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Explore Burlington, Vermont this Summer

If you haven’t looked upon Lake Champlain from the Burlington Waterfront, ridden your bike along the Burlington bike path, or meandered along the Church Street Marketplace on a sweltering summer night, then you need to drop everything and plan a summer getaway to Burlington, Vermont!

The Burlington Vermont waterfront.
A view of the Burlington, Vermont waterfront from Lake Champlain

Located on the shores of Lake Champlain, Burlington is Vermont’s largest city. It is home to the University of Vermont, the famous Church Street Marketplace, and about 42,000 residents. Burlington is a mecca for beer and coffee drinkers, foodies, and shoppers and has been named the healthiest city in the United States many times over.

This is also the closest I’ll come to having a hometown, so naturally, Burlington holds a special place in my heart. Here are our favorite things to do in Burlington in the summer, which is also the very best time to visit.

Explore the Church Street Marketplace

A crowd of people enjoying the outdoor patios on Church Street in Burlington Vermont.

The Church Street Marketplace is a pedestrian-only, open-air shopping experience, and it is also the hub of commerce in downtown Burlington.

Meander along Church Street to find independently-owned boutiques, a few bigger chain stores, fabulous coffee shops, eclectic dining with outdoor seating, and a whole lotta people. Church Street hosts musicians, street performers, food trucks, happy dogs, and kids with ice cream cones.

This is the place to go when you want a latte, a diamond necklace, a new outfit, or a burrito. It’s good for an afternoon of people-watching or an excuse to spend all your money.

Church Street is a must-visit destination for anyone who wants the Burlington experience. If you’re into outdoor dining and shopping for unique gifts, a trip to Church Street is one of the best things to do in Burlington.

Embark on a Burlington Brewery Tour

As with much of the country right now, the craft beer scene is huge in Vermont, especially in Burlington. Thanks to the Vermont Brewers Association, there’s now an official Burlington Beer Trail where you can spend a few hours or a few days sipping Burlington’s finest brews.

Because Burlington is such a walkable/bikeable city, you can embark on your Burlington brewery tour without ever having to get behind the wheel. Now, that’s how you celebrate summer in Burlington!

There are seven Burlington beers on the tour, with Simple Roots being the only one that’s a bit off the beaten path (on North Avenue outside of the city center). If you are a fan of the craft beer movement, this is one of the best things to do in Burlington, Vermont.

Here are the must-visit breweries on the Burlington trail:

 Bike the Burlington Greenway

local motion burlington greenway 2 1 scaled
Bikes for rent at Local Motion in Burlington

If you’re looking for a way to get outside and enjoy the fabulous Vermont weather and spectacular mountain views, look no further than the Burlington Greenway, also known as the Burlington Bike Path.

I would definitely argue that the Burlington Greenway is one of the prettiest paths in the country and one of the absolute best things to do in Burlington, Vermont.

The paved trail runs along the water for eight miles, from Oakledge Park in the south to the Winooski River in the north. It connects several awesome parks and recreation areas, including the Burlington Waterfront, North Beach, and Leddy Park.

Wear your bathing suit because you’ll have lots of opportunities to cool off in Lake Champlain, and if eight miles isn’t enough, you can continue north on the Island Line Trail into the Lake Champlain Islands and beyond. The trail is open to walkers and joggers if you don’t have a bike of your own, or you can rent a bike for an afternoon or weekend.

For more information on the Burlington Bike Path and the surrounding parks, check out Enjoy Burlington.

Take a Sunset Cruise on Lake Champlain

Whether you’re looking for Champ or not, there’s no better way to enjoy summer than with a sunset cruise on Lake Champlain. The Spirit of Ethan Allen departs from the Burlington Waterfront for sunset cruises on Friday and Saturday evenings through the summer.

Sip a cocktail, order some snacks, and watch the sun sink behind the Adirondack Mountains. It’s the perfect way to end a day in Burlington. If you can’t make the sunset cruise, check out the lunch or narrated cruises, which are offered more frequently during the week. 

If you happen to be in Burlington on July 3rd, be sure to book a spot on the Fireworks cruise, which is a highlight of the summer and one of the best times to get out on Lake Champlain.

Learn to Sail at the Community Sailing Center

A sailboat on Lake Champlain in Burlington at sunset.
A sailboat on Lake Champlain at sunset.

And speaking of Lake Champlain, a sunset cruise isn’t the only way to get out on the water! If you’ve always wanted to learn to sail, you can start now at the Community Sailing Center on the Burlington waterfront.

The Community Sailing Center is a community-based nonprofit organization that provides access, education, and recreation on Lake Champlain to almost 8,000 people annually.

The Community Sailing Center has programs for everyone, from kids and beginners to experts who want to learn to race or delve deeper into advanced skills. Experienced sailors can rent sailboats by the hour. Kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards are also available to rent.

Take a Hike

Shelburne Farms 7

When people think of hiking in Vermont, their thoughts naturally turn to the Green Mountains, which run north to south through the center of the state. However, there are some fabulous easy trails near Burlington, too.

Burlington takes its outdoor recreation very seriously, with an abundance of green spaces, trails, parks, and gardens throughout the city, and if you’re planning a visit to this beautiful part of Vermont, you’ll be happy to know that there are lots of easy hikes near Burlington.

Whether you’re hiking with your family or just want to get away from the bustle of town for a bit, chances are there’s a hiking trail near Burlington with your name on it.

