14 Things To Do this Fall in Burlington
Autumn in Vermont is a special time. Rewind—scratch that. It’s downright legendary. Coveted long-sleeved flannels come out from hiding, the scent of apples and cinnamon wafts through kitchens, and late afternoon sunlight turns the fading grasses into gold. But the sugar maples, that set the Green Mountains ablaze, might best signify the fervor many people feel for this fleeting season. All hail acer saccharum.
Fall is prime time to visit the state. Aside from leaf peeping (which, in and of itself, is worth the trip), there's no shortage of memorable things to do and see. If you want a little taste of everything, the Burlington area is a great starting point for fall adventures.
In 1996 I moved to BTV—the biggest city in Vermont, a.k.a. the Queen City— to begin college. I was drawn to Burlington for a number of reasons. It had a liberal, neo-hippy vibe with health-food options and a budding yoga scene before any of that was mainstream. The Church Street Marketplace made for a vibrant, pedestrian friendly downtown against the backdrop of Lake Champlain and all of it was within easy access to what I loved most about Vermont, her mountains. Now, twenty years later, my college town has matured with the times: the hipster has usurped the hippy, there’s true cultural diversity, many more dining options, an exploding arts scene . . . but I am also pleased to see the old Queen has retained some of her most charming qualities.
Here's our list of 14 things to do this fall, in and around Burlington.
1. BURLINGTON FARMERS’ MARKET – What better way to marvel at the fall harvest and local Vermont wares than by attending the Burlington Farmers Market? This is one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markets in the state, showcasing the vibrant produce, products, flowers, and prepared foods of over 90 vendors and farms. Located in City Hall Park on Saturdays from 8:30-2:00 thru the end of October.
2. EAT. DRINK. REPEAT – Burlington’s famous for its sustainable food scene and boasts many noteworthy dining options. There are too many to name here, but we will say that you can’t go wrong with American Flatbread (pizza, Vermont-style) or a traditional pie from Pizzeria Verita. If you’re on a mission for some farm-to-table fare, hit up Farmhouse, or try the international street food at Duino Duende. Brunch at Hotel Vermont's Juniper is always a good idea, and Penny Cluse on Cherry Street has some great plates favoring southwestern flavors. If finer dining’s your thing, make a reservation at Hen of the Wood in downtown Burlington.
My go-to place to eat in BTV flies under the radar, Zabby and Elf’s Stone Soup. I’ve been filling up at this cozy spot since it opened my sophomore year of college—that was nearly twenty years ago, now. To call it a health-food restaurant would be accurate but doesn't do it justice. Sure, the food coming out of this New England kitchen is “clean”, but beyond that, the food is heartening and wholesome.
Bottomline, come to Burlington hungry and leave nourished.
3. THE ARTS SCENE – Take in some of the local art at BURLINGTON CITY ARTS (BCA), which will be presenting Of Land and Local: Watershed. This is a visual exploration on the subject of water as an environmental and human force, being presented through a series of exhibitions in partnership with Shelburne Farms. Also, head down to Burlington’s arts district on Pine Street and check out Pine Street Art Works, to peruse this part store/ part gallery.
4. SHELBURNE FARMS – Ask anyone in the Burlington area what to do this fall and nine times out of ten they’ll mention a visit to Shelburne Farms. This fascinating 1,400 acre working farm, forest and National Historic Landmark is actually a nonprofit organization dedicated to education for a sustainable future with extensive programming for all ages.
This place is a Vermont paradise. Take the kids on a tractor ride to the barn (which looks more like Hogwarts than a barn and is cleaner than any barn you’ve ever seen) to meet some chickens, milk a cow, or play with baby goats. Adults can take a tour of the grounds, observe cheese making, sample award-winning cheddar, walk the extensive gardens or just stand in awe at the pastoral vistas. There really is no end to the beauty and learning at this historic Champlain Valley treasure.
