Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a perfect Burlington walking tour. Some people might think that the best reason to spend 24 hours with a Burlington Walking Tour is to hang out with old hippie gentlemen. After all, Bernie Sanders was once the Mayor of Burlington. And even to this day, one of the most popular things to do in the city is chow down on Cherry Garcia at Ben and Jerry’s.
But Burlington, Vermont has so much more to offer than just fellows past retirement age who never brush their hair. With 24 hours to enjoy your Burlington Walking Tour, you can explore Vermont’s fascinating Colonial history, take a nap by a river, and eat at one of the best restaurants in the country. Plus we’ll even learn about the secret war between Vermont and my home state of New York.
As a side note, I came down with a horrible stomach bug immediately upon arriving in Burlington. Yet I did not let that stop me from exploring the city, as I was determined to write the best possible itinerary for you. So you could also use this as a “24 hours with a Burlington Walking Tour with the Devil’s Own Tummy Flu Guide”, if so needed.
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.
Burlington Walking Tour
What to Pack
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
If the weather is rainy or snowy, which happens quite often in New England, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
Burlington Walking Tour
Morning: Ethan Allen Homestead
I began this blog post by invoking famous Vermonters like Senator Bernie Sanders and Mssrs. Ben and Jerry. But the greatest Vermont hero of all time might very well be Ethan Allen. Don’t get confused by the name and think I’m talking about a furniture store. Ethan Allen was perhaps the greatest advocate the state of Vermont has ever had.
That’s why we’ll be spending the morning of our Burlington Walking Tour at the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum. A free video, admission to the museum, and a docent tour of Ethan Allen’s home are included with the price.
Like basically every attraction in northern New England that doesn’t involve skiing, it’s only open during the summer months. But if you’re in Burlington between May and October, you need to come here to learn about the man, the myth, the Vermonter. I’ll help you get started with…
three fun facts: ethan allen
1) why is ethan allen famous?
Ethan Allen was actually from Connecticut, not Vermont, but he has become a legend in the Green Mountain State. (That’s Vermont’s nickname because Vermont means Green Mountain in French.) Ethan Allen first won fame leading the American forces to victory against the British at Fort Ticonderoga at the beginning of the American Revolution.
Some rude people say that Allen won because the British were taken by surprise, not because Allen was very skilled. But I wouldn’t say that to Allen’s face because he was an exceptionally tall man and he might squish you with his giant feet.
Later during the American Revolution, Allen was captured by the British and languished in prison for years. But Allen ended up turning this to his advantage because he had success with his memoirs about his time in prison, A Narrative of Col. Ethan Allen’s Captivity, which he wrote when he was older. Let it never be said than Ethan Allen missed the opportunity to burnish his own legend.
2) but why is ethan allen famous in vermont?
Even before the American Revolution, Ethan Allen was the leader of a rag tag group of misfits known as the Green Mountain Boys. Some people might wonder, when reading a list of the original 13 colonies, why Vermont isn’t on that list. The short answer is that Vermont used to be a weird, amorphous territory between New York State and New Hampshire. At that time, Vermont was confusingly known as the New Hampshire Land Grants, even though it was separate from New Hampshire.
New York State didn’t like this State of affairs, and insisted that the New Hampshire Land Grants belonged to them. Many Vermonters took exception to New York telling them what to do. So some of them formed a militia called the Green Mountain Boys. Ethan Allen was their fearless leader. Their mission? Resist New York at any price!
The Ethan Allen Homestead Museum is quick to point out that the Green Mountain Boys didn’t actually kill people. And they did eventually get what they wanted because Vermont was soon admitted to the union as the 14th state. But it’s still funny for me, as a New Yorker, to think of Vermont going to war with us. Like nowadays Vermont is just full of stoners, snowboarders, and cows. So I think we could pretty easily take them if armed conflict broke out.
3) what’s special about this house?
