10 Fun Things To Do in Burlington, VT

Lake Champlain Burlington, Vermont.

A recent survey ranked Burlington, Vermont as one of the top emerging cities in the US due to its leadership in sustainability and its rich food culture. Named the Queen City 150 years ago due to its position as the most populated, political and economic leader in the New England colonies; Burlington has always had an incredibly diverse and delicious locally grown and made culinary industry which far outpaces others.

But in recent years, even more food businesses have opened locally and the city has become home to a food movement that is bringing together producers and customers through communication. Notable are its Intervale Food Hub which delivers produce weekly which it sources from many local farms, and the Eat by Northeast food festival which encourages foodies to feast with food entrepreneurs, food-justice nonprofits, and farmers so that everyone can talk about how food moves best from local farms to tables.

Burlington is also an exemplar of sustainable energy use, as Vermont moves toward its goal of using renewable resources to provide 90% of its energy use by 2050. The Queen City is the first in the country to operate completely on renewable energy. Burlington is a culinary delight and a historical treasure situated within some of the most beautiful countryside in New England.

1. Experience Ft. Ticonderoga

Ft. Ticonderoga

Ft. Ticonderoga is called America’s Fort. There is something special every day at the fort. There are daily tours led by engaging historians, musket demonstrations, the 1777 Fall of Ticonderoga Living History Event with fife and drum concert on the Parade Ground, a cannon demonstration, and marching with the corp. There are museum exhibits, hands on activities, historical re-enactments with costumed soldiers and civilians, and much more. Corn maze, canoe rentals, lake cruises, the King’s Garden, Mount Defiance and great picnicking, dining and shopping, too.

Tickets start at $22.00 for Adults, Seniors $20.00, Children 5 to 12 $9.00 and Children under 4 are Free. These prices are for May 28 through September 18, 2016. Open 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM daily. Prices vary for other seasons of the year.


2. Eat, shop and be entertained at the Church Street Marketplace

Church Street Marketplace

This is the central spot for restaurants, street entertainers and shopping. It is a no vehicle zone where visitors can walk the cobbled street and see what’s happening that day. Highly recommended is Speeder & Earl’s and Uncommon Grounds for some of the real brew that has made Burlington famous for its coffee. For a Parisian flair, dine at Leunigs Bistro for local ingredients prepared with French style. A Bistro Dinner is $17.50 per person for early birds between 3 and 5:30pm.


3. Cruise on Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain

Taking a one-and-a-half-hour cruise on Lake Champlain is a great way to sight see and learn about the lake’s important role in transportation during the War of Independence. It was a strategic artery between Canada and the thirteen New England colonies. Taking one of the Scenic Narrated Cruises is fun for families as pizza is available to buy for the gang to enjoy while cruising. Special brunch, lunch and dinner theme cruises are also offered. Murder Mystery Thursdays and dancing nights are all part of the fun. The Daily Scenic Narrated Cruise costs $19.21 for Adults and $8.43 for children. Onboard snack bar service is available and there are four scenic cruise times daily. Other evening options are available at varied prices.


4. Satisfy a sweets craving at Lake Champlain Chocolates

Lake Champlain Chocolates

Burlington has been home to this company since 1983. The chocolates are made right on site with a craftsman’s approach, including patience, creativity and mastery. They craft their own chocolate from scratch, and that means from the bean to the car. They keep their honey bees to use in their chocolates. Even better, it’s a family owned company that has generations working together to produce the finest candy ever. The Chocolates of Vermont collection includes iconic designs inspired by Vermont’s nature, including sugar maple leaves, a moonlit lake, beehives with wildflowers and a majestic mountain. A taster pack of 4 pc is $6.00 and a 24 pc box is $39.00. A Signature Dark Chocolate Bar is just $4.00. There are plenty of other choices, and it’s possible to try just one piece, if temptation doesn’t win over.


5. Ride on the Green Mountain Railroad

Green Mountain Railroad

The Green Mountain Railroad is part of a privately owned rail system with five short line railroads. The railroad takes passengers on scenic tours and carries freight to local Vermont businesses. It is operated by three generations of expert railroaders. Though the schedule varies and is not frequent, the seasonal event trains and the short runs the train does make are something spectacular. There are trains which depart from Burlington and make stops along the route, with a layover and a return to Burlington. Most guests use the layover to have a nice meal. Very popular are the Fall Foliage rides and the holiday event rides. Tickets start at about $15 and vary based on event.


