Historic red brick buildings, scenic lakefront, charming pedestrian downtown, and fun craft breweries – it’s easy to see why Burlington is one of the most populous cities in Vermont.
The city size, having the convenience of its own International Airport, and plenty of accommodation options also make it a great base location for those visiting New England.
This year we finally ventured out to Vermont for a much overdue fall road trip. While originally we had no big plans to spend a lot of time in Burlington, we stopped by this waterfront city while driving in between Stowe and the Adirondack Mountains. It quite took us by surprise and we ended up setting aside a few days to explore Burlington and its beautiful downtown.
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to plan your vacation in Burlington including the best things to do, our favorite places to eat & drink plus tips on where to stay!
Here Are 10 Fun Things To Do In Burlington, Vermont:
- Church Street Marketplace
- Waterfront Park
- Island Line Trail
- Ben & Jerry’s
- Citizen Cider
- South End Arts District
- World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet
- August First
- Day Trip To Stowe
Church Street Marketplace
Lined with historic buildings on both sides and an inviting long walkway at the center of it, Church Street Marketplace is an outdoor pedestrian mall in downtown Burlington where locals and visitors alike can spend the day browsing through gift shops, retailers, and boutique stores.
Church Street Marketplace was established in 1981 to better enhance the shopping experience in Burlington. Closed off to the car traffic, it was built to create a space where people can enjoy a carefree afternoon stroll without having to look over the shoulder for oncoming cars.
This district dates back to the 1800s but over the years buildings have been renovated introducing a mix of styles from modest wood buildings to large commercial blocks with modern designs.
Now, this is the top attraction of Burlington and connects some of the main landmarks like the Waterfront Park and the impressive red brick Unitarian church at the end of it.
The ease of navigating Church Street draws visitors here all day long. Throughout this district, you’ll also find an abundance of restaurants and cafes with outdoor patios to choose from. Reservations are highly recommended during busy times like evenings and weekends or you might be faced with a bit of a wait.
After roaming around the Church Street Marketplace make your way down to the Waterfront Park for a relaxing walk along the scenic Lake Champlain.
To reach it, go directly west of the Church Street Marketplace. If you have a car, you can park it at the Pease Lot on the corner of Lake St & College St.
Historically the Waterfront Park was part of the Port of Burlington, the third largest lumber port in the US. But in 1990 this strip of the land was sold to the city for recreational use.
The calm lake water, well-maintained waterfront boardwalks, and welcoming benches scattered throughout the park create a serene atmosphere where you won’t want to leave. It’s the perfect place to spend the afternoon lounging on the grassy area, reading, relaxing and people watching.
- Tip – For $2 you can rent a bike from Greenride Bikeshare to cruise around on the bike path that runs next to the waterfront.
Location: 20 Lake St, Burlington, VT 05401
Island Line Trail
If you’re looking for a longer place to stretch your legs, Island Line Trail is a 7.5-mile long pathway that runs along Lake Champlain through all of Burlington. It starts at Oakledge Park in the south and ends near the Winooski River in the north. You can spend hours walking the entire trail, or just tackle a smaller section near the downtown.
This pathway was built in 1980 and is mostly flat making it the perfect place to experience Burlington on foot or to take a rental bike for a spin. If you have a bike, you can add extra distance by heading on a narrow causeway across Lake Champlain.
My favorite section of the Island Like Trail is located by Oakledge Park where thanks to a restoration project 1000 native trees have been planted creating a lush forest that offers an incredible opportunity to escape the busy city. This area looks especially stunning in fall as the surrounding trees turning to beautiful hues of yellows and oranges.
The Oakledge Park restoration project plays an important role in the community to help with flooding and water erosion while adding space for local birds to use as a natural habitat.
Location: Island Line Trail
Burlington is one of the most charming lakefront towns, but did you know that here you’ll also find some of the best breweries in Vermont? I can’t think of a better way to relax at the end of the day after exploring the city than with a craft beer in hand!
