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With stunning fall foliage, crisp temperatures, historic buildings, and charming small towns, Vermont is one of the best destinations in the United States, especially in early October!
While Vermont abounds in adorable towns, its largest city, Burlington, is a great area to visit on a fall road trip trip. With a population of around 44,000 (2021), Burlington is more of a charming small town than a booming metropolis. With plenty to offer, from hiking and biking trails to farmers markets and breweries, Burlington makes a great base for exploring fall in Vermont.
Burlington’s location on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain in northwestern Vermont means there is no shortage of stunning natural beauty. From mountains to quaint fall foliage-lined streets, you’ll find it here.
Not only is Burlington surrounded by breathtaking scenery, but it also has a rich history. In 1978, the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream empire was founded in a renovated gas station in Burlington. Today, the Ben & Jerry’s Factory is just a short drive away, attracting many ice cream enthusiasts yearly.
Between historic buildings and fall foliage to ice cream and apple picking, this is one of the best places to have a great time on a New England road trip.
Keep reading to discover the best things to do in Burlington, Vermont, in the fall!
*While some of my photos are from my summer visit you can absolutely do many of the same things in summer and fall.
Cross Lake Champlain by Car Ferry
Take a short scenic boat ride to NY and spend the day leaf-peeping in the famous Adirondacks. There are multiple ferry crossings and a few different companies with small boats to choose from. Lake Champlain Ferries is the most popular.
Although operations have been suspended for the most convenient route, Burlington to Port Kent, you can drive a short distance to Charlotte or Grand Isle, VT, and hop on a 15 to 30 min car ferry to the banks of New York. The ride provides fantastic views of Lake Champlain’s tree-lined shores and is a great way to see the town from a different perspective while having a fun experience.
Snap a Photo underneath a Covered Bridge
I love a solid covered bridge tour! Their historic charm, and intriguing (sometimes spooky) history feeds my love of the quaint vintage character Vermont does so well. Many of Vermont’s 100 covered bridges were built in the 1800s and, for the most part, have been kept up since. Although Montgomery (about an hour from Burlington), holds the title as Vermont’s town with the most covered bridges, there are still plenty to see no more than 30 mins from Burlington.
The top 5 covered bridges closest to Burlington are Holmes Creek (also known as Lakeshore), Shelburne Museum Bridge, Seguin Covered Bridge, Quinlans Covered Bridge, and Spade Farm Covered Bridge.
Shop at Church Street Marketplace
Located in downtown Burlington, Church Street Marketplace is home to over 100 restaurants and stores with year-round events and entertainment. This neighborhood dates back to the early 1800s, which is noticeable if you look at the old courthouse and the area’s 19th-century brick church.
With stores like Athleta, Banana Republic, and the Body Shop, plus charming local boutiques such as Global Pathways and Jess Boutique, you could shop for an entire afternoon at Church Street Marketplace.
After you’ve worked up an appetite from all that shopping, check out one of downtown Burlington’s local restaurants – there are over 30 different options. For delicious steaks, check out E.B. Strong’s Prime Steakhouse, or if you’re in the mood for pizza and beer, you can’t go wrong with Ken’s Pizza and Pub.
Ride on the Burlington Bike Path
Also known as the Burlington Greenway, the Burlington Bike Path is the crown jewel of the local parks system and is particularly lovely in the fall. As part of the larger Island Line Trail, this path connects several parks and facilities with the surrounding neighborhoods, including the edge of downtown Burlington.
With eight miles of paved paths and shoulders for walkers or runners, this route is perfect whether you’re a biker or walker. If you don’t have your bike with you, don’t worry! Several local bike rental shops, including Local Motion and North Star Sports, can help you out with a rental.
Explore the Island Line Trail
As you enjoy the Burlington Bike Path, take it a step further and experience the rest of the Island Line Trail. This 13.4-mile rail trail comprises not just the Burlington Bike Path but also, Colchester Park and the Allen Point Access Area. Also known as the Colchester Causeway, this path follows the route of a railroad constructed in 1901.
Along the way, you’ll notice scenic vistas, public beaches, and stunning nature areas. As you continue north, you’ll reach a 200-foot gap over the water, which you can cross on the Island Line Bike Ferry. There’s no better place to enjoy Vermont’s crisp fall weather!
