Burlington Vermont 2015
A warm welcome on a cold weekend!
It was school vacation week, Boston had seen record snowfalls, with more than 6 feet of snow falling in just a month. Everyone was headed to places with less snow; Turks and Caicos, Grand Cayman Islands, Hawaii...Burlington VT. Ba dum dum!
A recent University of Vermont Admitted Students Day with our youngest sent us to Burlington for the weekend instead of points south. As we made our way north, the piles of snow alongside the highway grew smaller, rather than larger as you'd expect in the Green Mountains! We may have escaped a few feet of snow on the ground, but with weekend temperatures that went from 15 degrees to 1 degree, we certainly didn't get a warmer locale! However, we could not have had a warmer welcome or cozier weekend. Even at it's chilliest, Burlington welcomes guests in the warmest, local, sustainable, organic, gluten free range embrace!
We arrived at 6 PM and checked into the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center. This hotel was the "official" location for guests of the Accepted Students Day, where we had a special group rate, a continental breakfast and shuttle buses onto campus for the events of the day. The Sheraton is a standard conference hotel, within walking distance of the UVM campus (1/2 mile) and a slightly longer walk into downtown Burlington (1.5 miles). I say within walking distance because in Burlington transport mostly happens with people power! Our first visit to see UVM was with our older daughter in 2011. At one point she asked the student guide if she could have her car on campus. The guide looked aghast at the thought! Our older daughter crossed it off her list, but her younger sister, the one who wants to walk to everything and if she can't, she will ski, swooned. So it is #2 who is seriously considering UVM in Burlington, where cars are rare (even the taxis are Priuses!) and you'll see all manner of human transport; on foot, skis, snowshoes, long boards, and we even saw 3 guys on Church St riding bicycles on rollers to nowhere all night to raise money for the UVM cycling team (it was 5 degrees out!)
Unlike most of our trips, we did not do a lot of advance planning. We figured we would explore the town of Burlington when we weren't on campus and explore what looked most interesting. We did bring our cross country skis, but the 1 degree weather put us off a little bit, so we didn't get out to ski.
Deciding we would like pizza for dinner, we did a quick check on Google (entered pizza, Burlington, VT) and found American Flatbreads. It looked promising so we drove (don't judge, it was 5 degrees!) and arrived at 6:45 PM to a 30-40 minute wait with the boot and parka clad locals on a Thursday night. A long wait with locals is always a sure sign that you've found one of the best places in town to dine, and that certainly proved true! American Flatbreads has a simple menu of flatbreads, soups, salads and lots of local artisinal beers.
We enjoyed a salad big enough to share, and the soup of the day, and 2 flatbread pizzas made in the huge stone hearth that warmed the whole room! There is also a large terrific wooden bar that looks vintage, with another brick fireplace nearby. One thing we noticed- the restaurant has a sign that says no cell phone use! I used mine to take bad photos (Jeff didn't bring his camera and my iPhone struggles in poor light- don't blame him for my bad photos!) No one tackled me, or gave us dirty looks for using it as a camera, but we noticed that everyone was wonderfully engaged in conversation with friends and neighbors were greeting each other, children were playing card games (provided) while waiting for a table and the service was friendly and genuine. The atmosphere was warm, both in attitude and temperature and the pizza and beer were excellent, what more could anyone want!?
We had hoped to sample a cup cake at My Little Cupcake, but it had an 8PM closing on Thursdays, so we put it on our list for Friday night!
Friday we had a full day exploring UVM and meeting many people who would like to take our messy teenager off our hands for a princely sum (mitigated a bit by the very generous scholarship they offered her!) She loved the school, even at 15 degrees, so she's pretty sure she could be happy there when the leaves are glorious in the fall and it's warm enough to leap into Lake Champlain in the spring!
After a full day on campus we decide to head back downtown for dinner and to explore. The main areas in Burlington are the blocks adjacent to Church St, several blocks of which are closed to (ahem) vehicle traffic and are a pedestrian walk way. This is a very European thing, and it really creates an amazing gathering space! The area is loaded with local restaurants and shops with a few chains mixed in (we spotted Starbucks, Panera and Subway) There is a movie theater, the bus station, as well as, a mall called Burlington Town Center, which is really an interior shopping arcade that has some of the more traditional national chain stores.(Gap, Pottery Barn) Because these aren't really "visible" from Church St, the whole effect is very charming, with the local shops and restaurants showing their colorful windows on the pedestrian way. A walk along the cross street College St would take you down to the lake and more shops and attractions. Given the cold, that also seemed like an area to investigate another day! (like one in July or October!)
For the winter, Church St is decorated with LED lights. I captured the scene with the video below.
My daughter is a little bit of a shopper! It's a rebellious second child thing because the rest of us really don't enjoy shopping! But it was her day, so we indulged her. There were options for reluctant dads...see below:
But Jeff decided to stay on the street and take photos while our daughter explored the sta Second Time Around, a beautifully curated second hand chain clothing store located in upscale towns around the Northeast and Illinois ( you have to call it a boutique, because this is not your mother's Goodwill) Our daughter found a few bargains she could afford on a student salary.
We also stopped at the Zinnia costume jewelry shop, which is another small chain with outlets in fancy towns, but it had a whole section of affordable pieces on the $5 table where our bargain hunter shopped.
We would have enjoyed shopping more of the locally owned shops, but most of the sole proprietor, local shops closed at 5 or 6 PM on Saturdays, so we enjoyed the colorful windows, but weren't able to shop! (maybe that's a good thing!)
How cold was it? Well, let's just say even the parking garage ticket dispenser wore a parka!
Because of the cold we decided we were in the mood for soup for dinner. Once again using Google to wing it, we discovered, Zabby and Elf's Stone Soup. This was exactly what we needed to warm up!
After dinner we finally made it to My Little Cupcake, which was open till 10 PM on Saturdays, but by 8:30 PM the cupcake selection was getting low, (I'm sure because the bakers want you to have a nice fresh cupcake!) So don't wait too late!! Interestingly, we saw a couple of groups enjoying flights of wine or beer with cupcakes!! I'm not sure how that works...does a pinot pair with a red velvet? A chardonnay with a carrot cake? A pale ale with a Boston cream pie? But the folks doing it seemed to be enjoying it immensely! We chose the mini cupcakes so we could sample two (or three!)
After a lovely evening in Burlington, we headed back to the hotel. We had planned to do a little cross country skiing the next day, and although we had been skiing in Massachusetts in 15-20 degree weather, we just couldn't muster the courage to go out there on a windy 1 degree day! So we left Burlington, warmed by the graciousness of the people and bellies full of the excellently prepared, locally sourced food! And if our daughter doesn't decide to go to UVM, I might!