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 best signify the fervor many people feel for this fleeting season. Behold 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, aka the Queen City—to attend the University of Vermont. I was drawn to Burlington for a number of reasons. It had a liberal, eco-conscious vibe and a budding yoga scene before new age and reusable water bottles were 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 New England 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 through the end of October.
2. EAT. DRINK. REPEAT. Burlington is 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 inventive takes on Mediterranean small plates at Honey Road. Brunch at Hotel Vermont’s Juniper is always a good idea, and Penny Cluse on Cherry Street has some great dishes favoring Southwestern flavors. If finer dining is 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 the open kitchen is “clean,” but beyond that, the food is heartening and wholesome.
Bottomline, come to Burlington hungry. Leave nourished.
3. THE ARTS SCENE. Take in some of the local and regional art at BURLINGTON CITY ARTS (BCA), which will be presenting two new exhibitions beginning October 19 and running through February 9. Tectonic Industries: Dreams Can Come True is a collaborative partnership out of Portland, ME, between artists Lars Boye Jerlach and Helen Stringfellow. Sculpture, video, and physical surveys come together in an exhibit that explores the impossible collective endeavor for self-improvement. Pauline Jennings’s Becoming Human is an intermedia exhibit of three-channel video and sound installations that incorporate dance into various land and cityscapes.
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. The 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 a bit like Hogwarts 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 Camel’s Hump, Mansfield, or a dozen other great peaks in the vicinity.
6. ZIP TOUR AT STOWE MOUNTAIN. If zipping high above foliage down a mountain is not already on your bucket list, add it now. 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 nonetheless. Open Thursdays–Sundays through October 14. Call for reservations! Starting at $135 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 the Burlington area is hopping with them: Zero Gravity, Foam Brewers, Queen City Brewers, Switchback Brewing Co., Fiddlehead, Hired Hand, Prohibition Pig, the Alchemist Brewery, just to name a few.
8. SUNSET DRIVE-IN. This is year 70 for the family-owned and operated drive-in located in Colchester, VT. Get there at dusk and snuggle up to your sweetheart. Open on weekends through October, the cost is $10 for adults and $5 for the kiddos—a cheap and charming option for an outing under the stars.
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, Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, and countless other options. A day at the orchard is always a good one, typically ending with a cider donut and heavy load of your favorite varieties—Macoun, Red Delicious, Cortland, Ginger Gold, Jonagold, Matsu, Empire, Northern Spy, Gala, Honey Crisp, Golden Delicious—all delicious.
10. A_DOG SKATEPARK. Drop in to Burlington’s world-class, concrete skatepark located in the north area of Waterfront Park. 22,000 square feet of sculpted streetscape, with a 10-foot-deep bowl and tons of features, makes the A_Dog Skatepark a destination for pros, amateurs, and all-around fans of the action sport. Opened in November of 2015, the park is dedicated to the late Andy “A_Dog” Williams, a beloved local DJ/turntabalist and cultural influencer who helped create Burlington’s first skatepark. Skaters, grab your decks. Spectators, grab a seat. There’s fun to be had watching epic tricks (and fails) at the skatepark.
11. LIVE MUSIC. There’s amazing live music happening in and around BTV. We recommend attending a concert at Higher Ground, Burlington’s premier music venue, or a performance at the Flynn Theatre, both of which requires a little preplanning. But if you’re looking to pop into a more intimate venue, ArtsRiot and Radio Bean showcase both local and national artists, and offer yummy eats, to boot!
12. WATERBURY, VT. Six years ago, Hurricane Irene devastated many Vermont towns, including Waterbury. 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 30 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 to 18 Elm Street for a visit 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 FESTIVAL. Burlington is home to a vibrant West African performing-arts community and the Jeh Kulu Dance and Drum Company is its beating heart. Every year, during the first week of 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, the course follows the shoreline of Lake Champlain with 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 14-mile path or start at Oakledge Park and ride 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!