I took the new, 8-hour Amtrak train to Burlington, Vermont. Here’s why it was worth it.


When Amtrak announced it’d be adding Burlington, Vermont to its recently reborn Ethan Allen Express, a whole new weekend getaway was unlocked. 

As a New Yorker without a car, leaving the city can be tricky. We are either beholden to train schedules and their routes or temperamental rental car prices. The Ethan Allen Express takes about eight hours to make its way from NYC’s Penn Station/Moynihan Train Hall to Burlington, Vermont. The long trip is certainly a trade-off for not renting a car (it’s about six hours via car), but I’ve found it was worth the ride. Thanks to the new addition, I was able to spend a little more than 24 hours in a new place and experience the best of Vermont’s most cosmopolitan city.

Below, I’m breaking down what to expect on the Ethan Allen and how to spend 24 hours in Burlington, Vermont.

The city

Burlington VT
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out New York

The lakeside city of Burlington is that classic New England destination you might expect. From the shining waters of Lake Champlain to City Hall Park, the city is quite beautiful. Mixed among the walkable streets with quaint homes are cafes and bars you’ll want to linger at, a mix of indy and luxury shops, and a flourishing craft beer scene.

As the state’s most populated city, and home to the University of Vermont and Champlain College, Burlington prides itself on being a city for all. Shops, bars and venues proudly display Black Lives Matter, Pride flags and other welcoming signs from their windows and its residents are just as hospitable.

When you go, expect to have a laid-back, choose-your-own adventure getaway with an abundance of opportunities for fun and exploration.

The ride

 Ethan Allen Express
Photograph: Marc Glucksman | The Ethan Allen Express

Making a dash through the new Moynihan Train Hall to get on a cozy train with views of the Hudson is a privilege that was fun to think about in the week leading up to the trip.

The Ethan Allen Express northbound service leaves Penn Station at 2pm and arrives in Burlington around 10pm daily. The train departs from Burlington every day at 10:10am and arrives in NYC at 5:45pm. I planned on spending Saturday in Burlington, so I needed to leave work early on Friday to make the train.

With tickets in hand, I snagged seats on the left side of the train for heavenly views of the Hudson and settled into a quite comfy seat for the next eight hours. There was ample space for my long legs and the seats are quite plush compared to what I’ve found on airlines. Like on an airplane, there’s an option to recline the seat, which I did on the way home. The seats’ tray tables perfectly fit a MacBook Pro, so for most of the ride up, I was able to get some work done on my laptop and stopped for breaks by gazing out the window at the beautiful river and mountains zooming by.

Shaye on the Amtrak’s Ethan Allen
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out New York

Midway through, I grabbed a bottle of water from the cafe cart but was glad that I brought a honey lavender latte and an oatmeal pumpkin spice cookie from Maman from Moynihan, the latter of which got me through the last three hours of the ride.

Although it was a comfortable ride, by hour six, I started getting antsy, ready to hit the pavement and get to our lodgings, Hotel Vermont.

Things to do in Burlington, Vermont: 24 hours

After arriving on the Ethan Allen Express at about 9:55pm, we checked into the chic yet cozy Hotel Vermont and headed out to The Farmhouse Tap & Grill for a late-night dinner. We started with the addicting maple rosemary nuts and ordered a creamy cheddar ale soup, the Adams’ Farm Chicken & Biscuits and the LaPlatte River Angus Farm Beef. We left thoroughly stuffed and ready to settle in for the night.

Burlington Vermont
Photograph: Shutterstock

Saturday

10am-1pm: Breakfast and shopping

We headed to August First, a bakery and cafe that operates out of a renovated garage with mismatched chairs and chalk on the walls, to find that maybe half the town had the same idea. While the line was a bit on the longer side and the buzzy space was full, we ordered pretty quickly and were able to find a table with no problem. The avocado toast and the seasonal “chi-der” (chai + cider) were tasty and fresh.

At this point, we decided to do some shopping along the Church Street Marketplace, which has over 100 shops and restaurants. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of local shops mixed in with chains like Free People and Patagonia. I found some great gifts and items at Quarterstaff Games, Burlington Records, Ten Thousand Villages, Whim, Outdoor Gear Exchange, Golden Hour and Crow Bookshop.

