How to Pull off a Cheap Fall Getaway to Burlington, Vermont From Denver

Few fall destinations capture our minds as much as the charming birthplace of Phish, Vermont cheddar cheese, Bernie Sanders, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and sugary maple syrup rivaled only by Canada. There’s a lot to love about the Green Mountain State, which is why you should go.

Burlington, Vermont has a lot in common with Denver — close proximity to ski resorts, mountains, marijuana, breweries and outdoor activities for days — but this quaint, lakeside city in New England feels a little more relaxed. If you’re tired of heavy traffic on Speer or Colorado Boulevard, you’re in luck. Burlington is another destination with cheap, direct, round-trip flights out of Denver International Airport (DIA). Here are some recommendations for traveling on a tight budget to this remote corner of America for some TLC with nature and some nice, friendly Vermonters.

Airfare and Transportation

Photo by Marissa Kozma.

Fly on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday, and you can score some sweet fares out of DIA on Frontier Airlines. Flights can drop to a little over $100 or less depending on when you look. Currently, the best deal we found was only $133 round-trip, which is only $66 each way — not bad for a roughly four-hour direct flight across the country. To check cheap fares, we recommend using Kayak’s cheap flight search engine. Once you book your flight, renting a car is easy if you want to partake in some of the scenic drives around the state. A small car can be as low as $23 a day, but you don’t even need to do that since all of Burlington is completely accessible on foot or bike. Many hotels in the area offer complimentary bike rentals, but Burlington Bike Share has some of the cheapest rates we’ve ever seen. It only costs $2 for a 30-minute trip and $5 for each additional 30 minutes. You can also buy a monthly pass for $15 with 60 minutes of free ride time per day.

Accommodations

Hotel Vermont

Photo courtesy of Hotel Vermont.

Where: 41 Cherry St., Burlington
Cost: Starting at $169 per night ($84.50 each)

The Lowdown: You probably won’t get stunning lake views at this price anywhere else in the US. Hotel Vermont is cozily nestled on Lake Champlain and its modern yet woodsy interior design, sustainable practices, complimentary bike rentals, complimentary croissants, local apples and Nespresso on every floor, and locally sourced restaurant Juniper serving up hot rabbit pot pie and wild salmon tartare are enough to entice anyone to stay there. It’s a true Vermont hotel experience to say the least ⁠— and that’s a really good thing.

Sightseeing

Lake Champlain

Photo courtesy of Hotel Vermont.

Where: 20 Lake St., Burlington
Cost: Free

The Lowdown: Burlington loves its lake and we can’t complain. Lake Champlain is arguably one of the most stunning lakes in the country and stretches for an impressive 490 square miles. It takes hours to drive around it, but you can enjoy the numerous bike paths and waterfront benches in and around the city. The Community Sailing Center offers kayaks, paddleboards and canoes for $15 per hour, but a bike ride will also satisfy your lake scenery needs.

Church Street Marketplace

Photo by Marissa Kozma.

Where: 2 Church St., Burlington
Cost: Free

The Lowdown: Apart from Lake Champlain, a popular view in Burlington is looking right down Church Street. This shopping street downtown was rumored to be designed by the same architect who created Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall, so you’ll find similarities in the brick-laid path, friendly storefronts and numerous Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factories — just kidding. It’s totally different. At Church Street Marketplace, you can buy flannel made in Vermont, all the local maple syrup of your heart’s content and some pretty amazing, artisan-made gifts shops and art galleries.

Nectar’s

Photo courtesy of Nectar’s on Facebook.

Where: 188 Main St., Burlington
Cost: $15 and under

The Lowdown: Fans of the rock band Phish will definitely need to visit the live music bar in Burlington where they got their start. Serving up “pub grub” like gravy fries and craft beer, Nectar’s is a great place to hang out for Burlington nightlife, but make sure you see a show. Most local performances have entry fees of only $5 to $8.

The Soda Plant

Photo courtesy of The Soda Plant on Facebook.

Where: 266 Pine St., Burlington
Cost: Free

The Lowdown: Home to more than 30 art galleries, tasting rooms, studios, shops and other local businesses, The Soda Plant on Pine Street in the South End Arts District is a local artisan’s paradise. Everything sold is completely made in Vermont and the old bottling plant’s transformation is one to talk at home about.

Fall Foliage

Photo courtesy of Vermont Tourism on Facebook.

Where: Lake Champlain Byway or Green Mountain Byway
Cost: Free

The Lowdown: It doesn’t matter where you drive throughout the countryside, you’ll find riveting red, orange, gold and yellow trees around every bend in the state. We recommend driving the Lake Champlain Byway that stretches north along the lakeside from Burlington or the Green Mountain Byway from Waterbury to Stowe. There’s also nearby Mt. Mansfield State Forest, which is only a 45-minute drive from the city. Unlike the yellow aspens at high altitudes in Colorado, Vermont’s fall foliage is filled with red maples and other deciduous trees you can only find in the Northeast. Want to find out which state’s season is better? We’ll let you be the judge of that. Check out Vermont’s fall foliage report here for more info.

Bagels, Books and Antiques

Photo by Marissa Kozma.

Where: 377 Pine St., Burlington
Cost: Free

The Lowdown: Don’t miss checking out this old factory filled with wonders. Located near The Soda Plant, the Barge Canal Market and its next-door neighbors Myer’s Bagel Bakery and Speaking Volumes Books will keep you entertained for a couple of hours. Speaking Volumes houses dusty paperbacks and classic leatherbounds from decades past and will keep you interested in the way that only a used New England bookshop can. Additionally, the Barge Canal Market has the retro antique finds you can’t find at the Goodwill on South Broadway. The Montréal-inspired bagels at Myer’s aren’t bad either if you need a light snack.

