicious wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, great cocktail menu
El Cortijo: Farm-to-taco experience in a 1950s diner
Trattoria Delia: tucked away in an intimate basement on Church Street- amazing Italian food with all local produce
A Single Pebble: Best Chinese food in the area
Pho Hong: I’m not typically a Pho person but I love love love it here. BYOB with massive portions
Waterworks (Winooski): 5-minute drive outside of Burlington. Beautiful atmosphere with an awesome view of the Winooski River.
DESSERT & COFFEE
Burlington Bay: all you need here is a Maple Creemee
Uncommon Grounds: locally owned coffee shop
My Little Cupcake
Ben & Jerry’s: duh. Of course, the iconic Vermont-based B&Js has a shop in the heart of Burlington. Get a couple scoops of different flavors - keep it simple. My favorite flavors: Half Baked, Chunky Monkey, One Love (brand new Bob Marley inspired flavor and I might almost like it more than my #1 Half Baked….), Phish Food
Lake Champlain Chocolates: local chocolate store, great for gifts
The Spot: Ok I haven’t technically been to this brand new spot yet (opened this summer), but I used to work at this location's previous establishment every summer during college. It is the best location on the Burlington Waterfront. While I loved working at Breakwaters, I can definitely admit it needed some work and felt this dock wasn’t being used to its full potential. The Spot has become the place to hang out on the waterfront with a house dj, lounge areas, and great food. Don’t miss the sunset!
Drink: Low key, easy bar with yummy infused vodka cocktails. Always my go-to catch-up spot as there is usually a place to sit and it’s not too loud. Full of board games (including Card Against Humanity)
The Whiskey Room: Sophisticated bar with a massive selection of whiskey (apparently very rare whiskeys) I’m not a whiskey person but still love coming here and enjoy their great dirty martinis
Red Square: End your night with dancing here! Three rooms with three types of music- live band, hip hop DJ, and The “Blue Room” in the back which plays house music can get a little freaky
Juniper Bar: Located inside Hotel Vermont. Nice, chill, local ingredient-driven cocktail bar (+ live music and outdoor terrace)
The Daily Planet: The first time I ever had a drink at a bar was here!! Can’t see it really was my style and I haven’t been back in years but it is definitely a favorite in the local scene. It has hipster-y, boho feel with live music and a great bar menu
Late Night Food
Kountry Kart Deli: KKD, helllllo 2am Rise n’ Shiner….but also good for all times
Mr. Mikes: Post bar buffalo-chicken pizza w/ a side of blue cheese, please
Cart vendors on Church Street: Amir's Kebab, South End Sliders, Wicked Mountain Hot Dogs