For a guided brewery tour we recommend going with the Classic Beer Tour with tastings & lunch.
For a self-guided tour, check out some of the favorites in town:
- Foam Brewers – Burlington
If you’re only in town for one day, we highly recommend visiting Foam Brewers that is located just steps away from the Waterfront Park. After walking around downtown this is the perfect place to grab a beer and hang out for a bit.
While most of their beers are pretty high in alcohol (8-10%), we tried their 4.4% Nano IPA and absolutely loved it! Don’t let the low alcohol percentage fool you – this beer is packed full of hoppy flavors and tastes strong, yet won’t get you super buzzed if you want to keep exploring the city. Foam Brewers is a very busy spot, so we do recommend making a reservation for a table ahead of time!
Location: 112 Lake St, Burlington, VT 05401
- Switchback Brewing Co.
Tucked away in the South End neighborhood, Switchback Brewing Company is one of the best Burlington craft breweries where you can find delicious, yet easy to drink ales that focus on flavor and are perfect for warm summer days.
Switchback Brewing Co. is the first brewery in Vermont that is 100% owned by employees so you know that a lot of care and thought goes into their products. As a bonus, this brewery is also very dog friendly!
Location: 160 Flynn Ave, Burlington, VT 05401
- Zero Gravity Brewery
Zero Gravity is a modern brewery that’s ideal for groups and fun events. Their spacious patio features long, picnic-style tables and is heated so you can hang out catching up with friends well past sundown.
Some of their specialty craft beers include the Citra-Hopped Conehead IPA and the refreshing Little Wolf Pale Ale that come in uniquely designed cans. Zero Gravity Brewery is also committed to giving back to Vermont communities by prioritizing sustainability, supporting events, and by donating a portion of their profits to local charities.
Location: 716 Pine St, Burlington, VT 05401
- Queen City Brewing
Across the Pine Street from Zero Gravity is Queen City Brewing, another wonderful brewery to check out in the South End Art District. Queen City Brewing is best known for their different European-style beers although here you can find some American classics as well. With 16 beers on tap, there’s plenty to choose from!
For something more unique, try the ancient Steinbier alpine beer where the brewing process involves hot rocks and beechwood fire.
Location: 703 Pine St, Burlington, VT 05401
Ben & Jerry’s
No trip to Vermont would be complete without making a stop at a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop. This iconic ice cream chain was started in Burlington, Vermont in 1978 and now has become a major attraction.
While the original store is no longer there anymore, you can grab a delicious waffle cone, sundae, or a shake from the Ben & Jerry’s store that’s located at the Church Street Marketplace.
For the ultimate Ben & Jerry’s experience visit the original Waterbury Factory that’s located near Stowe. Here you can try out a scoop (or two, or three – we won’t judge!) of fresh ice cream right out of the factory. With friendly staff, a unique selection of ice cream flavors, and a fun atmosphere, a visit to the Ben & Jerry’s Factory will make you feel like a kid again!
Pssst! Read this next – 15 Incredible Things To Do In Stowe, Vermont!
While usually, breweries are what attract visitors for evening drinks, during your time in Burlington be sure to stop by the Citizen Cider tasting room.
What started in 2011 as a small weekend project by three friends, has over the years turned into one of the largest cider operations in Vermont.
With apples that are sourced from local farmers and freshly pressed for fermentation, Citizen Cider makes cider beverages that not only taste fresh but also add unique and interesting flavors to the table.
At the Citizen Cider location in Burlington, you can try out a flight of their best tasting ciders and enjoy dinner at their hip restaurant that’s attached to the factory.
They also sell a great selection of ciders to-go if you want to take a few back to your hotel. With such a great selection of drinks, it’s easy to see why Citizen Cider is considered one of the best hard cideries in Vermont!
