The Best Things to do in Burlington, Vermont

The 15 Best Things to do in Burlington, Vermont

Nestled in the heart of the Green Mountains, and located on the eastern shores of Lake Champlain, Burlington offers a variety of outdoor activities to join during all four seasons. In the spring and summer, you can stroll along the waterfront, rent a kayak or paddleboard, or swim at the city’s most popular beaches. During the late fall and winter, not only can you ski, but you can enjoy the views of the snowcapped Adirondack Mountains in the distance.

Rich in history and culture, the city’s excellent museums and vibrant galleries can be visited throughout the year. The city boasts a variety of art galleries and museums, including the Burlington City Arts Center, which features the works of local artists, and the Fleming Museum of Art, which has an impressive collection of art from around the world.

If you are interested in history, the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the past. The city is also known for its shopping. From the historic Church Street Marketplace to the farmers’ markets that celebrate sustainability and locally sourced ingredients and materials, you are sure to find a unique souvenir. 

With so many things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Burlington for you. Stick to these fun and unique Burlington bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this Northeastern gem!

15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Burlington, VT

1. Appreciate Everyday Americana at the Shelburne Museum

Unique Things to do in Burlington, Vermont: Shelbourne Museum

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Burlington, this museum is an absolute must. Originally formed by Electra Havemeyer Webb in 1947 as a place to preserve her family collection of horse-drawn carriages, the Shelburne Museum quickly developed into so much more. Her parents were avid collectors of Asian and European art, but she had other ideas. 

The founder saw beauty in everyday objects and environments that were an important part of daily life, and she amassed an eclectic mix of art and Americana. Here, you’ll see over 150,000 items, like quilts, pottery, furniture, antiques, and other objects that have played a part in American life for generations.

The museum is located on the grounds of the Shelburne Farms, so once you are finished with the museum, you can wander around the farm’s 45 acres and explore this working farm, complete with a beautiful red round barn. 

Other amazing items in this collection include a covered bridge, a vintage carousel, a railroad station, a one-room schoolhouse, a lighthouse, an old-timey general store, and a 220-foot-long steamboat named Ticonderoga!

Besides featuring beautiful items that tell the story of everyday America, the museum also includes work by prestigious impressionist painters like Monet, Manet, and Degas. This museum was a labor of love and was described by the founder herself as a “collection of collections,” so you won’t want to miss this museum when you are in Burlington!

2. Peruse Fine Art at the Fleming Museum of Art

This fascinating art museum is located on the grounds of the historic University of Vermont, one of the oldest universities in the US. One of the best Burlington attractions for art enthusiasts, the Fleming Museum of Art was founded in 1931 and now owns a fabulous collection of over 24,000 objects from multiple continents and cultures. 

Past exhibitions have included big-name artists like Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Their permanent collection showcases works by American artists such as Kara Walker, Charles Demuth, and John James Audubon, and they even have an original Norman Rockwell painting. The museum also features work by Dutch master painter Rembrandt and the king of cubism himself, Pablo Picasso!

Wander through ancient Egypt in their African collection, featuring over 400 wondrous artifacts and even a creepy mummy. Explore East Asia by feasting your eyes on textiles dating back to the Qing Dynasty to see items like glossy lacquerware, delicate Japanese prints, and ornate Korean ceramics.

3. Wander around Church Street Marketplace

Fun Things to do in Burlington, Vermont: Church Street Marketplace

One of the must-do things in Burlington, follow the red brick road to explore downtown. This pristine pedestrian-only walkway is brimming with small-town charm and looks like a vintage postcard. The open-air mall is lined with over 100 hip cafes and restaurants, locally-owned boutiques, and quaint shops selling artisanal goods.

While you are browsing Church Street Marketplace, be sure to check out the University of Vermont shop if you want to buy some local maple syrup or souvenirs, or pick up a cozy, on-trend flannel at the Vermont Flannel Company. Let’s be honest – a trip to Vermont would not be complete without eating your weight in ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s flagship store! They even have a VW minivan that you can sit inside while devouring your cup of cookie dough ice cream.

If you’re looking for free things to do in Burlington, several fantastic events are hosted in Church Street Marketplace throughout the year, like Family Art Saturdays, South End Art Hop, and the beloved annual 3-day-long Festival of Fools which features over 100 outdoor performances including dancers, acrobats, bands, and comedians.

