Where to Stay in Burlington Vermont?
Put your feet up and get cozy. All photos by Tiffany J. Davis.
The scene in Burlington is a mix of classic Vermont (scenic hikes and sporty action) and modern charm (artisan crafts, farmer-run eateries, and local microbreweries). And it's absolutely worth a few days.
BURLINGTON, Vermont – If a sleepy college town grew up, had a few adorable kids, and still found energy to shop organic, cross-country ski in the winter and hike in the summer, and patronize the local cocktail bar scene, it would look a lot like Burlington, Vermont.
Just five hours by car from New York (45 minutes by air) and three and a half hours from Boston, Burlington is an endearing mix of University of Vermont co-eds, New England weekenders, and locals pulling kid-packed little red wagons up, down, and around quaint downtown Church Street square.
The beer scene is slamming. Gorgeous Lake Champlain is just down the hill. And many of the coolest spots in town are run and staffed by second- and third-generation farmers and Vermont craftspeople. Here's how to make the most of just a few days there — and plenty reason to extend your stay.
The sleepy streets of Burlington.
Details around Hotel Vermont. Bottom photo courtesy of Hotel Vermont.
WHERE TO STAY
All the cool kids bunk (and hang out) at Hotel Vermont. The rooms are intuitively eco: modular panels slide to become room dividers or closet doors depending on your preference, and door locks activate custom energy-saving light and thermostat settings when you enter and exit. In the downstairs lobby, you'll find a cozy, oversize fireplace, rentable sporting gear (snow shoes in the winter; bikes and canoes in warmer months), and plenty of room to stretch out with a DIY bloody mary or hot cocoa. Come weekend, guests and locals converge for live singer-songwriter jam sessions and apothecary classes led by angel-faced activities coordinator Cassie Marion. Marion, a UV co-ed, is a local rowing, biking, and outdoors enthusiast who spouts off funny stories as easily as she ferries skittish snowshoe newbies across a popping, cracking frozen lake. (Ahem.)
Apothecary class equipment at Hotel Vermont.
Butcher in action at Hen of the Wood.
WHERE TO EAT
The candlelight and wee hours bar scene at next door eatery Hen of the Wood will beckon you from the street. Give in to the call and make sure to slip back past the bar and peer through windows built into the subway-tiled kitchen walls. Linger over the expert butchering and shucking that will end with plates of rabbit loin, roasted veggies, and oysters on your happy table.
The Farmhouse Tap & Grill feels like the kind of place you'd order a burger on reflex. And you totally should — it's really good. But the kitchen also serves a specialty menu with a local bent: Vermont cheddar ale, winter roots salad, and house-pressed apple/carrot/ginger juice.
If you've got a whole day to do the local food scene, book a tour with Dig In Vermont food adventures, a network of specialty farm tours offering tastes of everything from milk to maple syrup.
It's easy to spend the day working your way through the list at Citizen Cider.
WHERE TO BEER
Brewery culture is a total thing in Burlington. Hotel Vermont's resident beer concierge Matt Canning was my suds sherpa. He's happy to point visitors in the right direction or lead a private group tour. Go ahead, ask me about the hops. I know everything now.
Locals take farm-to-table pride to a whole new level. At Zero Gravity Craft Brewery, it feels like homegrown reverence, from the wall art (which pays homage to local farmers) to the egg-topped pizzas from adjacent American Flatbread (where cheese and produce toppings hail from a handful of farms just a few miles away) to the open view of the working, whirring, brewing room (where they process hops from start to glass).
Follow Pine Street away from downtown and you'll hit South End Arts District hangout Citizen Cider, where the cute, friendly staff and the quirky brews (The Dirty Mayor, bRosé, and The Full Nelson) will have you grinning before the first sip. Call ahead to book the tasting room — or just come early to grab a people-watching spot at one of the locally made communal farm tables. Regulars make a Sunday of it — mingling, snacking on moules frites, and casually flirting and chatting the day away.
Lake Champlain in the summertime. Photo courtesy of Hotel Vermont.
WHAT TO DO
Play on the Lake
People come to Burlington for Lake Champlain. From downtown, walk down the hill (it's fun going down and a mini-hike heading back up) for waterfront walking paths, cross-country skiing, spring/summer rowing and boating, and swimming docks. Book and rent everything — sailing lessons to canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, and waterfront yoga sessions — at Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center. (A local bus loop will bring you back up after a hard day of play. Wait for it in front of the entrance to Echo Lake Aquarium and Aquatics Center.)
Danger means nothing to an experienced snowshoer.
An afternoon winter walk on Lake Champlain.
It's all happening on the ice.
If you're here in the winter, rent clip-in snowshoes at Hotel Vermont (they're free to guests) and push off from the shore break just below the Lake Street walking path. Experienced snowshoers will tell you that the cracking and popping noises are a good thing. It means that the ice is expanding, not that you're going to perish into the depths of a frozen lake. That may take some time to sink in. (Excuse the use of "sink.") While it does, distract yourself with jaw-dropping vistas of the New York state shoreline and rolling hills across the lake or a stop by the famed seasonal Ice Shanty to chat up the local chefs who are fishing, sipping beers, and trading funny stories from the night before.
On the shelves at Lumaroma.
Shop the Apothecary
Two walls of natural beauty guru Leyla Bringas's Lunaroma are dedicated to touching, sniffing, and feeling her hand-sourced ingredients and essential oils. Choose your potions according to healing properties and benefits (scents to boost optimism and mental clarity) or specific needs (pregnant belly cream, handmade mint oil toothpicks). Bringas also stocks beautiful gifts like books and hand-painted lunar calendars that she'll ship to your home for you.