By the Numbers
AVERAGE COMMUTE17 minutes
MEDIAN HOME PRICE$240,000
BIGGEST EMPLOYERSIBM (6,000), Fletcher Allen Health Care (4,086), University of Vermont (3,137)
TELLING STATISTIC23,000 tons of organic waste (including dairy by-products from nearby Ben & Jerry's plants) is processed at the city's Intervale Compost Products annually
TAKE A WALK through the brick-paved Church Street Marketplace if you want to understand just how politically correct this lakefront college town has become. Stop for a cup of Fair Trade Ethiopian at Speeder & Earl's, try on a pair of sweatshop-free sneakers ("from the best little union shop in Jakarta, Indonesia") at the Peace & Justice Center, tuck in to a Big Bold Burger (made with local beef and jack cheese) at Smokejacks, and eavesdrop on a group discussing the finer points of harnessing energy from the methane gas in cow manure. The town, set on the eastern shore of 100-mile-long Lake Champlain in the shadow of the hiking-and-ski-trail-veined Green Mountains, is also full of the lean and hearty who take full advantage of the surrounding farm roads to bike, trails to run, bays to paddle, and slopes to ski (including Stowe and Sugarbush, less than an hour away). The Vermont City Marathon attracts some 8,000 runners every May: The race ends in the tastefully developed Waterfront Park, and a troupe of Japanese drummers greets the finishers. All this correctness might be a little too much to take if the town didn't have a darker side; at night, Red Square threatens to blow once DJ A-Dog starts spinning, and Nectar's swells with University of Vermont kids hoping the house band is the next Phish (they got their start here in the eighties). It's heartening to know that, even in this epicenter of righteous living, staying for the band's last set will almost always trump that 6 a.m. century ride.
The Perfect 48 Hours
From subscriber Rachael Miller, 36, a ten-year resident who teaches wind sports:
Grab an egg-and-bacon sandwich at the waterfront Burlington Bay Market & Café (802-864-0110), then rent bikes at Local Motion (localmotion.org) for a ride on the 12-mile, water-hugging Island Line bike trail. After a long lunch and a Burly Irish Ale on the patio of the Vermont Pub and Brewery (vermontbrewery.com), rent a dinghy at the Community Sailing Center (communitysailingcenter.org) and spend the afternoon tacking around Burlington Bay. Post-shower, head for the cozy Trattoria Delia, Burlington's best Italian restaurant (trattoriadelia.com; ask for a table near the fireplace), then the dance floor at Plan B (planbvt.com). Start the next day with a plate of sourdough French toast at the Penny Cluse Café (pennycluse.com), then grab picnic fixings at City Market (citymarket.coop). Drive half an hour to Duxbury to hike to the 4,083-foot summit of Camels Hump; eat your picnic on top while enjoying 360-degree views of Vermont, the Adirondacks, and the White Mountains. Back in Burlington, head to the Daily Planet (dailyplanet15.com) for a Berber chicken sandwich, then catch an indie flick at Merrill's Roxy theater (merrilltheatres.net)
Three and a half hours south, Boston is the college town's college town, where every fall 200,000 students in some 35 schools skew the average age down to 33. Relive American History 101 on the Freedom Trail, a three-mile path linking 16 sites, including the grave of Sam Adams (the beer guy), who brings us to our next point. Some of the best Irish pubs this side of Dublin can be found here.
"Quick access to the Berkshires." Garth Shaneyfelt