36 Hours in Burlington, Vt. (2024)

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Recommendations Itinerary

36 Hours

By Kristina Samulewski

36 Hours in Burlington, Vt. (1)

36 Hours

Burlington, Vt.

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Recommendations

Itinerary

By Kristina SamulewskiPhotographs by Caleb Kenna

Sep. 7, 2023

Kristina Samulewski works on audio productions at The New York Times and has lived in Burlington on-and-off for the past 10 years.

Sitting on Lake Champlain and framed by the Green Mountains and New York’s Adirondacks, Burlington — Vermont’s most populous city, at just under 45,000 residents — draws visitors for its natural beauty, farm-to-table food scene and progressive sensibility. Among the long-time producers and makers (many of whom appear at the city’s Saturday farmers’ market, which relocated in recent years), Burlington has a crop of new bars, cafes and wellness experiences, including a lakefront sauna. The city is also a jumping-off point to discover gems in neighboring Addison County, and to explore the Lake Champlain region, which is an almost sacred experience in fall, when the landscape unfurls into a spectacular temple.

Recommendations

Key stops

  • Burlington Farmers Market on Pine Street overflows with the best from Vermont makers, farmers and craftspeople.
  • Yates Family Orchard, on a ridge in Monkton, offers stunning views for the most idyllic fall apple-picking experience.
  • The Tillerman, in the town of Bristol, is a newly revived restaurant and inn serving wood-fired meals worth the 40-minute drive outside Burlington.
  • Foam Brewers, one of several local microbreweries in town, is where to enjoy live music while savoring a New England sunset.

Restaurants and bars

  • Shy Guy Gelato serves creamy, hand-crafted gelato with seasonal ingredients.
  • Devil Takes a Holiday is a romantic craft co*cktail bar.
  • Paradiso is a high-fidelity listening bar and restaurant that serves small plates inspired by Nordic cuisine.
  • Dedalus Wine Bar is an indie natural wine shop with an attached bar that pours sophisticated bottles.
  • Myer’s Wood Fired makes perfect Montreal-style bagels and breakfast sandwiches.
  • Minifactory is an all-day cafe and jam shop in rural Vermont.
  • Jones the Boy is a Bristol bakery with espresso drinks and maple lattes.
  • The Grey Jay serves Mediterranean-inspired brunch fare.

Attractions and outdoor activities

  • Raven Ridge Natural Area has a 2.4-mile hiking loop that rewards with vistas of Lake Champlain.
  • Savu has lakeside sauna boxes where you can sweat, then brave a cold plunge in the lake.
  • Church Street Marketplace is where to find Vermont-made goods and experience the heart of Burlington’s downtown.

Shopping

  • Silkworm sells a curated selection of vintage clothing from the 1970s onward.
  • Vermont HoneyLights specializes in 100-percent beeswax candles with funky shapes.
  • Island Girl Jewelry sells geometric jewelry inspired by Barbados.
  • Farmhouse Chocolates crafts organic dark chocolate confections.
  • Frog Hollow is a craft gallery that exhibits and sells work by local Vermont artisans and artists.
  • Common Deer is a woman-owned modern general store featuring goods made in the United States.

Where to stay

  • Hotel Vermont, steps from the waterfront, is stocked with local products, from the furniture to the soaps to the teas in your room. It also offers co*cktails made with Vermont spirits and live music at its Juniper Bar & Restaurant. Weekend fall rates start from $459 per night.
  • Blind Tiger Burlington is a boutique hotel in a historic brick mansion in Burlington’s South End neighborhood with weekend prices starting from $329 per night.
  • Lang House on Main Street is a quaint bed and breakfast in a gorgeous white Victorian home; weekend prices can start from $300.
  • For short-term rentals look in Burlington’s popular South End or Old North End neighborhoods, both walkable to downtown.

Getting around

  • Burlington is a small city, so you can easily get around by foot and bike. Rent bikes by the day from Local Motion on Steele Street, at the waterfront. For trips outside the city, you’ll need a car, which can be reserved at the Burlington International Airport. Car services like Uber and Lyft are also available in the city.

