Vermont is a hippie hotspot overflowing with farm fresh produce, outdoor enthusiasts, and a funky 60’s vibe. The Green Mountain State’s lush landscape of rolling hills make it a prime spot for ski resorts, hikers, and nature lovers. It’s an excellent place to vacation and has so much to offer visitors of all ages. And if you follow a gluten-free diet, you’ve come to the right place!
The city of Burlington, Vermont is situated along Lake Champlain in the northwest corner of the state. Burlington’s population is naturally health conscious. They focus on organic farming practices, local foods, and protecting the environment.
Burlington’s farmer’s market is a prime example of these efforts. The sheer amount of fruits, vegetables, sharp cheddar cheese, grass-fed meats and green smoothies will make you want to move here right away. Eating healthy is encouraged, and those with food allergies don’t have to worry—everyone is cognizant of what they are eating and how to help you eat safely.
If you are planning to visit Burlington in the near future, you’ll definitely want to check out Church Street. It’s the main area downtown and the entire street is paved for easy pedestrian access. Many people spend warm days strolling Church Street with their dogs, but you can also find street performers, outdoor yoga classes, food stalls, and during the holiday season, a tree lighting.
For a morning coffee or chai latte, especially in the winter months, check out Uncommon Grounds or Muddy Waters. Both are located close to or directly on Church Street. They are cozy, feel good places where you can warm up, read a book, or just people watch. Down by the water on Lake Champlain you’ll find The Skinny Pancake, which is famous for it’s gluten-free crepes! The lake area is also a beautiful spot for an afternoon stroll or bike ride along the Burlington Bike Path.
There are lots of cute places for shopping on Church Street as well. You can sample local olive oils from the Saratoga Oil Company – all gluten-free, just don’t eat the bread! There’s a Ben & Jerry’s, of course, if you need your ice cream kick. Ask your server to clean their scoop and they will also open a fresh tub of cream to avoid cross-contamination. Outdoor Gear Exchange will have everything you need for hiking, skiing, or any activity in nature, plus jackets, coats, and winter wear if you visit during the colder months.
If you enjoy the outdoors and are looking for an easy day hike, visit Mount Philo. It’s less than a thousand feet of elevation gain and only 2 miles roundtrip. Or, save yourself the trouble and drive to the top. The views at the summit of the Champlain Valley are breathtaking. My husband proposed at Mount Philo and from then on it’s been my favorite spot!
Before your hike, grab a picnic lunch to enjoy when you reach the summit. Make a stop to City Market supermarket & co-op. It’s on Winooski Avenue, just one block parallel to Church Street. This is a grocery store but it’s more like a miniature Whole Foods. They have a hot and cold bar, a deli, and a sandwich shop.
If you’re at the hot or cold bar, everything is clearly labeled and you’ll see “contains wheat” or “contains gluten” listed in addition to the ingredients. They have foods available for all types of diets and even offer products in bulk. There’s a gluten-free locally made granola with chocolate chips and cranberries that’s super tasty!
When ordering a sandwich, tell the employee behind the counter if you have celiac. They will change their gloves, place everything on separate areas, and make strong efforts to reduce cross contamination. The sandwiches here are served on Udi’s gluten-free bread. You can have it toasted (they put the bread on foil and keep it apart from others) or cold. Try the North Country Melt- made with real Vermont cheddar cheese. It’s delicious!
Local products are readily available in Vermont. Maple syrup is very popular, and while you are here you can visit a sugar shack to see how the stuff is made! The best times to go are the late winter/early spring months of March or April. Maple syrup is also readily available in most stores, shops, and grocery stores. This is the real stuff – no Aunt Jemima here!
You can also try a maple creemee, which is vanilla ice cream sweetened with maple syrup. Double check with the owner that it’s gluten-free. At some places, they even offer GF cones! This gluten-free creemee is from Palmer Lane Maple in Jericho, just outside of Burlington.
For dinner in downtown Burlington, you might be craving Mexican food and El Cortijo has authentic cuisine and fantastic dishes. They let you know which of their foods are gluten-free on the menu, but most of it is fairly safe. They are located on Bank Street right across from City Market.
For local gluten-free hard cider and a menu featuring a dedicated fryer, try out Citizen Cider. This cider joint and restaurant can be found on Pine Street just a short distance from downtown Church Street. You’ll also find Citizen Ciders sold in the supermarkets as one of Vermont’s other famous local products.
My favorite restaurant is Sweetwater’s, a converted bank turned restaurant right on Church Street. It has an old vibe with both indoor and outdoor seating. Their cheeseburgers are tasty and they come on a locally made gluten-free bun with mashed potatoes and salad. You can also enjoy the spinach artichoke dip with gluten-free tortilla chips (safe from cross-contamination) as an appetizer!
Just outside of Burlington and in the surrounding towns you can find other great gluten-free options. In Essex Junction, try Mimmo’s for Gluten-Free pizza and pastas. Their menu also lists the importance of understanding the differences between celiac disease and gluten intolerance. There’s also a 100% dedicated gluten-free bakery called West Meadow Farm offering biscotti, scones, cookies, and muffins.
For a more upscale dining experience, try the Essex Resort and Spa. They are a culinary institute that do cooking demonstrations and have their own restaurant called The Tavern. The Essex makes large strides to naturally cook their foods gluten-free to make accommodating for those with celiac easy. Their menu options are extensive and everything gluten-free is clearly labeled. They have gluten-free bread for sandwiches and also have a dedicated fryer.
Local produce and farmer’s markets are some of the best reasons to visit Vermont, especially in the summer and fall months. Vermonters know the importance of investing in farmers and their products, and they value them highly. Some great ways to contribute to these local businesses include visiting the Burlington Farmer’s Market on the weekends. There’s even a bakery called Barrio with a booth that sells gluten-free treats.
Another way to support local farmers is to do some berry picking in the summer months at a place like Mazza’s farm in Colchester. Colchester is another small town right next to Burlington. It’s a fun outdoor day trip and you’ll have fresh fruit to use in your own gluten-free recipes. Above is sample of a homemade gluten-free chocolate cake with whipped cream topped with Vermont farm fresh strawberries and blueberries.
If you have a chance to visit Vermont in the months of September or October, you’ll enjoy the beauty that is the fall season. You can continue to support local farmers by going apple picking at places like Burtt’s Orchard in Cabot. You can also stop by the Cabot Cheese Factory and try free samples of all their various cheeses inside the visitor’s center, which are all labeled gluten-free! The foliage in autumn is stunning and this excursion a little outside Burlington (about one hour and fifteen minutes south) is well worth it. Just don’t arrive too late in the season – it can snow as early as Halloween!
Vermont’s the kind of place that once you visit, you’ll want to come back. Every season has different activities, foods, and outdoor fun to enjoy. Thankfully, Vermont is passionate about providing options for those on a gluten-free diet year round, making it one of the best destinations in New England for a vacationing celiac.
Jennifer Fitzpatrick was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2009. She and her husband are traveling the world for the next four months. Follow her gluten-free adventures on Instagram @jefinner589 or @thenomadicfitzies724 or on her website www.thenomadicfitzpatricks.com. Fitzpatrick’s series on Gluten-Free New England will be shared at Gluten-Free Living for the next four months. Check out her guide to Boston here and her guide to Salem, Massachusetts here.