VT Travel Guide
It’s not quite the wide-open ocean, but it sure feels pretty big when you can barely see New York State and the Adirondacks in the distance. They call Lake Champlain the sixth great lake—and according to Wikipedia it actually was for a bit in 1998—and it sure feels that way when you’re standing along its shores. A visit now probably isn’t quite the same as it is in the summer, but strolling or riding along its shore on the bike path is certainly a welcome distraction.
Be sure to bundle up, as the wind off the lake isn’t the warmest of welcomes. However, once you’re basically numb you can no longer notice the chill, and you’re just able to focus on the waves, the rocks, and the water—the ducks seem to downright enjoy it. Heading south out of town is the best option as it points you in a more scenic direction, and it eventually leads you all the way over to one of Burlington’s hidden attraction—the earth clock.
Hot chocolate with a view of a chocolate factory...
Everyone has their own bests when it comes to foodie finds and locations, so we wanted to share ours with you—the best bits and bites in Burlington. With plenty of things to sip and sample it’s a good distraction from a day on the slopes, as there’s plenty of local flavor and Vermont variety from which to sample. So here are our picks for some quick not-to-miss options:
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With the University of Vermont just up the hill and the shores of Lake Champlain on its western edge, Burlington is a city to spend some time with anytime of the year. Sure the nearby mountains and ski slopes are pretty darn enticing during the winter, but we find plenty of charm, character, and cuisine right within the boundaries of The Queen City.
This weekend is when they’re flipping the switch on all the holiday lights and decorations at the Church Street Marketplace. This pedestrian mall features plenty of local shops, restaurants, and other places to poke and peruse, and there’s some national chains on hand as well for when you just need something from Starbucks or Macy’s. The local retailers are a great place to cash in your American Express Shop Small promotion this weekend, as there’s plenty of spots to support Small Business Saturday.
Someone, somewhere in the airport apparently burned some toast, which set off a fire alarm and forced everyone to evacuate the terminal building. Luckily, the evacuation only lasted about half an hour, and it sounds like the resulting delay wasn't bad enough to cause passengers to miss fights. Annoyed passengers did, however, begin tweeting pictures of fire trucks heading for the airport at the ripe hour of 5am.
Although the crisis wasn't averted, we don't consider the mystery solved. Who exactly is responsible for burning the toast? How sensitive are the Burlington airport's smoke alarms? Were there no windows open anywhere? And was it whole wheat or seven grain?
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Technically the autumn season doesn’t begin until later this month, but let’s just say the apple orchards are more than ready. Rearrange plans and make your next stop Vermont because up there, it’s not just the fall foliage that’s attracting visitors to the Green Mountain State, but the chance to score some free gadgets while apple-picking.
The state’s pick-your-own orchards are running a promotion throughout the next several weeks where specially marked wooden apples are hidden in and around apple orchards across the state. In total there are 16 different orchards participating, and if you find the alternate apple you win a different kind of Apple—like an iPod or iPad. The state’s tourism department has actually been running something like this for a few years now, and the contest is back for the 2013 season.
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At this point we’ve seen pretty much anything that usually does its thing outside of the airport move to inside the airport. One of these new additions to the concourses and terminals is the appearance of yoga rooms.
We’re pretty sure that San Francisco International Airport started the airport yoga movement just about a year ago, as the lotus position found its way just past the security checkpoint at the airport’s Terminal 2. A year later there’s other airports getting in on the fun as well, and this week it looks like Burlington, Vermont is joining in.
Burlington International Airport is the latest airport to add yoga room to their list of amenities. A bamboo floor and plenty of yoga mats transform the space from just another room at the airport into a little bit of a sanctuary for stressed out travelers looking to unwind before or after their flights.
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After ice cream, chocolate, and cheese we’re pretty convinced that Vermont is the foodie tour capital of the world. However, that didn’t stop us from checking out one more place. This was especially the case because we needed something sudsy to wash down all the other snacks and samples. That’s why we loaded up our phone with directions to see the secrets and scenes at the Magic Hat Brewery in South Burlington. We waited until the afternoon to visit—like at a couple minutes past noon—because we wanted to appear somewhat responsible.
The Magic Hat Artifactory is made up of a crazy trippy gift shop, a psychedelic bar, and snazzy factory. In total it added up to one of the best breweries we’ve seen, and it was surprising to see such a place just a few minutes off the city’s commercial strip.
