MEDIAN AGE: 27
MEDIAN ANNUAL SALARY: $38,598
MEDIAN HOME VALUE: $249,900
VOTES: 786 (3.6%)
Stop us if this sounds familiar: a college town anchored by a left-leaning university, with enough bars in a four-block radius to slake the thirst of an army of frat boys and a pedestrian-only main drag full of crepe vendors, retail outlets, locally sourced restaurants, bike racks, and street performers. We thought so. But what sets Burlington apart from other U-towns is its affordability and, more important, its Green Mountain State sensibility. What’s that mean? Smart grassroots organizations like the alt-transportation group Local Motion; great local food and beer like the pizza at Flatbread American, Farmhouse Tap and Grill, and (of course) Ben and Jerry’s. And there’s one really, really big lake.
Staying Power: Burlington’s waterfront has been revitalized in the past two decades as the city cleaned up derelict industrial sites to make way for parks, restaurants, a seven-mile rail-to-trail bike path, and the city’s Community Sailing Center. The recession took a toll on Vermont’s economy, but Burlington businesses, such as Web developer Dealer.com and Green Mountain Roasters, continue to expand. On the food front, there’s an innovative cooperative that allows citizens to own a stake in a 350-acre farm outside of town.
Playgrounds: Thirty minutes from downtown, you’ll find a backcountry ski paradise in Bolton Valley, with its famous Bolton-Trapps trail. The rolling roads outside the city are perfect for cycling, while Stowe, home to one of the eastern United States’ best ski resorts and a growing network of mountain-bike trails, is only 45 minutes away. Then there’s Lake Champlain and the city’s sailing center, the perfect place to base your catamaran, canoe, or sea kayak and launch for the 30-minute paddle north to Lone Rock Point.
The Voters Speak: “Halvorson’s Upstreet Cafe on Church Street, still one of the best places to grab a beer and a burger after a day outside.” “I love the fact that people cross-country ski to work after a big snowfall.” “Brew pubs, boating, biking, blue skies, Ben and Jerry’s. It ain’t B-Town for nothing.”