Situated in Chittenden County, Burlington is Vermont's biggest city and is a lively university town with creativity and a growing tech industry. Ideally located on Lake Champlain's eastern shore between the Adirondack and Green Mountains, the city contains galleries, museums, historic architecture, top-class shopping, and a host of outdoor activities.
Originally one of the leading ports in the country, with steamboat traffic on the lake boosting the local economy, the city was also the site of an important military hospital and army post during the War of 1812. Burlington continues to be one of the USA's top cities to live in, and has a friendly, college-town atmosphere, which draws millions of visitors a year.
Attractions in Burlington include historic sites, produce and craft markets, lake cruises and chocolate shops. The city has a beautiful riverside setting and surrounding landscapes that invite all kinds of outdoor recreation. As one would expect from a city that is home to tens of thousands of students, Burlington has a vibrant nightlife, undoubtedly the best in Vermont, making it a fun destination for youngsters in search of a party atmosphere.
The village of Shelburne, which has essentially become part of Burlington as the city expands, is a hotspot for tourists, and the well-loved ski resort of Stowe is only a short drive away.
One of Burlington's earliest inhabitants, Ethan Allen, was a charismatic backwoodsman-turned-statesman originally from Connecticut. In capturing Fort Ticonderoga during the Revolutionary War, and as the leader of the Green Mountain Boys militia, he secured his position as a folk hero and founder of Vermont.
A man of many talents, Allen was also a philosopher and Deist, publishing . Interestingly, Ethan Allen's brother Ira was the founder of the University of Vermont in 1791.
Visitors to the homestead can wander through the faithfully restored 18th-century home, see some interesting exhibits and access the beautiful grounds. The house itself is a small frame house built in the Cape Cod style, that has existed for many years in complete obscurity.
More recently, much research has been done on both the house and Ethan Allen himself, and the house has been added to the list of Burlington landmarks by the Burlington Historic Sites Board. In addition to historical interest, the house's grounds provide lovely trails for hiking and picnicking.
Lake Champlain Chocolates began as a challenge from a restaurant owner, Jim Lampman, to his pastry chef in 1983. In response to the pastry chef's criticism of a box of fancy chocolates, Jim told him to see if he could do better. As it turns out, he could, and within weeks Jim was serving flavoured, hand-rolled truffles to guests at his restaurant.
The word soon spread throughout the town, and inhabitants began to badger Jim for more of his chocolates. When he gave in, it was initially just to open a small wholesale operation, but the business continued to grow in popularity beyond Jim Lampman's expectations.
Today, Lake Champlain Chocolates encompasses a handful of dedicated shops and a factory. And indeed, what could be more tempting than the thought of delicious, handmade chocolates and the chance to enjoy free samples? The line of chocolates and other products produced at the factory includes the famous truffles, caramels, hot chocolate, Five Star Bars, organic chocolates, novelties, and more. Lake Champlain Chocolates are all made on location in small batches where visitors can see how chocolates are made and enjoy the tastes and smells of the factory.
In 1978, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield managed to use the knowledge from a $5 correspondence course on ice cream making to create a multi-million dollar company. Today travellers can enjoy a trip out to the Ben and Jerry's Factory in Waterbury and get a chance to see how the famous treats are made and sample their mouth-watering flavours.
The tours start off in the Cow Over the Moon theatre with a short documentary on the company's history. From there, visitors are taken to the factory mezzanine to observe the ice cream production in progress and to be instructed on how the process works. Finally, visitors are allowed to sample the flavour of the day.
During the summer, visitors can stroll through the cow pasture, the Flavor Graveyard, and can also bring a picnic along to enjoy on the picturesque grounds. A full-service Scoop Shop is available on-site so that visitors can end off the day with a few scoops of the famous ice cream. Tours of the factory are conducted daily.
It is worth noting that ice cream is only produced from Monday to Friday, so on weekends, a short movie is screened instead. Further events are hosted throughout the year, such as the Free Cone Day, the Summer Movie Festival throughout the months of July and August, and the Halloween Festival.
Burlington's climate is moderate in comparison to the rest of the state, with temperatures modified by Lake Champlain. Winters (December to February) are cold with snowfall, while summers (June to August) are warm and humid. The city is one of the cloudiest in the country, and rainfall occurs throughout the year, although August tends to be the wettest month. Snowfall is common, and averages 85 inches (216cm) per year. Temperatures in Burlington range from an average minimum of 10°F (-12°C) in January to an average maximum of 81°F (27°C) in July. Festival season picks up during May to October, as do temperatures, making this time of year particularly pleasant.
Now in its 86th year, the Champlain Valley Fair is a fun and affordable 10-day feast of live music from top performers, shows, exciting rides, commercial exhibits, agricultural displays, and more. A particularly fun event for families, the fair also includes food stalls and educational activities for kids. It is possible to get right in the mix by camping on site.
The fair includes one big stage, called the Grandstand, where all the major concerts are held, with many smaller stages scattered throughout the grounds for smaller shows. Some famous features of the festival are the draft horse show, as well as motorsports. There is a demo derby, a figure eight race, a hell rider's show, and even a tractor pulling competition. On Carload Day, visitors are permitted to load their cars as full of people as possible and pay only one entrance fee for the whole car.
Running for over a decade, the Vermont Brewers Festival is a chance for brewpubs and microbreweries from Vermont, New York State, and New England as a whole, to showcase their craft brews. Set in the beautiful Waterfront Park, a tent village plays host to hundreds of litres of the regions finest. Entertainment, good food, and plenty of beer are the order of the day, celebrating not only America's Beer Month, but also the fact that Vermont has more breweries per capita than any other state. Specially printed tasting tickets are needed to sample the various offerings.
The festival organisers invite pairs of brewers to team up to create unique beers for release during the festival. Stands selling delicious local food are available for the duration of the festival, and they open half an hour before the tasting tent to give visitors a chance to eat before the tasting begins. Festival organisers provide plenty of cold fresh water for tasters, and designated drivers are required to stamp their hands when entering, and won't be served beer by any vendors.
Burlington is a pedestrian-friendly city that is easy to negotiate on foot. Walking is also the best way to enjoy the beauty of the city and its surrounds. Car rental agencies are available in the city and at the Burlington Airport. Traffic is heavy at peak hours. The Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) runs the public bus system and buses tend to be reliable and affordable, at $1.25 per trip. Hiring a bicycle is also a good option, particularly if one takes advantage of the Burlington Bike Path situated on the picturesque waterfront.
Burlington has many identities: a historic early American city, a vibrant college town, a lakeside holiday resort, and an important commercial centre. With all these features, it's easy to see there is plenty to see and do in Burlington.
Perched on the shore of Lake Champlain, many popular attractions and activities revolve around the tranquil lake. Kayaking, sailing, water skiing, dinner cruises, and other pursuits are a great way to enjoy Burlington's summer weather. The waterfront area is surprisingly non-commercial, and is home to bike paths, the ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, and a promenade perfect for enjoying sunset views.
An excellent way to make the most of the city's beautiful views is to hire a bicycle and follow the Waterfront Bike Path, a seven-and-a-half-mile (12km) route that runs from Oakledge Park at the southern end of town to the northern end at the beautiful Winooski River.
Historic Burlington can be explored through a few excellent museums, including the Ethan Allen Homestead, the Fleming Museum of Art, and the Shelburne Museum, nine miles (14.5km) south of Burlington.
Downtown Burlington is a vibrant area full of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants; the heart of which is the Church Street Marketplace. In good weather the square is filled with buskers and street performers, food and craft vendors, and most of the town's population.
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