Vermont Brewers Festival
Attention beer drinkers! This is the event for you in Burlington. You can sample a huge assortment of micro-brews produces in Vermont and other northeastern states. This includes the Boston Beer Company (brewer of Samuel Adams), Dogfish Head Draft Brewery, Brown's Brewing Company, Harpoon Brewing Company, Magic Hat Brewing Company, the Portsmouth Brewery, the Shed Restaurant and Brewery, and many more. The lines can be long, but that gives you enough time to absorb what you're already drinking. Food is available, too.
Held each July. Admission is $25.00 for all you can drink, but for those under 21, and designated drivers, it's only $5.00. You receive a 6-oz glass, which is yours to keep. It begins at 12:00 noon, and again at 6:00 pm.
- Beer Tasting
- Food and Dining
Church street is the happening place.
Church Street is a cobblestone street which is in a closed off section of downtown. This street if the heart of the restaurant/entertainment district. This area has an excellent vibe. Street musicians and jugglers, bohemians and yuppies, young and old, all make for fantastic people watching. Of course this is also the main section for most of the restaurants and bars located downtown. There is a wonderful variety of both.
- Budget Travel
- Food and Dining
A beautiful drive on the Lake Champlain Byway
Head up Hwy 2 North from Burlington and you will be heading to a wonderful and scenic lake side drive which spans the various islands off of Lake Champlain. Along the way you will be treated to serene vistas and classic New England small towns complete with country stores with long porches that serve hot cider in the fall. Just a nice place to relax and let the lake breeze flow through your hair as you reflex on the more important things in life:)
- Road Trip
- Sailing and Boating
- Budget Travel
a stroll through the University of Vermont
The University of Vermont is a wonderful place to take a stroll, especially in the fall. This university is somewhat spread out so take your walking shoes. Some examples of wonderful architecture is everywhere, as is nice walking paths with great plant and flower life. Can't beat the vibe and energy walking in the path of the youth.
- Budget Travel
Lake Champlain Cruises
Throughout the history of colonial America, Lake Champlain was the main artery of transportation between Canada and the thirteen colonies to the south. During the War of Independence, it was an invasion route for the British Army, coming from Canada to put down the rebellion. The defeat of the British at the Battle of Lake Champlain gave the Continental Army a respite.
Lake Champlain is no longer as strategic as it was, in the age of the railroads and interstate highways. It's used mainly by pleasure craft, although it remains connected to the extensive system of inland waterways. It is one of America's most beautiful lakes, perhaps second only to Lake Tahoe in California.
Lake Champlain cruises aboard the Northern Lights combine sightseeing with historical narratives (great stories!), and a chance to just relax. They last about an hour and a half. Lunch, brunch, and special cruises are also availabe. See the website for more details.
This is Burlington's best attraction; if you have time for just one thing here, then this should be it. But don't expect to see the monster that is said to live here. At least I didn't.
- Historical Travel
ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center
In 2003, the Lake Champlain Basin Science Center was renovated and the name changed to ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. The acronym ECHO stands for Ecology, Culture, History, and Opportunity. This is where one can learn all about Lake Champlain and its ecosystems. Senator Patrick Leahy and his wife Marcelle played a pivotal role in bringing this about, so the building has been renamed the Leahy Center.
Inside are exhibits on the plants, animals, geology, and history of the Lake Champlain region. It's a really good place to learn about what it has to offer, and how to respect this habitat. There are numerous aquariums, relics of old boats that sank on the lake, and educational exhibits on the lake's watershed.
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
Magic Hat Brewing Company
Magic Hat is one of the older and better-known New England craft breweries: they've been around since 1994, and as well as brewing fine beer they have memorable brew names and art work (examples include Circus Boy, Blind Faith, Hocus Pocus and the less exciting but no less memorable Magic Hat #9). We visited Magic Hat on a previous trip to Burlington, and came away loaded with information and branded gear, as well as renewed enthusiasm for their products, which aren't hard to find locally (or indeed across New England). They normally do brewery tours, but in Spring 2008 they began a major expansion - good for them - and the tours have been suspended until the work is complete. We would recommend checking back on their website because they are a very enthusiastic bunch and it's a fun place to visit.
Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory
Ben and Jerry's factory isn't right in Burlington, but it's a very quick drive from town. The factory is one of the biggest attractions in the entire state, and even in that in-between winter and spring season, there were plenty of people visiting. While you can wander around outside a little bit, the big draw is the factory tour. It's a working factory five days a week, but things are quiet on the weekend, and while you get good explanations of what happens at each stage it would probably have been even more fun to see the workers actually pouring in great vats of chocolate chips and so forth! The tour is pretty candy-colored, with the goofy writing so familiar from the ice cream packets, and there's a brief movie, too, though that feels a bit corporate now that Ben and Jerry's is part of a much bigger conglomerate. In other parts of the factory, there are display cases full of great memorabilia from the early days of Ben and Jerry's; it's a really fun history of the company and its unusual ethos (they are big believers in corporate responsibility and giving back to the community - from before those things were fashionable!), though every now and then you find yourself thinking it would have been awfully to go to the original store way back when, instead of to the big factory! You also get to taste some ice cream, of course, and if the samples aren't enough there's a place to buy a cup or a cone outside. The tours cots $3 for adults ($2 seniors) and children under 12 are free.
Cabot Visitors Center
Cabot is one of the best-known cheese brands in the US, especially the Northeast, with a reputation for extremely high quality cheddar in particular. Unlike some other big food brands, Cabot has remained independent, and is still run on a co-operative basis, with many smaller farms participating in the business. When we visited the creamery, they showed a brief film about the creamery's history and then we got a very decent tour of the plant, which smelled suitably agricultural. We had the impression that our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable about cheese and the business, though we didn't test her very hard! Afterwards, we were able to sample as much cheese as we wanted: they had more than a dozen varieties, from their flagship aged cheddars to flavored cheeses, and we also sample some of their other dairy products. They also produce cheese elsewhere now, but this was a very interesting reminder that at least some of the cheese is still produced right in the heart of Vermont dairy country - and very beautiful countryside it is.
The heart of Burlington, Church Street, is a three block, pedestrianized shopping and eating district. Shopping options range from an average mall to an incredible used book store to Vermont local art. For eating venues, there is everything from coffee shops to Irish bars to a Ben and Jerry's scoop shop (of course). For food, there is everything from from tasty, gourmet food to hearty, pub fair to large quantities of pasta.
The only way to see Church Street is to take the time to wander its length enjoying great people watching and tempting window shopping.
Lake Champlain Chocolate factory tour
These chocolates are some of the smoothest, gotta-have-some-more pieces of mouth watering delights you have ever tasted. You can see how it is all made in a short one-half hour, impromptu tour. (large groups need to request time ahead of their visit).
They start you in the store where all the goodies are. They have over one-hundred varities to choose from. Then you sit (or stand) in front of a large glass window, behind which the workers are making the candies in super-clean condition. The tour guide has a spiel and hands out some samples as he is talking. There is a story board of the harvesting of cocoa and the processing of the bean into chocolate. And then you are taken back into the store area where all the goodies are waiting to be bought. This is guaranteed to make you want to buy. (and we did)
- Food and Dining
- Road Trip
First Night Burlington
Like other cities, Burlington has a First Night or New Years Eve celebration open to the public. For the cost of around $10 Kids and 15 adult, you can wander around the city going to concerts, comedy shows, juggling, shops, art galleries, Taiko Drumming (my fave) and other activities from 3 to Midnight. There is a big parade near midnight and a HUGE fireworks display down by the waterfront. While you DO have to contend with drunken kids from UVM and St. Michael's, they are usually not that big of an issue.
Be aware that you'll want to bundle up.. the temp is usually below zero or damn close for NYE!
You can buy buttons at all the local banks and also at many restaurants including Ri Ra's and Nectar's.
- Arts and Culture
- Budget Travel
During the season there are plenty off organised cruises on Lake Champlain - ranging from a 2 and a half hour shoreline trip, sunset trip through to a dinner and dance evening. These range from $15 through to $30. But you can also take a regular ferry across the lake to Essex in New York state. An hour each way, a return will cost $7 with an extra $1 for a bike. Therefore time it right and you will get your sunset trip for a lot less than the tourist trips!
Approximately two miles north of the centre (accessible via the Bicycle Path) is the expansive Leddy Beach. A few homes spread along the shoreline but most of it is fringed by luxuriant undergrowth and trees.
Due to the fact that a railway line used to run along the shores of Lake Champlain, the town is built away from the lake. Thus the shore is not particularly attractive at the centre of town, but is a great bonus for walkers, cyclists and skaters is that most of the line has been taken away and a bicycle path extends for 7 miles northwards - linking the northern lake beaches and lovely tree-lined walks with the town itself.
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