Situated on the eastern shores of Lake Champlain, Burlington is a vibrant city that is a must-see when you’re visiting Vermont, and it’s the perfect town to be if you’re looking to explore what Vermont has to offer.
Bursting with thousands of acres of pristine nature, there are tons of opportunities to experience the great outdoors when you’re in Burlington. Whether you’re looking to hike, dive into the history of the area, or see some of the iconic covered bridges that this region is famous for, you’ll have plenty of day trip options that are fun for the whole family.
Read on for our guide to the top 15 day trips from Burlington, VT to help you plan the perfect trip.
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One of the best day trips from Burlington is the small town of Stowe, located about 45 minutes away, where you’ll find plenty of things to keep you busy for the day.
Located at the base of Mount Mansfield, the tallest peak in Vermont, this resort town is often considered to be the ski capital of the East. The cold months bring winter sports enthusiasts from near and far to the mountain, but you can visit Stowe at any time of year.
In the autumn you’ll be treated to the beautiful colors of the fall leaves, and in the summer you can access miles of hiking and biking trails at the base of the mountain.
Although the scenic surroundings are the main draw to Stowe, the town itself is also a fun place to spend the day. Founded over 200 years ago, the city offers up some historic architecture along with charming boutiques, restaurants, craft breweries, and spas.
Ice cream lovers visiting Burlington will find the best day trip in the nearby city of Waterbury, home to the famous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory. Pop into the factory for a tour and a compulsory scoop of the iconic treat, though you may have a hard time deciding which flavor to choose from the long list available! There’s also a gift shop inside the factory if you’d like an ice-cream-themed souvenir.
Although Ben & Jerry’s is the main draw to Waterbury, there are plenty of other activities to keep you busy once you finish up at the factory. This charming town also boasts some historic architecture, small shops, and craft breweries. Spend some time hiking through Camel’s Hump State Park, taking a dip at Little River State Park, or wandering through the Village Historic District.
The drive to Waterbury is a short 30-minutes away, and you’ll be at the crossroads of the Scenic Route 100 Byway – which definitely warrants a detour, especially in the autumn when the fall foliage is at its peak. No matter which direction you head, you’ll find lots of places to stop off at – including scenic overlooks, cafes, distilleries, and cideries.
Another one of the best day trips from Burlington can be found in the tranquil town of Middlebury, located about 35 miles to the south on the banks of Otter Creek.
This historic town was founded just after the Revolutionary War, and has a charming college city feel to it. The downtown area features views over the creek falls and some great shopping and dining.
Outdoor lovers will have access to miles of trails for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing. You could also spend the day here kayaking, bird watching, or fly fishing. Don’t miss the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail, dedicated to the famous poet, who was actually from Middlebury.
Take on a trail of a different kind with the Middlebury Tasting Trail, where you’ll be treated to samples from local cideries, wineries, distilleries, and breweries – just make sure to have a sober driver!
4. Lake George, New York
If you have the time, you can head over state lines and spend the day in the scenic city of Lake George, New York. This Adirondack lake is situated just under Vermont’s own Lake Champlain, and boasts hundreds of islands, scenic overlooks, and lots of activities for those who make the day trip here from Burlington.
The “forever wild” shoreline and old growth forest that surround the town makes for some great wildlife and bird watching, and there are tons of parks and recreation areas where you can hike, visit historic sites, or sit back and relax with a picnic.
Lake George is one of the most beautiful bodies of water in America – and the best way to enjoy it is by taking a boat tour. You’ll have your choice of vessel, from pontoons and old fishing boats to steamboats and three story ships.
Other popular activities include whitewater rafting, snorkeling, visiting the museums, and craft beer sampling. There’s so much to do in Lake George that you may want to consider turning your day trip into a weekend getaway.
5. Champlain Islands
If you’re interested in visiting the Adirondack region while in Burlington but don’t want to drive too far, a day trip to the Champlain Islands is the way to go. Located just 30 minutes from downtown, these lake islands have a little something for everyone.
Nature lovers should head straight for the northernmost town of Alburg, specifically the Alburg Dunes State Park. Spend the day here laying out on one of the lake’s longest beaches or enjoy a scenic picnic. If you’re visiting during the summer, make sure to get to the park early as this place fills up fast.
Isle La Motte is the furthest away, but those who make the trip will be able to see the oldest coral reef in the world. The Chazy Reef is nearly 500 million years old, and you can view fossils and learn more about the reef at the nearby museum.
North Hero is a great spot for foodies looking for some fresh lobster rolls, and the largest island in Lake Champlain, Grand Isle, has some fun activities for wine lovers. The Snowfarm Vineyard has a tasting room and bottle shop, and if you drink a little too much of the delicious wine you can always opt to spend the night in the Crescent Bay Farm Bed and Breakfast, right next door.
Chester is often considered to be one of Vermont’s best kept secrets. It’s a bit further from Burlington at about 2 hours away, but this historic town is worth the long journey.
The city is best known for its historic architecture, specifically the Stone Village Historic District that predates the Civil War. The houses in this area were built with local granite, and have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. You’ll also find well-preserved homes dating all the way back to the mid 18th century and up in the Chester Factory Village.
After you’re done gawking at the impressive architecture, take a trip through the downtown area for a bite to eat or indulge in some shopping at one of the many local storefronts.
