Within seconds of Hotel Vermont’s front doors sliding open, I was greeted by an exuberant man behind a display of free Jasper Hill cheeses. He gave me a chunk practically big enough to be a meal on its own, while I stood there in disbelief that a hotel would just hand out for free the stuff of Vermonters’ dreams. I’d heard rumors for years that Hotel Vermont was secretly a haven for foodies, but this went far beyond what I hoped to find, and I’d barely stepped into the lobby.
I came to Hotel Vermont for a weekend staycation in early fall, which happened to be during the hotel’s 10th anniversary. This chic hotel, beloved by locals, is convenient to everything in Burlington, Vermont’s most populous city. That includes world-class outdoor recreation, shopping ranging from artisan stores to galleries to co-ops, and some of the best eats – and certainly the best restaurant variety – in the state. With iconic Church Street on one side and beautiful Lake Champlain on the other, Hotel Vermont is steps from everything you want to see in the city.
After checking in, I walked to the Burlington farmers’ market with Hotel Vermont’s head chef, Doug. In just 15 minutes, we went from the trendy downtown area to the more industrial South End, known as Burlington’s art district. This historic port used to be full of factories and manufacturing plants, but has been reclaimed as an up-and-coming Bohemian neighborhood.
Visiting the weekly farmers’ market here is almost a rite of passage, as Vermonters and tourists alike flock in droves to stock up on their favorite kimchis, pastries, homemade pastas, and more. Chef Doug introduced me to a dozen or so different farmers, maple producers, mushroom foragers, and winemakers, all producers of the ingredients to feed hungry guests at Hotel Vermont’s restaurant, Juniper.
Each one discussed their hardships, many of whom were impacted by the state’s devastating flooding in July 2023. But when one crop doesn’t grow, they plant others. It kept Chef Doug’s job interesting, as he depends on a consistent supply of fresh, local ingredients. Countless farms in the Burlington area lost everything in the flooding, but extreme weather was no match for Chef Doug’s culinary skills. His daily mission is to track down Vermonters with access to unique flavors and ingredients, and he does it well.
Unique rooms and local amenities
Hotel Vermont has 125 guest rooms ranging from queen and double bedrooms to suites. Some rooms have a twin trundle bed, making it a sneaky way to fit the whole family in one space without tripping over extra furniture.
Rooms have local products like Vermont Flannel robes, Lunaroma bath products, and Vermont Soap Company hand soap. There’s even original art in each room. Some of the coolest were the prints from local artist Katie Babic, who makes custom Vermont maps with an inventive method: she stamps them with the stumps of 100-year-old walnut and ash trees. The final products are unique prints of the tree’s many rings. The hotel was so excited by her art that it redesigned the rooms to better highlight the prints.
Custom art isn’t just for the guest rooms. The lobby and common areas are covered in so many paintings and sculptures by Vermont artists that you could spend an hour just touring this hotel-wide museum. The most striking for me was the massive 11-foot mural in the lobby, made entirely of salvaged scrap wood by local artist Duncan Johnson.
Hotel Vermont encourages guests to stay active with a gym and yoga studio. But it’s all about balance, so you can also order late-night goodies to your room, like warm cookies and milk. The front desk can also send up a Vermont Teddy Bear, if you want to make a new friend.
My favorite amenity was the always-stocked espresso bar on every floor. Most hotels don’t understand that travelers want unlimited cappuccinos at all times, so Hotel Vermont should win an award purely for caring so much about the caffeine-obsessed. Be sure to ask the front desk for some maple syrup to spice up your morning cup.
Standard room rates can range from $220-$550 rooms and $450-$680 for suites, depending on the season. Summer and fall are by far the most popular times to visit Burlington, as well as the most expensive.
Hotel Vermont’s food and drink scene
Tucked behind the lobby, Hotel Vermont’s onsite restaurant Juniper stretches through most of the ground level and spills out to a large terrace overlooking Lake Champlain. Several long, communal tables fill Juniper’s bar, inspired by the general manager’s childhood in the Netherlands and travels throughout Europe. He enjoyed many meals with strangers who turned into friends, and wanted to bring that same sense of community to the hotel.
