A Perfect 24 Hours in Burlington Tour 1
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A Perfect 24 Hours in Burlington Tour

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Greetings Internet Stranger! I’m Stella Jane, author of the travel guide Get Lost, and welcome to a perfect 24 hours in Burlington. Before I decided to spend 24 hours on a Burlington Tour, I didn’t have a clear image of the city.

I sort of imagined a small town in the woods populated entirely by old guys with long hair, pot-bellies, and tie-dyed shirts. I certainly had no idea that Burlington was right on the glorious Lake Champlain.

But Lake Champlain gives Burlington so much. We’ll spend the Burlington Tour at a local science museum, learning about what makes the lake special. Then we’ll explore Burlington, including the amazing Lake Champlain. Finally, we’ll finish our 24 hours in Burlington with a baseball game and some surprisingly spicy food for Vermont. Let’s get started right away!

Want to cut right to the chase, Internet Stranger? The best activity in Burlington is this fantastic beer tour with tons of five-star reviews!

24 hours in Burlington

24 Hours in Burlington

Morning: ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain

Of course the United States is full of beautiful lakes. We’ve got five Great Lakes. Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes. But how many lakes have their very own museum? As far as I know, only Lake Champlain. ( I’m a huge aquarium fan! (You can check out some of my other aquarium recs in places like Vancouver here.)

That’s why we’re going to spend the morning of our 24 hours in Burlington at the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. (And yes, ECHO is written in all caps on purpose.) The ECHO Leahy Center’s purpose is to teach people about the wonders of Lake Champlain, so they will want to conserve it.

They have many scientific displays, as well as a 3D movie theater for a small additional charge. You can find the opening times and prices on their website.

But you don’t come to this blog for links to websites! You come for my ridiculous sense of humor and my infinite knowledge of…

three fun facts: echo leahy center

24 hours in Burlington

1) what animals are at the echo leahy center?

So many animals! We’ve got fish like Lake Sturgeon, Lake Trout, Bowfins, and an adorably plump orange fish actually named a Pumpkinseed.

It was exciting to see the fish up close and personal, but I’m always disappointed when an aquarium doesn’t dress the sturgeon up in OR scrubs. The pun is just waiting right there, people!

24 hours in burlington

The number of turtles is even more thrilling than the variety of fish. Turtles are great to watch because they always look like mean old men complaining to children about something. “In my day we had to carry our entire house on our backs every day to school and WE LIKED IT!”

Also the turtles have the best names: Snapping Turtle, Neonate Spiny Softshell Turtle, and Stinkpot Turtle. You gotta assume that Stinkpot Turtle got teased a lot in middle school.

24 hours in Burlington
2) is lake champlain in danger?

Of course! Can’t you see that turtle hiding in fear in the plants up there? But Lake Champlain isn’t in danger from alien invasion. It’s in danger from invasive species. I had no idea that the beautiful Japanese koi fish could be an invasive species.

I thought the purpose of the koi was to decorate the lobbies of fancy hotels or build Koi ponds in home backyards. But apparently the koi is harming native species in the Lake Champlain area.

24 hours in Burlington

But the ECHO Leahy Center doesn’t just tell you what’s going wrong. They also give you tips on how to conserve Lake Champlain. One tip is that you should never dump a random fish into the lake. I didn’t know who needs to be told that.

Are there just a whole bunch of children in Vermont who hate their pet goldfish? But apparently the problem is more fishermen who are using invasive species as bait. Fish responsibly, friends!

24 hours in Burlington
3) what’s the best thing about lake champlain?

Some people might disagree with me but these people are wrong! The greatest thing about Lake Champlain is Champ the Lake Monster. Champ dates all the way back to 1609 when explorer Samuel de Champlain spotted a mysterious serpent in Lake Champlain.

It wasn’t called Lake Champlain back then of course. I’m sure Samuel de Champlain had a healthy ego, but he didn’t go around naming lakes after himself.

Since then, Champ the Lake Monster has become a local legend. You can buy Champ dolls at the ECHO Leahy Center. You can enter Champ photography contests. The Burlington Baseball team is even called The Vermont Lake Monsters.

Even though he’s a monster, no one seems to be scared of Champ. People even hire him to show up at kids’ birthday parties. (Would it be weird if I hired Champ to show up at my next birthday party? Don’t answer that.)

