Burlington offers scenery, shopping

By Jeff Mitchell

Burlington, Vermont MCT
(MCT)

Entering Vermont from Massachusetts is like entering a whole new state of being. The drive is a sight within itself. As you move north, the advertisements and billboards begin to melt away and, before you realize it, you are careening down roads surrounded only by nature. The highway flows, curves and is a welcome change from the static background of the MassPike. As you make your way down the highway, you can gaze at the tall flowing mountain vistas covered in the assortment of white pine, birch and maple trees glazed by snowfall.

Burlington is to Vermont what New York City is to New York. This city has many areas worth checking out and a very relaxed feeling that is inviting to people that simply want to visit. This humble Vermont metropolitan houses the University of Vermont, Burlington College, as well as Champlain College. To truly appreciate the scenery and beauty of Burlington, you must walk the streets to pick up on the minute aspects that create its ambiance, combining a growing city with a rustic temperament. The cold is definitely something to be aware of in the months of January and February; if you are not prepared to bundle up in warm clothes, it could ruin your whole trip.

As you travel through the North End of Burlington, an area filled with off-campus college kids, you will notice that most of the houses have been around for a while and still have an authentic, vintage architecture and design. These buildings contain unfinished basements, low hanging ceilings and hard wood floors. It is almost picturesque in the simplicity and the uniqueness is welcome. This section of the city isn’t filled with wild frat houses. Most of the students in this section are fairly mellow and the houses are in relatively good condition.

The University of Vermont is a nice compliment to Burlington as it brings many young people to the area. The buildings are not congested, so the campus is very sprawling and allows for much exploring. It contains an outdoor amphitheater, “victorian-esque” dorm buildings, stone fences, and an environmentally friendly student center whose elevators operate on vegetable oil. It is not an amazingly beautiful school in the winter, but it does contain some gems that are worth checking out if you find the time.

The Church Street Marketplace can draw comparisons to the center of Northampton. It is located within the heart of Burlington and hosts many stores and restaurants. The paved steps cover the plaza streets that are only accessible on foot. It is filled with many small shops that are run locally and contribute to its laid back atmosphere. Due to the city’s close proximity, everything is very accessible and you do not have to fear cars barreling down the roads. It has contains the typical old school music shop and coffee places, but it also houses a tobacco shop, used outdoor gear shop, and free art exhibits that give it a clever twist. For those shoppers who like the big chains, there is also a mall located in the area. The part that makes this mall unique is that is built underground rather than above.

The culmination of the trip is Lake Champlain, located west of the Church Street Marketplace. Crackling sheets of ice cover the freezing blue waters. Gulls and loons sit atop the masses of frost. Rocky juts careen across the lake and a lighthouse sits at the epicenter. If you decided to bring a camera, then this is the time to use it. This scenic area can definitely be the highlight of the trip as it is free, easily accessible and beautiful year round.

Trying to absorb the tone and intricate feel of Burlington in a matter of days can be extremely challenging if you don’t know where to go, but it is definitely a trek worth making. The city has many sights that are not commercialized. Since these subtle landmarks are not heavily advertised, it might be a smart move to look up a map before you leave. If you can deal with the frigid cold and are willing to make the three and a half hour drive, then Burlington, Vt. is definitely a place to head for the weekend.

Jeff Mitchell can be reached at [email protected]