Travel

Fall Foliage in Burlington, VT

Because I start test pilot school on my 30th birthday, I wanted to take a fun trip now, while I still have both spending money and vacation time, to celebrate this milestone. Although I was born and raised in North Dakota, I’ve been living in Houston, TX long enough now that I get serious fall withdrawals every October. I knew I wanted the trip to be somewhere with bright fall colors, cozy sweaters, and plenty of apple cider and those delicious warm cider donuts. After polling my Instagram besties and scouring the travel guides online, it seemed that Vermont was one of the top-rated destinations for brilliant fall foliage in late October.

I’m sharing some of my favorite stops for a fall trip to Burlington, VT but honestly Vermont was so beautiful I’m sure it would make a great trip any time of year.

Where to Stay

Trail views along Lake Champlain

Hotel Vermont: Search the internet for “best places to stay in Burlington” and this boutique hotel located right off Lake Champlain is sure to appear at the top of any list. They have thought of literally everything. From bikes in the lobby which are free for guest use, to cozy rooms stocked with goods from local shops and artisans (flannel robes, handmade mugs, etc.), and free amenity stations on each floor, you will feel right at home the second you step in the door. There are plenty of top-rated restaurants nearby and Church Street Marketplace as well as a running & bike trail along Lake Champlain are within walking distance.

What to Eat

Montreal Style bagel sandwich

Breakfast & Brunch:

Rustic Roots: You know a place is good when you need a reservation at 9am! We didn’t have one but were able to sit at the bar and I’m so glad we did. This chef-owned restaurant is located in the village of Shelburne in what looks to be a renovated, adorable old home. The food was delicious, made-from-scratch and breakfast comes with a hot herb-buttered popover. What’s not to love?!

Myer’s Bagel Bakery: Their bagels are hand-rolled and wood-fired Montreal style, meaning they are a thinner bagel and are boiled in honey sweetened water before cooking. If you’re looking for a delicious bagel sandwich and a good cup of coffee, look no further.

‘Vermont to the Core’ sandwich

Lunch:

Apple Core Luncheonette and Brew: First stop straight from the airport and couldn’t have chosen a better lunch spot. It was an absolutely beautiful day to sit out on their deck at a picnic table with a grilled sandwich and a hard cider flight. I had the “Vermont to the Core” sandwich which features cider jelly from the cider mill next door.

Red Hen Baking Co.: This bakery features a miles long artisan bread and pastry menu and supplies fresh bread to local restaurants. We stopped here for lunch after visiting Stowe and Smuggler’s Notch and it really hit the spot.

Dinner:

Waterworks Food + Drink: Located in the nearby town of Winooski with beautiful views of the Winooski River, I cannot recommend this one enough. Waterworks has an extensive drink and dinner menu. I honestly didn’t see a cocktail or food item I didn’t want to try. If I came back to Burlington, this one would definitely be on my list.

Hen of the Wood: Directly next door to the Hotel Vermont, I was told this hip restaurant has a waitlist nearly two months long. My boyfriend and I put our name in for seats at the bar and managed to get in after around an hour and a half wait but I recommend making a reservation. The menu changes daily so it is relatively small, but always features locally grown produce and prides itself on using them to highlight local flavors. Be prepared to spend a bit more here as it is higher end and portions are on the smaller side. We chose this as my birthday dinner.

My only regret is that I arrived just after summer and completely missed an opportunity to get a local staple ( or so I was told by a local…), the maple creemee which is supposedly just maple soft-serve but it sounded pretty good to me!

What to See/Do

Cold Hollow Cider Mill: This place made my cider dreams come true. Watch fresh, raw apple cider being made the authentic way and pour your own ice cold, refreshing sample. They offer warm, freshly fried cider donuts (really regretting only getting one), hot and cold cider and a large variety of other baked items as well as a store full of gifts to take home with you. Head next door for lunch at the Apple Core or to visit the hard cider tasting room.

