I recently had the opportunity to spend a long weekend in Burlington, Vermont. My partner was attending a conference and I decided to tag along and take in some of the sites and tastes of the city. Only 95 miles from Montreal and perched on the shore of Lake Champlain, this bustling college town has a lot to offer.
Waterfront Park is a lovely green space in downtown Burlington along 900 feet of lakeshore. Walk along the meandering boardwalk that has numerous benches where you can sit and enjoy the beauty of the Lake. In the summer you can rent canoes and kayaks. Rent or bring your bicycle and bike along the 14-mile Island Line Trail along the waterfront and out into Lake Champlain on the Colchester Causeway.
You can’t visit Burlington without strolling through the Church Street Marketplace, a four-block, open-air mall filled with shops, restaurants and art galleries. The weather was unusually warm for late October and we took advantage of an evening stroll to check out this hopping area, finishing with a sweet treat from Lake Champlain Chocolates.
A short drive from Burlington is the town of Waterbury, home of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory. Take the half-hour factory tour and learn how the ice cream is made from “cow to cup”. There’s a short film on the history of the company, a viewing of the production floor from a glassed-in observation platform then a tasting with Q&A time. When I asked the guide when the company would go totally dairy free she just gave me a chuckle. At the end of the tour you can peruse items in the gift shop. Go to the onsite shop to order a full-size cup or cone of your favorite flavor. Ben & Jerry’s has several flavors of ice cream made with almond milk that are vegan.
A bit further down the road is the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. This country-store on steroids offers gift items from t-shirts, hats, kitchen gadgets and tea towels to jams, jellies and pure Vermont maple syrup. You can view the rack and cloth cider press built in the 1920’s and sample fresh cider from the tasting tank. On the way out you may be tempted to grab a hot cider donut (or six or twelve). The Mill is open year-round, only closing on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Thanks to the continued stretch of beautiful weather, I spent a full day at the Shelburne Museum, founded in 1947 by New York socialite and American art collector Electra Havemeyer Webb . The museum is an eclectic collection of buildings, gardens and artifacts of Americana spread over forty-five acres. Originally designed to preserve her family’s collection of horse-drawn carriages and sleighs, historic buildings relocated to the site house her diverse collections ranging from original French Impressionist paintings to carousel animals. There’s even a 220-foot steamboat and a lighthouse!
I visited two special exhibitions of particular interest. The first exhibit, Sweet Tooth: The Art of Dessert, explored our insatiable desire for all that is sweet.
The second exhibit, Hooked on Patty Yoder, was an exquisite display of the works of American rug-hook artist Patty Yoder. Yoder dyed her own wool in a kaleidoscope of colors. Many of her works include the sheep she raised on her southern Vermont farm. Her whimsical designs are “paintings with wool to be hung and enjoyed as art”.
Burlington and South Burlington have a myriad of hotels for all budgets. There are not a lot of vegan restaurants but there ARE some good options.You’ll find that cheese is included on just about everything (hello, Cabot) but you can always request item without it. As a vegan, you definitely won’t starve here. Liquor is expensive at restaurants with a beer or glass of wine running about $8-9.00. You’re better off picking up a bottle of wine at the local liquor or grocery store.
In conclusion, I can say that Burlington is a neat, picturesque college-town with so much to offer from long summer days on the lake to fantastic fall foliage to exhilarating winter sports on the nearby slopes. It has a robust collection of food, drink, shopping, live music, arts and plenty of options to get out into the beautiful New England outdoors. I will definitely return to enjoy more of what this city has to offer!
If you go:
Zabby & Elf’s Stone Soup has vegan options and both a hot and cold salad bar. $$
Pingala Cafe is a vegan smoothie shop with wraps, salads and other items made with organic ingredients. $$
Revolution Kitchen is a vegetarian restaurant with vegan options. $$$
Magnolia Bistro has tofu scrambles and veggie sausage. $$
Bangkok Bistro In The Alley is definitely our favorite! Delicious Thai food, inventive cocktails and a funky vibe. $$
Lake Champlain Chocolates offers a factory tour in their downtown Burlington location. They have a delicious selection of dark, vegan chocolate. $$
Vermont Teddy Bear Company offers tours and you can make your own teddy bear! Call for tour times. $$$
Ben & Jerry’s offers factory tours every 30 minutes, year round. $