Itinerary

Friday

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4 p.m.Taste autumn in a cone

Ben & Jerry’s may be synonymous with Vermont, but it isn’t the only place to grab a cone. Down the street from City Hall Park, look for the Italian flag that marks Shy Guy Gelato. Paul Sansone, an owner and native Vermonter, has churned gelato here since 2016, after learning the craft in Italy. Six flavors change daily, and autumnal favorites may include cider doughnut or sweet potato crunch. Take your cone ($6) and follow Maple Street, dotted with historic homes, to Perkins Pier, where a sweeping view of Lake Champlain and New York’s Adirondack Mountains, about 12 miles across the lake, greets you. From there, walk 10 minutes north on the beloved eight-mile Burlington Greenway — a bicycle and walking path initiated in 1985 by then-mayor Bernie Sanders — to Waterfront Park, where visitors stroll the boardwalk and enjoy lakefront views.

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36 Hours in Burlington, Vt. (4)

5 p.m.Sip tropical I.P.A.s while catching a New England sunset

Since Vermont is regularly ranked as the state with the most breweries per capita, a trip to its largest city requires a brewery visit. Just behind Waterfront Park, Foam Brewers has more than 10 of its own beers on draft (from $5.50), which typically have tropical tasting notes like overripe mango or salted melon. Sit at the terrazzo-like stone bar top, which contains beach rocks from the Champlain shorelines collected by Foam’s brewmaster and his two daughters, and was constructed by a Vermont flooring company. At nights, the industrial-like space comes alive with touring and local live bands. When the sun starts to set, venture to the front garden and watch the Adirondacks slowly transform into a dark blue silhouette framed by streaks of pinks and oranges for a transcendent fall sunset.

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7 p.m.Have a sonic dinner experience

Paradiso, which opened in Burlington’s South End arts district last fall, is inspired by Japan’s jazz kissas, the cafes and bars intended for listening to jazz records. The modern dining room has a high-fidelity sound system that cycles through a collection of roughly 2,400 vinyl records, which lean heavily toward international music, jazz, funk and hip-hop. Check online for the weekly lineup of guest selectors; themed past sets have included “Beyoncé & Beyond” and “Afro Futurism.” The restaurant specializes in small plates that nod to Nordic and New England cuisines and preservation techniques: the barely cooked lamb ($20) is a play on tartare and uses preserved tomatillos from the summer, while the grilled baby gem lettuce ($16) has squash saved from the previous winter.

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Devil Takes a Holiday

8:30 p.m.Cap off the night with a fizz

Migrate next door to the candle-lit Dedalus Wine Bar, which pours exceptional bottles from small producers, mostly from France, Italy and the United States (glasses start from around $9). If you taste something you like, you can take it home (the bar has a retail shop that closes at 8 p.m., but staff can procure a to-go bottle for you after that). In downtown, 15 minutes away on foot, is the whimsical co*cktail bar, Devil Takes a Holiday. Take a seat at the white marble bar to experience co*cktails unique in both flavor and name, like the We Can’t Elope ($13) that blends cantaloupe with gin, lemon, mint and agave. Or sample the Agassi’s Mullet ($17), a Ramos gin fizz with egg white and cream that takes 10 minutes to craft with the bar’s shaker machine known as Sergio.

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Devil Takes a Holiday

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Burlington’s downtown is centered around Church Street Marketplace — a pedestrian mall closed to traffic since 1981 that spans four blocks and overflows with Vermont-based businesses, street performers and food carts.