Church Street Marketplace

Ben & Jerry’s Factory: They were closed the day we stopped, but what trip to Vermont is complete without a tour of this legendary ice cream factory which has been in service since 1985?

Church Street Marketplace: This historic district runs between Pearl and Main Streets and is a National Register Historic District featuring shops and historic buildings.

Woodstock Farmer’s Market: Not a farmer’s market in the typical sense. Think Whole Foods but with local treats like maple kettle corn and heirloom apples. Yum.

Smuggler’s Notch: It rained the entire day we planned to hike, but we made the best of it by following the winding road up the mountain pass. The fall colors did not disappoint. I think I exclaimed “Oh Wow!” the entire drive. Every guide I searched included this stop for hiking and fall foliage.

Shelburne Farms: We didn’t have much time to explore here but the grounds were absolutely breathtaking. A 3,800 acre agricultural estate, the property was originally purchased and developed by Lila Vanderbilt and her husband in 1886 before being donated by their descendants to a nonprofit educational organization in 1984. The estate’s landscaping was inspired by Central Park landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Enjoy a walk through the farm featuring fall foliage, grazing cattle and stunning views of Lake Champlain and New York’s Adirondacks just across the lake.

The historic Stowe Community Church

Stowe: Adorable local shops, a plethora of great restaurants, and endless outdoor activities make this quaint, four-season mountain resort town a must-stop.

Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea: Voted one of the best coffee roasters in Vermont, this is a great stop on the way to hike in Stowe. They even have an outdoor fire pit. Ginger maple latte was amazing…enough said!

If you’ve been to or live in Vermont, what did I miss? If you haven’t been *yet*, what would you do first?!

Travel

Seattle, WA

I went TDY (“temporary duty”-government speak for work travel) to Seattle last September for 2 weeks to take Boeing’s Structural Repair for Engineers course (more on that later) and quickly fell in love with this hipster Pacific Northwest city. I was told I visited during the least rainy part of the year (which generally runs from about May-September) and the crisp fall weather was widely welcomed by this North Dakotan native turned Houstonian. The trees were just beginning to change to fiery shades of orange, yellow, and red and if you’re a runner like me, the temperatures were just right for some incredibly scenic outdoor runs along the water.

I established one of my best travel tips on this trip. Based on recommendations and my own research, as well as discoveries I make during the trip, I update and maintain a Yelp Collection for each city I visit. This way I have a pre-curated list of highly rated suggestions for sightseeing, food and drink and, of course, a list of must-dos and must-do agains if I get the chance to venture back. I’m sharing my favorite things I saw, did, and perhaps most importantly, ate, during this trip.