Here are a few of the trails we’d recommend in and around Burlington:

Want more ideas for great hiking in Burlington, read this next:

Stock up on Local Goodies at the Burlington Farmers Market

Locals love shopping for fresh produce, meat, and chees at the Burlington Farmers’ Market each Saturday, but the market is truly an event that is enjoyed by everyone.

Visit the market, and you will quickly discover why it’s so special. There are special events, live music, fabulous prepared foods, and locally produced crafts.

There are many farmers’ markets throughout Vermont, but the Burlington Farmers’ Market is one of the biggest—definitely worth checking out!

The Burlington Farmers’ Market is held on Saturdays from May 7 to October 29 at 345 Pine Street in Burlington, from 9 am to 2 pm.

Watch the Sunset from Oakledge Park

Sunset over Lake Champlain from Oakledge Park in Burlington, Vermont.
Sunset from Oakledge Park in Burlington, Vermont. Photo credit

Two sunset ideas in one post? Now you know where my heart lies. Truth be told, there are lots of amazing places to catch a Lake Champlain sunset, but I’m partial to Oakledge Park, as it was walking distance from my grandparent’s home when I was a kid.

Oakledge Park, in Burlington’s South End is the perfect spot for families to end the day — there’s a lovely playground, pavilions, tennis courts, and walking trails, plus access to the aforementioned Burlington Bike Path.

Claim a spot on the red rocks jutting up from the lake, and enjoy the views of the setting sun. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but all my favorite sunsets have been right in this spot. For directions and park info, check out Enjoy Burlington.

Visit the Shelburne Museum

The steamboat Ticonderoga at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont.
The steamboat Ticonderoga at Shelburne Museum

Explore more of Vermont and the rest of the world at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. This is the largest art and history museum in northern New England and one of Vermont’s best attractions.

The Museum’s 45-acre campus includes a Shaker design Round Barn, a General Store, a carousel, and the 220-foot sidewheel steamboat Ticonderoga. Meander through acres of beautiful gardens outdoors and check out the Webb Gallery, which features important American paintings by Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Grandma Moses, John Singleton Copley, and more.

Go to a Lake Monsters Game

Summer and baseball are a magical combination, and you can catch Vermont’s own Lake Monsters at Centennial Field throughout the summer in Burlington. Centennial Field has been hosting baseball games since 1906, and watching a game here is a right of passage for baseball fans!

The Vermont Lake Monsters are a collegiate summer baseball team with a robust schedule. Champ, the lovable Lake Champlain monster, is the team’s mascot and does a great job encouraging the fans during the games.

For a complete schedule of home games and an overview of the team, visit Vermont Lake Monsters.

Where to Stay in Burlington, Vermont

Burlington is a thriving and walkable city, and when it’s in the budget, I always try to reserve a hotel room right downtown so I can walk everywhere. There’s nothing like stepping out of your door in the morning for a brisk waterfront walk or a saunter to the nearest coffee shop.

Hilton Garden InnWe stayed here for the first time in 2019 and really loved the Main Street location, the funky vibe, and the outdoor fire pit. There is good parking, the beds are comfy, and there’s an indoor pool. Again, reserve early for the best rooms and prices.

Hotel Vermont, while on the pricey side, gets five stars for its location. This boutique hotel is a stone’s throw from Lake Champlain and close to all of the best downtown shopping and dining. Just remember, you will need to reserve a room far in advance during the fall foliage season.

If you are visiting Burlington, Vermont in the fall with a family or want something that won’t hit your wallet quite so hard, you may want to reserve an apartment on VRBO. We have stayed at three downtown apartments in Burlington so far and have been impressed with all of them.

Here’s a quick overview of our favorite Burlington vacation rentals:

A vacation rental in Burlington Vermont on Lake Champlain.
Lakeview Terrace on Lake Champlain. Photo credit: VRBO
  • Lakeview Terrace: This is a two-bedroom apartment overlooking Lake Champlain with a fabulous backyard. What more could you want? The Old North End location is perfect for families, and there are lots of parks and playgrounds nearby.
  • Renovated South End Carriage House: The Carriage House apartment is a recently renovated space with a private entrance on a quiet residential street. Just a block away from Zero Gravity Brewery, and within walking distance of local beaches and Churchstreet. Sleeps four comfortably.
  • One-Bedroom Duplex Downtown: Walk to everything from this small one-bedroom apartment with room for four people. Uniquely situated with a private covered deck and off-street parking.

Finally, I have to share one quirky gem with you. The Starlight Inn in Colchester is a movie-themed motel located right next to the iconic Sunset Drive-In Theater. I’ve been catching flicks at the Sunset Drive-Inn since I could walk, and Starlight Inn guests receive complimentary tickets for one car and all its occupants.

Another thing to love about the Starlight Inn? Every room is unique and all of them feature a different movie theme. This is a super fun lodging experience for movie buffs and kids. Colchester is located about 15 minutes from Burlington.

There are so many fun things to do in Burlington, Vermont in the summer, whether you’re visiting for a long weekend or the whole season!

If you’re looking for more Vermont vacation ideas, hop over to our sister site, Vermont Explored, where we share about Vermont all the time!

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A collage of photos featuring summer in Burlington, Vermont. Text overlay: The Best Things to do in Burlington Vermont in the summer.
Tara Schatz sits with her two dogs, Gatsby and Flynn.

Tara is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a passion for outdoor adventures. She is the co-author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont and currently blogs at Back Road Ramblers and Vermont Explored, where she shares travel tips, adventure destinations, and vacation ideas for the wanderer in everyone.