5. HIKE – When in Vermont, take a hike. There are a number of close and convenient hikes in Burlington, such as the Trail Walks at Ethan Allen Homestead and Five Tree Hike in Williston. Just twenty minutes south of Burlington in Charlotte, VT is Mt. Philo, a quick jaunt that’ll get your heart rate up and reward you with wide-open views of the valley.
But if you really want to go for it, take an epic climb up Camels Hump, Mansfield or a dozen other great peaks in the vicinity.
6. ZIP TOUR at STOWE MOUNTAIN – Sure, you can find zip lines all over the state but if you want to go big, do so with the Zip Tour at Stowe. This is the fastest and possibly the most thrilling sky-adventure you could have, from the highest peak in Vermont. Open Thursdays – Sundays only through October 16. Call for reservations! $119 per person. So worth it.
7. DRINK BEER – . . . really, really good beer . . . nay, some of the best beer in the whole brew-niverse. Did you know that Vermont has more craft breweries per capita than any other state in the country? True story. And Burlington is hopping with them.
8. SUNSET DRIVE-IN – Snuggle up to your sweetheart at this old-timey drive-in located just outside Burlington in Williston, VT. Shows start at dusk Friday through Sunday. $9 for adults and if the kiddos are coming they’re only $4.50. It’s a great option for a cheap and charming date!
9. APPLE PICKING – It's an unspoken requirement, when in Vermont from late September through October you must pluck from an apple-laden bough. Shelburne Orchards is a beautiful spot within 20 minutes of downtown Burlington. There’s also Adams Apple Orchard in Williston, and countless other options. An outing to the orchard is always a good one, typically ending with hot cider and a donut.
10. SMUGGLER’S NOTCH TREETOP OBSTACLE COURSE – For those wanting a trek-adventure in the canopy of the some of the world's best fall foliage, look no further than the treetop Obstacle Course at Smuggler’s Notch! Swing, slide, jump and climb through the trees on a self-guided adventure. Open weekend and holidays through November 8th. Cost is $54 per person. Call for reservations!
11. CONCERTS – There's amazing live music happening in BTV. We recommend attending a concert at Higher Ground, Burlington’s premier music venue. Check out their amazing line-up for the season, and buy tickets for a show during your visit!
12. WATERBURY, VT – Five years ago, Hurricane Irene devastated many Vermont towns including Waterbury, VT. But this resilient community has bounced back and beyond, becoming a hot spot known for craft beer (original home to the Alchemist Brewery), restaurants and all around charm.
Located just thirty miles east of Burlington, we highly recommend an afternoon exploring Waterbury. Pay a visit to Prohibition Pig for excellent beer and equally excellent BBQ. From there, stroll down Elm Street to Jeremy Ayers Pottery, a studio and boutique in a historic 19th century carriage barn and buy the perfect handmade-in-Vermont gift for a loved one (or yourself)!
Lastly, when in Waterbury, it would only be fitting to stop off at the Ben and Jerry’s Factory for a tour, a cone and to pay your respects at the flavor graveyard.
R.I.P. Rainforest Crunch.
13. JEH KULU ANNUAL DRUM AND DANCE FESIVAL – November 4-6th. Burlington is home to a vibrant West African performing arts community and the Jeh Kulu Dance and Drum Company is it’s beating heart. Every year in early November, world-renowned teachers, musicians and students gather for a four-day conference of traditional West African dance with workshops, performances and special guest appearances. Go and dance your heart out, African-style!
14. BIKE THE ISLAND LINE TRAIL – There’s a reason this is one of New England’s most visited trails, with easy access from the Burlington Waterfront, this course follows the shoreline of Lake Champlain with it’s spectacular views of the Adirondacks. It’s a flat and easy trail for all ages and abilities. Hop on and off at one of the many entry points on the fourteen-mile path or start at Oakledge Park, and ride the trail from start to finish up to the dramatic marble causeway. Experience the sensation of gliding on the water surrounded by a world-class view.
All hail the Queen!