The Getaway
Explore Burlington, VT: 15 Things to Do

Burlington, Vermont, manages to blend the laid-back vibe of a small town with the cultural richness of a much larger metropolis. Whether you're drawn to the arts, passionate about history, or a lover of the great outdoors, Burlington has something to offer. Its streets are alive with the buzz of local markets, the allure of historic landmarks, and the tranquility of natural landscapes. From the bustling Church Street Marketplace to the serene Waterfront Park, each corner of Burlington invites exploration and discovery. So, let's dive into the top 15 things to do in Burlington, VT, that showcase the city's unique charm and diverse attractions.

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01 Church Street Marketplace

Burlington VT USA - July 24 2022: Scenes from Church Street hw22 / Shutterstock.com

Right at the heart of Burlington lies the Church Street Marketplace, a lively, open-air mall that's as much a social gathering place as it is a shopping and dining destination. With its cobblestone streets and historic buildings, the marketplace offers a quaint backdrop for over 100 retail shops and restaurants. Street performers and seasonal festivals add to the vibrant atmosphere, making it a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the city's dynamic community spirit. The marketplace also serves as a cultural hub, hosting events that range from live music to food festivals, reflecting the diverse interests of the Burlington community.

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02 Lake Champlain cruises

A sailboat at sunset on Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont. The vibrant pink sky transitions to a cool blue in both the sky and the water.

Exploring Lake Champlain by boat isn't just a leisure activity; it's a journey through the scenic beauty and historical significance of this vast body of water. From themed cruises that delve into the lake's role in American history to leisurely sunset sails, a cruise on Lake Champlain offers unparalleled views of the surrounding mountains and a refreshing perspective on Burlington's natural splendor. These cruises provide an ideal setting for photography enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, offering a unique vantage point from which to capture the beauty of Vermont.

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03 ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain

 Burlington, Vermont - September 29th, 2019: Exterior of ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain jenlo8 / Shutterstock.com

For families and environmental enthusiasts, the ECHO Leahy Center is a treasure trove of interactive exhibits and aquatic wonders. This innovative science center and aquarium focus on the ecology and history of Lake Champlain, offering hands-on learning experiences that are both fun and educational. It's a place where curiosity is sparked, and the natural world is brought to life. The center also plays a crucial role in environmental conservation, offering programs and initiatives aimed at preserving the lake's natural beauty for future generations.

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04 Waterfront Park and bike path

Burlington's Waterfront Park vt

Burlington's Waterfront Park is a testament to the city's love affair with the outdoors. Stretching along the shores of Lake Champlain, this expansive green space is perfect for biking, walking, or simply enjoying a picnic with a view. The adjacent bike path offers miles of scenic routes, connecting visitors with the natural beauty of the lake and its surroundings. This area becomes particularly lively in the summer months, with locals and tourists alike gathering to watch the sunset, attend outdoor concerts, and participate in community events.

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05 Flynn Center for the Performing Arts

The Flynn Center stands as a beacon of Burlington's thriving arts scene. This historic theater hosts a diverse array of performances, from international music acts and Broadway shows to local theater productions. Its grand Art Deco auditorium and intimate cabaret space provide the perfect settings for experiencing the magic of live performance. The Flynn Center is not only a venue for entertainment but also a community space where workshops, educational programs, and youth initiatives are held, fostering a love for the arts in Burlington.

06 South End Arts District

Burlington's South End Arts District is where the city's creative heart beats the loudest. Galleries, studios, and murals dot this vibrant neighborhood, showcasing the work of local artists and craftspeople. Monthly art walks and the annual Art Hop festival celebrate the district's artistic energy, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in Burlington's rich cultural tapestry. This district exemplifies the city's commitment to supporting local artists, providing a platform for creative expression and community engagement.

07 Shelburne museum

SHELBURNE, VERMONT/UNITED STATES- NOVEMBER 4, 2018: Round Barn found at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont. Built in 1901 as an efficient method of feeding cattle. Harold Stiver / Shutterstock.com

Just a short drive from downtown Burlington, the Shelburne Museum offers a deep dive into America's artistic and cultural heritage. With its collection of over 150,000 works in 39 exhibition buildings, the museum presents a fascinating array of American folk art, decorative arts, and design. The historic steamboat Ticonderoga and the circus building are among the must-see highlights. The museum's expansive grounds also feature beautiful gardens and walking paths, making it a perfect destination for those looking to combine cultural exploration with outdoor leisure.

