Vermont’s  largest city is a surprisingly harmonious mixture of cultures: Start with a base of alternative undergrad culture, add plenty of wholesome families vacationing on the lake, and top that with a booming retail industry, and you’ve got Burlington in a nutshell. This is the kind of place where the average resident stays up late into the night to sip organic beer and hoot at the latest folk band at a local café, only to wake up early to don a fleece vest for a kayak trip in the bay.
Not that Burlington today will be confused with more cosmopolitan second-cities like Portsmouth  or Portland . After all, the city proper only has 30,000 residents—10,000 of which are students—and the surrounding area is still relatively depressed economically. The outskirts of town are an unsightly blemish of strip malls, and even the downtown area has more chain stores than independent boutiques.
But Burlington has two big things going for it: the university and the lake. waterfront area has been spruced up in recent years into a park, with frequent concerts and events on the grassy area along the water. The waterfront is still a working one, with ships carrying cargo up and down the lake to New York State. But nowadays, most of the boats docked in the marina are pleasure crafts dedicated to exploring the lake.
Across town, it’s hard to tell where the University of Vermont , with its reputation for crunchiness and funkiness, ends, and the rest of the city begins. The university was founded in 1791 by Ira Allen, the wealthy landowner who, with his brother Ethan, dominates early history in these parts.
Later, Burlington established itself as the major mercantile and trading port in the region, exploiting the vast reserves of timber and stone in the area, which could be easily carted down the lake to New York . All over town, monuments to the city’s wealth remain, from the imposing Unitarian Church that lords over Church Street to the monumental granite government buildings that ring the city’s heart at City Hall Park.
Between the college and the waterfront, the main drag of Church Street combines the two into a pedestrian arcade of atmospheric, student-geared eateries that define the term “culinary ghetto,” combined with lovely views of the waterway below.