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4. Unleash Your Inner Einstein at ECHO

What to do in Burlington, Vermont: ECHO
Photo by ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, courtesy of Hello Burlington

Sitting proudly at the Lake Champlain waterfront, ECHO is the perfect place for the whole family to learn all about the wonders of nature and scientific discovery in a really fun way. The science and nature museum has over 100 interactive exhibits spread over three floors, as well as an immersive 3D theater that screens nature and science films daily. If you’re looking for things to do in Burlington with kids, this is the place.

The STEM center has rotating projects for children – from coding for kids to learning how to build a raft from paper and plastic straws. If you’re down for a challenge, test your engineering skills at the science zones. Or, if animals are more your thing, wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy seeing over 70 live species at the animal exhibits featuring everything from bullfrogs, trout, and turtles to snakes and butterflies.

Burlington, Vermont Things to do: ECHO
Photo by Ben DeFlorio, courtesy of Hello Burlington

You’ll be in awe at their aquarium that showcases everything that lives beneath the surface of Lake Champlain, including prehistoric Lake Sturgeon that can grow to over seven feet long and can live to be 150 years old. If you want to get up close and personal with sea critters, they have rock pools where you can handle colorful starfish. You can also learn all about the secret life of Champy, which is Lake Champlain’s very own version of the Loch Ness monster!

5. Explore the Rock Point Trails

Best Things to do in Burlington, Vermont: Rock Point Trails
Photo by Nick Edwards, courtesy of Hello Burlington

Less than 3 miles from Burlington lies Rock Point, a nature park that’s home to trails galore, stunning views of Lake Champlain, and a plethora of rare flora and fauna. There are also amazing opportunities for rock climbers, in case you’re looking for adventurous things to do in Burlington! 

Experienced climbers can try their hand at scaling the limestone cliff at Lone Rock Point. Be it birding, biking, or hiking, this is the perfect place to escape the city for a few hours to enjoy Vermont’s nature.

Rock Point is a great place for nature-watching opportunities to see adorable animals like chipmunks, white-tailed deer, porcupines, and even the occasional wandering moose. Be sure to pack your camera to capture fun photos of all the woodland critters. Horticulturists will be in heaven, too, as the lakeside microclimate has provided the perfect environment for rare plants like purple clematis and walking fern.

Afterward, be sure to head to the nearby Ethan Allen Tower. This 40-foot-tall stone monument resembles a medieval castle, and you can even climb to the top to enjoy panoramic views of Burlington and the serene Ethan Allan Park. This is also one of the best places to enjoy a sunset in Burlington.

6. Eat Your Way around the Burlington Farmers Market

What to do in Burlington, Vermont: Burlington Farmers Market

Located on the waterfront in the downtown area, the Burlington Farmers Market provides one of the best Burlington activities if you’re visiting on a Saturday morning. Be sure to come on an empty stomach because there are some amazing options for breakfast here. Start your day with a creamy nitro-infused cold brew coffee paired with a delicious maple-infused pastry! 

For those that prefer a boozy brunch to a bougie breakfast, there are plenty of beer samples and deliciously flavored sipping gins from local breweries and distilleries. Given the laid-back vibes of this vibrant market, you can easily spend an hour or two here.

This is the best place to try Vermont’s famous maple syrup in a bunch of different varieties. It also makes a great gift to bring home for friends and family. Beyond food, you’ll also find handmade gifts and goods from local artisans. 

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7. Visit the Ultra-Trendy South End District

Fun Things to do in Burlington, Vermont: Church South End District
Photo by Sam Yang, courtesy of Hello Burlington

Burlington’s South End District is like a mini Berlin and a haven for young people. It’s also home to some of the coolest things to do in Burlington! 

The area was once the main manufacturing district of the region. The abandoned concrete and old industrial buildings have since been upcycled into modern cocktail bars and quirky art galleries, merely adding to the vibe of this ultra-cool spot.

Loved by locals is The Soda Plant, which is housed in a former industrial soda plant that was transformed by a group of local entrepreneurs into a thriving home for over 30 local artists, artisans, and craftspeople. There are also cute cafes, wine bars, cocktail bars, and breweries.

Last but not least, one of the most funky Burlington attractions is the world’s tallest filing cabinet!

One of the coolest things to do in Burlington, the S.P.A.C.E Gallery is an artsy hotspot that supports local artists and displays everything from wood carvings to wire sculptures. For those with a sweet tooth, you’ll love eating your way through the Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory. Fill up a box with milk chocolate truffles for a friend, or just eat them all yourself!

