Lake Champlain, nestled between the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains, offers a diverse array of experiences for every traveler. Whether you’re into nature, history, or just seeking tranquility, this region has it all. In this guide, we’ll dive into the best things to do in Lake Champlain, highlighting must-see attractions and activities. No matter when you choose to visit Lake Champlain, you won’t run out of things to do. Join us as we uncover the essence of this natural wonder and its surroundings, making sure you’re equipped to enjoy its beauty to the fullest.
Historical and Cultural Attractions
Museums and Galleries
During your visit to Lake Champlain, make sure to explore the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, showcasing the region’s maritime history and impressive exhibits. Another must-visit is the Shelburne Museum, which offers an extensive collection of Americana and folk art.
Historical Sites and Monuments
As you explore the area, don’t miss visiting Fort Ticonderoga, a key location during the American Revolutionary War that offers a glimpse into the region’s past. Additionally, the Crown Point State Historic Site is rich in history, featuring ruins of both French and British forts.
Cultural Festivals and Events
Keep an eye out for special events such as the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, where you can witness incredible performances by renowned artists.
Parks and Nature Reserves
Be sure to visit the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, a biodiverse area that offers excellent opportunities for bird-watching, fishing, and hiking.
Beaches and Coastal Areas
Relax and soak up the sun at the beautiful Sand Bar State Park, featuring sandy beaches and picnic areas, perfect for a day out with friends and family.
Mountains and Adventure Spots
For thrill-seekers, embark on a trek or mountain biking adventure at Mount Philo, which offers breathtaking views of the lake and stunning landscapes.
Modern Attractions and Entertainment
Don’t miss the chance to browse the Church Street Marketplace, a popular shopping destination with numerous stores, restaurants, and boutiques to discover.
Entertainment and Nightlife
When the sun sets, be sure to explore Burlington’s vibrant entertainment scene, which includes lively bars, clubs, and theaters that cater to every taste.
Attend Local Events and Festivals
Lake Champlain region hosts several events and festivals throughout the year, allowing you to immerse yourself in the local culture. The Church Street area is particularly known for its lively atmosphere and rich arts scene. Enjoy the annual Elizabethtown art fair, showcasing local artists and their works, and don’t miss out on Crown Point’s historical reenactments, which transport you back in time.
Visit Cultural and Heritage Sites
While visiting Lake Champlain, enrich your understanding of the region’s history by visiting its cultural and heritage sites. Explore the numerous museums that offer a glimpse into the past, such as the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, which highlights the area’s naval history. Venture over to Canada by visiting Fortress of Lévis, providing insight into the region’s military past. In addition, pay a visit to the historical farms, such as the Shelburne Farms, to learn about the region’s agricultural roots.
Engage in Traditional Experiences
To fully appreciate the culture of the Lake Champlain region, engage yourself in traditional experiences. Visit the local markets, like the ones in Church Street, and support the vibrant community of artists and craftspeople. Indulge in the culinary delights made from farm-fresh ingredients, savoring the flavors unique to the region. Moreover, don’t miss the opportunity to connect with nature through activities like bird watching and boat tours, offered by the local community.
Things to do in Lake Champlain: Outdoor and Nature Activities
Nature Trails and Hiking
Lake Champlain, located along the border of Vermont and New York, offers breathtaking views of the Adirondacks and Green Mountains. You can enjoy a variety of hiking trails suited for all skill levels. During summer and fall, you can explore the numerous trails, such as the famous waterfront park hiking trail, that offer panoramic views of the shoreline and forests.
Some popular state parks in the area include Button Bay State Park and, on the South Hero Island, picturesque picnic areas and camping spots. Don’t forget to visit the historic lighthouse on the shores of Lake Champlain while you’re hiking along the shoreline.
Lake Champlain is a paradise for water enthusiasts. Enjoy a relaxing day of fishing for various fish species or embark on a boat tour to explore hidden coves and beaches. If you’re looking for more adventurous things to do in Lake Champlain, choose from other water activities like kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing.
For a more laid-back experience, spend a day at one of the many beautiful beaches along the shoreline, where you can swim, sunbathe, and enjoy your time in Vermont’s natural beauty.
If you’re an adventure seeker, Lake Champlain and its surrounding mountains offer numerous opportunities to quench your thirst for adventure. The Adirondacks and Green Mountains are perfect for mountain biking, trail running, and rock climbing.
During your visit, be sure to take advantage of guided tours and adventure sports rentals in the area to make the most of your trip. Whether you’re an experienced adventurer or a beginner looking to try something new, the Lake Champlain region offers a variety of outdoor activities to create unforgettable memories in the heart of the United States.
Relaxation and Wellness
Spas and Wellness Centers
Looking for relaxing things to do in Lake Champlain? Pamper yourself at one of the many spas and wellness centers in the area. Immerse yourself in the serene atmosphere as you enjoy a rejuvenating massage, facial, or body treatment. The healing properties of the treatments, coupled with the positive reviews of these spas, make a visit here truly unforgettable. Embrace the calming ambiance and feel your worries dissolve as you watch the sunset over the lake from the relaxation areas.
Beaches and Pools
Take a break from your daily life and revel in the tranquility offered by Lake Champlain’s stunning beaches and pools. Stroll along the sandy shores, soak up the sun, or take a refreshing dip in the water. The gentle sound of waves lapping at the shoreline provides a soothing soundtrack for your day. To elevate your experience, visit one of the area’s pools, which offer exceptional facilities and breathtaking lake views. The beautiful surroundings and laid-back atmosphere guarantee an invigorating experience.
