17 Fun & Best Things to Do in Burlington, Vermont

On the eastern shore of Lake Champlain in northwestern Vermont sits the small idyllic town of Burlington. This charming and historic town of 43,000 people is nestled at the base of the Green Mountains, south of the Canadian border.

But is a small town like Burlington, Vermont, worth visiting? Absolutely! Burlington is the perfect place to travel with kids and family. The city has cultural hubs, art venues, historical landmarks, one-of-a-kind entertainment, and even a Burlington Edible History tour.

Outside the city limits are awe-inspiring state parks, lakeside beaches, mountain resorts, and miles of biking and walking paths. Closer to town, you can find breweries, farm-to-table eateries, and unique artisanal shopping.

The state of Vermont is equal parts myth and reality. The idyllic scenes still exist. The Queen City is home to a mystique that conjures images of black and white cows peacefully grazing in sunlit meadows and dazzling white ski trails. And red maple trees are still milked for maple syrup sap, and many 19th-century bridges have been restored.

But today’s Burlington, Vermont, is a trendy, hip city with dozens of artisanal cheese makers who transform Vermont’s dairy industry, while tourists eagerly follow the Vermont Cheese Trail for samples.

One of Burlington’s most famous foodie tourist attractions is Lake Champlain Chocolates, headquartered in South End Burlington. This iconic chocolate maker creates seasonal craft chocolates and mouthwatering truffles. A Vermont family company, this Certified B Corporation believes in creating extraordinary chocolates supporting people, profits, and the planet.

Lake Champlain Chocolates is a favorite stop on Burlington’s Edible History Tour. This meandering two-mile walk celebrates the local ethnic history and the area’s rich food traditions through tasty sampling at numerous restaurants and street food vendors. Whether you prefer the trendy or traditional Vermont, you’ll find both beautiful and extraordinary places to visit in Burlington, Vermont.

TLDR

  • Most significant landmark – Ethan Allen Homestead Museum
  • Best Park – Waterfront Park
  • Best free activity – Church Street Marketplace
  • Best activity for kids – Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour
  • Best activity for adults – ArtsRiot
  • Best food – Farmhouse Tap & Grill
  • Best nightlife – The Vermont Comedy Club
  • Best all-around accommodation – Hotel Vermont

Fun & Best Things to do in Burlington, Vermont 

1. Church Street Marketplace

Church Street Marketplace

Address: 131 Church Street, Burlington, VT 05401

Church Street Marketplace is an outdoor shopping and dining mecca in downtown Burlington and one of the great public spaces in America. This four-block area between Main and Pearl Streets is reminiscent of old European piazzas. Gorgeous historic buildings surround a traffic-free space. And a few of these iconic structures are top Burlington attractions on the National Historic Landmark Register. 

The area is famous for public events and vibrant street life, even in Vermont’s cold winters. The square’s restaurants offer options for every craving, including cafes, burger joints, dessert shops, and trendy fine dining. As one strolls through the streets, there are sidewalk cafes, benches for resting or people watching, and public artworks. The Church Street Marketplace offers chic boutiques, salons, and spas all around the square while street vendors sell Vermontonian products.

Burlington’s nightlife includes walking historical tours or a brewpub tour starting at The Farmhouse Tap & Grill. The urban art walk is one of Burlington’s unique things to see in the downtown area. One of several downtown murals and building art. Muralist Pierre Hardy decorated a downtown building with his work – Everyone Loves a Parade! Other urban artwork includes a life-sized statue of a local jazz musician and a metal fountain. 

Further down Church Street is the Vermont State Frog Hollow Craft Center. The nation’s first state craft complex features a gallery and craft classes. Church Street Marketplace also offers a nearby trendy lodging with free bicycles for guests. Hotel Vermont offers peaceful views of Lake Champlain from its upper floors.

2. Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour

Ben & Jerry's Factory Tour

Address: 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Rd Route 100, Waterbury Village Historic District, VT 05676

Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour is undoubtedly one of the best things to do while visiting Burlington, Vermont, with kids. There is a Ben & Jerry’s parlor in downtown Burlington, located at 36 Church Street, but the iconic and only Ben & Jerry’s Factory open to the public is in Waterbury. This factory is about 30 minutes outside of Burlington and great for a partial-day trip.