8. Watch the Sunset at Waterfront Park

Fun Things to do in Burlington, Vermont:  Sunset at Waterfront Park

The quaint Waterfront Park features immaculate greenways, paved paths perfect for joggers, and plenty of benches for those that just want to relax and enjoy watching the sun setting over the lake, slowly disappearing behind the peaks of the Adirondack Mountains. Just a few minutes’ walk from Church Street, Waterfront Park is a must on your Burlington bucket list if you like pretty views!

Take a sailing tour or cruise with Captain Gideon at Let’s Go Sailing. They often do trips to nearby Juniper Island. Pack some snacks to enjoy a picnic while soaking up the serenity of the lake. If you’d prefer to explore at your own pace, there are also kayak rentals nearby. 

Head there in the summer to catch one of the numerous food or music festivals held at Waterfront Park. Stroll the boardwalk, taking your time to read the historical plaques and gazing at the boats docked in the boathouse and marina. 

For those that enjoy biking, the Burlington Bike Path runs right through the park. And when you’re feeling peckish, there are a few waterfront restaurants that serve hearty grub.

9. Catch a Ride on the Spirit of Ethan Allen

Unique Things to do in Capri: Spirit of Ethan Allen
Photos by Jenna Brisson, courtesy of Hello Burlington

A trip to Burlington would be incomplete without getting out on Lake Champlain. But if you want to do Lake Champlain in style, hopping aboard the Spirit of Ethan Allen, the city’s only cruise ship and floating restaurant, is easily one of the most fun things to do in Burlington.

With a variety of daily cruises – from the Scenic Narrated Cruise and the Fireworks Cruise to the Dinner Cruise and the Champagne on Champlain Brunch Cruise – there is something to fit every mood. 

During this scenic narrated tour, you’ll head toward Lone Rock Point, loop around the lovely Juniper Island, pass Rock Dunder, and then glide into Shelburne Bay. From there, you’ll sail through the southside of Burlington. 

During the evening time cruises, the route is decided by the captain, and he has a knack for seeking stunning sunsets, so you won’t be disappointed. The fall is arguably the best time to take this trip – the warm-colored foliage is simply stunning!

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10. Get Artsy at Burlington City Arts

Best Things to do in Burlington, Vermont: Burlington City Arts Center
Photo by Sam Simon, courtesy of Hello Burlington

One of the most unique Burlington attractions, the Burlington City Arts Center is all about history. The building itself was built in 1889, and you’d be surprised to learn that it originally served as a firehouse, complete with an 85-foot bell tower, which at the time was the tallest building in Burlington.

After changing hands and functions several times over the years, it eventually ended up abandoned and derelict. But after painstaking renovations, the building was reopened in 2002 as the BCA Center you see today.

Cool Things to do in Burlington, Vermont: Burlington City Arts Center
Photo by Bear Cieri, courtesy of Hello Burlington

Take part in an unusual art course, with classes like magnet making, pet portraits, screen printing workshops, and pendent making, and that’s just the one-day workshops. Despite showcasing eclectic contemporary artwork in multiple mediums across three galleries, admission is totally free, with the option to donate.

11. Climb aboard the Champlain Valley Dinner Train

Cool Things to do in Burlington, Vermont: Champlain Valley Dinner Train
Photos by Champlain Valley Dinner Train, courtesy of Hello Burlington

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Burlington, discover the beauty of the Champlain Valley from the comfort of a train featuring 1930s dining cars. The sound of the train whistle as you pass through local towns will take you back to the golden age of railway travel! Here you’ll spend three peaceful hours lapping up the views of the Green Mountain State from Burlington to Middlebury.

The staff on the Champlain Valley Dinner Train will make you feel like royalty as you dine on a gourmet 3-course meal created on board by their in-house chef. Past main courses have included seared ahi tuna, crispy chicken piccata, and steak au poivre. 

Best Things to do in Burlington, Vermont: Champlain Valley Dinner Train

Don’t worry if you have special dietary requirements – they always offer vegan and gluten-free options. Enjoying some fine dining as the beautiful Vermont landscape rolls by your window is easily one of the best things to do in Burlington!