First off, it was the actual final home of Ethan Allen. He was no fancy gentleman farmer; he actually built the home himself. And he ran the farm himself. The farm still works to this day. Our guide showed us how they grow flax on the property and can turn it into linen. It’s a very complicated process. Much easier for me to just go to Uniqlo and buy a shirt nowadays.
But the Ethan Allen Homestead is also famous for something called the Black Snake Affair that took place years after Allen’s death. President Thomas Jefferson, for reasons that are too complicated to get into now, declared an embargo on Americans engaging in overseas trade. “Trade wars are good and easy to win,” he did not say.
Of course some Americans ignored this, and a group of smugglers were caught in Vermont. A shootout ensued, and some customs agents were killed in the fight. Ethan Allen’s son served on the jury for one of the smugglers. (The smuggler was convicted and became the first person executed in the state of Vermont.)
Our docent said that a group of Homeland Security Agents, the modern equivalent of the customs agents, had come to the Homestead in costume to honor their fallen brethren. I would not have thought the Homeland Security Agents were into cosplay! It just shows life can always surprise you.
Burlington Walking Tour
Afternoon: Explore Burlington
Now that we’ve enjoyed our time at the Ethan Allen Homestead, it’s time to continue our Burlington Walking Tour. Burlington is Vermont’s largest city. Keep in mind that being Vermont’s largest city looks very different than being the largest city in New York. So we’ll still be in touch with a tremendous amount of nature and beauty.
Also, keep in mind that I had a horrific gastrointestinal bug the entire time I was exploring Burlington, so that might affect my thoughts a bit. But I still managed to record the…
approximately top 5: Burlington Walking Tour
1) mckenzie park
The Ethan Allen Homestead is located in an especially lovely part of Burlington. So after your visit and tour of the home, I suggest going for a relaxing walk in the area. You want to make your ways to McKenzie Park and then from there to Intervale Community Farm. Keep in mind that there are no public toilets in the area, not even if you are maybe dying from stomach bug, so use the facilities before you leave the Ethan Allen Homestead.
One of the reasons McKenzie Park is so lovely is that it’s located on the banks of the Winooski River. Occasional flooding from the river puts the “vert” in “Vermont”. But if you’re doubled over in pain from stomach cramps, you can lie down besides the Winooski River and take a pleasant nap, using your bag for a pillow. Vermonters are very pleasant people and will not draw a fake mustache on you while you are sleeping.
2) intervale community farm
Vermont isn’t just a Green State because of the Green Mountain Boys. I mean, this is a place that has elected Bernie Sanders as one of its senators for the last flobbity-jillion years. So you know Vermonters care about being eco-friendly.
One place to see some green initiatives is the Intervale Community Farm. There’s no admission charge; you can just wander through and watch the farm at work. Intervale provides fresh produce to over 600 households in Burlington. If you live in Burlington, you can join Intervale and then come to the farm and pick up the best possible seasonal veggies on the regs.
As a hard-core urbanite, I loved being able to just wander around and watch a real farm at work, even though I could not have any produce. It would have been nice if Intervale had a cafe serving boiled vegetables or something, as I had been unable to keep any breakfast down because of the stomach bug. But Intervale doesn’t run their business to suit my health needs, so I was going to have to look elsewhere.
3) lunch at chubby muffin
Now is the time in our 24 hours in Burlington when we’ll definitely need lunch. Fortunately Intervale is not far from a place that will feed you: Chubby Muffin. As is required by the Most High Law of Burlington, Chubby Muffin uses local ingredients and producers to obtain their sandwiches, baked goods, burgers, and hot dogs. I felt all my tummy could handle was a plain boiled hot dog, but I assure you that you’ll enjoy this plump treat even if your stomach is not full of death and misery.
Just be warned that it’s a little difficult to see the door of Chubby Muffin. Also, a lot of Burlington residents don’t lock their front door. So by mistake I entered the apartment of a scruffy looking young man and his yappy dog. If this were a romantic comedy, we would have fallen in love. Instead I screamed and almost fainted before running away in shame. Don’t let this happen to you!