Location: 316 Pine St #114, Burlington, VT 05401
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South End Arts District
South End Arts District is a trendy neighborhood in Burlington that extends along Pine Street and is lined with hip restaurants, coffee shops, galleries, and breweries. This is where you will find fantastic places to eat, drink, and charming boutique shops to browse through.
For decades, as a port town, Burlington was the prime location for manufacturing. But as the industrial boom settled down, many of the factory buildings were abandoned and left empty.
In recent years local businesses have been moving into the South End Arts District, renovating these spaces and adding vibrant murals that are both unique and eye-catching. Now this neighborhood is buzzing full of boutique shops and has become quite the local arts hub.
Here are a few popular places to discover in the South End Arts neighborhood:
- The S.P.A.C.E. Gallery
Located in an old soda warehouse, this is a gallery that showcases local artwork. The S.P.A.C.E Gallery stands for Soda Plant Artist Collective Environment and is part of the economic revitalization project for the South End neighborhood. Here local artists have a designated place to showcase and create art while also making it accessible to the public for viewing by hosting monthly exhibits at the gallery. Since its inception in 2009, this gallery has crated 18 artist studios and growing.
- Burlington Farmers Market
On Saturdays between 9:00 am to 2:00 pm browse through the Burlington Farmers Market that takes place between the months of May to October. Here you’ll find the best products created by local Vermont artisans from pastries, and cheeses to crafts, art, and the famous Vermont maple products.
- Myer’s Bagel Bakery
If you’re looking for a quick, cheap breakfast, Myer’s Bagels is that spot! Considered to be one of the best bagel shops in the US by Epicurious, Myer’s Bagels serves handmade, wood-fired Montreal style bagels. For around $7 you can get a premium bagel stuffed full of smoked lox from Maine. For something more interesting try The Henchman that comes with a fried egg, brie cheese, ham, bacon, tomatoes, and pea sprouts topped with sriracha sauce.
- Lake Champlain Chocolates Factory Store
At the southern part of this district, you can find Lake Champlain Chocolates, a factory that has been handcrafting local gourmet chocolates for over 35 years. Here you can explore the equipment used to make chocolates and shop through the drool-worthy chocolate store for souvenirs and gift boxes to bring back home.
- Arts Riot
At the center of South End Arts District is Arts Riot, an industrial yet funky music venue that also often hosts events and food trucks. Here you can enjoy a music show or grab dinner at their restaurant that’s best known for its unique food menu and a wide selection of drink choices.
World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet
Enjoy quirky, artsy things? Stop by the World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet structure for a unique take on office cabinets. This is a quick attraction that is easily accessible all day long. You can park and walk next to the stacked cabinets or see it from the car.
The World’ Tallest cabinet consists of 38 drawers that are stacked on top of each other into a towering pile and welded together. The cabinets over the years have rusted but it’s still quite the sight!
This project was created by Bren Alvarez in 2002, a local Vermont artist who wanted to represent the bureaucracy of Burlington. Each drawer stands for a year of paperwork delays that have prevented the construction of a local road – which to this date has not yet been started.
Location: 220 Flynn Ave, Burlington, VT 05401
One of my favorite parts about visiting new places is trying local eateries. At August First Bakery & Cafe you can enjoy a breakfast meal with delicious ingredients and freshly baked bread. The only dilemma is choosing which item to order (hint: try the avocado toast with a fried egg).
August First is a café that’s located in a renovated garage and attracts locals and visitors alike with its cozy, welcoming atmosphere and delicious coffee. It offers plenty of outdoor seating if you want to enjoy people watching or grab a breakfast item to-go before heading out on an adventure.
The name August First comes from a local Vermont poet Hayden Carruth who wrote of simpler times and warm summer evenings spent with his first love.
Location: 149 S Champlain St, Burlington, VT 05401
Day Trip To Stowe
Located at the base of Mount Mansfield, Stowe has been a year-round destination since the 1800s. In September and October visitors from all over travel to Stowe to enjoy fall colors and when the trees turn bare and the first snowfalls, Stowe turns into a major destination for winter sports and activities.
