The Burlington Bikeway is an easy meander along the northern lakefront of Burlington. Beginning at Oakledge Park and ending where the Winooski River meets Lake Champlain, the bikeway runs 7.5 miles through several beaches, parks and recreation centers, making for plenty of stops along the way for added recreation or rest, depending upon your athletic abilities.
The bikeway was once part of the Central Vermont Railway. In the 1970s, Burlingtonians decided to make the tracks into a pedestrian and bike thruway. Now locals and tourists alike enjoy its views of Burlington, Lake Champlain, and the Adirondacks, and the colorful and postcard- perfect vistas in the autumn. Just be sure to pay attention as you move along the bikeway, as you may cross paths with any number of dogs fetching Frisbees, people juggling, or other scene watchers.
The Owl Cottage at Shelburne Museum
The Shelburne Museum has many Americana exhibits that are of interest to people of all ages; for example, thereâ€™s the circus building with a 500- foot-long miniature circus parade. But thereâ€™s a special corner of the place that will particularly delight and engage even the youngest child in your family. At the Owl Cottage — a cool post-and-beam structure converted into a youthful playhouse — families can relax and get a child-oriented view of topics related to the museumâ€™s exhibits in a bright and welcoming building. Kids can try on old-fashioned costumes, check out games their grandparents played, or just peruse books about days past. During the summer months, kids can explore more artistic pursuits here, like stenciling or making hats. And though itâ€™s not part of the Owl Family Center, donâ€™t forget to complete your trip by taking the kids for a little spin on the colorful 1920 carousel, just down the path by the circus building.
Burlington Community Boathouse
The Burlington Community Boathouse is hard to miss if youâ€™re downtown. The two-storied, red- roofed barge that floats on Burlington Harbor is a replica of the Lake Champlain Yacht Club that stood here in the early 19th century. While serving as an historic gateway to Waterfront Park and the downtown shopping area, itâ€™s also the scene of much waterfront entertainment.
The Boathouse provides docking facilities that include showers and a restaurant for tired mariners. You can rent sailboats here or take swimming lessons, go scuba diving on a shipwreck thatâ€™s open to the diving public, or go sailing or kayaking.
Various cruises set off from this location as well, including the occasional murder mystery excursion, which can be momentarily spooky on an overcast day.
Looking for a novel place to hold a party? The second floor of the boathouse can be rented, and catering is available. Come back in the early evening for an unbeatable sunset experience.
Burlington is a culturally happening place, and this is in no small part due to the University of Vermont, which boasts numerous performance spaces, libraries and museums. UVMâ€™s Lane Series brings in a wide range of attractions, including world-renowned opera performers like Roberta Peters; stellar orchestras like the Boston Symphony; ballet companies like the American Ballet Theater; jazz ensembles like the Dave Brubeck Quartet; and more cutting-edge fare, such as Ravenshead.
The school also produces many of its own high-quality performances. Check out the universityâ€™s Choral Union, one of many student musical groups, as they perform a capella or accompanied by such groups as the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. Their Christmas Carol Dinner tickets go very quickly, so inquire early at the UVM music department.
Another place to check out at UVM, especially for kids, is the Perkins Museum of Geology. Your little ones might shock you as they display their interest in dinosaurs, earthquakes and volcanoes, and you might even be intrigued by the Charlotte Whale exhibit — a display of whale remains found in Vermont. The Fleming Museum of Art and its resident mummy are big draws here, along with other Egyptian and African artifacts and a collection of contemporary American and Vermont paintings. You can also enroll your budding Picassos in art classes here.
University of Vermont Dairy Farm
The Paul Miller Research Center, also known as the Spear Street Farm, is a great place to take kids to see cows, pigs, horses, goats and sheep in their natural environment. The farm is a cooperative agricultural learning center for college students at the University of Vermont, and itâ€™s open to the public for self-guided tours. Children can watch UVM students take care of a herd of Holsteins and Jersey cows.
Visit the solar barn, which runs on sunlight, where young calves live in a healthy and low-cost environment. Horse and dairy shows and cattle auctions take place here regularly as well, and therapeutic riding classes are offered though a nonprofit organization. As a research institution, the farm offers the latest information on everything from animal nutrition to running a farm effectively.
Centennial Field, home field to University of Vermont teams during the academic year and to the Vermont Expos in summer, is a place of historic interest in its own right. Opened in 1906, the stadium was named for the centennial anniversary of the first graduating class at UVM. The stadium’s original wooden bleachers burned down in 1913, and permanent replacements were ultimately built in — a steel and concrete grandstand today still stands as the oldest complete grandstand in minor league baseball. It also helped earn the field a place in the National Register of Historic Places.