Saturday

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9 a.m.Commune with Vermont farmers and makers

Beat the crowds and arrive at the Burlington Farmers Market right as it opens. The market was in City Hall Park, in the heart of downtown, since 1980, but it relocated to Pine Street in the quieter and arts-filled South End district in 2019. Peruse the more than 70 vendors: local artisans, farmers, distillers, bakers and makers, who embody Vermont geniality. You might meet the potter Claude Lehman, who has been making earth-toned glossy pitchers and bowls for more than 30 years, and grab a slice of Mexican chocolate babka bread ($4) or a coveted spicy plum-and-blue-cheese focaccia ($6) at Slowfire Bakery. Visit Barn First Creamery, where the owner Rebecca Velazquez has been milking goats and making cheeses for 10 years with her husband Merlin Backus, who manages the animals on their farm in Westfield. The market runs through the last weekend of October.

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36 Hours in Burlington, Vt. (11)

10 a.m.Grab a bagel inspired by a northern neighbor

From Pine Street, zip in the car up to Shelburne Road, a main thoroughfare where you’ll find Myer’s Wood Fired. The cafe specializes in Montreal-style bagels, which are smaller and thinner; don’t let size deceive you, the popular 408 ($8) — fried egg and housemade chorizo with red onion, avocado, cheddar and sriracha — is its own meal. Satiated, begin a 30-minute journey driving south on one of Vermont’s most beautiful roads: Route 116. The two-lane rural road weaves through tiny villages, forested valleys and, if the season is right, bursting foliage, and highlights small local farms like Silver Street Alpaca Farm. Make a right on Silver Street and eventually reach the charming rural village, Monkton, at the foothills of the Green Mountains.

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36 Hours in Burlington, Vt. (13)

11:30 a.m.Visit ‘Dreamee’ land

Yates Family Orchard is a small family-run orchard on “the Ridge” — a ridgeline in Monkton’s northern end — that offers the idyllic fall Vermont experience: apple picking. You’ll leave here with a mixed bushel, as the orchard has 28 apple varieties across five acres ($1.95 per pound). Visitors are encouraged to spend as much time as they’d like at the orchard, so pack a blanket and plop yourself down among the trees as you bask in Adirondack views to the west and a view of the Bristol Valley to the east. At the farm stand, order your Dreamee ($6.50), a hot cider doughnut — each made to order — with Vermont-maple soft-serve ice cream, which Vermonters call “creemees.”

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1 p.m.Eat jammy biscuits

Drive 15 minutes south to Bristol, a trendy pocket of Addison County with a number of new artisan shops and eateries. Minifactory, a modern cafe by V Smiley, who is known for her popular honey-sweetened preserves, serves fluffy brioche sandwiches, silky housemade yogurt and herbaceous salads. The griddle buttermilk biscuit ($8.95) is lathered in cultured cream cheese and the owner’s latest jam creation, and the smashed potatoes ($12) pair caramelized tomatoes with a poached egg; round it out with maple sausage ($3). Relax in one of the cafe’s sunny yellow chairs next to the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Main Street, a single block of brightly colored, historic buildings framed by mountain peaks. The dining room’s wall mural depicts Bristol Village circa 1910 — a town landscape that looks nearly the same more than 100 years later.

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Vermont HoneyLights

2 p.m.Shop for beeswax candles

Take some time to pop into Bristol’s inviting shops. At Silkworm, mine a trove of funky vintage statement pieces like moto jackets, hand-knit sweaters and pretty lingerie, nearly all from the 1970s onward. Stop into Vermont HoneyLights for a 100-percent beeswax candle made from local bees, choosing from iconic votives and food shapes, like an artichoke or cauliflower. At Island Girl Jewelry, Audrey Beckwith designs geometric earrings and bangles reminiscent of Barbados, where she worked for a period in her husband’s family jewelry business. On Mountain View Street, grab a fennel-pollen-and-strawberry chocolate bar (yes, that exists) from Farmhouse Chocolates ($8) and then end your village tour at Jones the Boy, a bakery, where you can sample a maple latte ($5), one of Vermont’s quintessential beverages.

