Vermont: Burlington

When I was young, Burlington, Vermont would often be the destination for our annual summer vacation. We’d stay at a nice hotel with a pool, do a lot of shopping and enjoy the great restaurants. It was a novelty to do so only two hours from home.

My most recent visit to Burlington was an interesting one. We had actually started off our trip in Toronto. The way the schedule worked out, our next stop was to be a five night booking at the Smugglers’ Notch Resort. Given the fact this was nearly an eight hour drive from Toronto, it did not make a lot of sense to arrive the in the late evening. Burlington was on our radar screen, particularly for its excellent shopping, so we elected to head directly there. It is only 45 minutes from Smugglers’ Notch and Stowe, known as four season destinations.

WHERE TO STAY: This was actually our second trip in as many years to Burlington, as we stopped there on the way back from Cape Cod a year ago.
One of the incentives to return, in fact, was the Doubletree Hotel Burlington ( Located just off I-89 on Williston Road and near the airport, this is a large and attractive property. All standard guestrooms include the Sweet Dreams bed, coffeemaker, hairdryer, iron and ironing board, refrigerator, easy chair, in-room remote printing, Lodgenet with web access and Game Cube, speakerphone and complimentary wireless high speed internet access. In the suites there is a main bedroom with a king size bed and flat screen TV, separated by a door to spacious living room area featuring a pullout couch, a working desk with two chairs and another flat screen televisions. The bathroom is conveniently accessed from the living room area, which is especially convenient for families with small children who needn’t wake up parents as they charge to use the facilities early in the morning.

The hotel has a nice pool, connected to an outdoor patio and an amazing workout gym open 24 hours a day. Its treadmills have small television monitors attached, with headphones, making one’s workout so much more pleasant. There is an onsite restaurant called Trader Duke’s.

We were greeted with hot chocolate chip cookies upon checking in. General Manager Rick Milliken has been in the local hotel industry for 33 years and converted the hotel from a Clarion to a Doubletree in 2005, at which time 33 suites were constructed. There are 161 in all. Richfield Hospitality, the company which manages this hotel and a plethora of others across the USA, thinks so highly of Milliken that they regularly assign him to visit other locations to share his expertise.

The hotel also has a beautiful banquet and conference centre.

“Those that come for a weekend, a few days or during the holiday periods and those who stay over to catch a flight,” says Milliken. “ You can leave your car here for two weeks and we only charge $25.”

It actually turned out to be a great idea to come here first before Smugglers’ Notch as we spent our final day in Burlington doing a little extra shopping before heading up the mountain.

The hotel has five handicapped accessible rooms, two with roll-in showers.
All of the necessary equipment for the hearing impaired is in place. Both the main and banquet entrances are fully wheelchair accessible, with wide sized elevators to transport those booked on the second floor.

This hotel is constantly being upgraded. When we were there, new carpets were being installed in all of the hallways. They will soon introduce a grab and go breakfast option. “Often people check out and then drive to the closest Starbucks to get a coffee and Danish,” said Milliken. “We will now have that option right in front of them when they checkout.”

DINING OUT: We were thrilled to find an Outback Steakhouse ( ) only minutes from our hotel at 150 Dorset Street. This has always been one of my favorite chains. Montreal’s West Island had a franchise for about a two year period which we happily frequented. Why it shut down I still do not understand.

Well, if you want to experience this spot, best known for grilled steaks, chicken and seafood, then Burlington represents the closest opportunity for Montrealers. Torontonians can experience it in Niagara Falls.

The Outback also offers a wide variety of crisp salads and freshly made soups and sides. New creations and grilled classics are made from scratch daily using only the highest quality ingredients. Franchise owner Derek Gorman and manager John Legere appreciate the steady flow of Montreal diners.

Our server was a gentleman named Errol Rule and his Australian accent turned out to be the real thing. Errol is from Down Under who actually met a girl named Fiona from Burlington there who just happened to work at the Outback in Burlington. The couple met through a mutual friend on April 24, 2009 at the Gearin Hotel, a local pub, in Katoomba New South Wales (NSW), Australia. In January 2010 Errol decided to come to Montreal to work at Hurley’s Irish Pub downtown while waiting for his US paper work to come through. That process took 11 months. « We finally got married on December 31, 2010, the day before my birthday » says Errol, who started at the Outback the following May of 2011. « The odds of me warning at the Outback Steakhouse in Burlington were very slim to none, but it is warning out well and it is turning out to be an excellent job. »

We had a superb meal. I would recommend the clam chowder, the lobster tails and of course the steaks – either the rib eye or Victoria’s filet. The new menu actually has a calorie count in brackets for every single item, which is great for folks who are watching what they eat. This Outback is opened seven days a week. Call 802-862-0003 for reservations.

The restaurant is wheelchair accessible.

SHOPPING: The Church Street Marketplace pedestrian mall is an amazing place to shop. With over 100 retail shops, restaurants and street vendors, this popular destination for shopping, dining and people watching. A recipient of the prestigious Great American Main Street Award, the Marketplace is recognized as one of the most successful pedestrian malls in the country.

Burlington Town Center is considered Burlington’s premier indoor shopping center, featuring an exciting retail mix including J.Crew, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, Ann Taylor Loft, Abercrombie & Fitch, Aabercrombie, Aéropostale, Gap/Gap Kids/Baby Gap, Crabtree & Evelyn and Macy’s Department Store.

Then there is University Mall, Vermont’s largest enclosed shopping center, with over 70 shops and services. Here you can choose from a major selection of major department stores like JC Penney, Sears and the Bon-Ton. Within walking distance you’ll find HomeGoods, Hannaford Food & Drug and the Sears Automotive Center. Plus, there is plenty of free parking!

The Burlington region offers outdoor activities from lake-based kayaking, fishing and sailing to mountain-based hiking, cycling and skiing – and everything in between. Spend your time in Vermont enjoying the area’s fantastic dining, shopping, concerts and special events. Unwind in one of the area’s many excellent hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and resorts. And, of course, enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of Vermont’s Lake Champlain and Green Mountains.

Northern Lights, Vermont’s premier cruise boat, offers daily scenic, lunch and brunch cruises. Weekly dinner cruises including entertainment. This floating venue is an ideal setting for weddings, anniversaries, corporate functions and special events or to simply enjoy the spectacular beauty of Lake Champlain. Departing from the King Street Ferry Dock from May through October.

The Flynn Theatre is a 1,453-seat art-deco treasure and 150 seat “black box” facility hosting over 100 world-class live performances annually – broadway, dance, music (jazz, classical, pop, folk, world), cutting-edge, family and student matinees.