12. Take a Self-Guided Walking Tour to See Burlington’s Street Art 

Get acquainted with the unique vibe of the city by checking out its street art. Touring Burlington through its street art is one of the coolest things to do in Burlington to get a feel for its creative side. Any art piece that exists outside always has the potential to be painted over, so no two visits will ever be truly the same!

While you might stumble upon many of this city’s wonderful murals by accident, there is still a definite list of pieces that you shouldn’t miss – like the black and white portraits of neighborhood kids in the parking lot at the corner of Intervale Avenue and Archibald Street. The mural was a collaboration of over 50 local children and is part of a collection of murals on Archibald Street.

For bird-themed street art, check out Bank Street, which has a stunning collection of murals by talented local artists like Cole Glover, Nikki Laxar, and Sunniva Dutcher. The geometric hummingbird on College Street is another one you don’t want to miss. Wander along Church Street to see the blue You Are Loved mural – it’s just opposite Ben & Jerry’s on Cherry Street!

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13. Sample Some Brews at the Burlington Breweries

Burlington, Vermont Things to do: Burlington Breweries

Did you know that Vermont is the state with the most breweries per capita out of all the states in the nation? So, it goes without saying that trying a few innovative brews is one of the best things to do in Burlington. 

To start your self-guided brewery tour, make your way to one of the breweries that was the first to open in the city. The circus-esque Magic Hat Brewing Company is a fun one to start at thanks to its unique and whimsical decor. Sample one of their newest brews on tap, or take a six-pack to go after your tour.

Other favorites include the waterfront Foam Brewers or the Vermont Pub and Brewery, which is also in the downtown area. Treat yourself to a pint of the rotating beers that are on tap and snacks like cured meat and cheese plates with locally-produced cheese. 

If you’d rather let someone else do the driving, consider signing up for a guided tour that will give you a behind-the-scenes look at the breweries. Opt for one like the City Brew Tour, and you’ll get special craft beer samples, snacks, and transportation to each one. 

If you want to try all the breweries in one place, consider attending the Vermont Brewers Festival, which takes place every July. The first one was held in 1991 and continues to bring beer lovers to Burlington from all over the world. 

Experience Vermont’s Craft Beer Scene

14. Learn about the State’s History at the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum

Best Things to do in Burlington, Vermont: Ethan Allen Homestead Museum
Photos by Tom Remp, courtesy of Hello Burlington

Time travel into Burlington’s history and see what life was like in the 1780s at the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum, one of the most unique Burlington attractions. Located within Ethan Allen Park, you can learn all about the history and see the home of one of Vermont’s founders, Ethan Allen.

The museum provides insight into frontier life during and after the American Revolution. Admission gives you access to a guided tour of the restored 1787 Allen House and recreated 18th-century garden. Kids will love trying on colonial-style costumes in the dress-up area and playing with all the games and toys from that time period.

Cool Things to do in Burlington, Vermont: Ethan Allen Homestead Museum

Beyond the museum, you can also do a variety of activities within the park. Walk the grounds to see the beautiful gardens that surround the museum. They have historic sites nearby, as well over 4 miles of riverside and wetlands nature trails. Make it an afternoon and pack a picnic lunch to have on the covered picnic areas or the many picnic tables found throughout the park. 

See Ethan Allen Homestead

15. Take a Swim at Oakledge Park

Best Things to do in Burlington, Vermont: Oakledge Park
Photos by Sarah Lavoie, courtesy of Hello Burlington

Right on the shores of Lake Champlain, Oakledge Park is a must-do if you’re looking for more outdoorsy Burlington activities. Located just a few minutes from the city center at the end of Flynn Avenue, it boasts two beaches, lots of trails, a few playgrounds, and plenty of watersports to enjoy.

Here, you can swim, fish, and kayak or explore the wilderness on the trails that wind through the woods. It also features Burlington’s answer to Stonehenge. It looks like a prehistoric stone circle, but it’s actually a sundial that’s a clock, compass, and calendar!

Cool Things to do in Burlington, Vermont: Oakledge Park

One of the coolest amenities of this 70-acre park is one of the world’s first accessible-to-all treehouses. There are also sand volleyball courts and bocce courts, as well as plenty of picnic tables. 

For some stunning views, head to Oakledge Cove, the park’s most secluded public beach. Located near the Upper Shelter at the park, there is a nice grassy area adjacent to the sandy beach area that is ideal for watching the sunset. 

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There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Burlington, Vermont. What’s your favorite thing to do in Burlington?

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