I started reading Kaitlin O’Shea’s blog Preservation in Pink
several years ago in graduate school and was hooked immediately. There were no preservation blogs I was aware of at the time and I loved how she gave a young voice to this small and somewhat obscure profession. We’ve followed each other’s blogs for a while and finally met in person at the National Preservation Conference in Indianapolis in 2013. It’s wild meeting someone you’ve followed online; it’s almost like you’re meeting a celebrity. She was as sweet as can be and we’ve kept in touch online ever since. In this month’s Local’s Guide To series, I’m excited to have Kaitlin share her guide to Burlington, Vermont. Aside from a few trips to New York, I’m largely unfamiliar with New England and this month I am thrilled to have Kaitlin share her must sees and dos in her city of Burlington.
Local’s Guide to Burlington, Vermont with Kaitlin O’Shea
How long have you lived in Burlington?
I moved to Burlington, VT in August 2009, because I was starting the historic preservation graduate program at the University of Vermont
. Prior to Vermont, I lived in North Carolina, Nebraska, Virginia and New York. It will be 7 years this summer of living in Vermont, and I’ve lived in Burlington (5 years total), Waterbury (1 year), and Montpelier (1 year). Burlington is by far my favorite place that I have lived anywhere. Professionally, I am a Preservation Planner with VHB (an engineering + environmental firm) in South Burlington, Vermont.
What do you love about your city?
I am always proclaiming “I love Burlington.” It is such a beautiful place to live with Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains and brilliant sunsets often in view. The Burlington waterfront is the highlight of the city. There is always something to do, even if it’s just strolling around Church Street or the neighborhoods looking at architecture. It is a safe city with fresh air, and citizens committed to the local economy and keeping Burlington a good place to live. Local food, local beer & wine, locally roasted coffee, residents who believe in good health and quality of life, outdoor activities, exciting projects in the works – there is a palpable difference in Burlington, and you’ll notice it as soon as you visit. There’s no place I’d rather live.
Favorite Coffee Shop?
It depends on my mood! But, my default favorite is Speeder & Earl’s on Pine Street
, which is the South End Arts District in an old factory. It’s a locally owned company, the coffee is delicious, and there space is very welcoming whether you want to catch up with a friend, or drink multiple cups of coffee while you get some work done.
Burlington has a ridiculous number of bars!
In the summertime: Splash at the Boathouse
. I love to grab a beer and sit on the edge of the docks and watch the boats drift by with Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains in the background. Other times of the year: Sotto Enoteca Wine Bar
. It’s a cozy, romantic basement wine bar that seats around 25 people. Sotto has a great selection of wine and beer and delicious Italian cuisine inspired appetizers. I also enjoy The Armoy Grille & Bar
, which is part of the historic armory that was rehabilitated
as part of the new Hilton Garden hotel.
I love living in downtown Burlington, in close proximity to all of my favorite places. But, the South End has a great arts district (& my favorite coffee shop) and a funky collection of shops, art galleries, and eateries. The most adorable neighborhood is the Five Sisters Neighborhood, which is located in the South End of Burlington. The Five Sisters is home to cute bungalows, a large park, and safe streets with gangs of children roaming the streets. It’s great and is about 20 minute walk from downtown.
Favorite Attraction or Historic Site?
I love the entire city! But as to one particular historic site in Burlington: the Billings Library on the University of Vermont campus has long been my favorite historic building. It was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and is a great example of the Richardson Romanesque style.
One of my favorite stores to browse is Bennington Potters North, home of Vermont made pottery. The store is three stories in the historic Wells-Richardson building and there is always something to look at: pottery, home decor, stationery and the building itself. Or there is Homeport on Church Street, which is sort of like a local version of Pier 1.
You can always find a great gift or whatever you need for your house at a good price.
Describe Your Ideal Weekend in Burlington:
In the summertime (because that’s my favorite season). We live in a small condo, so we do our best to spend all of our time outside in the good weather (other than working, sleeping, and those important life tasks like cleaning, feeding the cats, etc). We use the city as our backyard and make the most out of long days and warm weather.
Friday evenings are good for a casual barbecue. We take our camp stove to the park and play frisbee and cook hamburgers (the city as our backyard).
Saturdays are all about bike rides with my boyfriend and friends. We begin in downtown Burlington and travel the Island Line, which is a former railroad corridor that follows the Lake Champlain shoreline. A few miles of the Island Line are on the causeway, which is, essentially, the bike path in the middle of the lake. It’s absolutely gorgeous. From downtown Burlington, we ride the 10 miles to the Lake Champlain Bike Ferry
, and then take the ferry over to South Hero, VT and ride the 4 miles to Snow Farm Vineyard
on West Shore Road. You can buy a bottle of wine ($15, a good deal for local wine!) and enjoy it in the sunshine before making your way south by bike. Saturday evenings, when we get back from our bike ride, we might catch the sunset at the Burlington Bay Market & Cafe
, while eating dinner, ice cream or sipping a local beer.
Sunday mornings are made for long runs with some girlfriends. Summer mornings are perfect in Vermont – not hot yet, beautiful scenery. After running (and showering, and cup of coffee round one), we might head to brunch at one of our favorite spots (Mirabelles, Magnolia, Penny Cluse) and then wander around Church Street in Burlington. Church Street is the pedestrian mall, which is packed with cheery people in the warm months – shopping, eating, soaking in the sunshine. And it’s the best place for people watching. In summer afternoons, we like to head over to the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center to go kayaking or sailing. Anyone can rent a kayak, paddleboard, or sailboat. It’s a great place to access the lake.
Where would you send a tourist visiting for the first time?
The waterfront, of course! Grab a creamee (soft serve ice cream) and walk the docks and the boardwalk, or have a drink overlooking the lake. Or, Church Street Marketplace for some of our best restaurants. A walk down Pine Street to the South End Arts District would be worth it, too. You’ll stroll by the arts/industrial buildings and can find an art gallery, antique shop, or eatery.
What makes your city unique?
(See what I love about Burlington). The setting of Burlington is certainly unique, as well as the noticeable, influential focus on the local economy and quality of life. Burlington is the most urban place in Vermont, so I like to call Burlington “Urban Vermont.” Since Burlington has a population of 40,000 people (the whole state is about 600,000), this makes any other city dweller laugh. But, Burlington really is the perfect “city” to me.