Tuesday, August 12, 2014

48 Hours in Burlington, VT

I hope everyone's week is going well so far! Josh and I just got back from another great summer weekend in Vermont. I've been asked a lot lately by friends & colleagues who have never been to Burlington, VT what to do there and if it would make a fun weekend trip and my answer is always an overwhelming YES. It is one of my favorite places in the world and such a relaxing, idyllic spot to visit in the summer. I decided that what would be easier than gushing on and on about all the great things to do there would be to write a post about my general itinerary and must-stop spots whenever we go back to Burlington. And I know that many of the people that read this blog are either from Vermont or are very familiar with the place that we called home for 4 years of college, but this post is for those of you that aren't and considering visiting!

Here's how to make the most of a summer weekend in Burlington:

Get lunch (or breakfast) at City Market: In the morning, head to City Market, Burlington's local co-op, to stock up on food for the day. I almost always get a custom sandwich at their sandwich bar (the chicken pesto is my fave) or make my own concoction at the veggie-packed salad station. Then, I pick out a local cheese (my favorite is the Blue Ledge Farm lake's edge goat cheese) and a loaf of Klingers bread. Next, I grab a 6-pack of local beer, usually something in cans if I am heading to the beach for the day. The last stop is the self-serve granola isle for something sweet, where I generally fill up a generous bag of the maple granola before heading to the check-out line. But then there's always something extra that you see on your way out that looks amazing and you just have to try. This past weekend it was the lemon poppyseed shortbread bites from Douglas Sweets. And yes, they were so good I devoured the whole bag.
Spend the day on Lake Champlain: Once your stocked with a picnic from City Market, head down to the waterfront to spend the day on the beautiful Lake Champlain. The water is super warm and in most places very shallow in the summer, so it's easy to spend the entire day wading, swimming, or completely submerged in the water. I feel like I become a fish every weekend that we are up there! We tend to spend the day at Josh's parents' house right on the lake, but Burlington has tons of waterfront options for however you'd like to spend the day. For a quiet, relaxing beach day, head to Leddy Park beach (my favorite). If you are looking for more of a fun, rowdy college scene, head to North Beach. If you are looking for somewhere where you can forgo the sand, set up camp on one of the huge, flat rocks at Oakledge. If you are an adventure seeker, head to Red Rocks to go cliff jumping into the lake. And of course, head out by boat to see Vermont by water if you have that option!
 ^ Mallet's Bay//Colchester, VT
 ^ North Beach// Burlington, VT Summer 2011
 ^ Oakledge// Burlington, VT Summer 2011
 ^ Red Rocks// South Burlington, VT Summer 2010
 ^ Boating on Lake Champlain//Summer 2010
 ^ Boating on Lake Champlain//Summer 2010
^ Captain Mac//Summer 2010
^ Mallet's Bay, VT//Summer 2010
 ^ Mallet's Bay, VT//Summer 2014

Have dinner on Church Street: After your day on the water, head up to Church Street, Burlington's bustling cobblestone street, for dinner. Leave yourself about an hour before dinner to put your name in somewhere (the best restaurants often have long waits and don't take reservations) and then walk around to stop into some shops, watch a few street performances, or grab a drink. We almost always go to our favorite restaurant, the Farmhouse, when it Burlington because of their amazing local beer & cheeses. Other favorite meals include the pizza at the infamous American Flatbread, the seasonal small plates at Hen of the Wood, and the margaritas & nachos at El Gato. This past weekend, we went to our favorite french restaurant Leunigs on Friday night for some steak frites and then tried a new Italian restaurant on Saturday night called Pascolo, started by the same owners of the Farmhouse. If you love pasta, big portions, and great local meats, this is the place for you. Josh's lasagna was the size of my head!
Order a heady topper: Once in Burlington, your search for the #1 rated beer in the world is over. Heady Topper is an India Pale Ale brewed by the Alchemist in Waterbury, VT and is sold only in limited production so is nearly impossible to find outside Vermont. Luckily, most of the restaurants in Burlington are stocked so be sure to order one at dinner or head to a nearby bar to have one after. At 8% alcohol with hints of citrus flavor, it truly is a treat.
Get a creemee: Are you sensing a food trend yet? If you still have room after dinner and beers, be sure to get a "creemee," Vermonters' endearing version of a soft-serve ice cream cone. In true Vermont fashion, the most popular creemee flavor is maple, which is usually my choice. The best spots to get creemees are Bluebird on Church street and Burlington Bay down the hill by the water.
Go see a live show: For such a small city, the music scene in Burlington is lively. On any given weekend in the summer, there's probably at least one great concert, music festival, or small show going on. Before you head up for the weekend, check out Higher Ground and Signal Kitchen's websites to look at show listings. This past weekend happened to be Burlington's martime music festival down at the waterfront, so josh and I were able to snag tickets last minute to see the Avett Brothers, who were great. I've been to a few shows down at the waterfront and it's really the summer perfect venue to enjoy good music and beautiful views of the lake at night.
Take a day trip to the islands: About 30 minutes north of Burlington lay the Lake Champlain islands, which are made up of 5 islands, South Hero, Grand Isle, North Hero, Alburgh, and Isle La Motte. Josh's sister and her family live in Grand Isle so we are always sure to make a trip up there when we are in Vermont. The islands are linked to the mainland by a long causeway that is surrounded on both sides by a massive sandbar and is so beautiful that it makes the drive worth it in itself. And once you are over the sandbar, the beauty only continues as you drive through exploring the islands. You can expect that pretty much anywhere you stop is going to be awesome. This past weekend, josh and I made a pit stop at a little used furniture shack on the side of the road before heading to his sisters', and ended up seeing some really fun old furniture pieces, as well as learning about the owners' annual trips to the Brimfield market in MA. Also, if you are up in the islands, be sure to keep at eye out for a food truck called the Outhouse - josh's brother-in-law converted it from an old camper!
Get french fries from Al's: Before getting back on the road to go home, make sure this is one of your pit stops. Al's French Fries is a 70-year-old classic diner in Burlington that has the best french fries in the world, hands down. I don't know how they do it. But I always make sure to squeeze in a trip there before heading back to Boston.
And there you have it! The perfect summer weekend in Burlington, Vermont. I promise you'll feel a tinge of sadness when getting on RT 89 to go back to wherever you came from. And for those of you that love Burlington as much as I do - I'd love to know what you think of think of this list! Are any of your favorite spots in this post? Did I miss anything?

Until next time, VT.

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