Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Burlington and Colchester, Vermont

A recent long weekend found my family and some friends of ours in the state of Vermont, to check out the towns of Burlington, Colchester, Stowe, and Waterbury. We've been to Vermont to ski before, but this our first time visiting in the late spring to witness the green mountains touted in Vermont's state nickname.

Our first stop was the neighboring towns of Burlington and Colchester, where we found the most scenic bike path I've ever experienced, a super cute downtown, more rolling, green pastures than I could count, and fun, family-friendly attractions unique to the area.

Where to Stay

We decided to stay at Green Mountain Suites Hotel in Burlington based on its stellar reviews. And it lived up to the hype, from the rustic-chic decor to the fireside buffet breakfast to the immaculate, spacious rooms. The kids' favorite part was, of course, the indoor pool, which came in really handy when some of our outdoor plans got rained out. I highly recommend this hotel and would return again!

What to Do

My main reason for wanting to visit this area was to bike the Island Line Trail in Colchester. In its entirety, the trail is 13.4 miles long, but the best part of it is the 3-mile causeway that juts into Lake Champlain. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, and you feel like you're riding on water. Here's how to experience that part of the bike trail with your kids.

First, park at the Causeway Bike Path Parking Lot, off Mills Point Road. This is the closest you can park to the causeway, and the trail picks up right across the street from the lot. The causeway is a narrow, level, packed gravel road that goes on for about 3 miles. The biking is easy-peasy and terribly scenic, with water lapping at the edges on either side of you. We were able to do it with a group of four kids, ages 7 to 10, with no problem.

After 3 miles, the trail is abruptly cut off by the water. At this point, you can turn around and enjoy the same experience back, or you can hop on the Local Motion bike ferry, which takes you and your bikes on the world's shortest boat ride to where the trail picks up again on an island across the way. At just under five minutes long, the ferry ride is the perfect time to catch your breath before you tackle the next leg of the bike ride.

On the island, called South Hero, is where you'll find a small petting zoo and bakery called Allenholm Farm and a food stand called The Accidental Farmer, about 3 miles down a wide road. The two are conveniently located next door to each other, and your kids can play on the swing set or pet the animals on the farm while you wait for your locally made cheeseburgers and hot dogs to be grilled up.

Then, after everyone's rested, fed, and ready to ride again, just turn around and head back the way you came!

While the weather cooperated for our bike ride, the rest of our time in this area was very rainy, so unfortunately we had to hunker down at the hotel pool instead of doing some of the other things I had planned. One of them was a walk around the Church Street Marketplace, a totally cute stretch of shops and restaurants that's completely lit up at night. We did, however, break out the umbrellas and walk around a little bit on our way to dinner.

The other thing I really wanted us to do was watch a movie at the Sunset Drive-In in Colchester. It's an old-fashioned drive-in theater that looks like so much fun. Next time!

Where to Eat

We had dinner one night at the Istanbul Kebab House on Church Street. The Mediterranean fare totally hit the spot after a long day of biking!

After dinner, we grabbed some ice cream at the bustling Ben & Jerry's on Church Street. It was a really fun outpost, with some seating in a VW bus!

What's Nearby

About 15 minutes from this area is the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, located in Shelburne. We really enjoyed the factory tour here, but be forewarned: your kids will definitely be begging for a bear from the gift shop afterwards, and they're pricey. On the tour, a "bear ambassador" walks you around the workstations of the factory, where you get to see craftspeople hand-making bears on weekdays (or their unmanned sewing machines on the weekends). The tour is hands on, with opportunities to touch the fur and stuffing, and you leave with a souvenir bear button.

And less than an hour from Burlington and Colchester are the towns of Stowe and Waterbury, where we stayed in a treehouse, checked out another scenic Vermont bike path, and visited the Ben & Jerry's factory! Here's the itinerary for that part of the trip.

You might also like:
Stowe and Waterbury with Kids: What to See, Do, and Eat
7 Kid-Friendly Factory Tours