illustration by julia rothman
today’s burlington, vermont city guide comes from angela m. graziano, the founding editor of something green. her site features daily tips, resources and inspiration to help hostesses plan contemporary and stylish green events. today angela shares a bit of her planning expertise in this comprehensive guide through the beautiful city of burlington, with thoughtful sections like “books, music and art” and “markets and co-ops.” thanks angela for this wonderful peek into this lovely mountain city! —stephanie
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Nestled 200 miles northwest of Boston and 100 miles southeast of Montreal is the small city of Burlington, Vermont. Though most travelers make the trek to the Green Mountain State in search of rugged ski trails, fresh mountain air and, of course, maple syrup, Burlington serves up an eclectic mix of food, fashion and art often found exclusively in a big city environment. The largest city in Vermont, boasting a population of about 40,000, Burlington is home to multiple colleges and universities including the University of Vermont (13,000 students) and Champlain College (2,000 students). Don’t let the city’s small size fool you. The greater Burlington area is home to more than 446 restaurants, 53 bars, 28 libraries and 2 museums among a multitude of other cultural retreats. But a lively downtown scene isn’t the only reason travelers visit this small mountain city year-round. Because of its close proximity to top Northeast ski resorts, such as Stowe, Smuggler’s Notch and Mad River Glen, as well as its location on the shores of Lake Champlain, one of the longest and most historic lakes in the nation, stretching 120 miles from Whitehall, New York to the Richelieu River in Quebec, Burlington has become a refuge for active travelers. In recent years, the city has even earned top honors from major media outlets including The New York Times, Outside, Arts & Entertainment and Traveler who have cited Burlington as a top city for outside activities, the arts, safety and overall quality of life. Similarly, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance recently named Burlington as one of the “10 Best Cities for the Next Decade” thanks to its commitment to innovation, creativity and environmental initiatives and CNN Money named Burlington as one of its “Best Places to Live.” If you’re in search of a thriving arts scene, local foods, sophisticated boutiques and maybe even a quick hike or two be sure to set your GPS to Burlington, Vermont – a perfect city for a weekend getaway anytime of the year.
Books, Music & Art
Bennington Potters North – Specializing in Vermont-made stoneware pottery, this multi-level shop features an assortment of dinnerware, serving pieces and bakeware as well as a mix of creative gifts and assorted décor, much of which is handmade.
Burlington Records – Music lovers are certain to get lost in the aisles of this shop, which features a variety of original vinyl LPs, used and vintage stereo equipment, used and vintage instruments and a range of musical memorabilia.
Crow Bookshop – In search of the perfect beach read? The Crow, Burlington’s long-time indie bookshop, stocks a mix of new and used books that cover an assortment of topics –from fiction to film to cooking and comics.
Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center – Get to know Lake Champlain a bit more by visiting the Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center. Featuring more than 70 species of fish, amphibians, invertebrates, and reptiles, more than 100 interactive activities as well as changing and permanent exhibits, it is the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon.
Firehouse Gallery – Situated in the heart of the downtown shopping district this exhibition space is dedicated to showcasing contemporary art by both local and national-level artists.
Fleming Museum – Located on the University of Vermont’s campus, the Fleming Museum offers year-round exhibits of contemporary and historic art from around the world.
Flynn Center for the Performing Arts – Housed in a 75+ year old art space (originally a vaudeville house and then a movie theater) the Flynn brings high quality emerging and established performing acts onto their stage year-round.
Frog Hollow – This downtown space features the work of more than 250 Vermont artists. Both an exhibit space and a storefront, Frog Hollow’s mission is to offer traditional and contemporary Vermont artists and crafters a space to display and sell their work.
Battery Street Jeans – Stocking a constantly evolving assortment of coats, shoes, apparel and accessories, Battery Street is the place to find a funky vintage handbag or dress to wear out during your stay in town.
Clothing Line – In addition to a large assortment of women’s dresses and blouses, the Clothing Line is also known for their collection of quirky vintage relics.
Old Gold – Looking for something over the top? Old Gold boasts an extensive inventory of vintage and new clothing and accessories for both women and men. Perhaps best known for their vast costume selection, they are an ideal venue to find funky jewelry at fair prices.
Second Time Around – This growing chain of contemporary resale designer clothes recently opened a Burlington location in the heart of the Church Street shopping district. Although technically a second hand shop, the store only carries consignment goods that are no more than two years old. Be sure to scope out their excellent collection of accessories and their wall of blazers.
Food & Drink
American Flatbread – Flatbread is perfect for any traveler who enjoys good beer, local food and an inviting atmosphere. Although they’re known for their small menu of all-natural pizzas baked in wood-fired ovens they also feature a tasty brunch menu.
Dobra Tea – If you’re looking for a warm atmosphere to enjoy unique teas and small plates stop by Dobra Tea Room. Order a cup of “Dragon Pearls,” a unique and aromatic green tea blend that is almost as appealing to look at as it is to sip.
The Farm House Tap & Grill – One of Burlington’s newest restaurants, the Farm House Tap & Grill is dedicated to supporting local agriculture as a means to produce their burgers and various upscale comfort entrees. Additionally, they carry a wide selection of microbrews, which can be enjoyed while you eat or while seated out back in their seasonal beer garden.
Hong’s Chinese Dumplings – When you think of Vermont you may not initially think of street food. However, Hong’s Chinese Dumplings (a small cart parked nearby the local Barnes & Noble) makes some of the best street eats around. A plate of dumplings costs only a few dollars – an ideal lunch for a traveler on the go.
