15 Top Things to Do in Burlington, Vermont

Burlington Vermont at Sunset
Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

Burlington is Vermont’s largest city, but its youthful and independent attitude often makes it feel like an oversized quirky college town. The city is enviably located on New England's largest Lake and it's also a short drive away from the state's premier mountains for skiing, which makes the city the perfect launchpad for an adventurous getaway in Vermont. Within the city, you'll find plenty of entertainment, unique shopping opportunities, and distinct sights and activities that shouldn't be missed in the state capital.

01 of 15

Walk the Campus of the University of Vermont

University of Vermont campus in Burlington

Denis Tangney Jr. / Getty Images

Whether you're a prospective student or simply a fan of sprawling grassy lawns and historic buildings, the University of Vermont in Burlington is a nice place to spend an afternoon. Located on a hilltop overlooking the city, you can enjoy the 18th-century buildings and visit the free Fleming Museum of Art, which has a collection of over 20,000 pieces of artwork and historical artifacts. Fans of the performing arts should see what's on at the Royall Tyler Theatre, a historic theatre built in 1901 that features performances from university students.

Burlington, VT 05405, USA
Phone +1 802-656-3131
02 of 15

Visit a Maple Farm

Pouring the maple syrup taffy from the cauldron over cold snow

Marcduf / Getty Images

If you find yourself in Burlington when the sap is running, get yourself to a sugar shack or maple farm so you can try some of the best maple syrup you'll ever have. You can pick up a bottle to take home with you, or if the weather outside is frosty, try maple taffy, a sweet treat made by pouring hot syrup over tightly-packed snow. If you find yourself in Burlington outside of the sugaring season, you can still visit the Sugartree Maple Farm, which is open year-round and is just a short 15-minute drive from downtown.

787 Bradley Ln, Williston, VT 05495, USA
Phone +1 802-922-2870
03 of 15

Visit the Ben & Jerry Factory in Waterbury

Ben & Jerry's Factory Tours

TripSavvy / Kim Knox Beckius 

Just an hour's drive away from Burlington, the Ben & Jerry Factory is a must-see for anyone on their way in or out of the Vermont capital. Here, you'll not only learn the origin story of the ice cream makers but will also get to peer out over the production floor to see how the ice cream is made and packaged. However, the best part is the complimentary scoop of the flavor of the day given to every guest. Before leaving, make sure you also pay a visit to the flavor graveyard, where playful tombstones memorialize discontinued flavors.

1281 Waterbury-Stowe Rd Route 100, Waterbury Village Historic District, VT 05676, USA
Phone +1 802-337-1201
04 of 15

Take a Boat Trip on Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain Boat Tours in Burlington, Vermont
Denis Jr. Tangney / Getty Images
1 College St, Burlington, VT 05401-5015, USA
Phone +1 802-862-8300

The views of New York’s Adirondack Mountains to the west and Vermont’s Green Mountains to the east are reason alone to get out on Lake Champlain. Consider booking a cruise aboard the Spirit of Ethan Allen, which offers a regular schedule of scenic, dining, and themed excursions from mid-May through mid-October. The Lake Champlain Ferries runs trips from Burlington to Port Kent, New York; these are a leisurely way to experience the lake’s natural beauty.

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05 of 15

Shop and Dine at Church Street Marketplace

Church Street Marketplace Burlington, VT
Glenn Van Der Knijff / Getty Images
Burlington, VT 05401, USA

The Church Street Marketplace is Burlington’s lively, central, open-air shopping thoroughfare and it is home to more than 150 shops, kiosks, and restaurants. More than 70 percent of them are locally owned, so you won’t find the typical mall brands here. This is your place to shop for Vermont Flannel Company plaid shirts, Simon Pearce Vermont-blown glassware, Danforth Pewter handcrafted locally, and other unique local finds. When the weather’s warm, live music and street entertainers make the retail hub feel like a party.

06 of 15

Bike Along the Waterfront

Biking in Burlington on Lake Champlain

Dennis Curran / Vermont Dept. of Tourism and Marketing

1 Steele St #103, Burlington, VT 05401, USA
Phone +1 802-861-2700

In the heart of the city, you’ll find eight miles of paved bike path known as the Burlington Greenway, connecting parks along Lake Champlain’s shore. Bring your bike or rent one from the Local Motion shop. If you’re serious about exploring on two wheels, you’ll be happy to learn that Burlington sits in the middle of an unbelievable 1,600-mile network of bike paths in Vermont, New York, and Canada. The Lake Champlain Bikeways include 35 mapped routes from 10 to 60 miles in length.

07 of 15

Drink Locally Made Beer

Zero Gravity Craft Brewery Burlington

 Christopher Lehault/Flickr/CC BY-2.0

716 Pine St, Burlington, VT 05401-4922, USA
Phone +1 802-497-0054

Did you know Vermont has more breweries per capita than any other state in the nation? There are many opportunities to sample fresh, innovative craft beers in Burlington-based breweries with tasting rooms like Zero Gravity Craft Brewery, Foam Brewers, and Switchback Brewing Co.

In South Burlington, Magic Hat offers free guided or self-guided tours of its 175,00-barrel production facility, plus food and 15 beers on tap at the Artifactory. For a taste of one of the most popular locally brewed drafts, try the Heady Topper—brewed about 30 minutes away by The Alchemist—at trendy restaurants like Hen of the Wood and Farmhouse Tap & Grill. The hoppy double IPA has been rated the best beer in the world.

