We’re clearly biased, given our Vermont roots, but we’d call Burlington a New England urban gem. With all the things to love in a small city (live music, art galleries, yummy eating, people watching), and plenty of outdoor opportunities, the Queen City makes it easy to fill your dance card with a hearty mix of culture and adventure. Here’s the Ibex Guide to six hours in Burlington, Vermont.
If you’re coming in from the south on Route 7, take a quick detour to Red Rocks Park right before you hit Burlington. With four miles of wide, wooded trails (and lots of views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks) to explore, you can knock out an easy hour of running before you head into the city. Dirtbag Bonus: you won’t need to do the baby wipe/change at your car routine, there are swimming spots AND bathrooms for clean up.
At the southern end of the city’s 8-mile multi-use bike path, Oak Ledge Park is a wooded oasis with trails, a playground, picnic shelters, and two separate swimming areas. Cruise to the top of the parking area to find a rocky beach surrounded by cliffs— with the breeze coming off the lake and nothing to do but watch the sailboats, you might eat up a whole afternoon in this peaceful spot.
Right around mile 2 of the bike path you’ll find Local Motion’s Trailside Center where the friendly staff rent bikes and dole out all kinds of useful info about the human-powered transportation options in and around the city. You’ll find maps, guides, and a pump/tool stand for community use. Stop in just to say hi, you’ll love supporting this non-profit that’s dedicated to health and recreation for everyone.
A perfect place to recover from your afternoon workout, Waterfront Park has lots of green for sunbathing, snacking, and (we won’t tell anyone) a little snooze. The park is on the city’s famous bike path and is just a stone’s throw from the popular maple creamee stand. It’s also right next to Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center that produces all kinds of neat interactive exhibits, tours, and science education classes that are fun for all ages of kids, even the grown up ones.
Just a few miles north of the city center, you’ll find North Beach’s campground and recreation area. With a sandy expanse for swimming, bathrooms, and plenty of shaded picnic tables for impromptu picnics, this park can give you a (cool) break from the bustle of Church Street.
Located in a preserved 1950s diner, El Cortijo is a Burlington treat. Saddle up to the original bar complete with spinning stools for delicious farm-to-table burritos, tacos, and, of course, killer homemade guacamole served with warm tortilla chips. Pair with on-tap Vermont brews of world renown or a locally made ginger beer if that’s more your fancy.
Art on the walls, potted herbs on the windowsills, and a bulletin of community events by the cash register, the Skinny Pancake takes their slogan of “love local” seriously. The happy staff serves up plates and plates of crepes with savory or sweet tasty toppings. With specialties like fried chicken, potatoes, and slaw, or “PB and Bee,” (honey, banana, and peanut butter) there’s no shortage of great options. Enjoy your crepes on their sunny patio that overlooks Lake Champlain, which tends to be warmer.
Looking for an afternoon pick-me-up? Drop by New Moon for coffee or calories to combat the post-workout lull. Chances are if you come in for a latte, you’ll probably leave with some freshly pressed juice, a signature “cupcake kiss,” or one of their organic salads. Even if you don’t have any dietary restrictions, you might just be tempted by one of their tasty vegan or gluten free creations.
Whether you’re getting served on the patio out front, grabbing burgers at the full service outdoor bar, or sitting down in one of their cushy booths, you’re guaranteed to snag a fabulous meal at the Farmhouse Tap and Grill. Their menu is a mix of familiar favorites and fresh new combinations like rosemary maple nuts or a pork burger with kimchi and a fried egg. If you time it right, you might just get lucky enough to catch a night of live music or a celebration of local food, wine, or beer makers. Bonus: the best beer list in the state.
A trip to Burlington isn’t complete without a swing through the Ski Rack’s expanse gear-lover’s paradise. In business for over 40 years, the Ski Rack employs a staff of butt-kicking athletes who know their stuff. If you’re looking for a new bike, some shorts that don’t chafe, or just a killer energy bar, they’re guaranteed to have a (knowledgeable) opinion.
While you’re nosing around the city, be sure to check out the claim to fame Outdoor Gear Exchange consignment basement. Well stocked from the city’s robust population of outdoor fanatics, you’ll be sure to find some gems. From tents to clothes to shoes to stoves, they’ve got all the (new and used) goods your little gear-nerd heart desires. Added benefit: the laid-back staff often bring their adorable dogs to work.
Hang out on Church Street. The open air market attracts a steady stream of worthy people watching subjects allowing for a break between visits to shops diverse and unique. Bonus: Ben & Jerry’s is half way up the street.
Six hours goes by in a flash in Burlington. There’s much, much more to Vermont’s most populous locale that above and the laundry list of our favorite spots near by from the Petra Cliffs indoor climbing gym to the Cochran’s Ski Area in nearby Richmond can stretch on for days. The above, however, is the start, a place to begin in the town that celebrates our blending of life inside and out, mountain and village.