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Vermont HoneyLights

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3:30 p.m.Take a fall hike

Drive back up Bristol Road for a short hike with a large payoff. Raven Ridge Natural Area is a preserve with a 2.4-mile trail that begins on a boardwalk path through wetlands and cattail marshes and deposits you on a forested loop with cliffs, caves and ridgetop inclines. The view at the top overlooks the Champlain Valley region, an area originally inhabited by the Abenaki, an Algonquian people. They refer to Lake Champlain as Pitawbagw, which means “the waters between.” Find birds, ravens and salamanders along the paved trail, which at its toughest has moderate rocky inclines but is easily accomplished with children. Just before the loop finishes, walk down a few stone steps to see “the Oven” — an unusual geological formation of arched rocks that resembles a pizza oven.

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36 Hours in Burlington, Vt. (19)

6 p.m.Dine in a fairytale inn

The Tillerman, an old restaurant and inn just a five-minute drive from downtown Bristol, was reopened by new owners in 2021. Jason Kirmse and Kate Baron, two California transplants, have transformed the 1797 farmhouse into a cozy, sophisticated and design-centric space. Until the end of October, the lawn is open for visitors to enjoy drinks, bar snacks, a firepit and games. But stay for the full experience and have dinner in one of the three dining rooms, each outfitted with fireplaces that are lit when temperatures drop, and adorned by colorful still lifes and figurative paintings by Ms. Baron’s mother, Torrey Baron. Many locally grown ingredients on the chef Justin Wright’s ever-changing menu make their way through the open kitchen’s wood-fired oven; crisp-crust pizzas (from $25) are a fixed feature and use flour from Elmore Mountain Bread, a mill in Wolcott. Reservations for dinner are encouraged.

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36 Hours in Burlington, Vt. (21)

New York’s Adirondack Mountains can be seen across Lake Champlain. The Abenaki, an Algonquian people and one of the region’s original inhabitants, refer to the lake as Pitawbagw, which means “the waters between.”

Sunday

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9 a.m.Sweat with a view

Nature and wellness go hand-in-hand in Burlington, a town surrounded by water and mountains. Savu, a private lakefront sauna experience off the bike path in the South End is a way to experience nature’s healing powers, even when the autumn chill sets in. Guests may book one of the two black sauna boxes, which can each accommodate up to six people ($65 per hour for two people; each additional person is $30). The modern saunas are constructed from Vermont wood and feature expansive windows for enjoying an exclusive lake view. Dip in and out of the sauna boxes and the shared cold plunge tub — or if you’re bold enough, jump into the lake. Relax in the Adirondack chairs outside, and repeat. Be sure to book well in advance.

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11 a.m.Settle in for a Turkish brunch

Cleansed from the sauna, arrive hungry at the Grey Jay, which opened in 2022 as the sister restaurant to the James Beard-nominated Honey Road. A number of beloved Burlington brunch spots have recently closed (R.I.P. Penny Cluse), leaving the Mediterranean fare at the Grey Jay to steal the show. Start with the tahini iced coffee ($6) and the fun-to-pull-apart maple and fenugreek glazed fritter ($6). End with the Mezze Breakfast ($32), a tower of three plates that overflows with dips, seasonal local fruit, Tunisian deviled eggs, a housemade grapefruit-sumac marmalade and mana’eesh — focaccia-style bread drizzled with olive oil and za’atar.

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Common Deer

12:30 p.m.Go to Church … Street

Burlington’s downtown is centered around Church Street Marketplace — a pedestrian mall closed to traffic since 1981 that spans four blocks and overflows with Vermont-based businesses, street performers and food carts. The marketplace was inspired by Copenhagen’s car-free shopping street, Strøget. Stop into the crafts gallery, Frog Hollow, to see exhibitions by local artists and artisans. You can also purchase works: The Vermont folk artist dug Nap captures the state’s idiosyncrasies with his colorful prints that read “University of Brrrmont” and “Kale is the New Carrot” (from $25). Dip into the family-owned Common Deer on College Street, a curated shop of American-made goods with a special eye for Vermont items: jewelry from Rackk & Ruin (from $65), minimalist ceramic mugs by Rory Pots ($50), Red House waxed canvas bags (from $108) and more.

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Common Deer

36 Hours in Burlington, Vt. (2024)
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