Best of Burlington, Vermont | Editors' Choice Awards
On the shores of Lake Champlain, Burlington is Vermont’s largest city and a favorite tourist spot for quirky Green Mountain culture. Here’s a list of some of our favorite things to do in Burlington, Vermont, plus our picks for where to eat, shop, and stay. Read on, then let us know your favorites!
BEST THINGS TO DO IN BURLINGTON, VT
COMMUNITY SAILING CENTER
Sail or paddle the waters of beautiful Lake Champlain from this conveniently located downtown boathouse. Craft available include dinghies, kayaks, paddleboards, and sailboats of various sizes and designs.
234 Penny Lane. 802-864-2499; communitysailingcenter.org
BEST PERFORMANCE VENUE
FLYNN CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
The last of Burlington’s movie palaces has been beautifully restored to its Art Deco splendor and now serves as the region’s most distinguished venue for an eclectic schedule of big-name music, theater, and dance. It’s also home to the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, led by the renowned Jamie Laredo.
153 Main St. 802-863-5966; flynncenter.org
BEST TOURIST HOT SPOT
CHURCH STREET MARKETPLACE
Turning downtown’s main drag into a pedestrian mall created Vermont’s liveliest shopping, dining, and people-watching scene. Boutiques, bars, and buskers line this strollable four-block stretch, and eateries offer plenty of sidewalk seating. On summer Saturdays the action spills over into nearby City Hall Park, site of a bustling farmers’ market.
2 Church St. 802-863-1648; churchstmarketplace.com
BEST LAKESIDE BIKING
BURLINGTON BIKEPATH, Burlington
Lake and mountain views abound. Head to North Beach, onward to rustic Charlie’s Boathouse, or up the Causeway through Colchester to the Island Line and Champlain Islands. Or just meander along the Burlington waterfront south to Oakledge Park. Rentals and maps at Local Motion.
1 Steele St. 802-652-2453; localmotion.org
BEST CHILDREN’S BOOKSTORE
THE FLYING PIG BOOKSTORE, Shelburne Village
This award-winning shop, owned by former teachers, features more than 40,000 titles and knowledgeable staffers who have seemingly read every single one. Makes its home in the former Shelburne Inn.
5247 Shelburne Road. 802-985-3999; flyingpigbooks.com
ECHO LAKE AQUARIUM & SCIENCE CENTER, Burlington
More than 70 live species and 100 interactive exhibits depict the ecology, culture, and history of the nation’s sixth-largest lake.
Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, 1 College St. 802-864-1848; echovermont.org
BEST GIFT SHOP
VERMONT GIFT BARN, South Burlington
You’ll find a full array of Vermont-made things, from maple syrup to pottery to furniture, at this unique shop, housed in (you guessed it) a real barn.
1087 Williston Road. 802-658-7864; vermontgiftbarn.com
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN BURLINGTON, VT
PENNY CLUSE CAFE
Line up with locals for a table at Burlington’s most popular breakfast spot. It’s worth the wait for moderately priced ham’n’egg alternatives such as “Bucket-o-Spuds” (home fries with melted cheese, salsa, sour cream, and scallions), the smoked-salmon plate, and gingerbread pancakes. Not that you’ll need lunch, but that’s served here, too.
169 Cherry St. 802-651-8834; pennycluse.com
BEST FRESH VERMONT RARE
HEN OF THE WOOD
Award-winning chef Eric Warnstedt and his partner, William McNeil, who still operate their popular establishment in Waterbury, have once again created restaurant magic in their chic new spot next to the Hotel Vermont. The menu features an ever-changing but always sophisticated selection of locally sourced foods, including the signature hen-of-the-wood mushroom toast for which the restaurant is named.
55 Cherry St. 802-540-0534; henofthewood.com
BEST CHEAP EATS
ARTSRIOT TRUCK STOP
America’s food-truck mania has hit Burlington’s hippest neighborhood. The South End, home to numerous artists’ studios and galleries, is the scene for a Friday-night convergence of more than a dozen mobile vendors, serving up everything from burgers to tacos to homemade desserts. It all happens behind ArtsRiot Gallery, where jugglers, DJs, and musicians add to the fun.
400 Pine St., 802-540-0406; artsriot.com
BEST FRENCH FRIES
AL’S FRENCH FRYS
It’s really all about the spuds at Al’s–freshly cut, quickly blanched, and double-fried. A local institution since the late 1940s, Al’s was named one of “America’s Classics” by the James Beard Foundation.
1251 Williston Road. 802-862-9203; alsfrenchfrys.com
BEST ECLECTIC BISTRO
Light bistro dishes range from Southern fried chicken to sweet-potato yellow curry to pan-roasted duck breast with BBQ peach glaze. In the solarium, gaze up to watch the night sky, or catch the changing local art on the walls.
15 Center St. 802-862-9647; dailyplanet15.com
With savory crepes featuring local apples and Cabot cheese, or sweet ones such as the “Choco-Monkey” (Nutella and banana slices), Skinny Pancake suits most tastes. Elaborate dinner crêpes (such as Thai veggies and noodles) are available Thursday through Saturday evenings; brunch crêpes on weekends.
60 Lake St. 802-540-0188; skinnypancake.com
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN BURLINGTON, VT
BEST BOUTIQUE HOTEL
Downtown Burlington’s first new independent hotel in a century is just a short stroll from both Church Street and the lakefront and offers bright, airy, modern accommodations without boutique minimalism. Vermont wood and stonework are everywhere, and farm-to-table cooking is featured at the hotel’s Juniper restaurant.
41 Cherry St. 802-651-0080; hotelvt.com
BEST BED & BREAKFAST (a previous winner in 2013 for “Best Downtown Guesthouse”)
THE LANG HOUSE
Burlington’s neighborhood of grand Queen Anne Victorian homes begins right where downtown ends. This 1881 beauty has been transformed into a posh B&B, whose 11 rooms still display the home’s lavish original craftsmanship while incorporating all the modern conveniences. The two rooms in an 1851 carriage house, set well back from the street, have a country-cottage feel.
360 Main St. 802-652-2500; langhouse.com
BEST LAKEFRONT LODGING
ONE OF A KIND B&B
Book well in advance: This tiny lakefront turn-of-the-20th-century lodging, just a short walk from downtown, offers a two-room suite in the main house, and a small separate cottage. Both are sun-filled and offer wonderful water views. Described by owner/artist Maggie Sherman as “eclectic vernacular Victorian with a bit of Arts and Crafts,” the property has lovely gardens and provides guests with an in-room breakfast.
53 Lakeview Terrace. 802-862-5576; oneofakindbnb.com
BEST BACKYARD-GARDEN TOUR
HIDDEN GARDENS B&B, Hinesburg
Deep in the Champlain Valley, estate gardens have been carved into the wild, creating a 26-acre Certified Wildlife Habitat. Whimsy and creativity add to the unique charm. Accommodations are in a contemporary post-and-beam.
693 Lewis Creek Road. 802-482-2118; thehiddengardens.com
BEST DOWNTOWN-WALKING VALUE
Family-owned and -operated, this cheerful motel sits on the back side of a trendy South End family park. Gardens compliment the red-white-and-blue décor. Rooms are basic, well-kept, and just a 10-minute walk from downtown.
111 Shelburne Road. 802-863-3116; belairevt.com
Selections originally appeared in print in 2013 and 2016.
Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.