Discover Bliss: 11+ Enchanting Things to Do in Burlington VT

A case can be made that Burlington, Vermont – or more generally, the whole of Vermont – begat the Farm to Table dining movement. Ask about the “best” restaurant in town – “and it has to source locally” – one is met with snickers.

“Every restaurant here buys from local farms!” Needless to say, eating well is one of the best things to do in Burlington VT.

So, yeah, there’s the fantastic food aspect of this University town set on stunning Lake Champlain. And yet, there are so many more things to do in Burlington VT for culture-loving couples.

There’s an enviro-hippy vibe, a boutique hotel with poignantly sourced art, a frenetic, Victorian/mid-century modern bed and breakfast that offers something too good to pass up, Teddy Bears, and steamships on land.

But of course, it’s the Burlington breweries that have made Vermont in general, and Burlington in particular, an international destination. Some would even say that Vermont beer is the biggest tourist attraction in the area.

A romantic weekend getaway to the great northern VT is all about the good life. It’s so good here you might want to extend your Vermont vacation with a stop in Manchester VT near Green Mountain National Forest.

Romantic Things to Do In Burlington VT

Cutting, Vermont Teddy Bear, VT

TOUR: Vermont Teddy Bear Co

Over 100,000 Vermont Teddy Bears (named after Theodore Roosevelt) are made in this factory. One that, I must admit, I was ready to pass up in favor of spending an extra hour in Burlington a few miles away. I’m glad I didn’t.

This sweet, upbeat tour takes you through all phases of a Vermont Bear’s construction, from Cutting to Hand Sewing, to Stuffing and Distribution. Many bears are made from scratch per order, with personalized monogramming of names and phrases (“marry me”) on paws.

Sewing, Vermont Teddy Bear Co.

The stuffing – recycled plastic, hypoallergenic – comes out of the machines at 100 miles per hour. Limbs are locked into place, and the back of each bear is hand-stitched to close it well. The company offers 200 outfits, each with a story.

There’s a Mommy Bear with a “Baby Bump,” that, when removed, is a tiny bear in a wearable sling. One fan provided a piece of her wedding dress to have a matching dress made for her own bear.

Now, you can even send in a favorite picture for transfer on a bear’s shirt for the ultimate personalized gift.

Shipping, Vermont Teddy Bear Co.

The shipping and receiving warehouse, called “Emerald City,” is where the bears are uniquely packed in a decorative box with Vermont Brownie included, “so the bear doesn’t get hungry in transit.” The box even has air holes.

Teddy Bear Doctor

Vermont Teddy Bear Hospital

Vermont Bears are considered heirloom gifts and often become part of the family. So it’s heartwarming to discover that the “Bear Hospital” offers free, compassionate care to each patient, forever.

The name of each “sick” bear is listed, with the reason it was sent, on a dry erase board behind Dr. Nancy’s desk and operating table: ACL tear, dog attack, ear fuzz, and the terrifying “Lawnmower.”

Dr. Nancy can fix most of these. But the lawn-mowed bear might be too shredded to make whole. In those situations, they are patched together as well as can be expected, and sent home with a new bear. Due to their durable construction and the fact that they are guaranteed for life, Vermont Teddy Bears are not cheap. The 15” Classic starts at $59.99, with a 6 foot version going for $200.

Shelburne Museum, VT

TOUR: Shelburne Museum

You’ll need at least three hours (though you can spend a weekend) to see everything at this 39-building complex comprised of “collections of collections.”

With elements of Williamsburg (VA), Winterthur (DE), and Greenfield Village (MI), the Shelburne Museum is one of the most unique assemblages of buildings, boats, and bridges you’ll ever see.

Buildings, Shelburne Museum, VT

Brought to life by folk-art-collector society dame, Electra Havemeyer Webb, whose family is credited with bringing French Impressionist paintings to New York’s Metropolitan Museum in the 1920s, and who married James Watson Webb, the son of Eliza Vanderbilt, The Shelburne Museum is as eclectic as Electra was eccentric.

