Just whatis it about Burlington?Is it the matchless location on Lake Champlain, sandwiched between the Adirondack and Green Mountains?The thriving downtown—a pedestrian-only carnival of smoothie parlors, found-art galleries, and frat-guy bars?Or is it the arms-open hilltop university, as welcoming to aspiring dairy farmers as it is to future doctors?More likely it's all of the above—plus, just past the city limits, countless rivers to paddle, trails to hike, and hills to sled.
LEAVING HOME JetBlue, United, and other airlines fly into Burlington
International Airport, just east of downtown. From Boston, the city is a three-hour drive
by way of New Hampshire.
CAMPUS TOUR Though the University of Vermont sprawls across town, its heart is the maple-studded University Green, where students in fleece jackets catch the waning rays of autumn. The Perkins Geology Museum (180 Colchester Ave.; 802/656-8694; www.uvm.edu/perkins) has a fossil collection that includes an ancient whale skeleton found in sediment nearby, and—junior rock hounds, take note—a free-for-the-taking pile of discarded specimens. On the south end of campus, the Paul Miller Research Complex (500 Spear St.), a.k.a. Spear Street Farm, is where ag students learn to manage cows, sheep, and pigs. Visitors are welcome during the daily milking, from 2 to 4 P.M.
FAMOUS ALUMS The jam band Phish got its start playing in UVM dorm lounges. Pulitzer Prizewinner E. Annie Proulx studied history here.
GO TEAM Buy a foam claw and roar for the Cats at the wildly popular UVM Catamounts men's basketball and hockey games. Tickets go on sale October 3; call UVM's box office (866/422-8849).
STUDY BREAK The Burlington Bike Path, which begins in Oakledge Park, at the end of Flynn St., runs for 7½ lakeside miles. Bike rentals and maps are available at Local Motion (1 Steele St., No. 103, on the path; 802/652-2453). Find out what's living in the water at ECHO at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain (1 College St.; 802/864-1848; www.echovermont.org), a very interactive science museum. Walk among the apple trees and do some snacking at the college's 97-acre Horticultural Research Center, known as Hort Farm (65 Green Mountain Dr., South Burlington; 802/658-9166). Or be sedentary: the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (153 Main St.; 802/863-5966; www.flynncenter.org), in a restored vaudeville house, has a schedule of Broadway shows, children's theater, and rock concerts.
MEAL PLAN Get to the Penny Cluse Café (169 Cherry St.; 802/651-8834; breakfast for four $35) early to avoid crowds of late-rising students waiting for huevos rancheros, gingerbread pancakes, and freshly squeezed tangerine juice. For burgers with the works, hit Al's French Frys (1251 Williston Rd., South Burlington; 802/862-9203; lunch for four $17). Repent at Zabby & Elf's Stone Soup (211 College St.; 802/862-7616; dinner for four $32), with its mostly vegetarian buffet and big salad bar. No need to tell your kids that the amazing chocolate-chip cookies are vegan.
CUP OR CONE? Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shop (36 Church St.; 802/ 862-9620) is just a few blocks from the former gas station where the ice cream empire got its humble start. The factory—which you can tour—is 30 minutes away in Waterbury (866/ 258-6877; www.benjerry.com).
FIELD TRIP Head south on Route 7 to Shelburne to see maple, ash, and sumac trees in their fall colors (call the foliage hotline for best viewing locations; 800/837-6668). Pick your own apples from century-old trees at Shelburne Orchards (216 Orchard Rd.; 802/ 985-2753). The Shelburne Museum (U.S. Rte. 7; 802/985-3346; www.shelburnemuseum.org) is an amazing collection of 39 historic structures, including a lighthouse, a jail, and the awe-inspiring 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga.
OFF-CAMPUS HOUSING The 257-room Wyndham Burlington (60 Battery St.; 800/996-3426; www.wyndham.com; doubles from $139) has an indoor pool and overlooks the lake. About 10 miles from downtown, the 119-room Inn at Essex (70 Essex Way, Essex Junction; 800/727-4295; www.innatessex.com; doubles from $169) offers kitchenettes. But there's no need to cook—the outstanding New England Culinary Institute runs the inn's Tavern, known for its Yankee pot roast and turkey potpie.
REQUIRED READING The free weekly Seven Days (802/864-5684; www.sevendaysvt.com) runs the best events listings. Ogle farm photos and book lodgings at www.vermont.org.
A+Scenery, outdoor activities, people-watching, and unbridled joie de vivre.
C+ Traffic in and out of town.
B- Hotels. The city's family-oriented lodging options are limited.
A October. Come all ye leaf-peepers—the first two weeks of the month are the height of foliage season.