  1. Eat & Drink
    • Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room (1124 Pike St). An incredibly beautiful building inside and out, this is a Starbucks lover’s dream. Complete with a large collection of gift items, a mixology bar, roasting area which you can view through a window in the restrooms (WHAAAT?!), and Italian bakery, it is easy to see why I visited not once, but twice. I highly recommend heading to the Experience Bar for a Cold Brew Malt (!!) and the Whiskey Barrel-Aged Cold Brew!
    • TNT Taqueria (2114 N 45th St). This place looks like a hole in the wall but don’t be fooled as we all know looks can be deceiving. I topped off my meal of some of the best tacos I’ve ever eaten (besides the street tacos consumed on a trip to Mexico City) with a couple hot, made-to-order churros. Incredibly delicious and inexpensive, my Cuban co-worker proclaimed these to be some of the best tacos he’s ever eaten.
    • Bar Ciudad (1210 S Bailey St). I didn’t eat here but came for happy hour to celebrate the end of our 6 hour exam to finish out the 2 weeks of class. I sat in the courtyard and enjoyed a couple of delicious spiked slushies as, much to my delight, jumbo jets flew directly overhead into nearby Boeing Field.
    • Fran’s Chocolates (5900 Airport Way S, multiple locations). Arguably the best salted caramel chocolates I’ve ever tasted. A friendly salesperson greets you at the door with a tray of their signature caramels. These make a great gift and their goodies come wrapped up in beautiful packaging complete with a satin bow.
    • Barnacle (4743 Ballard Ave NW) and Percy’s & Co. (5233 Ballard Ave NW). Although a bit north of town, I met up with a couple friends for delicious craft cocktails in Ballard. Barnacle is an Italian aperitivo bar with a playful, upscale nautical vibe. At Percy’s I opted for the “Honey Bee” which includes rosemary infused gin and lavender.
    • Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream (4822 Rainier Ave S, multiple locations). Although they have some more traditional ice cream flavors, Molly Moon’s also serves up a wide variety of unique and seasonal flavors for the more adventurous like Rose Milk Tea and delicious homemade waffle cones that make the whole place smell incredible.
  2. See & Do
    • Chihuly Garden & Glass (305 Harrison St) and the Space Needle (400 Broad St). Home to a large collection of Dale Chihuly’s incredible blown glass art, this was definitely a highlight of the trip. I suggest buying a combined ticket for Chihuly and the Space Needle which is right next door and will allow you to see both at a discount. I visited Chihuly first because it closes earlier and then ventured to the Space Needle in time for incredible views of Seattle as day turned into night.
    • Pike Place Market (85 Pike St). Whatever you do, do not expect to drive directly into Pike Place Market as you will waste an asinine amount of time trying to maneuver through crowds of people (luckily I did not fall victim to this). The expansive, iconic (est. 1907) market where you can see flying fish, get incredibly gorgeous bouquets of fresh flowers for $5-$10, and enjoy a wide variety of delicious food. This is also home to the original Starbucks Coffee.
    • Gas Works Park (2101 N Northlake Way). Although quite windy the day I visited, this park offers a big hill overlooking Lake Union with great views of Seattle and the Space Needle. The perfect place for a picnic or to relive your childhood with a belly-laugh inducing roll down the hill.
    • The Museum of Flight (9404 E Marginal Way S). Located at the southern end of Boeing Field, this is the largest privately-owned air and space museum in the world. I spent over 5 hours in this museum which is home to more than 175 aircraft and spacecraft and definitely didn’t get to see everything. A must-see for aviation/space enthusiasts!
    • Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park (1201 Lake Washington Blvd N, Renton). Because I stayed in the Renton area, this park along Lake Washington was the perfect place to enjoy the sunshine after work with a run. I was able to run 10 miles on a trail that led me past the Seahawk’s training facility, Renton Municipal Airport, a Boeing facility, and the Cedar River. I also caught a glimpse of Mt. Rainier on a clear evening as the sun was setting.
  3. On My Bucket List for Next Time
    • Hiking: Because I was in class during the week, I only had one weekend free to hike. It rained a bit too much and was going to be incredibly muddy (and I don’t own hiking shoes) so I passed on that in favor of exploring Pike Place Market. Hiking to see views of Mt. Rainier is definitely on the top of my Seattle bucket list for next time.
    • Donuts: General Porpoise Donuts, Top Pot Doughnuts
    • Pike Place: The Pink Door, Piroshky Piroshky, Biscuit Bitch, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

So, it probably seems like I packed a lot in considering I was supposed to be working, right? The truth is that I wanted to make the most of my 2 weeks in Seattle so I did do a lot in the evenings and over the weekend. However, the absolute highlight of the trip was undoubtedly the reason I was there in the first place. I spent about 8 hours a day in class learning and practicing how to perform structural repairs to aircraft. This was the first in a three-part course aimed at teaching engineers everything about the basics of aircraft repair from fastener (bolt and rivet) allowables and the best materials to use depending on which part of the aircraft you’re dealing with, to skin friction drag and fastener spacing requirements. At the end of the first week they even bused us to Everett, WA (home to Boeing’s massive aircraft production facility outside Seattle) where we got to see every stage of the aircraft assembly process from the mighty 747 to the innovative 787 Dreamliner. The following two courses focus on more advanced topics and I hope to take those in the future.

If you’ve ever been to Seattle or the Pacific Northwest or are a Seattle native yourself, what is your one must-see place to visit?