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08 Outdoor adventures

A group of kayakers on Lake Champlain during a gorgeous sunset. Shot from the Vermont side near D.A.R. State Park, looking at the New York side.

Burlington isn't just about urban charm; it's a gateway to Vermont's vast outdoor playground. Hiking trails in the nearby Green Mountains, kayaking on Lake Champlain, and biking along the waterfront are just a few of the ways to enjoy the area's natural beauty. Each season brings its own set of adventures, from leaf-peeping in the fall to snowshoeing in the winter. The city's proximity to natural attractions makes it an ideal base for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore Vermont's diverse landscapes.

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09 Seasonal festivals

There's always something happening in Burlington, thanks to a calendar packed with festivals and events. From the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival in June to the Vermont Brewers Festival in July, these gatherings celebrate the city's love of music, food, and community. Seasonal events like the winter holiday market add a festive touch to the city's streets. These festivals not only provide entertainment but also foster a sense of community and celebration of local culture and traditions.

10 Local culinary scene

Burlington's culinary scene is a reflection of Vermont's farm-to-table ethos. Local restaurants serve up dishes made with fresh, seasonal ingredients, while craft breweries offer a taste of the state's renowned beer culture. Don't forget to stop by the original Ben & Jerry's for a scoop (or two) of ice cream, a sweet reminder of Burlington's entrepreneurial spirit. The city's diverse culinary offerings reflect its commitment to sustainability and support for local farmers and producers, making it a destination for foodies.

11 Historic sites and tours

Burlington's history is woven into the fabric of the city, from the historic buildings of the University of Vermont to the Ethan Allen Homestead. Guided tours offer insights into the city's past, exploring everything from its role in the Revolutionary War to its architectural heritage. These sites aren't just educational; they're a window into the soul of Burlington. The preservation of these historic sites and the stories they tell play a crucial role in maintaining the city's unique identity and charm.

12 Art and culture

The city's artistic vibrancy extends beyond the South End Arts District. Burlington is home to numerous galleries, theaters, and live music venues, each contributing to the rich cultural landscape. The annual Vermont International Film Festival and performances by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra are highlights of the city's cultural calendar. This thriving arts scene is a testament to Burlington's dedication to fostering creativity and providing a platform for artists to share their work with the community.

13 Shopping local

Burlington encourages visitors to shop locally, with numerous boutiques, artisan shops, and farmers' markets offering Vermont-made goods. From handcrafted jewelry to maple syrup, these local treasures provide a unique take-home memory of your time in Burlington. The emphasis on local shopping not only supports the local economy but also promotes sustainability and the preservation of Vermont's artisanal traditions.

14 Nature and parks

Beyond the city limits, Burlington is surrounded by natural beauty. City parks offer green spaces for relaxation and play, while state parks like Mt. Philo and Camel's Hump State Park beckon with hiking trails and breathtaking views. Whether you're seeking a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike, nature's tranquility is never far away. These natural spaces are essential to Burlington's identity, offering residents and visitors alike a respite from urban life and a chance to connect with the natural world.

15 Family-Friendly activities

Burlington is a city for all ages, with plenty of activities and attractions that cater to families. The Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, with its make-your-own bear workshop and the hands-on exhibits at the Montshire Museum of Science, ensure that even the youngest visitors will find something to delight in. The city's focus on family-friendly activities makes it an ideal destination for travelers looking for an experience that can be enjoyed by all members of the family.

Burlington, VT, isn't just a destination; it's an experience. With its blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and vibrant community spirit, the city offers a little something for everyone. Whether you're exploring the cobblestone streets of the Church Street Marketplace, enjoying the panoramic views from a Lake Champlain cruise, or discovering the local arts scene, Burlington invites you to dive in and explore. So pack your bags, bring your curiosity, and prepare to fall in love with this gem of the Green Mountains.

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