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Best Things to do in Burlington, VT

things to do in burlington

If you’ve ever heard of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream or tales about the lake monster called Champ, then you’ll recognize the name Burlington, Vermont. Yet this sleepy New England regional city has a lot more that’s worth seeing than urban legends and hippy inventions… Here is the ultimate bucket list for the best things to do in Burlington -when you finally get there.

Treat your taste buds to the best treats around town

Ben & Jerry’s might have made a name for Burlington, but sweets aren’t the only treat in town. If you’re looking for casual to fine dining, here are some picks that truly give you a satisfying example of that Burlington is best known for.

Bistro De Margo

What couldn’t be more romantic than a contemporary French restaurant that really delivers a fine dining experience? Their menu includes many French options you seldom see in the US and further provides vegetarian and vegan options as well. Their wine list is superb, along with friendly and informative staff and owners from Bistro De Margo.

Trattoria Delia

If authentic Italian suits your taste, then Trattoria Delia brings you the traditional flavors from southern Italy and the Tuscan region. This is romantic dining that provides vegetarian and vegan specialties among a wide array of genuine Italian cuisine entrees. Even if you aren’t a major fan of Italian food, the service and menu options will absolutely change your mind.

Penny Cluse Cafe

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then Penny Cluse Cafe is the answer to all of your needs. They provide the ultimate cafe experience with bright and friendly staff and an American menu that checks all the marks. All your favorite dietary options can be found here at prices that are very reasonable with outstanding portions for any hearty eater.

Hen of the Wood

Here’s the perfect answer for any dinner or late-night bite that delivers a well-rounded dining experience with great American menu classics. They also feature selections that include amazing fish and seafood options too. It’s the ultimate gastro bistro pub setting with a great staff that’s on hand to meet all of your dietary needs. If you’ve caught the late-night movie or are looking for a place to grab some late supper, Hen of the Wood is your best choice.

Forget monster hunting and elevate your mind

Science and discovery of the arts can combine into incredible afternoons when you visit Burlington. Now you can bring back more than a fuzzy picture from Lake Champlain to show what really exists in this part of Vermont.

The Fleming Museum of Art

While it’s not the biggest museum in Burlington, this eclectic array of art can be found at the University of Vermont. There is a generous variety of exhibits from all over the world with mixed ancient artifacts that will spark your sense of curiosity. The price of admission is very reasonable and you’ll find many famous pieces by noted artists you wouldn’t expect to see in a museum of this size.

ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center

If you have little ones, this is a great place to get them interested in science. While it’s more of a discovery center for kids, there are many interactive exhibits for adults to enjoy. They also feature large aquariums full of local fish that are living in the adjoining lake. Since it’s right next to the waterfront of Lake Champlain, this is a great way to spend more than a couple of hours before your next round of entertainment for the day.

While it’s not the biggest museum in Burlington, this eclectic array of art can be found at the University of Vermont. There is a generous variety of exhibits from all over the world with mixed ancient artifacts that will spark your sense of curiosity. The price of admission is very reasonable and you’ll find many famous pieces by noted artists you wouldn’t expect to see in a museum of this size.

Burlington City Arts Center

If you didn’t know, this is located in the historic Ethan Allen Firehouse and has a continual array of exhibits that change pretty often. It’s a mixture of pop culture, experimental media, and diverse art installations. There are interactive exhibits that are always worth checking out beforehand to get further involved in something off-the-wall. Since the exhibits change so often, you’ll need to call ahead to see what is offered at the time of your visit.

Frog Hollow Craft Center

This is not exactly a museum but one of the premier spots to see work from local artists that create original pieces that are actually for sale! There is no admission fee and the work featured can be hit or miss, but the opportunity to spot something amazing is what discovery is all about. If you love to collect art, this will be a rare piece of Vermont artistry that you’ll be proud to check out and offers prices that are very reasonable for something original.

What’s really brewing in Burlington?

Some well-crafted spirits are just waiting to be discovered in this city. Here is your chance to find out what makes Burlington brewers so special and perhaps bring some of that bottled magic home with you.

Queens Park Brewery

Here is an option if you’re into beer-tasting and microbrewery settings. What is interesting is that across the street is another brewery called Zero Gravity that you can visit if you’re into a Brewery (pub crawl feeling)… Many types of European brews aren’t your typical American tastes which makes the experience feel more intercontinental.

Citizen Cider

If you live on the east coast, then you’ll know that making cider is a craft all within itself. Citizen Cider is a fun place to visit on hot afternoons to sample many different kinds of locally crafted ciders from all over Vermont and within Burlington. They also have great snacks like chicken wings, poutine, and tacos which are a great palate cleanser. This is an excellent venue choice if you enjoy cider flights.

Shelburne Vineyard

Perhaps you enjoy the rustic allure of a local tasting room where you can experience many wine flavors. Not the best choice for colder months, so warmer seasons are recommended at this Vineyard getaway. They also offer charcuterie boards of meats and cheeses with indoor and outdoor settings you can request upon a reservation beforehand. This is also a great location to bring larger groups of friends together for an afternoon of wine flights and cheese.

Dedalus Wine Bar

This is a great mixture of wine bar restaurant and wine store all in one! It’s an experience that can become a seasonal retreat for those who love fine wine and great service. If you end up having a top 10 list of the best things to do in Burlington, this should be on your repeat list each year. You can even bring your favorite bottle (or two) of wine home with you from their store.

Enjoy the amazing outdoor beauty

You don’t need to be an avid outdoors person to enjoy the sights that make Burlington so memorable. When the weather is in your favor, you’ll need to check out these terrific local destinations for a bit of relaxation and sightseeing.

Battery Park

Originally, this scenic view was the military campsite for the War of 1812 that was handed over to the city of Burlington in 1870. Now it has become a 14-acre park that overlooks Lake Champlain and features year-round events that are ideal for all nature-loving visitors. It’s a great spot for free summer concerts and ice skating in the winter. If you appreciate American splendor, this park will take you back to those glory days of what public parks should be like.

North Beach Park

This is only a 10-15 minute drive from downtown and is among the best private beaches that offer amazing beachside views of Lake Champlain. The parking fee is only $10 per car and has plenty of space for picnics, camping, and full-service beach amenities. You can find clean restrooms, a small restaurant, and lakeside kayak and paddle board rentals but the awe-inspiring sunsets are 100% free!

Oakledge Park and Beach

If you like light hiking and trail walking, Oakledge offers stunning views of Lake Champlain that can take you down to the beachside for a beach stroll. There is no shortage of picnic tables, BBQ grills, bathrooms, and even tennis and volleyball courts included too. As an added bonus, there is an adult-sized tree house to climb and grassy fields to pass the time. Parking is only $2 per car but you can easily ride your bike to this location from downtown within 10 minutes.

Red Rocks Park

This is one of the most unusual parks in south Burlington since it features shaded tree walking paths and rolling terrain. The hiking trails don’t take more than an hour to navigate and the views of the lake are more stunning as you clear the forest paths. Although there is a recommended gate fee to enter the park, this is one of the few that you’ll find that does not a drop box that’s easy to find.

On a side note- finding a public restroom at Red Rocks is also even harder to find, so be aware that this park is ‘roughing it’ for the most part.