A Hidden Gem: 5 Reasons Burlington, Vermont Is The Perfect Active Vacation Destination
I've been a lot of different places all over the world. More specifically, I’ve been to many different places in the United States. Growing up in Chicago, playing travel baseball all over the country, and eventually living in Fort Worth, Texas for 4 years allowed me to see a lot different parts of my country. However, I’d never seen much of the New England region so when some of my good friends from Chicago wanted to do a ski trip in Vermont, I was game. Living in Montreal now and being only two hours away by car was the icing on the cake.
We decided that we would get an Airbnb in Burlington and drive 45 minutes to Stowe for skiing/ snowboarding. It was my first time snowboarding so I was mostly falling on my butt and trying not to wreck my body all of Saturday, but I was able to spend the whole day on Sunday exploring Burlington.
I had no expectations about the city and to be honest, I knew little beyond the fact that it was the biggest city in Vermont (Montpelier is the capital) and had the University of Vermont within its city limits. I have to tell you that I was pleasantly surprised by Burlington! Here are my top 5 reasons to take an active vacation to the Queen City:
1. Burlington Is Extremely Walkable:
Even though I only had one full day to explore Burlington, I was easily able to see a large chunk of the city. From the University Of Vermont to the South End Arts District to Church Street, it is easy to navigate the city and each section has its own flavor and vibe to it. I was a big fan of the waterfront. The city is located on the shores of Lake Champlain with New York state’s Adirondack Mountains as its backdrop. The view is stunning and I was able to walk out onto the frozen lake to the breakwater for some great pictures! There is a bike path that runs along the shores and throughout the whole city. I am already planning a trip back from Montreal to bike around the city and explore even more! Just like Montreal, I heard the city truly comes alive in the summer.
"Ask any of the 45,000 Burlington residents why they love living in the city and almost all of them will mention how they can be skiing or mountain biking within 30 minutes."
2. The Scenery Is Breathtaking
The drive from Montreal to Burlington is quite unremarkable...until you get past the U.S-Canada border and you see nothing but beautiful mountains and rivers. It’s a dramatic difference that leaves you thinking how did Canada get the wrong end of that stick (Don’t get me wrong, Québec is stunning especially my favorite region in the world: Gaspésie.) Regardless, Vermont is proud of its beautiful landscape and even went so far to ban all billboards along its road to make sure you take it all in. Thanks, Ted Riehle. The scenery makes for a stunning background for your vacation or getaway. For anyone that is used to a concrete jungle, it does the mind a great deal to be surrounded by mountains. I swear you can smell how fresh the mountain air is!
"The laid back lifestyle, the outdoor sports, great food and beer, friendly locals, and beautiful scenery all create a wonderful mix for a great active vacation or getaway. I would recommend discovering this hidden gem as soon as possible before the secret gets out :)"
3. Outdoor Sports Are Within Driving Distance:
Ask any of the 45,000 Burlington residents why they love living in the city and almost all of them will mention how they can be skiing or mountain biking within 30 minutes. For many outsiders that move to the state, it is what first attracted them to the city. They wanted to improve their quality of life.
And how can you blame them? You have world class skiing 45 minutes away at Stowe Mountain Resort, some of the best mountain biking trails in the country at Kingdom Trails, and you can hike rare arctic alpine tundra at Mount Mansfield. It’s easy to see why people are packing up and make their way north to Vermont.
4. The Food And Drink Is To Die For!
Surprisingly for being a small town, Burlington has a lively food scene. From small vegetarian restaurant with locally sourced ingredients like Revolution Kitchen to a traditional, French café like Leunig’s Bistro to a music venue, art space, and diner mix in ArtsRiot, Burlington has a nice range of different restaurants that can satisfy any taste you may have. I loved how fresh the food was. There is a big emphasis on healthy, organic food in Vermont that I appreciate. It makes sense since the state is so into sports, but you don’t find that many other places in the US.
The food isn’t the only star in the show. After a long day hiking or hitting the slopes, it’s important to sit back and relax with a brew or two. Besides, the occasional beer is good for you so this is doctor’s orders ;) Burlington is known for its local breweries. From Foam Brewers right on the waterfront to Zero Gravity to Burlington Beer Co. Burlington has a craft beer that fits everyone’s taste! My personal favorite is Switchback Brewing Co. which is home to a COTF approved stretch and sip yoga class. The 60 minute yoga class is usually held on Saturday mornings and followed by either a flight or pint all for a reasonable $15. A workout and post workout (de)hydration..That’s a win-win in my book!
5. People Are Ridiculously Friendly
Now I am not saying that people in Montreal are not friendly, they are incredibly warm and nice people! That being said, I found that I easily met and had conversations with Burlingtoners (Is that what you call yourselves???) all the time. Maybe we bonded over mutual appreciation for each other’s cities, but I found everyone knew each other and looked out for one another. It had a smaller village feel to it that I was not used to, but I really enjoyed it! I guess it has to do with the fact the state has only 600,000 residents. Everyone made me feel warm and welcomed.
Also, interestingly enough, Vermont is making a push for its residents to learn French so it can accommodate Montrealers and Quebecers who visit the state. I found that to be unique since that Vermont wants to be more welcoming and friendly to its neighbor north of the border. Even many of historic placards near the waterfront that detailed what happened in the War of 1812 were in both English and French. Good on you, Vermont!
Overall, Burlington is a fantastic base for exploring all that Vermont has to offer. The laid back lifestyle, the outdoor sports, great food and beer, friendly locals, and beautiful scenery all create a wonderful mix for a great active vacation or getaway. I would recommend discovering this hidden gem as soon as possible before the secret gets out :)