Reading Week Travel: Three Nights in Burlington, Vermont

Photos by Rachel Boere

You’ve heard them before and you’ll hear them again—the never ending deals and packages that take over your newsfeed and draw you to New York City, Montreal or Mont Tremblant over reading week. But, for anyone out there looking for something different, we’re here with a new idea: Burlington, Vermont.

Burlington is a cozy little town that sits right in the heart of the Green Mountains on the shores of Lake Champlain, sometimes called the sixth Great Lake. The city has cobblestone pedestrian streets, stunning sunsets over the lake and some of the best places to grab a bite in the region, all summed up under a true New England vibe. To top it all off, Burlington is also home to three universities, making it a bustling hub for gnarly nightlife. This city thrives on a grassroots, locally owned and grown and absolutely ~chill~ atmosphere. And let’s be real, this is Bernie Sander’s home base, so it has to be pretty damn great.

Here’s our take on a three-day trip to the city:

How to get there

There are three ways to get to Burlington from Toronto.

  1. The most direct route would be a quick flight from Billy Bishop Airport into the Burlington International Airport with Porter. With regular deals, you can snag this one-hour, 15-minute flight for as low as 95$ one way.
  2. A little longer, but also fun is the train. Hop on Via Rail from downtown Toronto to downtown Montreal and you won’t even have to worry about the weather. Rent a car for the quick two-hour jaunt across the border and to help you zip around the city when you arrive. Quick tip: take advantage of Via Rail’s Discount Tuesdays and youth fares.
  3. If you have a car and a few extra hours on either end of your trip, this drive does make for a wicked road trip with friends. The first route will bring you up the 401 and through Montreal, while the second will take you through Niagara and upstate New York. Although a smidge longer, we recommend the latter for the stunning views through the Appalachian mountains.

Where to stay

Deciding where to stay is different for everyone. Some people will always opt for the hotel room with friends, others will never turn down an opportunity to experience another AirBNB or hostel, and some simply love the CouchSurfing life. For this, we just recommend you 1) stay as close to downtown as possible for easy access to plenty of activities and restaurants and 2) you love the place you’re at (it’s part of the adventure!).

What to do

Day activities:

Burlington has got you covered in terms of things to do. Fill your first day in the city with some wandering around the streets of downtown, taking in the beautiful architecture and orienting yourself. Don’t miss a chance for some shopping at the award-winning Church Street Marketplace, an open-air mall featuring a fantastic mix of chain stores—L.L. Bean, Patagonia, Gap—and locally owned stores which take up 70 per cent of the market. Our number one recommendation for shopping is the Vermont Flannel Company, a shop that specializes in, you guessed it, flannel! Serious, quality flannel. To round off your day, be sure to bundle up and catch one of Burlington’s renowned sunsets down by the lake. These colourful skies with the Adirondacks backdrop will take your breath away.

Spend your second day just outside the city on the slopes surrounding the highest point in the state, Mount Mansfield. From Mad River Glen to Smuggler’s Notch to Bolton Valley, there is no shortage of places to check out. With these hills considered to be some of the best and most beautiful in the country, they attract beginners and experts alike, holding fun days for everyone. Once you’ve tapped off the mountains, head for the taps in town and try one (or more) of the quality Vermont craft brews. Top of the list would be Magic Hat Brewery or Alchemist, which both offer brewery tours and tastings and are served at plenty of spots in town. Grab a glass and relax!

To round off your last day in the city be sure to check out the Ben & Jerry’s Factory. Learn about the hippest ice cream company founders in the world, try out their newest flavours and be inspired to change the world via ice cream. Don’t forget to pay your respects to all the lost and forgotten flavours at the Flavour Graveyard on your way out! And last but not least, if you haven’t already done so, grab a “Feel the Bern” t-shirt from the centre of it all and get more compliments than you can possibly imagine back home in the 6ix (guaranteed).

Places to eat:

Burlington is a foodie’s paradise. Known for their locally sourced ingredients, most restaurants have a legacy of pure deliciousness. Here are a couple options to get you through your days, featuring restaurants with the kindest slogans and heartwarming missions:

Breakfast: Our top recommendations are the Skinny Pancake, where you can love local and find some of the best crepes around, and Penny Cluse Cafe, which is guaranteed to be filled with locals and some of the most unique breakfast and lunch options you’ll ever come across.

Lunch: Lunch can be a little tricky to recommend because it’s so dependent on when you eat breakfast and what activities you’re up to that day. Our only absolute go-to is The Bagel Place (also good for breakfast or dinner, to be quite honest). This shop is going to fill your heart and make you wonder why you don’t currently work there (who needs a university degree when you have bagels?).

Dinner: The only tricky thing about dinner in Burlington is finding a place that isn’t already packed. You’re almost 100 per cent guaranteed a mouthwatering dinner if you can just find a place to sit. Top of the list would be American Flatbread for their value of quality bread, The Farmhouse Tap & Grill for their classic Vermont style and Sweetwaters for their mix of old and new.

Nightlife:

The nightlife in Burlington is bumpin’ everywhere. Whether you’re in Rasputin’s, a student bar good for cheap drinks and quality music, or Red Square with the triple DJs, you’re guaranteed a great time and a quick walk to good pizza on your way home. Other recommendations from locals to add to your list are What Ale’s You and Ake’s Place.

These three days will be jam packed but filled with one-of-a-kind-stops, delicious bites, beautiful views and great memories. So why not try something new and head to Burlington, Vermont!

P.S. Burlington is not just a place to visit in the winter; the city’s location makes for a stunning trip at any time of year. Substitute some skiing with apple picking in the fall or an afternoon kayaking on the lake in the summer!