08 of 15

Watch Artisans at Work at AO Glass

Glassblowing in Burlington VT at AO Glass

Kim Knox Beckius

416 Pine St, Burlington, VT 05401-4778, USA
Phone +1 802-540-0125

Observing molten glass twirled, blown, and molded, is quite the spectacle. Stop by the AO Glass Factory in Burlington’s arts district Monday through Friday for a glimpse of modern artisans perfecting the age-old craft. The design and manufacturing facility creates everything from delicate Christmas ornaments to commercial lighting glass. Visitors are welcome to stand outside the garage door and observe while soaking up the warmth that emanates from the 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit furnace. It's a perfect, no-cost activity for a chilly day.

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09 of 15

Learn About Lake Creatures and More at ECHO

ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, Lake Champlain, Burlington, VT
Panoramic Images / Getty Images
1 College St, Burlington, VT 05401, USA
Phone +1 802-864-1848

At ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, visitors find a multifaceted science center and freshwater aquarium focused on educating the world about the ecology of Lake Champlain. Home to more than 70 live animal species, a 3-D movie theater, and interactive exhibits, the waterside attraction is a fun place for kids and adults to observe and learn about everything from invasive species to data visualization—a topic made visually stunning thanks to the 7,500-LED Lake Brite installation.

10 of 15

Catch a Show at Higher Ground

People at concert
Higher Ground
1214 Williston Rd, South Burlington, VT 05403-5720, USA
Phone +1 802-652-0777

This live music hot spot in South Burlington is actually two intimate music clubs in one, and that means you’ll find a busy calendar of concerts worth seeing while you’re in Burlington. From the local talent and tribute bands to headliners like Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Grace Potter, and Gavin DeGraw, the venue books memorable acts, and most shows are for all ages. For more information about live music events in this city with a thriving cultural scene, check Vermont's Seven Days' music calendar.

11 of 15

Take in the Shelburne Museum

Shelburne Museum
Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

The 45-acre Shelburne Museum, south of Burlington, houses American folk and decorative art in 39 exhibition buildings including historic buildings moved to the site. This is one of the nation's most diverse museums housing collections of paintings, folk art, quilts, and textiles, as well as New England history and architecture.

The beautifully landscaped grounds surround the historic buildings which include houses, barns, a meeting house, a one-room schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge, and the 220-foot steamboat "Ticonderoga." In addition to folk art, there are collections of fine art including works by Claude Monet and Andrew Wyeth.

12 of 15

Visit the Island Parks

lake Champlain

 Katie Barker/EyeEm/Getty Images

The Lake Champlain Islands, connected to the mainland north of Burlington by causeways and bridges, make for a great summer outing to the beaches and state parks. Kayak the sheltered inlets along the coast and swim at a beach. Then visit such attractions as St. Anne's Shrine on Isle La Motte at the site of Fort St. Anne (built to protect the settlers from the Iroquois), and the statue of Samuel de Champlain on the island marking the spot where he landed in 1609.

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13 of 15

Shop the Farmer's Market

Colorful market fresh assorted vegetables in a natural cotton reusable shopping bag hanging from a hook on a vibrant turquoise colored wooden paneled wall background.

Enviromantic / Getty Images

Since 1980, the Burlington Summer Farmers’ Market has been held every Saturday from late spring through autumn in downtown Burlington. Vendors bring local produce, flowers, specialty foods, and arts and crafts to Burlington. It's a great place to chat with the farmers, enjoy the market entertainment, have breakfast or lunch, and take home some flowers. There is also a smaller farmer's market that takes place during the winter months.

345 Pine St, Burlington, VT 05401, USA
Phone +1 802-560-5904
14 of 15

Pick Apples and Sip Cider

Vermont Apple Orchard

James Leynse / Contributor / Getty Images

Vermont's apple growers invite you to U-pick farms to savor the fall harvest. September and October are the months for apple harvesting at local farms such as Shelburne Orchards, near the shores of Lake Champlain in nearby Shelburne, and the Adams Orchard and farm market on Old Stage Road in Williston. Most orchards will have shops with other delights such as fresh apple cider and freshly-made doughnuts.

15 of 15

Tour Lake Champlain Chocolates

Lake Champlain Truffles

cacaobug/Flickr/CC BY-2.0

65 Church St, Burlington, VT 05401, USA
Phone +1 802-862-5185

Willy Wonky has nothing on the Lake Champlain Chocolates factory tour. Take a seat in front of the observation windows, and savor the sweet scent while observing how truffles, caramels, and molded chocolates get created. The through-the-window tours—and delicious samples—are free Monday through Friday. Self-guided tours, available when regular tours are not in operation, are the best choice if you are visiting Lake Champlain Chocolates with small kids. And don’t worry—these self-guided tours include free samples.

On weekends, you can learn how to appreciate chocolate’s flavor variations during a complimentary guided tasting session. Don't miss the gift shop for factory-fresh, all-natural favorites like maple caramel dark chocolate bars, almond butter crunch, and organic hot chocolate, plus fun assortments.

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15 Top Things to Do in Burlington, Vermont