4) old mount calvary cemetery
At this point in the 24 hours in Burlington, I was feeling like death. So why not visit a cemetery. As you might expect from such a northern state, Burlington has a good number of residents from Quebec. And those French Canadians tend to be Catholic, which means they need a Catholic cemetery. So Old Mount Calvary Cemetery was built just for their needs. (Yes, there’s a New Mount Calvary Cemetery. No, we’re not going there today.)
The cemetery was lovely, but I was sad to see that some Burlington-ites seem to go drink in the cemetery and leave their trash around the graves. Respect the Dead French Canadians, Burlington! Or they’ll come haunt you and steal all your poutine! (Also Dead French Canadians would make a solid band name.)
5) church street marketplace
You can’t spend 24 hours in Burlington without visiting the Church Street Marketplace. This is a pedestrian-only shopping street that’s also an excellent place to just hang in the afternoon. Some of my favorite stores on Church Street include the fair trade store Ten Thousand Villages and Frog Hollow Craft Center.
Ten Thousand Villages has items from all over the world. I bought a box made out of cinnamon from Vietnam that still smells delicious. And at the Frog Hollow Craft Center they have pieces by artists from all over Vermont. I bought a painting of cows from the artist himself. He even signed the back for me. Also, the artist looked just like Bernie Sanders in disguise but that could have been the stomach flu talking. Or it could just be that all old guys in Vermont look like Bernie Sanders.
But of course the most famous place on Church Street is the giant Ben and Jerry’s. Step inside to find flavors that are only available in the store. You can even get Ben and Jerry’s lip balm here. I got Chocolate Therapy to see if it’s possible for me to have a stomach bug that makes me too sick to want to eat ice cream. (Spoiler Alert! It’s impossible! I always want ice cream.)
Burlington Walking Tour
Evening: Dinner at Hen of the Wood
Hen of the Wood is not just the most famous restaurant in Burlington. It also shows up on lists of the best restaurants in the United States. You have to make reservations well in advance to dine here. I was so excited for my reservation and then devastated to find that I was violently ill on the day of.
But that would not stop me from doing my best to review the restaurant for you, my Internet Strangers! And what higher praise can I give a restaurant than saying I liked it despite the fact that my internal organs were turning themselves into knots as I dined? Hen of the Wood is a small plate restaurant, so I would ordinarily order three dishes when dining alone and then get dessert. Instead I was only able to get two dishes and no dessert. But both of those dishes were most delicious.
24 hour treat: vermont cheese
Vermont is famous for cows and ice cream. But don’t sleep on Vermont cheese! The local Vermont blue cheese was definitely the star of this lightly dressed salad. I wanted to buy a whole hunk of the pungent stuff and eat it on crackers with an excellent Port wine.
Fun fact! Some of the cheese on the menu comes from the Von Trapps in Stowe, Vermont. Yes, the Von Trapps from The Sound of Music. After they escaped the Nazis, they settled in Vermont, opened a ski lodge, and apparently started making cheese. The moral of this story is: it’s good to stand up to Nazis.
Hen of the Woods is actually a type of mushroom, so I couldn’t resist ordering a mushroom dish here. And as any English breakfast knows, mushrooms are always better when served with eggs and bacon. That’s just science. This dish was interesting because the three main ingredients each have a savory taste, but a very different kind of savory taste. There was the earthy mushroom, the rich egg yolk, and the salty bacon, which all came together in one scrumptious bite. It was a symphony of savory.
That’s a Perfect Burlington Walking Tour!
What would you do on a Burlington Walking Tour? Should New York State declare war on Vermont just because it can? And have you ever toured an entire city while doubled over in pain from a terrible virus? Please leave your thoughts below!
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 with a Burlington Walking Tour. If you have time after your Burlington Walking Tour is over, try this 24 hour itinerary.