24 Hour Tip

Make your time at the ECHO Leahy Center more fun by seeing at least one of the 3D movies and checking out the special exhibits. For this itinerary, either the 10:30 or the 11 o’clock movie would be fine, timing-wise. You buy your ticket at the entrance.

When I spent my 24 hours in Burlington, the special exhibit was on magical creatures–like our good friend Champ. Although, we all know that Champ is real and unicorns are fictional. That’s just science.

But it was interesting hearing some theories about why people have thought that dragons and mermaids were real. They even had a fake miniature mermaid on display. It’s hard to believe that people ever fell for the fake mermaid, but the internet has proven that people will believe lots of ridiculous things.

24 Hours in Burlington

Afternoon: Explore Burlington

Burlington is absolutely one of the most charming college towns you’ll ever encounter. Even though it’s the largest city in Vermont, it’s still not that big. (In fact, no state has a smaller “biggest city” than Vermont does.) So there will be plenty to do in the rest of our 24 hours in Burlington.

But first, you’ll probably be hungry, won’t you? On the other hand, wouldn’t you like to get out on Lake Champlain and see some scenery? Why not combine both in the same experience? That will be the start of our…

Approximately Top 5: 24 Hours in Burlington

24 hours in burlington
1) Spirit of Ethan Allen

We’re going to head out onto Lake Champlain itself with the Spirit of Ethan Allen Cruise? During the warm months, the Spirit of Ethan Allen, which is a boat, not a ghost, will take you out on Lake Champlain to watch the colors change. (And also so you can go hunting for photos of Champ.)

I suggest booking the lunch cruise for this itinerary, so you can eat while you enjoy the waters. In fact, if you spend your 24 hours in Burlington on a Sunday, like I did, you should book the Champagne on Champlain brunch cruise. You definitely want to buy your ticket in advance because the cruises do sell out.

Don’t worry about getting here on time because the ticket booth is a very, very short walk from the ECHO Leahy Center.

Enjoy the buffet spread with your cocktail–you can go back for seconds as much as you want, and no one will stop you. I especially recommend the corned beef and maple sausage if they are available. The cocktails cost extra, though.

My favorite thing about the Spirit of Ethan Allen, aside from the cocktails, was that they seemed to be playing water-themed music whether or not it was appropriate for a lake cruise. So if you’ve ever wanted to get down to “Caribbean Queen” while floating on a lake up near Canada, now is your chance!

2) Wilson Hotel

We’re going to work up an appetite for dinner by doing a little architecture tour. Our first stop is the Wilson Hotel, where we will not be staying. This building is actually one of the oldest in Burlington–it dates all the way back to 1815.

It used to be the residence of Samuel Mills, who ran The Sentinel, a newspaper that absolutely doesn’t exist anymore. But I enjoy this building for the old fashioned porch and windows that stick out. It looks like a boarding house run by a 19th century widow.

3) Government Buildings

Burlington is not the capital of Vermont. That’s Montpelier, and it’s the smallest state capital in the United States. However, Burlington is a real city with a real mayor and a real legal system, so it needs real government buildings.

Above, you can see the Burlington Courthouse. It’s actually the courthouse for all of Chittenden County, not just the city of Burlington, and it dates back to 1906. It was originally built to be a post office, so I guess they had to take out all the mail chutes and stamps and things of that nature when they turned it into a courthouse.

That’s right, Chittenden County Courthouse. Democracy is a puzzle.

Up next, we have the Burlington City Hall, where I assume that the mayor works. (I kind of assume that the Mayor of Burlington is either Ben or Jerry. Or possibly a cow wearing a suit. I’m not going to look anything up because I prefer that mental image.)

This building was built by the firm of McKim, Mead, and White, and I always like bringing them up because Stanford White, who was the White in the firm, was murdered under very scandalous circumstances. People called it the Trial of the Century, and I can only imagine what Twitter would have been like during this trial, if Twitter had been around in 1906.

4) Cosmic Grind

At this point on our 24 hours in Burlington, you might be getting a little sleepy, especially if you indulged in a cocktail on The Spirit of Ethan Allen. So let’s head over to the shops on the Church Street Marketplace and get some coffee at Cosmic Grind.