Ticonderoga, Shelburne Museum, VT

She started collecting weathervanes, trade signs, tableware, pewter, sleighs and so much more in 1911, amassing so much that she had to find acreage to house it all.

Come to see the 220ft Ticonderoga, a sidewheel steamboat that once plied Lake Champlain and is now permanently situated on the beautifully landscaped 45-acre grounds. It sits across a lawn from the Colchester Point Lighthouse (moved here in 1953), and the 1773 Prentiss Home (moved here from Hadley MA).

You can walk into the 1890 Castleton Jail, churches, barns, and homes, made from stone and wood – each containing exemplary collections of antiques.

Round Barn, Shelburne Museum, VT

The newest building, a contemporary edifice designed by Ann Beha Architects, is counterpoint to the bright red round barn directly across the green. It’s these juxtapositions that make Shelburne Museum so compelling.

The Shelburne Museum is one of 10 quirky-romantic places to propose in Vermont.

Barn buildings, Shelburne Farms, VT

VISIT: Shelburne Farms National Historic Landmark

Like it sister attraction, Shelburne Museum, there’s a lot to see on this 1,400-acre working farm; nine points of interest include the Farm Barn, which houses the Children’s Farmyard and cheese-making facilities, the Dairy, where 125 purebred Brown Swiss cows are milked daily to produce the Farmhouse Cheddar (available at the Farm Store), the family summer home, now an Inn, and other attractions.

Cheddar Cheese, Shelburne Farms, VT

To maximize your time, take the 1 ½ hour guided tram tour (runs 3 times/day). Or simply ride the wagon over to the Farm Barn’s Children’s Farmyard, which houses newborn animals and educational programming for kids and families.

Vanderbilt Connection to Shelburne Farms

I lucked upon a VIP tour with Marshall Webb, great-grandson of Lila Vanderbilt-Webb, and her husband, William Seward. There were the original Webb’s who, in 1886, owned the property and built the stately stone homes and barns still standing today.

Marshall and his brother Alec now run the non-profit Shelburne Farms, established in the 1970s by all six siblings of his generation. Back then, the charitable component was comprised only of a summer camp and vegetable market, while the farm itself remained an active dairy business.

Marshall’s father ran the farm until he died in 1984. Since then, Marshall et. al made education focusing on sustainable agriculture Mission Number One. So much so that the Environmental Center had to be moved from the smaller Coach Barn to the larger Farm Barn.

Environmental Mission

Inn at Shelburne Farms, Shelburne VT

The Lake Champlain-set Romanesque/Queen Anne stone manor house, on a landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (who chose what to plant) and Gifford Pinchot (who determined where to plant), was Marshall’s family summer home from the 1960s to 1974.

In 1987, it became the Inn @ Shelburne Farms, a stunning 24-room seasonal hotel, with no heat or air-conditioning, and a well-regarded restaurant. I asked Marshall how he felt having strangers stay in his old childhood room. “I love it. It’s keeping the house and memories alive,” he said.

Barn under renovation, Shelburne Farms, VT

Lately, Shelburne Farms is working on renovating an original horse barn to be used as event space. Also, Green Mountain Power installed a solar panel field, which generates about 30% of the farm’s energy. More comes from firewood, cut from 400 acres of northern hardwood.

Advancing sustainable forestry, Marshall is both the Woodland Manager and “Special Projects Coordinator.” What kind of special projects? Well, the farm is growing its shitake mushrooms – in tree trunks impregnated with spores – used by chefs at the Inn @ Shelburne Farm.

People are drawn to Shelburne Farms for all kinds of reasons; its history, its celeb-designed landscape, to walk the 10 miles of trails, to take a guided tour, to eat in the Inn’s restaurant, or to stay overnight. But mostly to bring children to the Farm Barn to see and interact with the animals.