Walk around Shelburne Farms
One of the best things to do in the fall in Burlington, Vermont, is to spend a day at Shelburne Farms. Located 15 minutes south of Burlington, this 1,400-acre working farm and forest is a National Historic Landmark and non-profit organization.
Shelburne Farms is dedicated to educating the public about sustainability through extensive programming. Enjoy a tractor ride, see the farm animals, and tour the grounds. Plus, you can watch the cheesemaking and even sample a piece of award-winning cheddar. This local farm is one of the best places on a crisp fall day!
Tour the Shelburne Museum
About eight miles south of Burlington, Vermont, you’ll find the Shelburne Museum, one of the most popular things to do in Vermont. This museum is northern New England’s largest history and art museum, consisting of 39 buildings and 22 gardens on a 45-acre campus.
Spend the afternoon exploring the lush gardens, or check out the interactive exhibits, the Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education, the General Store, the Round Barn, or the carousel. Visitors also enjoy the 220-foot onsite steamboat. In terms of art, the options are limitless – this museum houses American paintings, circus art, impressionist paintings, folk art, and textiles.
Visit ECHO Leahy Center: Science and Nature Museum
Situated on the Burlington waterfront, the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain is a science center and nature museum with interactive exhibits perfect for the entire family. Throughout this museum, marvel at animals like fish, turtles, frogs, and snakes.
Interactive exhibits include displays on indigenous cultures, energy conservation, animal habitats, and a life-size recreation of General Butler, a ship from 1876. If you’re a science enthusiast, the ECHO Leahy Center should be on your list of things to do in Burlington, Vermont, this fall.
Ethan Allen Homestead Museum
Another fantastic museum to explore within the Burlington area is the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum. It is located at the Ethan Allen Homestead Park, which offers miles of hiking trails, paved biked paths, and covered areas perfect for a delicious fall picnic.
The property offers many interactive exhibits, artifacts, and documents highlighting the land’s past. A highlight is the preserved 1700s modest farmhouse General Allen, a war veteran and Vermont Founding Father, called home for two years until he died in 1789. The museum also offers many events and lectures throughout the year. Visit their event page for an updated calendar.
Hike through the Green Mountains
If you’d like to enjoy Vermont’s fall foliage and hiking trails, the Green Mountains are one of the best places to do so.
Travel along the Green Mountain Byway for an incredibly scenic drive showcasing quaint towns, open meadows, mountain backdrops, colorful forests, and abundant farmland. You can also hike along Vermont’s Long Trail, which follows these mountains all the way to the Canadian border.
For more hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, and fishing, check out the nearby Underhill State Park. Situated at an elevation of about 2,000 feet above sea level, this park features panoramic mountain views, which are particularly beautiful in the fall.
Waterbury, Vermont is a must-visit small town while you’re in this neck of the woods, so it’s worth a day trip. The downtown area, Waterbury Village, boasts incredible shopping, restaurants, and art galleries. Prohibition Pig Restaurant and Brewery is a local favorite, featuring a Latin-inspired menu, barbecue, and craft beers. Afterward, stop by Lake Champlain Chocolates for a sweet treat.
The iconic Ben & Jerry’s Factory is located in Waterbury and offers tours for visitors. Even if it’s a chilly fall day, stopping in for an ice cream cone is a requirement!
Enjoy Oakledge Park
Nestled on the shores of Lake Champlain, Oakledge Park has some of the best waterfront views in Burlington. While this park has a rocky swimming beach that is idyllic in the summer, I particularly enjoy the fall foliage.
While you’re here, be sure to stop by the Forever Young Treehouse, the first-ever accessible tree house in the world – the kids will love it. Several lovely picnic spots, bike paths, and bocce rentals make this a great place to spend a warm fall afternoon.
Enjoy Little River State Park
While in Waterbury, head down to Little River State Park for some outdoor day use recreation. It is stunning in fall with its lakes and hiking trails surrounded in an array of colors. There are beaches and watercraft launch sites along with overnight campsites, mountain biking trails and nature programs.