If you’re visiting Burlington, there’s a strong chance that Stowe is also on your road trip itinerary. If it’s not, we highly recommend going on a day trip to Stowe!
- Tip: Stowe is located only 45-minutes from Burlington. You can get there by taking Highway 89 South and then turning left onto scenic Route 100/Waterbury Stowe Road.
Considered to be one of the best destinations in New England for fall foliage, the entire town in October turns to vibrant hues of oranges, yellows, and reds, like something out of a storybook. Stowe itself is quite small so even in a short time, there’s a lot that you can experience.
If you’re planning to venture out to Stowe for the day, here are a few of our favorite places that we suggest for visitors:
- The Gondola SkyRide cable car ride
- Bingham Falls Trail
- Gold Brook Covered Bridge
- Cold Hollow Cider Mill
- Stowe Scenic Auto Road
Where To Stay
Based on our own experiences and research, we have selected some of the best places to stay in Burlington for visitors.
These vacation rentals and hotels are within a walking distance or a short Uber ride from the main downtown Burlington amenities like breweries, restaurants, museums, and other attractions.
Best For Families – Downtown Burlington Home
The Downtown Burlington Home is a cozy vacation rental in a vibrant neighborhood that’s located just a short walk from the Church Street Marketplace. This Burlington VRBO has three bedrooms and sleeps up to 6 people. It features a spacious living room and a full kitchen that’s perfect for travelers seeking a homey stay.
Out on the backyard you will find a grill, a place to enjoy outdoor meals and its own private hot tub.
Rates average $360/night. Click here to learn more!
Best For Couples – Downtown Burlington Wellness Suite
The Wellness Suite is nestled south of Burlington’s Downtown and offers an excellent place to stay for traveling duos. This vacation rental is recently renovated with beautiful, modern pieces that are made of natural materials.
This apartment also comes equipped with a private deck, gas fireplace, and wellness amenities like filtered shower water and filtered air.
Rates average $195/night. Click here to learn more!
Best For Budget Travelers – Double Tree By Hilton
The DoubleTree by Hilton offers an affordable yet comfortable place to stay in Burlington for those who want to have all the best amenities like on-site restaurants, a pool, and a gym, without spending a pretty penny. This is where we stayed and we highly recommend it for couples and budget travelers.
This property also features an indoor courtyard, a business center, and views of the mountains from the rooms.
Best Downtown Stay – Hotel Vermont Burlington
Located at the center of the Church Street Marketplace, Hotel Vermont Burlington is a stunning hotel that’s perfect for style chasers. The rooms are decorated with contemporary artwork and modern amenities.
Within a short walk you can reach all of Burlington’s best downtown eateries and the Waterfront Park. Free bicycle rentals are also available.
For those seeking a remote cabin stay, check out these incredible Airbnb’s in Stowe for a cozy escape to Northern Vermont!
Looking for more travel inspiration? Here are some of our other popular posts that you may like:
- 15 Incredible Things To Do In Stowe, Vermont
- 15 Wonderful Things To Do In The Adirondack Mountains In Fall
- Hiking Indian Head Trail In Adirondack Mountains
- The 10 Best VRBOs in the Adirondack Mountains, New York
Interested in how I capture amazing photos on my trips? Here is the camera gear that I use to create my photos:
- Main camera: Sony a7II Camera With 28-70 mm Standard Lens
- Polarizer Filter for the standard lens (helps eliminate reflection and enhance color especially on super bright days): Amazon Basics 55 mm
- Wide Lens (great for nature shots): Sony 16-35 mm F4
- Polarizer Filter for the wide lens: Amazon Basics 72 mm
- Small Tripod (to stabilize photos and eliminate blur): JOBY Gorrilapod
- Memory Cards: SanDisk 32 GB
- Batteries: Sony Camera Charger Set
- Camera Bag: Lowepro weather-resistant bag
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