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Most people think that Vermont’s most famous export is maple syrup, but unfortunately those folks are totally wrong—at least if you ask us. While we're fans of maple syrup it just doesn’t satisfy our sweet tooth the same way that ice cream does, so that’s why we consider Ben & Jerry’s to be the most famous—and important—product to come out of the Green Mountain State. We already had plenty of cheese and chocolate on our little foodie tour of Vermont, so it was only natural to see what kind of new flavors were being cooked up at the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury.
We’re not sure of the numbers, but we’d bet you a pint of Cherry Garcia that the ice cream factory is one of the state’s largest—if not the largest—tourist attraction. There’s state highway signs pointing you in the correct direction, and once you pull into the parking lot it’s pretty darn clear that you’ve arrived at the mecca for ice cream lovers. The grounds and surrounding area is picturesque Vermont to a tee, and there’s even a chance to check out the landscape through snowshoe tours during the chillier months. Although we were slightly distracted by the view—and the babbling brook by the parking lot—we new we needed to head inside.
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For those looking for something a little more sobering than the typical wine trail, we’d like to suggest the cheese trail up in Vermont. The state is pretty well known for their dairy this and that, and you never have to drive too far before stumbling across plenty of fields, farms, and cows. Some of the smaller locations have some truly unique options for cheeseheads, but before getting down with some of the seriously stinky and sharp stuff it might be worth it to check out one of the more famous spots. That’s what we did when we swung through Cabot, VT to check out the Cabot Visitor’s Center.
On the way there you’ll think something like, "hey, this can’t possibly be the right way." Soon enough, however, we were stuck behind a tanker truck filled with farm fresh milk and you know where that's headed.
The Cabot Visitor’s Center offers a sneak peek behind the whole cheese making process, and the $2 we spent on the guided factory tour was well worth it. You even get a little plastic cow bracelet or Cabot button as a souvenir that doubles as your admission ticket. We’re suckers for that kind of stuff.
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Just outside the downtown center of Burlington, Vermont—as in you need to ride your bike or drive your car—sits a factory known to chocolate lovers far and wide. Of course we’d consider ourselves fans of these sort of sweet treats, so it was a natural fit for us to make a little bit of a pilgrimage to the home of Lake Champlain Chocolates.
The factory and visitor’s center is located along right along Pine Street in a somewhat bustling industrial looking area of Burlington. You can definitely trust your GPS to find it, but be on the lookout for the sign and the parking lot as it’s easy to miss. Once inside the scent of some of the world’s best chocolate—at least in our opinion—hits you as soon as you enter the door. At that point you can pretty much hand over your credit card, as you're definitely going to bring something home with you.
Umm, that's not us posing there. Just FYI
If you can’t afford a trip to the North Pole this year to go with Santa on a tour of his workshop, there’s another holiday factory tour worth checking out. Find out where Teddy Bears come to life, as the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory welcomes one and all to take a look through their workshops just outside of Burlington each and every day.
On the guided tour, you’ll visit the cutting station where about 20 different parts of fur are cut out to make all the bears, and then you can see where they start to put about 430,000 bears per year into commission in the sewing room. If you’ve ever been to one of those Build-a-Bear places you know the best part of the tour has got to be where the little bags of fur are stuffed. Even though the machines they use are from the 1940s, the workers are able to stuff the bears with fuzz and fluff at 100mph.
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This goat, the very one you see above, resides in a treehouse-type pen in a farm field outside of Montpelier, Vermont. He doesn't go anywhere and do much, and yet the busloads of tourists come to him. Why? Because this is a goat that can do a stupid animal trick, and apparently people will travel to see that, and pay a quarter to participate.
He happens to live at Morse Farm a maple syrup producer locally famous enough to attract the fall foliage bus tours, especially the ones full of Europeans eager for a peak at traditional Americana. Maybe the goat helps souvenir sales? Anyways, here's his gig: you walk out to his pen in the field, put a quarter in an old gumball machine to retrieve goat feed. You put it in a cup at the end of a rope, and the goat hears the food drop into the cup and he begins to frantically bite at the rope, quickly raising the cup up his treehouse perch and to his lips. He quickly gobbles it down and the tourists go crazy. It'd be kind of cute if goats didn't have freaky, horizontal rectangle-shaped pupils.