This place, as you can probably tell from the name, definitely seems to be run by the kind of groovy hippies you’d expect to find in a college town in Vermont. Their coffee is available in all kinds of special flavors, but I just got an iced latte–perfect for a hot summer day in Burlington. There’s usually a line, so expect to wait a bit, but the coffee is worth it.

5) Crow Bookshop

If there’s one thing I believe in, it’s supporting local bookstores. And fortunately, Burlington has an excellent bookstore just a short walk from Cosmic Grind. Crow Bookshop is the perfect place to spend as many minutes as you can spare browsing everything from bestsellers to obscure books about Vermont history.

I stayed over 30 minutes here, and no one gave me any trouble, before I finally picked out a book about the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It was a delightful companion on my bus ride home, and I hope you find something equally special when you visit this store.

6) Art Deco Architecture

Burlington, like many small New England cities, is not known for its Art Deco architecture. However, I did see a couple of Art Deco buildings when I was there, including this long fellow that’s home to The Cafe HOT. (Yes, that’s its real name, and it’s excellent.)

24 hours in burlington

The Flynn is an even better example of Art Deco because of all the sparkles. This is a real theater from the 1930s, and it now houses concerts and other shows on a regular basis. We’re going to a baseball game tonight, but if the Lake Monsters aren’t in town when you spend 24 hours in Burlington, just go ahead and check out a show here instead.

24 Hours in Burlington

Evening: Baseball and Thai Food

If you’re in Burlington in the summer, you simply have to see a Vermont Lake Monsters baseball game, if only for the chance to experience the dance antics of the mascot Champ in person. The Lake Monsters used to be a Minor League team, but they were cut during the pandemic when many minor league teams were cut.

Fortunately, a collegiate summer league stepped in, so Burlington baseball and Champ are here to stay.

Much of the fun of attending a Lake Monsters game is that it’s clearly a local family event, and it’s fun watching something bring children such joy. By far the most famous baseball player to ever play at this field is Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., and I overheard a couple of little boys hoping that he would show up at the game that night.

Spoiler Alert! Ken Griffey Jr. did not show up. But it was cute to see the small ones get their hopes up.

Once the game is over, it might be a little tricky to find a place open for dinner. There aren’t a ton of restaurants in Burlington that are open late. One of the best options is Bangkok Bistro in the Alley. (Yes, that’s its full name.)

Because there’s not a lot of late dinner competition for Bangkok Bistro in the Alley in downtown Burlington, it can get real crowded here. However, I had no trouble getting a seat at the bar and ordering one of their seductive cocktails.

I recommend the drunken spicy noodles, which are actually spicy, not just Vermont spicy. I wouldn’t have been able to get 5-alarm Thai noodles in Burlington, Vermont, but I wouldn’t have expected a lake monster to have his own baseball team, so this city is full of surprises.

A Perfect 24 Hours in Burlington Tour 2

Burlington Walking Tour

Where to Stay?

I spent several weeks in the summer traveling to every single state in New England. At this point in my life, I’ve taken a trip to all of the continental 48 states. So I can confirm that New England is the most expensive region in the country, hotel-wise.

If you’re looking for the best value for your Burlington Walking Tour, I recommend the Best Western Plus Windjammer Inn and Conference Center. It’s not located right in Downtown Burlington, but it’s easily reachable from there by car/Uber.

The rooms were clean and comfy, and there was a free breakfast spread every morning with many good options. Plus there were free cookies in the evening! I think I would have enjoyed the cookies more if I hadn’t had a stomach bug, but it’s the thought that counts.

If you’re looking for a great deal on this hotel, click here.

If you’d rather explore great deals on other hotels in Burlington, click here. This search engine will help you find the perfect place to stay as the base for your Burlington walking tour. With hundreds of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.

24 hours in burlington

That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Burlington!

What would you do with 24 hours in Burlington? Should other mythic creatures have sports teams? Email me at stellajane@aroundtheworldin24hours.com and let me know!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Burlington.

Try another day with a Burlington walking tour. Add a one day in Portland Maine itinerary. Go for 24 hours in Portland Maine. Find the best attractions in Portsmouth NH. Enjoy the best things to do in Downtown Portsmouth NH!

A Perfect 24 Hours in Burlington Tour 3

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