Parks and Gardens
Lake Champlain is home to an array of beautiful parks and gardens, showcasing the area’s natural splendor and alluring landscape. Bask in the harmonious atmosphere as you explore vibrant flora and fauna, creating a blissful environment to unwind in. Be sure to read reviews of various parks to ensure you pick the best spot for your desired activities, whether it’s picnicking, birdwatching, or simply immersing yourself in nature. As the sun sets over the parks, enjoy a captivating display of colors blossoming across the sky, providing the perfect end to a serene day in Lake Champlain’s enchanting parks and gardens.
Food and Culinary Activities
Local Cuisine Tasting
One of the best things to do in Lake Champlain is trying the local cuisine. Many restaurants in the area pride themselves on using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste Vermont’s famous cheddar cheese and creamy butter at one of the numerous farm-to-table establishments. You’ll also find a variety of craft beers, a testament to the booming local brewery scene. Be sure to ask your bartender for recommendations on the most popular local brews.
If you’re looking to take home more than just photos, consider signing up for a cooking class to learn how to prepare some of the region’s signature dishes. Many classes feature hands-on experiences where you’ll work with local produce and ingredients, allowing you to recreate a piece of your Lake Champlain vacation in your own kitchen. These classes are an excellent way to immerse yourself in the local food culture, make new friends, and acquire impressive culinary skills.
Visit Local Markets
A visit to the local markets around Lake Champlain is an essential part of experiencing its culinary scene. Here, you can browse through stalls filled with colorful, fresh produce, and chat with local farmers and vendors about their products. Be sure to try some of the region’s specialty items, such as Vermont maple syrup or homemade preserves. Visiting local markets is a perfect opportunity to pick up unique souvenirs and gifts for your loved ones, as well as sample the authentic flavors of the Lake Champlain region.
Entertainment and Nightlife
Live Shows and Performances
Lake Champlain offers a variety of live shows and performances to enjoy during your visit. The Flynn, a renowned performing arts center, hosts numerous events throughout the year, including concerts, theater productions, and dance performances. Don’t miss out on the chance to catch a show at this iconic venue.
The University of Vermont (UVM) also features a range of performances, from student productions to professional shows. With an ever-changing calendar of events, you’re sure to find something that piques your interest.
Bars and Nightclubs
For those seeking a more lively nightlife scene, Lake Champlain has you covered. You’ll find a diverse range of bars and nightclubs to suit your preferences, from cozy pubs to bustling dance clubs. While exploring the area, be sure to stop by an ABBA tribute night, where you can dance and sing along to your favorite hits of the legendary Swedish pop group.
Evening Cruises or Tours
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Lake Champlain, consider joining an evening cruise. Many companies offer guided boat tours that showcase the lake’s stunning beauty and wildlife. During these cruises, you’ll get to witness breathtaking sunsets, learn about the area’s history, and possibly spot some local wildlife.
Remember to take advantage of all that Lake Champlain has to offer during your visit. With its rich array of entertainment and nightlife options, you’re sure to create lasting memories of your time in this beautiful region.
Shopping and Souvenirs
Local Artisan Shops
If you’re looking to shop for unique, locally-made items, Lake Champlain has a variety of artisan shops to explore. At these shops, you can find handcrafted items, such as pottery, jewelry, and glassware. A popular spot to visit is the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, where you will find numerous artisans displaying their crafts. Don’t forget to check out American Flatbread, where you can enjoy some delicious local cuisine while shopping for souvenirs.
Popular Shopping Districts
For a more extensive shopping experience, Lake Champlain offers several popular shopping districts. One of the most well-known is the Church Street Marketplace in downtown Burlington. Here, you’ll find a mix of boutiques, gift shops, and national retailers, as well as excellent dining options. If you’re in a small town near the lake, ask the locals for recommendations on their favorite shopping spots. Many small towns have charming main streets with a variety of shops to explore.
Lake Champlain is also home to some unique shopping experiences. For example, breweries such as Switchback offer a selection of their locally-made beers as souvenirs. As you explore the area, keep an eye out for one-of-a-kind items that you won’t find anywhere else. Don’t forget to visit the TripAdvisor website, where you can find reviews and recommendations for more unique shopping opportunities in the region.
Parks and Play Areas
There are plenty of parks and play areas for families around Lake Champlain. The Kids Zone offers a safe and fun environment for children to burn off energy. Browse through the list of parks and find a perfect spot for a relaxing picnic or an outdoor adventure:
For a unique experience, treat your family to one of the many interactive workshops available around Lake Champlain. Try your hand at building a LEGO racer together, or test your creativity at one of the numerous art and craft workshops. Participating in these hands-on activities not only creates lasting memories but also helps develop essential skills and teamwork.
When visiting Lake Champlain, it’s crucial to be aware of the local etiquette and customs. First and foremost, treat the environment with respect. Whether you’re hiking near the Ethan Allen Homestead or walking along the Causeway, always follow posted signs and stay on marked trails. With regards to tipping, it is customary in the United States to tip service providers such as waitstaff and taxi drivers. Usually, a 15-20% gratuity is appropriate.
Lake Champlain is a relatively safe destination, but it’s always wise to take precautions. When swimming or engaging in water sports, be aware of any applicable rules and guidelines. Winter visits to the lake should be accompanied by proper gear for cold temperatures. While driving, be mindful of the weather conditions and follow traffic signs, particularly when approaching Interstate 89.
Stay vigilant regarding your belongings, especially in crowded areas. It’s always a good idea to read reviews on TripAdvisor or similar platforms to get the most relevant safety information.
Visiting Lake Champlain can be as expensive or budget-friendly as you’d like, depending on your travel style. Accommodation options range from the luxurious Marriott and Hilton hotels to more affordable lodgings such as motels and bed-and-breakfasts. Consider traveling during off-peak seasons to snag better deals.
When it comes to dining, check out local eateries and cafes for reasonably priced meals. For grocery shopping, plan visits to small markets or larger grocery stores outside the tourist areas.