Fleming Museum, University of Vermont, Burlington VT

VISIT: Fleming Museum of Art

Larger inside than it looks from the outside, the Fleming Museum of Art at the University of Vermont offers an accessible though bite-sized exposure to the greats.

Enter through a soaring Victorian Era space, with magnificent arched windows. Then continue into the museum’s original entrance – a Greek Revival white marble rotunda with glamorous double staircase to the galleries above.

You’ll find antiquities, Native American artifacts, and European Art. The modern collection includes Warhol, Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Robert Indiana’s LOVE, and Lichtenstein among others.

ECHO, Burlington VT

VISIT: ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain 

ECHO, an aquarium and science center right on the waterfront, is stocked with hands-on learning centers, games, and glass tanks filled with “lots of sturgeon.” Mostly for kids, adults can relax while little ones crawl through the newest exhibit, Champ Lane.

Church St. Pedestrian Mall, Burlington VT

STROLL: Church Street Pedestrian Mall/BCA (Burlington VT City Arts)

The Church Street Marketplace is the “Centerpiece of Downtown Burlington.” There are lots of shops, restaurants and art galleries. And of course, buskers strumming and singing for their dollars.

My favorite, of course, is the Crow Bookshop, which has been at this location for 20 years.

BCA Center, Burlington VT

As you wander, be sure to step into BCA (Burlington City Arts), with three galleries on 4 floors. There’s always something new – art is contemporary, some bordering the provocative. BCA also offers classes – in photography, digital arts, and clay and print art.

Burlington VT on the water

BIKE: Burlington Bike Path

Bring your bike or rent one in town to peddle the 8-mile Burlington Bike Path along the city’s waterfront park.

VISIT: Burlington Breweries

There are four breweries and one cidery within the confines of Burlington itself. Another Fiddlehead, is a few miles away, across from the Shelburne Museum. All are listed below:

Foam Brewing, Burlington VT


Foam, set on the waterfront, is a bit tough to find. Pass Skinny Pancake restaurant and Peace Justice shop, to the apartments. It’s in there. Belly up to Foam’s curvilinear, fossil-embedded polished concrete bar (with ameba-shaped blue inlaid lighting) for the signature Saison de Foam – “citrus, peppery, crackling dry.”

Switchback Brewing, Burlington VT


Switchback Ale has a flavor profile close to a Red Amber American Pale Ale. For years, Switchback avoided making IPAs as everyone else was doing it. But in 2015, it launched Connector IPA, which became a favorite. The Connector’s draft pull is based on the World’s Highest Stack of Filing Cabinets (see below), just down the street.

Highest Stack of Filing Cabinets, Burlington VT

The “World’s Highest Stack of Filing Cabinets,” on Flynn Ave., is a statement about the bureaucratic bullheadedness that prevented a highway from being built. Each of the 38 filing cabinets stands for another year that the Champlain Highway was promised and never came to pass. A great Photo Op.

Zero Gravity Craft Brewery, Burlington VT


Come for their flagships, Conehead India Pale Ale or Green State Lager. Or break out to try something new.

Queen City Brewery, Burlington VT


This brewery focuses on German and English-style beers, with Porter and Hefeweizen the two best sellers. Situated in a warehouse out back, you’ll find bites like Bratwurst (what else?), and local ciders and wines from other producers (“not everyone likes beer”). The ice-cold Porter, mild with chocolate-coffee notes is stellar. I’m a new fan.

Folino's Pizza, Fiddlehead Brewing, VT


A bit out of town, this well-regarded brewery shares a building with one of the best pizza joints in Vermont, Folino’s. Every so often Fiddlehead releases Second Fiddle (double IPA), rated 98/100 by Beer Advocate, in cans. On those days, there are lines out the door. Grab a four-pack, and head next door. Everyone does.

Citizen Cider, Burlington VT


You’ll be hard-pressed to get a seat after work at this very busy cidery, which fulfills its “moral purpose” by purchasing fruit directly from local orchards and farms. No sugar is added to their blends, which consist of fermented whole apples, and natural flavors and colors, like blueberries.