Those looking for an active day trip from Burlington will love the verdant city of Killington. No matter what season you visit in, you’ll find a plethora of outdoor activities, all surrounded by a beautiful backdrop.
Located in the Green Mountains, Killington is the largest ski area in New England. Take your pick between Pico Mountain Ski Resort or the Killington Ski Resort, both of which have plenty of trails for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. In the summer, the runs transform into trails for hiking and biking.
Other popular outdoor activities in this outdoor oasis include golfing, hiking the Thundering Falls Trail, and visiting the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site.
If you’re looking for a scenic day trip from Burlington, head to the most photographed town in Vermont. The city of Peacham is located about an hour and a half to the east in Caledonida County, and is surrounded by unspoiled nature and rolling hills.
Peacham is especially picturesque in the autumn when fall foliage is at its peak, but no matter what time of year you visit you’ll be treated to scenic views. There are quite a few state parks and recreation areas in the nearby area where you can hike, fish, kayak, or just take in those beautiful views.
The town itself is a lovely spot, filled with cafes, small shops, and charming, historic architecture.
The small-town charm continues in the city of Rutland, located about an 1.5 hours to the south of Burlington. This old city is home to over 100 houses listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with some eclectic boutiques art galleries, and beautiful murals.
The restaurants in Rutland serve up some tantalizing dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. There’s also a weekend farmer’s market for those who want to go right to the source.
Of course, your day trip wouldn’t be complete without enjoying a little bit of Vermont’s nature. Pine Hill Park is a popular area with over 15 miles of trails for hiking, biking, snow-shoeing, and birdwatching. The Rutland Falls are located just outside the city and are also worth a visit.
Not to be confused with the New York town of the same name known for it’s 1969 music festival, Woodstock, Vermont is a quiet rural escape that makes for a great day trip from Burlington.
The town is surrounded by trails for hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing, in addition to three picturesque covered bridges. Woodstock is also full of artisan shops and historic architecture. History lovers will find the Billings Farm and Museum and the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park particularly interesting.
Like many places in Vermont, the hilly landscape of Woodstock and the surrounding area is a great place to watch the leaves change in the autumn.
Although much of Vermont could be considered an outdoor playground, Burke is one of the best day trips from Burlington for those looking for some fun in nature.
The town is located in the Northeast Kingdom at the base of Burke Mountain, a low-key ski resort that turns into a mountain biking mecca in the summer. For more biking and some hiking you could also check out the Kingdom Trails starting just across the street from the base of the mountain.
Those looking for a more relaxed activity during their time in Burke can learn about the maple syrup making process in the spring, or admire the beautiful fall foliage in the autumn.
Comprised of five unincorporated villages on the confluence of the Connecticut and White Rivers, the city of Hartford is one of the best day trips from Burlington. One day should be enough to visit all five villages, and you’ll get a completely different vibe from each.
The most popular is the villiage of Quechee. The state park with the same name is the best place to view the iconic Quechee Gorge, and has some great hiking and fishing opportunities. You could also visit the Simon Pearce Glass Factory, which is somewhat precariously perched over the Ottauquechee River, or enjoy a meal at one of the farm-to-table restaurants in town.
Dorest is a beautiful small town in southeast Vermont with a rich history and a vibrant culture. Named after the verdant county in Englad, Dorset is a classic New England town that has been around since 1761.
The town is most famous for the Cephas Kent’s Inn, a place where discussions were held about Vermont’s statehood. Unfortunately, the tavern does not exist today, but there’s a historical marker in the place where it once stood.
Although the inn is no longer, Dorset does have a few businesses that have been running continuously since the town’s inception – including the Dorset Union Store and the iconic Dorset Inn.
The historic downtown area is filled with shops selling locally made handicrafts, and you’ll find a farmer’s market running on Sundays throughout the year.
If you’re visiting during the summer, you can take a dip at the local swimming hole, which also happens to be the oldest marble quarry in the country.
Bennington is a quintessential small town of Vermont, located nearly 3 hours south of Burlington. Although this might be a bit far for a day trip, if you hit the road early enough you’ll be glad you made the journey.
Bennington is home to a lovely downtown area filled with tree-lined streets, cozy cafes, and small shops selling wares from local artists.
Visit largest man-made structure in Vermont, The Bennington Battle Monument, and get a glimpse of the massive stone obelisk commemorating the Battle of Bennington – which took place during the American Revolutionary War.
For a dose of nature and great views, head up the steep 3.6-mile Harmon Hill Trail, or take the slightly less taxing trail around Lake Shaftsbury.
15. Saratoga Springs, New York
Our list of the 15 best day trips from Burlington wouldn’t be complete without the town of Saratoga Springs, located across the border in the neighboring state of New York.
History buffs will love learning about the battle of Saratoga, while those looking to relax can head to the Saratoga Spa State Park for a healing soak in the mineral springs.
This city is also known for horse racing, and if you’re lucky, you can plan your trip around one of these famous events. Otherwise, you can head to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame to see the paintings and trophies of the star racers.
Saratoga is one of the bigger cities on our list, and you can enjoy activities here that you won’t find in some of the smaller towns around Vermont. You can check out a ballet, jazz, or orchestra performance, and then hit up one of the city’s delectable restaurants or enjoy a few drinks at one of the local pubs. If you decide to stay the night, you’ll find plenty of hotels around town.