The menu at Juniper changes seasonally, or even daily, as Chef Doug works with local farmers and fishers to source the freshest ingredients. I started my late-September visit with a brunch full of in-season flavors: eggs Benedict over grilled zucchini, eggplant, and peppers; plus a must-have maple latte. Dinner that night was equally delicious, with ingredients from the farmers’ market. The heirloom tomato and fresh mozzarella starter was the perfect way to kick the night off, but the real highlight was the gnocchi with fresh chevre, wild mushroom ragout, parsley truffle gremolata, and black truffles. And it was a treat to have met the mushroom forager at the farmers market earlier that day to see his massive finds in real life.
Master bartender Kate provided a much-needed cocktail education and a few tastes of her favorite Vermont spirits, including Barr Hill’s Tom Cat gin and Smugglers’ Notch Distillery vodka. Her partner-in-spirits, Max, whipped up his “Seven Rings” cocktail, a unique spin on the classic Bee’s Knees. This drink made it to the finals of Barr Hill Gin’s first annual cocktail competition, and after a taste, I can confirm it deserved its spot in the finals.
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The same culinary team also managed Bleu Northeast Kitchen next door in the Courtyard Burlington Harbor Hotel. It’s equally tasty, and I loved the brioche French toast layered with macerated berries, granola, whipped cream, and maple syrup.
The energy of Hotel Vermont’s culinary experts is infectious. Both Kate and Max seemed genuinely vibrant and excited about their jobs, which can be tough to find in busy hotels. Ditto for Chef Doug, as he hunts every day for new ingredients, and Assistant General Manager Matt — who, it turns out, was the man who greeted me with a chunk of cheese.
One of the best choices for guests looking to venture elsewhere for dinner is also conveniently next door: Hen of the Wood. It’s been one of Vermont’s highest-regarded farm-to-table restaurants for almost 20 years. My server recommended trying an appetizer of fresh cantaloupe, duck confit, stracciatella, and pickled habanada peppers. They were ingredients I’d never thought to pair together, but what a recommendation it was. For my entree, I went with the handmade pappardelle with cherry tomatoes and Romano beans overflowing with veggies. The scrumptious farm-fresh food and candlelit tavern-style ambiance were the perfect end to a fall weekend in Burlington.
Experiences and activities near Hotel Vermont
Location is everything in Burlington, a city best explored on foot, and Hotel Vermont knocks it out of the park. Left from the hotel goes to the stunning waterfront; right heads toward the excitement of Church Street. You can’t go wrong with either move.
I borrowed a complimentary bike from the hotel and went toward Lake Champlain. The hotel is a block from a 13-mile waterfront bike path called the Island Line Rail Trail. The route passes remnants of the city’s once-thriving railway history and stunning Adirondack views. You can even pedal to a ferry that connects to the Champlain Islands.
After a pedal, I headed to one of the city’s many breweries. No trip to Vermont is complete without craft beer, as the state has the most craft breweries per capita of any city. I went to Foam Brewery for a refreshing sour in its beer garden. The brewery can only be described as funky, with metal sculptures as tables and greenery climbing in all directions.
For a full DIY beer tour via bike, you can head to the South End, where several popular breweries are tucked behind the rec path. The ultra-trendy Burlington Beer Company recently set up shop in an original 1902 Lumière building (the only one remaining in the world), which produced the first color photographs in America. Nearby is Zero Gravity Brewery, with an always-busy patio and dog-friendly attitude.
In between sips and small bites, I ducked into a few quirky shops in the South End, many of which are women- or minority-owned. I was captivated by their unexpected charms, from the dazzling chandeliers at the Lamp Shop to the whimsically old-fashioned treasures at Barge Canal Market. A true highlight was finding free glass-blowing demonstrations at AO Glass, owned by master artists from Scandinavia.
The Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian-friendly outdoor area, has more than 100 local shops and restaurants, plus lots of public art and fresh flowers. It feels almost European, though Vermonters own almost every business. From the constant flow of foot traffic into famous names like Vermont Flannel, Kiss the Cook, and Smugglers’ Notch Distillery, it’s clear how many of these establishments are must-stops.