Over the years, many famous ballplayers played here in exhibition or minor league games, ranging from Robin Roberts to Ken Griffey, Jr. Today, you might see stars of the future when you watch the Vermont Expos play here Ã» theyÃ†re a New York Penn League affiliate of the Montreal Expos.
Thereâ€™s something purely magical about watching artisans create luminous glass works as they appear to blow shining, solid bubbles. Perhaps thatâ€™s what led the owner to cross over the line from chemistry to the art of glassblowing and open the Church and Maple Glass Studio.
At this small production studio, housed in a space formerly used by a taxi company, you can observe this art in the making as the artisans craft colorful, functional works of hand-blown glass. After watching demonstrations of works in progress, explore the gallery, where you can browse among bowls, vases and other glassware. The Emerald Sea line of glass works is especially popular, due to its blending of colors that suggest the depths of the ocean. The results are pricey but breathtakingly beautiful pieces of art, hallmarked by a geometrical logo on the underside of each piece.
Picnic with the kids. Play Frisbee with the dog. Or simply watch the world go by from a bench. On any given day at Waterfront Park, you might see a bunch of folks playing volleyball or carousing at a beer festival. Located off downtown Lake Street, the park sits by Lake Champlain and has striking views of the New York Adirondacks across the water.
Maybe you biked or hiked here from the Burlington Bikeway, which winds by here, or maybe you wandered here after a shopping trip to the Church Street Marketplace. Perhaps you’ve even parked your boat here for a trip to dry land. No matter how you arrived, youâ€™ll find yourself appreciating one of Burlingtonâ€™s most beautiful outdoor spots.
A grand party atmosphere prevails when one of Burlingtonâ€™s many outdoor festivals is hosted here. Thereâ€™s even a picnic shelter available, with tables and places to cook. Be sure to stop by at sunset and view the picture-perfect glowing sunset.
Since 1947, Saint Michaelâ€™s College has supported summer theater at the Saint Michaelâ€™s Playhouse. Housed in the McCarthy Arts Center on the schoolâ€™s campus, the playhouse produces four plays each summer — usually a selection of musicals, comedies and dramas — and a childrenâ€™s theatre series. The plays attract the skills of directors, actors, designers and other stage professionals from all over the country, so you might see both up-and-coming performers and seasoned talent.
The playhouse is not above making some quirky and bold production choices. In 2000, they produced a show called â€œCirque du Souffle,â€? a comedy that included a mÃ©lange of a cast — comedians from New York, members of the Saint Michaelâ€™s theater department, and chefs from the New England Culinary Institute.
This historic site, once Governor Chittendon’s son’s 18th-century digs, is now home to 20 miles of intricate trails used for cross-country skiing in winter and mountain biking, trail running and walking and hiking in the summer. Thereâ€™s even a mountain biking academy that runs in the summer and holds classes and camps for kids and adults, and even some for women only. The center is a family-run operation, and the feeling here is warm — even in the winter — and friendly.
Catamount also holds special events such as athletic competitions, mountain bike races, and family tours like the snow shoe tour. You can also harvest your own Christmas tree, and small weddings are even held here.
If youâ€™ve got a long way to drive, you can extend your visit to an overnight stay. Through Columbus Day you can camp in the primitive campground, but thereâ€™s also a three- room bed and breakfast that fills up quickly on weekends.
The center rents skis, ice skates, mountain bikes and all the rest of the sporty stuff youâ€™ll need.
Bob Spear’s Birds of Vermont Museum
Vermont naturalist Bob Spears has spent much of his life educating others about the importance of conservation and the unique beauty of the birds of Vermont, as well as endangered North American species; and his carvings make up the bulk of the museumâ€™s inventory. Opened in 1987, the Birds of Vermont Museum houses 442 of Bobâ€™s life-sized and biologically accurate carvings of birds in actual nests.
A 10-minute introductory video demonstrates the painstaking process of bird carving. Afterwards, you might ask for a scavenger hunt sheet to use with your kids to explore your way through the museum.
Some highlights: a room of endangered and extinct North American birds and a diorama of birds that actually come to Vermont for the winter.
The museum is surrounded by a nature preserve and bird sanctuary, with several acres of trails, a pond and a butterfly garden. You can also watch birds from the one-way window, where a microphone picks up bird sounds.
A popular field trip and family destination, the museum has many return visitors, especially since Bob, now in his 80s, still has some carving yet to do on tropical birds and other future exhibits.