Drink Cider at Cold Hollow Cider Mill
You’ll find the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, about a half-hour drive from Burlington. This charming spot serves fresh apple cider, homemade apple cider donuts, and free samples of local artisan food items – there’s no better spot for fall treats!
Cold Hollow Cider Mill also has a restaurant serving breakfast and lunch, with many dishes made from local apples, maple syrup, and honey. The menu offers homemade soups, sandwiches, fresh salads, and grilled paninis.
Don’t forget about the onsite hard cider tasting room, which is open every afternoon. With tasty treats and drinks, this is one of the best things to do in Burlington, Vermont, in the fall.
Take a Day Trip to Stowe
Less than an hour’s drive from Burlington, Stowe is one of Vermont’s most adorable small towns and one of my favorite day trip spots. With incredible scenery, world-class shopping, top-notch recreation, and a thriving food scene, you could easily spend an entire weekend here. If you stay overnight, book a room at Stowe Mountain Resort, one of Vermont’s best places to stay.
Mount Mansfield, home to several trails and ski slopes, overlooks this mountain town. While I was here, I visited Smugglers Notch State Park, located at the base of the mountain, which has a dense forest and a narrow mountain pass. If you have a drone, this is the place to fly it. There are some areas to pull over but be warned; Smugglers Notch gets packed in the fall!
If you love to hike, check out Vermont’s historic Long Trail. This path crosses over Mount Mansfield and into Smugglers Notch State Park – plus, it’s one of the area’s most popular things to do. For those who want to take in amazing views, check out Gondola Skyride, ArborTrek, or the Auto Toll Road.
Be sure to spend a day exploring Stowe’s main street, home to historic buildings and several boutiques, galleries, country stores, specialty markets, and more. Between the charming atmosphere, idyllic fall foliage, and incredible hiking trails with fantastic viewpoints, Stowe is one of the best areas to visit near Burlington in the fall.
Browse Burlington Farmers Market
With pumpkins, warm drinks, and freshly baked goods, heading to a farmers market is a must-do fall activity. Every Saturday morning through the end of October, you can browse the Burlington Farmers Market in City Hall Park. It is one of the state’s oldest and largest farmers’ markets, a fun activity for the whole family, especially in the fall.
While strolling through this outdoor market, I enjoyed browsing the local produce, vibrant flowers, locally-made goods, and bakery items. You can grab a cup of coffee, sample the local fall bakery items, and stock up on your produce for the week.
Sample the Local Cuisine
From farm-to-table eateries and pizzerias to fine dining and bakeries, there’s no shortage of incredible restaurants in Burlington, Vermont. For traditional pizza, check out Pizzeria Verita; for Vermont-style pies, head to American Flatbread. Fine dining restaurants include Hen of the Wood and Leunig’s Bistro – just be sure to make a reservation.
You can also grab a bite at one of several organic restaurants, ranging from Pingala Cafe, serving vegan fare, to Eco Bean and Greens, specializing in gluten-free dishes, smoothies, and espresso drinks. No matter where you go, you won’t leave hungry!
Taste a Local Brew
Wash all of that delicious food down with a cold beer from one of the local pubs and breweries – and there are quite a few! Check out Burlington Beer Company for various brews in a modern atmosphere. Foam Brewers is another excellent option and has a small outdoor patio with fantastic sunset views.
Several nearby wineries and vineyards are perfect for a fall day. Shelburne Vineyard has a cozy tasting room amongst the backdrop of the lush Vermont countryside, making this a great place to spot some fall colors as you sip.
Try Skateboarding at A_Dog Skate Park
Located in the north section of Waterfront Park, A_Dog Skate Park is one of the most unique things to do in Burlington. This concrete skatepark features 22,000 square feet of streetscape, including a 10-foot bowl.
Andy Williams, also known as “A_Dog,” was a local D.J. who helped create this park, reflected in its name. Even if you’re not a skater, it’s still a fun place to sit and watch pros and amateurs perfect their craft and try out new tricks.
Catch a flick at the Sunset Drive-In
Only a ten-minute drive from Burlington, the Sunset Drive-In is an ideal spot to snuggle up and enjoy a movie on a chilly autumn evening. With four different screens showcasing new releases, a playground, mini-golf, and a concession stand, this spot offers a fun night for folks of all ages.