With the original factory, built in 1985, workers make and package up to 350,000 pints per day of ice creamy goodness while guides explain the process. The guided factory tour takes about 30 minutes.

Unusual ice cream flavors have contributed to Ben & Jerry’s fame. At the factory, the flavor selection ranges from certified gluten-free options to the quirky Netflix & Chill’d series or the Chance the Rapper series.

There are even Doggie Dessert treats at this one-of-a-kind creamery. The ice cream company was the first mainstream company that celebrated its corporate values and mission for good status. The Ben & Jerry’s corporate family holds that businesses “have a responsibility and a unique opportunity to be a powerful lever of change in the world.”

Before choosing your favorite at their scoop shop, you can sample as many flavors as possible. Of course, complimentary samples include the taste of the day. An interactive video is shown on days when ice cream is not made.

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is one of the unique things to do in this New England town. An authentic slice of Americana, Ben & Jerry’s began in Burlington, Vermont. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is one of the most popular Burlington, Vermont, tourist attractions, and its downtown location is less than two miles from the Green Mountain Suites Hotel.

See Related: The Route Vermont Road Trip You’ll Want to Follow

3. ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain

ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain

Address: 1 College Street, Burlington, VT 05401

The ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, provides kids and parents with a unique experience. Set on the shores of Lake Champlain, this open-air, hands-on aquatic campus and expansive science museum is worth visiting and a full day of things to do and see. 

Each year, ECHO welcomes more than 167,000 visitors to the 34,500-square-foot facility. Two indoor floors of interactive exhibits combine with outdoor exhibitions and lake shows. More than 100 interactive exhibits highlight over 70 species of fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Some popular exhibits include Dinosaur Discoveries and Frog World.

One of the more unique programs at ECHO on College Street is the collaboration between the ECHO, the Weather Underground, and the U.S. Geological Survey. These three organizations have joined information and resources to provide weather data, lake levels, temperature, and specific conductance directly from ECHO on the Burlington waterfront.

Each day the Lake forecast starts at ECHO’s Weather Station on the roof, where sensors collect raw weather data and upload it to the Weather Underground network.  Meteorologists combine data with other weather stations to provide accurate weather forecasts for the public.

4. Visit Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain

Address: Burlington, VT

Lake Champlain lies primarily in the Green Mountain state but touches New York and Canada. Its 587 miles of shoreline, 70-some islands, and 6.8 trillion gallons of water draw hikers, boaters, and wildlife enthusiasts. The lake is home to 318 bird species, including thousands of migrating snow geese each October. And 81 fish species occupy its waters.

According to Samuel de Champlain, his namesake lake is home to a 20-foot serpent-like creature — Champy. The legend of the monster draws tourists to Vermont and Burlington. Since Champlain’s claim in 1609, there have been over 300 reported sightings of the snake-like creature.

However, the original story is more likely related to Native American Iroquois legends of giant snakes, which the Mohawk named Onyare’kowa. Lake Champlain is also a favorite for power boats and sail boating. It is considered one of the top vacation spots in the United States.

Lake Champlain waterfront land is private and public, as are its beaches. This sand oasis is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, paddle boarding, and other water sports. The lake’s many campgrounds have the necessary amenities for those staying in the area.

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5. South End Arts District Hop

Church Street Tavern Burlington
Image by Onasill – Bill Badzo / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Address: 400 Pine Street, Burlington, VT 05401

ArtsRiot is a quirky arts venue in Burlington’s South End that showcases performing, culinary, and visual art. This warm bistroesque location is one of Burlington’s best tourist attractions and an anchor point on the South End Art Hop, offering live music, local artists, and delicious food.

ArtsRiot is the perfect place to catch a concert or live theatrical performance. ArtsRiot’s restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This vibrant art gallery also serves cocktails for a complete creative experience.

6. Vermont Comedy Club

Address: 101 Main Street, Burlington, VT 05401

Another performance venue in Burlington is the Vermont Comedy Club on Main Street. The Vermont Comedy Club is a great place to enjoy a laugh-filled evening.