The flagship drink, United Press is a slightly sweet, appley, effervescent brew that tickles the tongue. Ginger lovers will want to order Dirty Mayor, a drier concoction that goes down like a spicy ginger snap. Cider is naturally Gluten-Free. So Citizen offers gluten-free rolls, crackers, and sharable snacks for those with allergies. $7 for five samples.

Burlington VT Restaurants

CREEMEE: Burlington Bay Market & Café

Don’t call it soft-serve! In Vermont, the kind of ice cream that comes out of a machine is coined a “creemee.” And yes, you’ll want one – Maple flavor, please – from Burlington Bay Market & Cafe with a deck overlooking Lake Champlain.

Inn at Shelburne Farms Restaurant at sunset, VT

EAT: Inn @ Shelburne Farms

You cannot get fresher meats and produce than this. A “very high percentage” of food served in this Lake Champlain set restaurant is sourced right on the property. Beef and lamb come from Shelburne Farm cows and sheep and from its 7-acre produce garden.

Fish comes right off the boat from Maine. That’s rather reasonable when you factor in the vista and ambiance. Reservations are tough to get, especially around sunset, when patrons sit outside on the patio or atop Adirondack chairs on the expansive lawn to watch the Lake light up in pink and gold.

Juniper Breakfast, Hotel Vermont, Burlington VT

EAT: Juniper

Set inside the Hotel Vermont, Jupiter is unlike most hotel eateries that tend to cater to mainstream tastes. This cuisine is innovative and beautiful. Dishes like Sliced Pickled Beets and Sunflower Tahini on Red Hen Bread, and Cured Starbird Salmon Maki with Maple Mustard Miso and Cranberry Ponzu liven up the plates. Cocktails rock. And of course, the local cider (Citizen) and city breweries are well-represented on the drink menu.

EAT: Hen of the Wood

Generally at the top of everyone’s list, it’s an earth-to-plate forerunner, and a difficult table to get. Plan ahead.

Folino's Wood Fired Pizza Burlington VT
Folino’s Wood Fired Pizza Burlington VT

EAT: Folino’s Woodfire Pizza

Take it from a New Yorker – this pizza is fantastic. Plus, it shares a wall with Fiddlehead Brewery – so you don’t have very far to go for your accompanying craft beer.

Hong's Chinese Dumplings Burlington VT

SNACK: Hong’s Chinese Dumplings

For years, Hong’s food cart (pictured above) was a fixture on Church St. The can’t-miss, from-scratch dumplings became so famous, and coveted, that Hong’s opened up a shop on Pearl St. within steps of its original location. Now, Burlington foodies can satisfy their dumpling cravings year-round.

Burlington VT Hotels

Elevator nook, Hotel Vermont, Burlington VT

STAY: Hotel Vermont

Hotel Vermont, a chic boutique, is everything an upscale Burlington VT hotel should be, and one of the best places to stay in Burlington. It’s environmentally conscious with judicious use of natural elements in a funky, eye pleasing décor.

First Impressions of Hotel Vermont

Art at Reception Desk, Hotel Vermont, Burlington VT

You’ll see the bikes first – lined up in the lobby for guests to use. And then, behind a small reception desk, manned by smiling and ever-helpful staff, Hotel Vermont’s logo writ large. It’s a Mondrian-like composition of inlaid wood of various colors.

This piece, incredibly, was constructed by artist Duncan Johnson from the debris wrought by Hurricane Irene when it blew through Vermont, reducing houses and barns to matchsticks. Not a touch of paint was added to any piece of salvaged wood. So what you see is a splinter of a home, a sliver of a livelihood in its original color. Beauty is created from tragedy.

Rooms at Hotel Vermont

View from Hotel Vermont 6th floor room, Burlington VT

Ask for a room on “concierge-level” 6.  These offer Lake Champlain views over the rooftop of the hotel next door, and provide snacks day and night in an alcove right off the elevator.

