We spent the second half of our Adirondack winter road trip in Burlington, Vermont, and absolutely fell in love with this small waterfront city’s laid back vibe.
More on Burlington in a minute, because first we stopped at Ausable Chasm on our way to the NY-VT state border from Lake Placid, NY.
Ausable Chasm is known as the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks — at least according to its website. Never heard of it? You’re not alone. But now that you do, we highly recommend a stop here if you’re ever in the area, no matter the time of year!
You can’t hike the chasm on your own in the off-season, but our guide took us and 6 others along the edges of this 2 mile canyon and shared the history of the land with us. It’s an easy, beautiful walk in winter. In summer, though, there’s rafting, rappelling, and a via ferrata. The photos show lots of kids, but it sounded like a ton of fun for adults too.
After checking out the chasm, we followed googlemaps to our next destination, leaving New York and headed to Vermont. Burlington looked close enough on a map, but I guess we didn’t zoom in very much to realize that no, there is no bridge across Lake Champlain…googlemaps had taken us right to the ferry port, to take a boat across the lake.
Luckily for us the lake hadn’t frozen over and the ferry crossing was open. There are a few ferry crossings that run east-west across the lake, and you can call ahead to make sure they’re running. We didn’t have to wait long at all before our boat pulled up and we parked our car in line. But with a view like this, we weren’t complaining about the wait…
The ferry crossing took about half an hour, and once we made it to the Vermont side it was just about another 30 minutes to our bed and breakfast – Made INN Vermont. After reading the inn’s reviews on Tripadvisor, we had to check it out for ourselves. “Perfect!” “Not to be missed!” The reviews were exceptional, and it seemed like just the type of uniquely local place that can really make a vacation special.
The Inn’s owner is a Character with a capital C. She is over the top, and has no shame (she gave us a lengthy explanation of the dungeon she was planning to build in the basement).
Aside from that odd dungeon conversation, she did make us feel right at home, from the drinks upon arrival to the fully stocked kitchen that was open whenever we wanted a snack or a drink. The breakfast was delicious too, and we enjoyed a long conversation with one of the other couples staying at the inn that weekend. The old Victorian house is perfectly clean and updated with modern decor, which seems to attract younger couples, and it turns out that our new friends were also from the New York City area.
It’s about a 10 minute from the inn to the main downtown area of Burlington near Church Street. Church Street is pedestrian only, with plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops. Here are our top things to do in Burlington:
Catch some live music: Burlington may be a small city, but it’s not short on live music. On our first night, we visited the Light Club Lamp Shop for live jazz in a unique atmosphere. We caught a second jazz show in the lobby of the Hotel Vermont on our second night.
Sample the local wine, beer, or cider: We drove just 15 minutes from our hotel to visit Shelburne Vineyard, on the outskirts of Burlington. Make a day out of it and stop by Shelburne Farms. We enjoyed a delicious farm to table lunch at Rustic Roots, also in Shelburne. Burlington is also home to a ton of local breweries, including Citizen Cider. You can check out a tasting room, but all the groceries stores and restaurants carry local beers too. The City Market / Onion River Co-Op is the perfect place to buy fresh, local produce, cheeses, and beers.
Not a drinker? Try the local coffee culture: We visited Uncommon Grounds twice, we loved it so much. The coffee is delicious, but the ambience is even better. It’s like being inside a cozy treehouse. We guarantee you will want to stay a while!
Cheese! Yes, Vermont is known for its home grown cheese. Visit one of the many farms, or just sample a cheese board at a restaurant. Either way, you have to try to cheese! We braved the lines at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill for drinks and a cheese board. By the way, wherever you decide to go for dinner, make a reservation! This town has a few great restaurants featuring local ingredients, but it seems that everyone likes to dine out. Don’t expect to just show up and get a table.
We stopped by the Grafton Village Cheese Company in Brattleboro, on our way home from Vermont. They have a ton of cheese out for you to sample, and the workers are happy to let you try anything you’d like behind the counter. It was all delicious, and we couldn’t help but buy a few different types.
Visit the waterfront: Especially at sunset! There’s a beautiful waterfront park that hosts music and food festivals in the warmer months. You can also check out the bike path, boathouse, ECHO museum, and sailing center. While this area was beautiful in winter, we definitely need to come back for a visit to enjoy all it has to offer in the summer!
Hit the ski slopes: We didn’t have enough time to visit any of the local mountains, but that’s enough option if you’re visiting in winter. The closest slopes are only 15 minutes away, or you can visit some of the bigger mountains in just an hour’s drive.
Like i said, we were truly charmed by this little city. We ate and drank our way through this city, and everyone we met was so friendly, down to earth, and happy to tell us all about why their state is so great.
If we had more time, we would have spent more time in some of the outer parts of this city that are more off-the-beaten path, for example the Winooski neighborhood, known as the Brooklyn of Burlington. What’s your favorite spot in Burlington? Let us know in the comments!