6. Discover the Ethan Allen Homestead

Ethan Allen Homestead

Ethan Allen is a Vermont folk hero. He began living on his Winooski River Intervale property in 1797 and remained there until he died in 1789. He was a leader of the Green Mountain Boys, and is probably known best as a Revolutionary War hero, leading the capture of Fort Ticonderoga from the British. He was one of the first Burlington residents when the region was a territory along the northern frontier of the colonies of New England.

Visitors to the Allen House step into the 18th century as living history docents lead tours. There are walking trails on the property and a gift shop. Adult Admission for General Tours is $8 per person, Children 4 to 12 are $5 per person and Children under 4 are free. Seniors and Vermont residents are $7 per person.


7. Have a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream


Ben and Jerry opened their very first ice cream shop in Burlington. The initial investment was $5 for a Penn State correspondence course about making ice cream, $4,000 borrowed funds, and an additional $8,000. They started out in 1978 in a gas station renovated to make their ice cream scoop shop. In 1979 they celebrated their first year of success by handing out free scoops of ice cream all day long. The Free Cone Day is a tradition that is observed still today. They rented space on South Champlain Street in an old spool and bobbin mill. They needed more space to pace pints for their delivery route. Ben drove his VW Squareback wagon to provide their pints to Mom & Pop stores, restaurants and groceries. Their third Burlington store opened on Cherry Street when the gas station was demolished to build a new parking lot. Find a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s on Church Street and Main Street. A single cup or cone costs about $5.25 or a bit more for waffle cones, sundaes and additional toppings.


8. Take in some Lake Creature sightings

Lake Creature sightings

When Samuel de Champlain spied a serpent measuring in at twenty feet, the stories of Champ, the Lake Champlain creature began. It was 1609 when he first saw the serpent in what is now Lake Champlain. The ECHO Leahy Center is the place to discover what scientists and biologists think about Champ’s existence. It’s also an amazing aquarium with a large variety of species on exhibit, plenty of fun animal demos and feedings and curated programs. At night, it becomes a gathering spot for the over 21 crowd to learn the science and flavors of mixed drinks. There’s something new going on all the time at this interactive place.

Adult General Admission is $14.50, Seniors & Students is $12.50, Children ages 3 to 17 is $11.50, and Toddlers ages 2 and under are free. There is a small parking fee for the lot behind the center, and the Theater charges an extra fee of $3. There’s also a gift shop and café. The center is open every day from 10am to 5pm except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.


9. Tour the Queen City on a bicycle

Cycle the City

Burlington is a city that is friendly to cyclists. The city’s goal is to reduce traffic, but for anyone who enjoys riding, there is a loop tour created by Local Motion called Cycle the City! The loop follows along the Winooski River and Lake Champlain, and also explores the city, viewing its three colleges, six parks and cultural and historic sites. The city has some steep hills, so the less enthusiastic should plan to cycle the loop segment that follows the lake. It’s also easy to rent bikes in the city. There are several bike shops which rent for the day. Local Motion is located on the bike trail, and the shop staff provides a wide range of bikes to suit different riding needs. The shop is also a source for snacks and beverages, and advice on where to ride.

Bike rentals are offered for different blocks of time. There are cheaper rates for kids. Adult Bikes cost $18 for an hour, $25 for 1 to 4 hours, $38 for 4 to 24 hours, and $25 for each additional day.


10. Feast on music and Fried Chicken Fridays


Right in downtown, Nectar’s is the place where Phish was launched. The landmark restaurant and live music venue is the place to go for hearing the best of the current music scene. Plan to go early on a Friday evening to tuck in some of the best Southern fried chicken served up home style. Nectar’s co-owner Jason Gelrud takes on chef duties, frying smaller batches so each on is loved and perfect. He usually sells out by 8pm, so arriving early is the best chance for having some. Gelrud makes his fried goodness with a buttermilk batter. For $14.50, a fried chicken dinner meal comes with maraconi and cheese and collard greens with pepper and smoked ham hocks.

Located on Main Street, Nectar’s restaurant and bar has the stage where thousands of music acts in genres ranging from rock to reggae. Fans come, listen, and enjoy the legendary lounge’s gravy fries. Nectar’s mission statement is “Fresh music served daily!”



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