Rooms are fresh and contemporary – blond woods, leather seating, and an incredibly comfortable pillow-top bed punched up with a Vermont Flannel Co. throw.

Guestroom, Hotel Vermont, Burlington VT

The toilet nook and glass/Vermont marble rainhead shower area are separate rooms, cleverly concealed or open to the bedroom via rolling track doors. Large windows bring in lots of light, and in some cases a sweeping view of the islands within and mountains surrounding Lake Champlain.

STAY: Made Inn Vermont, Burlington VT

Meeting exuberant innkeeper, Linda Wolf, for the first time is like taking a shot of espresso. She’s high-energy and all-in when it comes to granting guests a phenomenal stay, with a vivaciousness that ricochets around the room.

Parlor, Made Inn Vermont, Burlington VT

A big, darkly colored Victorian, Made Inn Vermont B&B is a contradiction in so many ways, starting with the fact that it is small (only four rooms).

But this Burlington establishment has a growing reputation among fashionistas, rock & rollers, and mid-century modern style fans who also love craft beer. Here’s why.

Back Parlor, Made Inn Vermont BnB, Burlington VT

Contradiction # 1: Revved Vs. Chill

As bouncy as your first exposure to Linda is – that’s as chill as you will soon be after drinking deeply from the can of beer, glass of wine, or goblet of Sangria that she delivers out to the hot-tub patio. Or up to the “Widow’s Watch” 360 degree-view third floor turret.

Breakfast spread, Made Inn Vermont, Burlington VT

Contradiction #2: Victorian Exterior, Mad Chic Inside

Made Inn Vermont is outwardly Victorian with “Urban-chic” innards. Exquisite woodwork and high ceilings are to be expected in this 1881 home. But common rooms are quite surprising: crammed with artsy bric-a-brac, vinyl records and record players, snacks, books, games, and colorful, contemporary paintings. It might be a tad cluttered – but it’s Victoriana turned on its head.

Common area with vinyl records, Made Inn Vermont, Burlington VT

Contradiction # 3 – Perfect for Millennials and Hip Boomers

Guests cross generational lines. Millennials love this place, but adventurous Boomers who appreciate free wine, beer and mixed drinks, unlimited snacks and water, and a large collection of vinyl rock and roll records to play in private on a turntable in each room, adore it here as well.

Room 904, Made Inn Vermont, Burlington VT

Contradiction #4: Outstanding Guests Rooms, Stylish Private Baths Down the Hall

Guest Rooms are airy and outstandingly designed in funky, cool, mid-century modern décor. Each room is assigned a beautiful private bathroom. Down the hall.

Blackboard walls in Guestrooms, Made Inn Vermont, Burlington VT

Each room sports one blackboard wall (with chalk) for guests to write on (right on!), lava lamps, and soft sheets on downy beds that are oh so tough to leave.

Each fridge is stocked with water and soft drinks. Plus, heavens above, a can of Heady Topper and Focal Banger. Yes, complimentary.

Breakfast sampler, Made Inn Vermont, Burlington VT

Stays include wi-fi, drinks (soft, wine, and beer), snacks throughout the day, buffet and a made-to-order hot gourmet breakfast. Well-behaved dogs of any size are welcomed here.

STAY: The Essex Resort and Spa

Nestled amidst the idyllic Vermont landscape, just a short drive from Burlington, the Essex Resort and Spa offers a unique blend of luxury, culinary adventure, and natural beauty. With its award-winning Cook Academy, two renowned on-site restaurants, and a world-class spa, this resort is more than just a place to stay—it’s a comprehensive experience designed to engage all your senses. Whether you’re seeking a culinary getaway, a spa retreat, or simply a comfortable base to explore Vermont’s outdoor activities, your stay at the Essex Resort promises to be unforgettable.

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  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine,, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

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