Infused with a coffeehouse vibe, the Club’s in-house cafe, Happy Place, serves snack bites, sweet bakery treats, juices, and java concoctions throughout the performance.  The expansive list of local and regional comedians provides one of the freshest shows in town. The Vermont Comedy Club isn’t just for standup. It also offers kids’ and adult comedy, improv, and sketch classes.

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7. University of Vermont

Address: 170 Carrigan Drive, Burlington, VT 05405

New England’s fifth oldest university, the University of Vermont, is one of the state’s academic and cultural centers. Known locally as UVM, which stands for Universitas Viridis Montis, or University of the Green Mountains. The University of Vermont is considered a Public Ivy and a top 100 research university.

Founded in 1791, the campus at UVM covers over 460 acres of lush green space. The serene red brick buildings are a combination of Greek revival to high Victorian gothic architecture

The university also houses several unique museums, including the Fleming Museum of Art. Formerly known as the Robert Hull Fleming Museum, the collection includes 25,000 objects of fine art and anthropological importance.

The university’s Natural History Museum holds over 800,000 specimens of animals and insects worldwide. It is also the third largest herbarium in New England. Named the Pringle Herbarium for its founder, this plant species listing has over 350,000 sheets.

8. Vermont Symphony Orchestra

Address: 2 Church Street, Suite 3B Burlington, VT 05401

Vermont is for art lovers. In addition to countless venues for local production, the vibrant city of Burlington and the Flynn Center is home to the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. This state-wide orchestra and community ensemble gives over 40 annual performances in concert halls and historic buildings.

In addition to cultivating music for Vermonters, the state’s Symphony Orchestra reaches thousands of area students each year through its SymphonyKids program. And has a growing youth orchestra program. This Burlington Scavenger Tour allows you to explore around Burlington and ask questions.

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9. Shelburne Museum

Shelburne Museum

Address: 6000 Shelburne Rd, Shelburne, VT 05482

Located seven miles south of Burlington and a few miles from the famed Shelburne Farms, the Shelburne Museum is a must-visit. This unique museum celebrates American culture, history, art, and architecture. Spread over forty-five acres, the museum includes thirty-nine distinct structures, each filled with countless items of Americana. 

Described as a collection of collections, Shelburne Museum holds everything from period folk art to horse-drawn carriages. Founded by Electra Havemeyer Webb, the museum was intended to celebrate her family’s heritage and the area’s history. As the largest museum of art and history in northern New England, the collective indoor and outdoor offerings of the Shelburne Museum are one of the best things to do in Burlington, Vermont.

10. Burlington Bike Path

Burlington Bike Path

Address: The path runs from just south of Oakledge Park to the Winooski River to the north

The Burlington Bike Path also referred to as the Burlington Greenway, is one of the best free things to do in Burlington, Vermont. One of many outdoor activities to enjoy during your stay in Vermont, the Burlington Bike Path is an eight-mile paved route open to power walkers, joggers, and skaters.

The path runs from Burlington’s South End to the North End at Winooski River and is open year-round. Alongside is a graded way for walkers and runners, with benches marking the best lake views.

The Island Line Trail, known as the Colchester Causeway, is a 13.4-mile rail trail. The trail parallels the old route of the Rutland Railroad Island Line, completed in 1901. It comprises a significant part of the Burlington Bike Path, Colchester Park, and the Allen Point Access Area.

The Burlington Bike Path connects the numerous shoreline parks, including Oakledge Park. A boardwalk-style promenade provides access to ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science and Nature Museum and Vermont’s only All-America Display Garden.

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11. Burlington Waterfront Park

Burlington Waterfront Park
Adobe Stock

Address: 10 College Street, Burlington, VT 05401

One of the most popular parks at the heart of Bloomington, Waterfront Park, is located to the west of downtown, just steps from Burlington Union Station, and sits along Burlington Bay and Lake Champlain shoreline. It is famous for summer food and music festivals, and numerous picnic tables populate the area inviting a lakeside lunch.

In the Spring, Azaleas frame the paved Burlington Bike Path, which runs along Waterfront Park’s eastern border, and the Community Boathouse sits nearby. There is ample parking, and lake goers can take sailing lessons or rent kayaks & canoes. Waterfront Park is a serene natural treasure considered Burlington’s best spot for Lake Champlain sunsets.

