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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. It’s 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 home town, so naturally, Burlington holds a special place in my heart. Here are our favorite things to do with kids in Burlington, VT, along with some awesome Instagram photos from some of our favorite Vermont photographers.
Bike the Burlington Greenway
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, VT.
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 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.
Look for Lake Champlain’s Lovable Lake Monster
If you’ve ever spent time in Burlington, you have undoubtedly heard about Champ, which has been making appearances in Lake Champlain for two hundred years. Champ is said to be a relative of the Loch Ness Monster, and hundreds of people have spotted him since the first sighting in 1819. Historians think that Champ is probably a garfish, but he has also been described as an enormous serpent, with silvery scales.
Whether Champ makes his home in Lake Champlain or exists only in our imaginations, he is officially protected by both Vermont and New York. He is also the subject of numerous books and the official mascot of Vermont’s only minor league baseball team. No matter where you are on Lake Champlain, keep an eye out for Champ and keep your camera at the ready.
Want to learn more about Champ? Check out these books (click on the photo for more info):
Embark on a Sunset Cruise on Lake Champlain
Whether you’re looking for Champ or not, there’s no better way to enjoy summer, then 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. For more information on cruising Lake Champlain, visit The Spirit of Ethan Allen.
Explore the Church Street Marketplace
Church Street is a pedestrian-only, open-air shopping experience, which is also the hub of Burlington. You’ll find independently-owned boutiques, some bigger chain stores, fabulous coffee shops, eclectic dining with outdoor seating, and a whole lotta people. There are musicians, street performers, happy dogs, and kids with ice cream cones. Church Street 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. It’s a must-visit destination for anyone who wants the Burlington experience.
Hang Your Hat in Hotel Vermont
Hotel Vermont opened in 2013 on Cherry Street in Burlington. It is the first independent hotel to open in Vermont in more than 40 years and features 150 eco-friendly guest rooms, a communal area for gathering, and gorgeous Lake Champlain sunsets. Rooms are suitable for couples and families, and some are dog-friendly. A stay at Hotel Vermont puts you in the very center of all that Burlington has to offer, and you can easily walk to the waterfront or Church Street in a few minutes. Be sure to check out the awesome dining options just a few steps from your room. Juniper – a locally sourced cocktail bar and restaurant open for breakfast and lunch. Bleu Northeast Seafood – regional seafood with French flair, open for breakfast and dinner. Hen of the Wood – one of Vermont’s top restaurants, celebrating simple and local, and open for dinner nightly. Visit Hotel Vermont to make reservations.
Learn about the Natural History of Vermont’s Primal Sea at the ECHO Center
The Echo Leahy Center Lake Champlain in Burlington, is part museum, part playground — with loads of exhibits and hands-on learning opportunities for kids and adults. It is home to more than 70 species of fish, amphibians, and reptiles, and also provides space for traveling exhibitions. ECHO stands for Ecology, Culture, History and Opportunities for stewardship of the Lake Champlain Basin. It’s located right on the waterfront and is the perfect family excursion for a rainy day. You can read more about rates, directions, and current exhibits on the ECHO Center website.
Watch the Sunset from Oakledge Park
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 grandparents home when I was a kid. It’s 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.
Burlington, Vermont is a great place for outdoor-loving families, and summer is the perfect time to make the trip. Need more advice on where to go and what to do? Drop a comment or send me an email, I’ve got lots of tips left to share. Otherwise, check out some of these resources (click on the photo for more info, including photos):
Interested in checking out some of the natural areas in and around Lake Champlain? Check out these posts:
Vermont State Parks Near Burlington