1-5pm: Bike to Zero Gravity Craft Brewery

Lake Champlain Burlington VT
Photograph: Shutterstock

We headed back to our lodgings to drop off our bounty before taking out a bike at Hotel Vermont (you can also rent from one of these shops). We biked along Waterfront Park, along the shining Lake Champlain, and continued on to the South End arts district, where there is a slew of breweries, a cidery and now a dispensary, in addition to some more cultural points of interest, including the small business collective, Soda Plant, which is a good stopping point between biking and beer drinking.

We headed to Zero Gravity, an extremely popular taproom and brewery, where we tried a number of brews. Inside and out, the taproom was fluttering with activity—large groups and small chatting away and sipping beer in branded tulip glasses. 

Zero Gravity Brewery Burlington Vermont
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out New York

Chris Costello, the VP of sales, told us to try the Green State Lager first before trying its multitude of other brews—there are usually half a dozen on tap all year round with a handful of seasonal and experimental brews. Our favorite was the Conehead and the Extra Stout. Lunch would be great here—the menu is the best of bar-centric foods that look extremely tasty and perfect to soak up those suds. 

5-7pm: Do dinner at Juniper

After chilling out at Zero Gravity, we took the scenic route on our bikes back to the center of town for dinner. Juniper, which is located inside Hotel Vermont, specializes in dishes made with fresh and locally-sourced ingredients. Inside, the restaurant is cozy, pulling on the hotel’s overall earthy vibe, with spacious tables, comfortable seats and a casual but more upscale atmosphere.

We ordered the Maple Wind Farm 1/2 Brick-Pressed Chicken (shareable for two) that comes with crispy, perfectly roasted brussels sprouts and new potatoes with an herb demi-glace.

Brick-pressed chicken at Juniper
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out New York | The brick-pressed chicken at Juniper

7pm-9:30pm: Enjoy music at Radio Bean or grab ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s

After dinner, we quickly stopped into our room to freshen up for a night out. Everything is just about within a 10- or 15-minute walk from the hotel, so we were in no rush.

We made a stop at the original Ben & Jerry’s on Church Street for a celebratory ice cream (we ordered the strawberry cheesecake and the Tonight Dough) and took them to go. When it’s warm enough outside, it’s lovely to walk Church Street or select a bench to sit on and enjoy your treat.

If you want to amp up your night, Radio Bean is a must for taking in local music. The laidback atmosphere is perfect for those who want a relaxed night out and a chance to discover new bands and artists.

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9:30-11pm: Get drinks at The Archives

This bar right off Church Street is a nostalgia junkie’s dream. Vintage arcade games and pinball machines line the walls and their various blips, beeps and boops fill the air. We shimmied up to the long, wooden bar and ordered two drinks that would excite any Beatles fan, “The Long and Winding Road” and the “Lonely Hearts Club.” Both drinks are curious concoctions that are fun to drink if not surprising. The Lonely Hearts Club is a bit refreshing but spicy—El Charro Reposado with yellow pepper, strawberry, lime, grapefruit and basil—and the Long and Winding Road, packs a frothy punch with pisco and blanco tequila with pear Eau de Vie, absinthe, rosemary, lime, and Peychaud’s bitters, all shaken with an egg white. If cocktails aren’t your vibe, there are plenty of draft beers on tap.

The Archives, like NYC’s Barcade, is a fun night out, especially for those who enjoy old games and casual atmospheres when they drink. It was busy on a Saturday night but not too crowded like Barcade can get, where you are packed shoulder-to-shoulder with other sweaty, imbibing gamers. We were able to breeze about and easily access the token machine and had our pick of machines to try our skills on.

Sunday

French Toast Bleu Northeast Kitchen
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out New York

8:30-10am: Breakfast at Bleu Northeast Kitchen

We had to get up early after a day of galavanting around, but it was well worth the morning fatigue. We grabbed a decadent breakfast at Bleu Northeast Kitchen, which is next to the hotel and about a five-minute walk from the train station, where we’d be catching the 10:10 train home. I ordered the brioche French toast, loaded with macerated berries, and granola and served with whipped cream and Vermont maple syrup, and my partner ordered the Loaded Breakfast Sandwich (an everything bagel with two eggs, scallion cream cheese, tomato, onion, bacon, cheddar, avocado, home fries). We were really set for the eight-hour trip home.

Burlington VT amtrak train station
Photograph: courtesy of Amtrak

 





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