Ben & Jerry’s Factory

Photo by Marissa Kozma.

Where: 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Rd., Waterbury
Cost: $10 and under

The Lowdown: You can’t visit Burlington without driving 30 minutes to the nearby small town of Waterbury, Vermont — the birthplace of beloved Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Adult tickets for the 30-minute factory tour are only $4 and you can order a cone or bowl with your favorite flavor(s). The “Flavor Graveyard” on the property with headstones including silly epitaphs for all the retired flavors is also a highly enjoyable attraction.

Cold Hollow Cider Mill

Photo by Marissa Kozma.

Where: 3600 Waterbury-Stowe Rd., Waterbury
Cost: $15 and under

The Lowdown: If you want to sample some of the state’s best damn apple cider, don’t miss out on Cold Hollow Cider Mill, which is down the street from Ben & Jerry’s. Get a bushel of fresh apples, house-baked pastries and pies, the famous cider doughnuts the place is popular for or a bottle of cider pressed locally. All of it is bound to get you in the festive fall spirit. Just watch out for the tourist buses. This place is never empty.

Food and Drinks

Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea (Coffee)

Photo by Marissa Kozma.

Where: 11 Cabin Lane, Waterbury
Cost: $8 and under

The Lowdown: The big red barn off the highway might not seem like a coffee roastery, but it is. With gourmet coffee blends for purchase, espressos, cortados, pour overs, teas and maple lattes, Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea is a must-stop coffee break stop on your visit to Waterbury.

New Moon Café (Coffee)

Photo courtesy of New Moon Café on Facebook.

Where: 150 Cherry St., Burlington
Cost: $10 and under

The Lowdown: The name reminds us of the popular Twilight novel, but it’s actually a hip coffee shop and eatery catered to vegan, vegetarian and meat-eaters alike. Although the organic juice bar, hearty “lumberjack” breakfast sandwich and daily baked goods are worth going home to brag about, it’s the coffee we crave at New Moon Café. We think it might be the milk sourced from local dairies in Vermont or the true Vermont maple syrup. Whatever the case, New Moon’s maple latte isn’t made with sweeteners from a pump.

Monarch & the Milkweed (Breakfast)

Photo courtesy of Monarch & the Milkweed on Facebook.

Where: 111 St. Paul St., Burlington
Cost: $20 and under

The Lowdown: Vermonters aren’t exactly sure what to label Monarch & the Milkweed as. Its scrumptious bakery display case is filled with dreamily decorated doughnuts, sophisticated scones and tasty tarts touched by an artist’s hand, but you can also order cereal and pancakes. However, the graham cereal is pressed in a waffle cone maker and the pancakes are souffle-style. Labeling itself as a “fine diner,” Monarch & the Milkweed attempts to revamp traditional American comfort foods using locally sourced ingredients and careful preparation. You can eat all day long here since this casual restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and cocktails.

Penny Cluse Café (Brunch)

Photo by Marissa Kozma.

Where: 169 Cherry St., Burlington
Cost: $15 and under

The Lowdown: Most mornings you’ll find a very long wait to be seated for breakfast or brunch at Penny Cluse Café, but standing outside before you’ve had an adequate amount of caffeine is worth it. Established in 1998, Penny Cluse has been beloved by Burlington locals for two decades and service hasn’t slowed down. Breakfast and lunch are served all day and you can indulge in the café’s famous gingerbread pancakes or “bucket-o-spuds “(homefries with melted cheese, salsa, sour cream and green onions) without breaking the bank.

Butch + Babe’s

Photo courtesy of Butch + Babe’s on Facebook.

Where: 258 North Winooski Ave., Burlington
Cost: $20 and under

The Lowdown: Butch + Babe’s Vermont-inspired spin on American food might include entrées you’d think were created by a four-year-old, but don’t knock the hot dog mac and cheese pancakes until you try them. The Vermont cheddar slathered mac and cheese and hotdogs are deliciously stirred into pancake mix, and when the cakes are cheesy enough, they’re perfect with habanero maple syrup poured on top. It’s hard to finish the pancakes all at once, but you won’t want to leave without a to-go box.

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill (Dinner)

Photo courtesy of The Farmhouse Tap & Grill on Facebook.

Where: 160 Bank St., Burlington
Cost: $25 and under

The Lowdown: You can’t visit Burlington without indulging in some of the fresh, farm-to-table cuisines the state is so proud of. Farm-to-table restaurants in Denver or Boulder would likely cost you a pretty penny, but The Farmhouse Tap & Grill is surprisingly affordable. Try the farmhouse meatloaf or the vegetarian mushroom and squash burger for a hearty meal that will warm your insides. The Vermont cheese board is worth it too.

Citizen Cider (Drinks)

Photo courtesy of Citizen Cider on Facebook.

Where: 316 Pine St. #114, Burlington
Cost: $10 and under

The Lowdown: Vermont’s crunchy and delicious apples sold in a bushel straight from local orchards mean better cider. Citizen Cider is sold in cans across the state but stop by the rustic tasting room in Burlington to sample more than one hard cider made with 100% Vermont and New York apples. Citizen Cider even lets you bring your own apples that they’ll ferment for you.

Zero Gravity Craft Brewery (Drinks)

Photo courtesy of Zero Gravity on Facebook.

Where: 716 Pine St., Burlington
Cost: $10 and under

The Lowdown: There are many craft breweries to visit in Burlington, but one of our favorites is Zero Gravity Craft Brewery. This 30-barrel brewhouse features a tasting room and beer garden — making it the perfect place to kick back and enjoy a pint — or two or three.

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