By Christina Economou
To those on the outside, Burlington may seem like a small corner of the globe without much to offer. But a true Burlingtonian knows the type of city it really is — a place overflowing with culture in the best ways possible.
You can look up the top ten sites, restaurants & coffee shops anywhere, but here are a few out of the ordinary things to do in Burlington, Vermont that happen to be some of the hippest activities in town. Check it out!
Diggers’ Mirth Veggie Truck
What’s better than a farmers’ market? A farmers’ market that comes to your doorstep! Diggers’ Mirth Veggie Truck, stocked full of produce, makes its rounds in the city’s North End Neighborhood, blasting fun jams, bringing a smile to your face, and filling your tummy. Did you run of watermelon mid-week? Need some onions and cilantro to finish your homemade salsa? Have no fear, for the veggie truck is on its way! Visit Diggers’ Mirth Veggie Truck’s Facebook page.
Little Free Library
On the corner of North Champlain and Monroe Streets in the Old North End, you will encounter the smallest public library in the country. The Little Free Library is a square foot wooden box, latched with a small glass door showing its loot: a variety of titles from classics to sci-fi to children’s and more!
Drop off a book and take one that’s calling your name – this hidden gem is made possible by the neighborhood’s sense of spontaneity and quirky taste in books. You can find other Little Free Libraries all over Burlington. Which one’s your favorite?
Movies at Main Street Landing
Every Tuesday at 7 p.m. you can catch a free classic film at one of the waterfront’s most beloved buildings, Main Street Landing. Depending on the time of year, you’ll be able to catch a gorgeous sunset over Lake Champlain as you head down to the venue at the corner of College and Lake Streets. Donate what you are able for the movie (the proceeds are always for a local community organization), and eat all the candy you want. You can see the weekly movie schedule online at MainStreetLanding.com. Ahem ahem, date night, anyone?
You may have heard the myths about restaurants and cafes that don’t have any cash registers – pay what you want and what you can. Located on North Winooski Avenue, the Deli, as referred to by its frequenters, is Burlington’s own experimental offering, harboring values against main-stream materialism and mindless consumerism. While originally serving up a variety of dumplings, salads and teas between the hours of 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, Deli extended their hours and vision as business picked up. Look out for concerts, brunches, meetings and other events at the venue this summer and don’t forget to donate what you can in the large plastic jar at the end of the counter. Visit psychedelicatessen.org for more info.
Scout & Co. Coffee
This off-the-beaten-path coffee shop on North Avenue opened in April 2014 – complete with high ceilings, tons of natural light, flowers in mason jars, and free Wi-Fi. Scout & Co. offers artisanal coffee and espresso, baked goods from the Misery Loves Company Bakeshop, and homemade ice cream in the summer (featuring crazy cool flavors like smoked maple and strawberry rose). What do the regulars get? The Fruity Pebbles cappuccino! The milk is actually steeped with Fruity Pebbles cereal, and it’s amazing. For details, visit Scout & Coffee’s Facebook page.
It’s easy to find a great meal any day of the week in Burlington; walk up Church Street and you’re bound to be lured to an outdoor cafe within earshot of a musical performer. Many of the restaurants in town have a dedicated following of tried and true fans, but hidden gems still exist. A favorite is the Scibek Sizzler from the Shopping Bag on North Street. The beef is freshly ground with each order; it’s everything you wish fast food was. Voted the best burger in Vermont, the Sizzler does not disappoint. Here’s a tip – call ahead (you’ll wait less) and order the Junior Sizzler (it’s a bit smaller and you’ll have room for fries!). Find them on Facebook.
Syrup Souvenir Shop
With some of the coolest Vermont designs around, Syrup sells all the apparel you need to show the world you’re a proud Vermonter/Vermont Lover, and you can pick up Pure Maple Syrup and Maple Cream (heaven in a jar) there, too. Snuggled between City Sports and Lululemon Athletica on Church Street, be careful not to blink or you may miss it!
The staff are super friendly and the matching adult and toddler designs make for some pretty adorable photos (yes, I know this from personal experience). Visit the thesyrupshop.com.
At a time when people need to shell out half a month’s paycheck for one rockin’ summer weekend at the (insert popular music festival here), it’s refreshing to know there are quality events out there that won’t leave you eating ramen noodles for the rest of the season. Waking Windows is four days of art, music, comedy and food in downtown Winooski. Just $20 gives you access to the entire festival. Although this year’s has already passed, check out Burlington’s version, brand new this year with a farm focus: WYSIWYG Festival. Visit wakingwindows.com for more info.
These are just a few of the (many) gems that you can find in the Burlington area and they are part of the reason I have been sticking around for over six years. Who would have thought this much culture, diversity and innovation could be packed into such a little place?
What about you? What’s your favorite hidden gem in Burlington?
Christina Economou is a program coordinator at UVM Continuing and Distance Education.