After traveling every week for work coming home to Vermont is a reward in and of itself. Vermont is a beautiful place to live and the Greater Burlington area has numerous family activities. Below are eight of my favorite free things to do in the Burlington area.
Green Mountain Audubon Center, Huntington
This beautiful 255 acre expanse includes something for every age range. Babies and toddlers will be happy in the Butterfly Garden, older toddlers and elementary school kids will love the five miles of hiking trails. If you’re lucky maybe you’ll spot a beaver. End your hike with a visit into the Discovery Center and pack a picnic lunch to eat at one of the picnic tables.
Food sampling in Waterbury
The lineup of shops that form the “Trifecta of Food” in the Waterbury area leads directly to the activity below. Driving along Route 100 you will first arrive at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory (Waterbury, VT). On the free side of things there is a playground and the “Flavor Graveyard”, where you can see flavors that no longer exist (Who doesn’t mourn the passing of Dastardly Mash?). If you choose to do the tour the adults in your party will have to pay, however, children under 12 are free and everyone gets a cup of ice cream at the end of the tour. If your kids are anything like mine try to go on a weekday when the machines are running. My son was fairly vocal about his disappointment when we went on a Saturday and no ice cream was being manufactured.
Next stop is the Cabot Creamery Annex store where you can sample your way through all of their offerings. Last stop is the Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury Center VT. This cider mill is a great place to stop and relax. Herd the kids through the store to the back area where you can see the actual cider presses. Even if they aren’t running there is a mural that shows the progression of the apple from tree to cup. A video also explains the process. Taste a free sample from their ice cold vat of cider then put a pin in the map to mark your hometown. The kids will love to watch the assembly line style donut maker and there is a stool so that even the shorties can watch the fun.
Stowe Recreation Path
This 5.5 mile greenway winds its way from Stowe through farmland, by rivers and streams, and over numerous wooden bridges. Park near the Community Church in Stowe, get familiar with the rules, and customize your trip to the length appropriate for your kids. A great short trip is to the Swimming Hole for a dip and back. This path is a great example of what can happen when a community pulls together. Funded by a combination of grants, trusts, and private money the town ended up selling off inches and feet of the trail to private citizens to finish it.
Very Merry Theatre
This troupe of kids 6-18 participate in summer camp type sessions. The organization strives to promote children’s literacy through the performance and study of classics. Participants perform, create the costumes, and build the sets. The performances are scattered across Vermont and for the most part (except for a few fundraisers) are free.
Spend a day at Maple Street Park in Essex Junction
This is the park that parents dream of when they envision the perfect park. Areas of shade are abundant, picnic tables and grills are located across the park, and benches are located near every play area. All age ranges are served here from infant swings and bouncers to swing sets, slides, seesaws and a climbing structure for the toddler and elementary school set. Older kids can spend time in the skateboard park.
Lake Champlain at North Beach
Enjoy this sandy beach on the shores of Lake Champlain with your family. The beach area has it all: a playground, picnic tables, restrooms, a snack bar and it is attended by a lifeguard from mid-June thru August. There is a fee to park close to the beach, but not to bike or walk into the park. Save the money and park in the lot up by the school and fields. A walk of less than five minutes will have you lakeside.
Free movie nights by Ben & Jerry’s
One of my favorite summertime freebies has got to be the Ben & Jerry’s free summer movies. The movies are put on by the ice cream company and sponsored by local businesses and there are three choices of days and locations. On Tuesdays enjoy a movie in front of the Church St scoop shop (Burlington). The movies start at dusk/8pm. Come early to shop on Church St. and bring a blanket or chair for movie time. Enjoy free ice cream samples pre-show.
Find and Go Seek
This website functions as my Burlington area Bible. Log onto it for daily calendar listings of events happening around the area. Search for library story hours, read other parents reviews, and check out Miss Magpie’s daily blog. Every mom needs a website like this that covers her hometown.
As a bonus activity take some of the money you saved by doing all of these free activities and treat everyone to a round of cremees at Al’s French Frys in South Burlington. A trip to Vermont just isn’t complete without experiencing a cremee. I highly recommend chocolate dipped maple. Enjoy your cremee while the kids play on the playground and reflect on a very successful Vermont vacation!