12. North Beach Park

Address: Burlington, VT

Although better-known for winter sports, Burlington, Vermont, is also home to lovely white sand beaches. And as Burlington’s largest beach, North Beach Park is a perfect spot for a day out with family and friends.  

On Lake Champlain’s shore, North Beach Park is the only lifeguarded beach in Vermont. The waterfront park and its expansive beach are open all year and allow beach sports, swimming, and watersports.

Many amenities make the area more enjoyable, such as picnic tables, restrooms, kayaking, and paddleboard rentals. The land around North Beach Park offers access to a 9-mile bike path, numerous water access points, concession stands, food vendors, and a playground. And there is a local campground nearby. 

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13. Ethan Allen Homestead Museum

Address: 1 Ethan Allen Homestead, Burlington, VT 05408

Ethan Allan built Burlington’s now historic house in 1787. The Ethan Allen Homestead Park includes the house, which sits off Route 127 next to the 300-acre public park along the Winooski River.

Ethan Allen Homestead Park is surrounded by walking and biking paths, picnic areas, and lush gardens.

Ethan Allan, the man, was a backwoodsman-turned-statesman with a larger-than-life personality from Connecticut. He was one of Burlington’s early English inhabitants. Ethan Allan was best known for capturing Fort Ticonderoga at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. He commanded the Green Mountain Boys as an authentic Revolutionary war hero.

Open daily for tours from May to October, the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum and its surroundings is an authentic piece of American history.

The museum celebrates the life and story of Ethan Allen as a patriot and politician. The museum also chronicles the history of his family and the homestead workers of the region. Ethan Allen Homestead Museum exhibits 18th-century historical documents and era-specific artwork.

14. Vermont’s Year-Round Ski Resorts

Address: 4302 Bolton Access Rd, Richmond, VT 05477

Bolton Valley Resort is one of Burlington’s top winter resorts. Set high in the Green Mountains, providing perfect slopes for winter skiing and snowboarding to compete with snowshoeing and Nordic backcountry skiing.

In fact, the state’s nearly two dozen ski mountains offer ski experiences for everyone, from beginners to Olympic experts – much of it near Burlington. And modern snowmaking and grooming techniques keep slopes and trails passable from December through March each year.

But Vermont’s ski resorts aren’t just for winter fun. During the warmer months, mountain slopes turn into slides, rope courses, mountain biking, and scenic lifts are transformed into rides. Lodges at the base have spas, swimming pools, Segway rides, and golf, both disc and championship PGA courses.

Stowe Mountain, about 20 miles from downtown Burlington, has the state’s only gondola lift. Visitors can drive to Mt. Mansfield’s summit, the state’s highest mountain. The peaks have panoramic views and ridge-top hiking above the tree line – including copses of rare arctic-alpine tundra.

The caves and gigantic boulders around Mt Mansfield were formed when the glacier stalled here during the last ice age. If you want to stay on the Mountain, The Lodge at Spruce Peak is the perfect location nearby.

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15. Take a Brewery Tour

Chuckanut Brewery Burlington

Address: 160 Flynn Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401

Adventure out on your own, or sign up for a guided tour with Burlington Brew Tours. Switchback Brewing Company, founded in 2002, is nestled in the heart of Burlington and crafts relatable, great-tasting beer. Weekly tours highlight the brewery and the processes used to make more than 20 brews.

Magic Hat Brewing Company is another brewery and pub in Burlington. This homegrown brewery off Bartlett Bay Road in South Burlington is a must and one of the best adults-only Burlington attractions.

Beginning in a college dorm bathtub, Magic Hat has grown into a North American brewer. Currently housed in an abandoned factory in the South End of Burlington, Magic Hat Artifactory has been brewing since 1995 and is known for the pale ale – #9.

Magic Hat offers complimentary tours and samples at the factory. A perfect way to waste a few hours during the afternoon and one of the best free things to do in Burlington, Vermont.

The third pub in Burlington is the Three Needs, a laidback pub on Pearl Street. Three Needs is a casual location with local microbrews, bar grub, fantastic pizza, and a play pool or foosball. The Three Needs competes as one of the best places to visit in Burlington, Vermont.

