Perched on the shores of Lake Champlain — the largest freshwater lake in the U.S. after the five Great Lakes — Burlington, Vermont, is just 45 miles south of the Canadian border and offers a host of fun for families with children of all ages.
The largest city in the state, Burlington boasts a long history of being a great place to live, offering an exceptional work/life balance for its 45,000 residents and many diverse activities. Originally a trading hub, today it’s home to the University of Vermont and much more.
“The city has a vibrant food, arts and family scene,” says Miro Weinberger, mayor of Burlington, and the father of a 20-month-old and a 9-year old. “It’s a dynamic city with great food, arts, and culture in a uniquely beautiful natural setting and a great commitment to local companies and artists. Sustainability of the environment is key; the entire city is provided power sourced from renewable resources. “
Here are five must-sees, straight from the mayor:
Burlington Farmers Market
City Hall Park,
149 Church Street
Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
“On Saturdays, we put our 20-month-old in a bike trailer,” Weinberger says. “We ride down to the Farmer’s Market held in City Hall Park. There are dozens of vendors, with food, arts and crafts, music, and the kids play in the park. It is a great family scene.”
Island Line Rail Trail
Start point: Oakledge Park, Flynn Dr.
Bike Ferry Day Pass: Adults: $8;
Youth (7-17): $5; 6 and under: free.
Trail is free
Head to the Burlington waterfront with your bikes or rent wheels from Local Motion (localmotion.org). The 14-mile Island Line trail includes a unique “bike ferry,” which transports cyclists and pedestrians across "the Cut" of Lake Champlain, a 200-foot gap on the Colchester Causeway. “You are riding with water on both sides and the Adirondacks to the west,” says the mayor, a frequent cyclist on the path.
And while you have the bikes out, don’t miss:
King Street Dock
Admission (each way): Driver & Vehicle under 19 feet: $30; Adult Passenger: $8; Child (6-12: $3.10; Child (under 6): free; Motorcycle & Driver: $10; Bicyclist: $9.
Lake Champlain Bikeways
The 70-minute Burlington to Port Kent, NY, ferry crossing gets you on the water with beautiful views of the mountains and Lake Champlain.
“The Lake Champlain Transportation Ferry Boat takes you for a nice hour ride to Port Kent, New York,” Weinberger notes. “You can then return, or if you took your car or bike, continue to make a big loop. It’s a great way to see Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks.”
South End Truck Stop
400 Pine St.
Fridays, 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Enjoy a variety of food trucks, local artisans, and music. “This is a really funky, eclectic arts scene,” Weinberger adds. “There are a bunch of food trucks in parking lots surrounded by art stores and galleries. It is unique and fun.”
ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center
1 College St.
Admission: Adults (18-59): $13.50; Seniors (age 60+) & College Students (with ID): $11.50; Children (3-17): $10.50; 2 and younger: Free
With a focus on sustainability, the center features more than 100 interactive exhibits and science education programs, including over 70 species of fish, amphibians, invertebrates, and reptiles. ”A great scene for families,” Weinberger says.
The Intervale Center
180 Intervale Rd.
Thursdays, 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m.
The Intervale Center’s mission is to strengthen community food systems, offering local food, live music, and children’s activities on Thursdays via its Summervale events. “The Intervale Center is one of those hidden jewels in the area,” the mayor notes. “It is like an urban oasis. Food, beverages, music, and educational sessions are all wrapped into one fun evening.”
Lake Champlain Chocolates, Pine Street
Come for the tour of chocolate making, and stay to learn how to make chocolates.
Tours are daily, classes are scheduled.
Admission Prices: Factory tour free, classes $25-$30.
Also in Burlington and nearby
Waterfront Park, College & Lake Street
Giant waterfront park with beautiful views of the area. “When you see pictures of Burlington the chances are excellent the pictures are from here.” There’s a fishing pier, boats, kayaks, paddleboards, with neighboring shops and restaurants.
Spirit of Ethan Allen, Burlington Boathouse, 1 College Street
Narrated cruises on Burlington Bay, including lunch and dinner cruises aboard the cruises aboard the 363 passenger Spirit of Ethan Allen III.
Admission: Scenic cruise - 1 1/2 hr: $19.21 Adults, $8.43 Children (3-11)
Petra Cliffs Climbing Center, 105 Briggs St.
An extensive indoor climbing facility featuring a variety of educational programs based on experiential learning for all abilities.
Admission: Climbing & Bouldering Day Pass $ 16 $ 14 $ 12 Climbing Gear Rental Harness $3 Shoes $5 Chalk $2 Package $8
Ethan Allen Homestead
Explore the homestead where Vermont’s founder Ethan Allen lived in the 18th century. Tours immerse participants in 18th century living, and include exhibit galleries on archeology and history. Walking trails on-site. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Admission: Individual: $8 Children 4-12: $5 Children under 4: free Seniors: $7
Shelburne Museum, Shelburne Road, Shelburne, VT
A museum of art, design and Americana including old carriages, perfectly preserved dentist’s office, the Ticonderoga, an old paddle wheel boat to explore, etc. Located on 45 acres, the museum has 38 exhibition buildings reminiscent of a New England village.
Admission: Adult: $24* Youth (ages 13-17): $14 Child (ages 5-12): $12
Adult Family Pass (2 adults and accompanying children, 5-17, per pass): $58
*Seniors (65+) and guests with AAA membership card or VAA coupon receive $2 discount.
Shelburne Farms, 1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne
Dedicated to sustainability of the earth and teaching young people to make informed decisions around sustainability. This attraction is a 1,400-acre working farm. Visit the dairy and see them make cheese.
Admission: Adult: $8 Senior: $6 Children 3-17: $5 Children under 3: Free
Montana Philo State Park, Mt Philo Road, Charlotte, VT
A 168-acre park located atop Philo (968' elevation) with views of New York’s Adirondack Mountains and the Lake Champlain Valley. The mountain top is accessible by road or trail.
Vermont Teddy Bear Company, Shelburne Rd, Shelburne, VT
See how Vermont Teddy Bears are made in a 30-minute tour.
Admission: Adults: $4 Seniors: $3 Children (12 and under): Free
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Waterbury-Stowe Rd., Waterbury, VT
Thirty-minute guided tour includes samples! Try out new flavors on this informational tour.
Admission: Adult: $4 Senior: $3 Children 12 and younger are free.
Plan your trip:
From Boston: 3 hours, 20 minutes (216 miles)
From Worcester: 3 hours, 42 minutes (238 miles)