Muddy Waters – Aside from their coffees, teas and specialty drinks, this Burlington staple offers guests an artful interior designed with tree trunks, rich woods and local art.
Penny Cluse Café – Open for breakfast and lunch, Penny Cluse features high-quality comfort food made mostly with local ingredients. Be sure to stop in early since this place tends to get packed on the weekends! Don’t leave town without ordering their “Bucket-o-Spuds.”
Red Onion – A Burlington landmark, Red Onion is famous for their hearty sandwiches and indulgent cookies. In search of the perfect lunch: go with the signature “Red Onion” sandwich, which features turkey, thick-cut bacon, local cheddar and sliced apple, and a snickerdoodle cookie for dessert (it will totally be worth every single calorie).
The Skinny Pancake – Located on Burlington’s waterfront, the Skinny Pancake features an assortment of sweet and savory crepes that are perfect for a snack or a meal. In the warm weather months take advantage of their outdoor seating and enjoy the sounds of one of the many live music acts that take the stage right on their patio.
Stone Soup – Situated just steps from multiple bars and boutiques, Stone Soup boasts a fantastic local and organic hot buffet, as well as sandwiches and an amazing rotation of freshly made soups. This is a great place to go to score a healthy but filling lunch or dinner for just a few dollars. (Insider tip: their corn chowder is arguably one of the best in New England).
Uncommon Grounds – Take an afternoon break and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea at this locally owned coffee house. Throughout the fall, spring and summer they have an excellent outdoor seating area – a perfect spot for some casual people watching.
Markets & Co-ops
Burlington Farmers’ & Artists’ Market – Every Saturday from mid-May through late-October Burlington’s City Hall Park is transformed into an outdoor farmers’ market that carries everything from organically grown fruits and vegetables to locally raised meats to artisan breads and various regional specialties. A large section of the market is dedicated to Vermont-based craft vendors. Here, market-goers will find locally made beauty products, jewelry, apparel, handmade crafts and the like.
City Market/Onion River Co-op – This community owned food cooperative carries conventional, local and organic food products and toiletries at fair prices. In addition to their grocery items they also stock many ready-to-eat carry out items such as freshly made salads and sandwiches.
Breakwaters Café & Grill – When visiting Burlington in the summer months be sure to reserve at least one night for drinks at Breakwaters Café and Grill, a casual bar and grill with some of the most rivaled waterfront outdoor seating in the area.
Drink – If you’re looking for a laid-back lounge atmosphere, Drink offers a casual but sophisticated environment. Be sure to try one of their many house-infused vodkas.
Nectars – One of Burlington’s claims to fame, Nectars holds a long musical history, namely as the original stomping grounds of the rock band, Phish. Nectars is a local headquarters for live music – ranging from folk to rock to reggae – and the occasional late night order of gravy fries.
Red Square – Aside from being a popular watering hole for the local hipster crowd, Red Square features a monthly rotating art exhibition featuring local artists working in a variety of mediums.
Burton Flagship Store – A short drive or bike ride from the main Church Street shopping district is the flagship storefront for this worldwide active apparel brand. Stop in to stock up on graphic tees, casual handbags and cold weather soft goods.
Ecco Clothing – This locally owned boutique stocks its shelves with the latest denim, dresses, shoes and accessories. Although they carry many well-known designers such as Ella Moss and James Perse their inventory also includes a range of up-and-coming indie designers.
Fire & Metal Goldsmiths – Housed in the front of a working goldsmith shop are cases filled with beautiful metal rings, bracelets and pendants for sale. Keep a look out for their edgy, yet understated, stud earrings.
Stella – Hidden in this basement space are walls of carefully selected shoes by somewhat obscure but on-trend brands. Their styles range from adorably preppy flats to Gaga-inspired heels.
Sweet Lady Jane –Sweet Lady Jane offers a stylish mix of separates by companies like Free People, French Connection, Mac & Jac and Triple Five Soul. They also carry an assortment of unique vintage-inspired jewelry and accessories.
Tradewinds Imports – Easily the most eclectic shop in town, Tradewinds carries an absolutely staggering variety of imported gemstone jewelry as well as assorted home décor. If you’re in a shopping mood, their rows of statement rings are an absolute must.
Trinket – Trinket offers a unique collection of jewelry, small gifts and fashion accessories, many of which have been crafted by indie designers.
Burlington Bike Path – Burlington’s recreational bike path stretches for 7.6 miles along the scenic shores of Lake Champlain. Keep active during your visit by packing your running shoes and hitting the pavement. A more leisurely option – take your time by strolling the path and stopping at each of the many parks and resting areas sprinkled along the waterfront.
Leddy Park & Beach – Hidden in Burlington’s New North End, Leddy Beach offers over 1500 feet of waterfront including a sandy beach and shaded picnic areas. A blanket and a good book are all that you need to create an ideal afternoon in this serene setting.
North Beach – Located just steps off of Burlington’s seven-mile bike path (see above) North Beach is the city’s go-to beach. Entrance fees are for vehicles only so pack light and walk or bike the short trek for a free day on the water.
Waterfront Park – Situated on the shores of Lake Champlain is Burlington’s own Waterfront Park. Here, guests will find access to the city’s seven-mile recreational bike path as well as a boardwalk, 900 feet of lakeshore and multiple green spaces. Throughout the warm weather months, Waterfront Park is home to various community events including the Vermont Brewers Festival.