This 70-year-old drive-in is open every weekend through the end of October – bring your sweetheart or the entire family!
Enjoy Apple Picking
What screams fall more than apple picking? Maybe the turning of the leaves, but apple picking has become a favorite fall tradition of mine. Luckily, there are plenty of apple-picking spots near Burlington, Vermont. About 20 minutes from downtown Burlington is Shelburne Orchards, a beautiful place to pick apples.
Other options include Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, Adams Apple Orchard in Williston, Hackett’s Orchard in South Hero, and countless others. Whether you want Honey Crisp, Red Delicious, or Gala apples, you’ll find them near Burlington.
Explore Local Art
Burlington, Vermont might be a small town, but it has a thriving art scene! Visit Burlington City Arts, an art gallery and art education center located in a former historic firehouse. Rotating exhibitions in the three-story gallery on Church Street feature international and local artists. Visitors can also take art classes, including photography, pottery, and jewelry-making.
Browse the Local Bookstores
If you’re a book lover, you’re in luck. Burlington, Vermont, is home to a surprising number of independent bookstores offering everything from fantasy to non-fiction. Plus, is there anything better to do on a cold fall day than to browse in a cozy local bookstore?
Check out Phoenix Books in the Church Street Marketplace. With a bright atmosphere and a bargain bin, there’s something here for everyone. Crow Bookshop is another excellent option – this charming store carries new, used, and remainder titles. Stop into Speaking Volumes, a used bookstore with eclectic vibes for great deals and hidden gems. You can even find vintage records and local art here for sale!
Listen to Live Music
Burlington, Vermont, has several live music venues and bars, making this a perfect destination for music enthusiasts. Head to the Monkey House for local and national live indie music. This spot also has an excellent lineup of craft brews, plus great pizza and a fun atmosphere.
For a live D.J. and all-night dancing, you can’t go wrong with Club Metronome, located on the top floor of Nectars, which also hosts local and national bands seven nights a week. If you’d like to see Burlington’s up-and-coming talent, spend some time at Radio Bean, a small and eclectic hipster hangout.
Stroll Around the South End
Although Burlington’s South End used to be a dull industrial district, it is now one of the coolest parts of town! Take an afternoon to explore the area – you’ll likely run into several art galleries, community events, breweries, and maybe even some hard cider hot spots.
Every year in September, this neighborhood hosts the Art Hop, an open-gallery event attracting around 30,000 tourists. This multi-day event hosts fashion shows, artist meet-and-greets, and live demos.
Talk about quirky roadside attractions, the world’s tallest filing cabinet can be found in the South End. A 2002 art installation by Bren Alvarez was inspired by the lengthy delay in completing the southern connector, a roadway connecting I-189 to the South End. At over 38 feet tall, the filing cabinet stands proudly in a public parking lot.
FAQ: Things To Do in Burlington, Vermont, in The Fall
Is Burlington, Vermont, worth visiting?
Absolutely! With beautiful scenery, great restaurants, a thriving arts scene, and year-round outdoor activities, Burlington, Vermont, is worth visiting any time of the year.
What is Burlington known for?
Burlington, Vermont, is known as the largest city in Vermont, and as a regional college town that houses the University of Vermont, Champlain College, and Vermont’s largest hospital, UVM Medical Center. It is also known for its beautiful scenery year-round and the bustling Church Street Marketplace.
Can you walk around Burlington, Vermont?
Yes! Burlington, Vermont, has sidewalks almost everywhere in town and is very walkable!
Is Burlington, Vermont, a Big City?
While Burlington is Vermont’s largest city, it is still considered a small city compared to other US cities.
Is there a lot to do in Burlington, Vermont?
Yes! There is plenty to do in Burlington, Vermont, with many activities that will appeal to various interests and ages.
With so much to do in Vermont in fall, basing yourself in Burlington is a great idea to enjoy a bustling small city that keeps you entertained. If you are looking for a small-town getaway, consider staying in nearby Stowe or Woodstock to enjoy the beauty of fall and serene nature with a more boutique feel.
I hope you enjoy your time in Vermont and have a blast trying out all the fun things to do in Burlington this Fall!
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