Farmhouse Tap & Grill is located in downtown Burlington. An award-winning gastropub, Farmhouse Tap & Grill serves locally sourced burgers and entrees and is a New England raw bar. The rotating hand-crafted beer pairs perfectly with any selection.

Enjoy lunch or dinner upstairs or in the downstairs Parlor bar and Biergarten. Traveling through the South End, beyond Calahan Park, you will stumble upon the Zero Gravity Brewery. Close by, near the World’s Tallest File Cabinet, is the Burlington Beer Company. The Burlington Classic Beer Tour is the best option to explore the best breweries around Burlington.

16. Battery Park

Address: Battery Park Extension, Burlington, VT 05401

This 15-acre park is considered by many to be one of the United States’ most beautiful city parks. Battery Park offers visitors panoramic views of Champlain Lake and the adjacent Adirondack Mountains.

A public green space outside Burlington, Battery Park is a spectacular place to relax and play. Established in 1870, Battery Park and the Extension is home to old-world characteristics such as a wide promenade, a bandshell, and historical monuments.

The Battery Park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset and is the perfect setting for a morning jog or evening concert. In addition to lush, open green spaces, the park is equipped with a children’s playground, walking paths, and war monuments. In case you want something to do in Burlington, Vermont, during the winter, Battery Park has a public ice skating rink.

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17. Burlington Farmers Market

Address: 345 Pine Street, Burlington, VT 05401

With a focus on sustainable farming, local farmers work in much of Burlington’s area. And provide a direct supply for everyone who wants to visit Burlington and its Farmer’s Market.

The Farmer’s Market is a vibrant weekend event held from Spring through Fall. Located in the South End, just north of the Burlington City Arts Center, the Burlington Farmer’s Market is much-loved and supported by the community.

Local and community vendors sell local produce, including vegetables and fruit, meat and cheese, bread, homemade honey, and prepared foods. The local breweries are onsite with craft brew and weekly entertainment. Some local farms are anchors at the Burlington Farmer’s Market. Others are seasonal. Special events and festivals complement the day’s festivities throughout the market season.

Getting around Burlington, Vermont 

Burlington is 500 miles from New York and a short 216 miles from Boston — just under a four-hour drive. There are many ways to get to Burlington, including Amtrak to Essex Junction-Burlington Station. Burlington’s public transportation is easy to navigate, and many city dwellers hop on the ferry.

Greyhound and Megabus service Burlington, while The Green Mountain Transit offers state-wide service. The nearest airport is Burlington International Airport (BTV) which is 2.9 miles away. Major car rental companies are on the main floor next to baggage claim.

Burlington and the surrounding areas are on the routes of several taxi companies, including Green Cab VT, while Blazer Cab or Snowflake Taxi service the ski resorts. And Lyft serves the entire state.

FAQ

What is the best thing to do in Burlington, Vermont?

The best thing to do in Burlington is to enjoy the Green Mountain air at Waterfront Park. Located just west of downtown, it sits along Burlington Bay. Visitors can picnic, walk or jog the paved bike paths, take sailing lessons, or rent non-motorized boats, kayaks, or canoes.

What are the best tourist attractions in Burlington, Vermont?

Burlington’s history and culture are extensive. But being the birthplace, and current headquarters, of arguably the best ice cream in the world, a visit to a Ben & Jerry’s parlor coupled with their factory tour is a must-do while in Burlington, Vermont.

What are some fun things to do in Burlington, Vermont?

Whether it is the middle of winter or the beginning of spring, Bolton Valley Resort offers some fun things to do in Burlington. In addition to winter downhill skiing and snowboarding, summer at the resorts includes hiking and walking trails, biking, disc golf, and even summer camps.

What is Burlington, Vermont, known for?

Burlington sits on Lake Champlain’s shores and serves as Vermont’s artistic and cultural center. Burlington is a small but fiercely independent New England town. But, if truth be told, the Green Mountain state is known for cows. A little over 100 years ago, there were more cows in Vermont than people. Nowadays, there is one cow for every 3.8 Vermonters.

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