5 Great Ways to Get Outside on Black Friday in Burlington

Lake Champlain on a late fall day
Lake Champlain on a late fall day Bob Lyon
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Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving, a family holiday left in the dust even before the last bite of turkey is eaten, is full of crazed shoppers awakening in the earliest hours, bargain hunters willing to fight the crowds for the best deal, and lines, lines, and more lines. Love it or hate it, the “real holiday” season has begun.

This year, instead of fighting the hordes, why not find a bit of serenity in the outdoors? Extend the quickly forgotten turkey day by spending quality time with family and friends chatting on a hike or taking on a new adventure. While there is an extensive array of outdoor options in the Burlington area, here are five that might even sway that hardcore shopper in your family to “opt out” of retail-mania and get outside on Black Friday.

1. Take a Hike

The summit views from Camel's Hump
The summit views from Camel's Hump Mike

This may be exactly what the retail enthusiasts of your family say when you suggest hitting the trails instead of shopping, but don’t back down—Burlington offers you plenty of reasons to dish up as to why this is a good idea.

First, it’s easy. Second, it’s free. Third, the variety of trails in the area makes it possible for beginner hikers and experienced trekkers to find enjoyable options. Mount Philo is a great family hike and a quick 10-minute drive from downtown Burlington. Hike up the mellow one-mile dirt trail or opt for a quick walk up the auto road. Bring a picnic and enjoy it at the peak alongside views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks.

If you are looking for something more challenging, Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump are also nearby. The first and third highest peaks in the state, respectively, require a bit more of an effort to ascend than Mount Philos. While sometimes stout, these hikes give you unparalleled views making them well worth the effort.

If these hikes don’t suit your fancy, there are plenty of other Burlington-area hikes that will. Go find a mountain and forget the mall.

2. Late Season Bike Ride

Riding along the Island Line Rail Trail
Riding along the Island Line Rail Trail rik-shaw

It’s really hard to beat a family ride along the Island Line Trail , aka the Burlington Bike Path. While it can get crowded in the summer, this 14-mile long trail, will be much more mellow at the end of November. Hop on right downtown and ride out to the Causeway in the middle of Lake Champlain. It’s flat and paved for most of the way, although parts of it are packed gravel, including the Causeway. But, the views are unforgettable. Just remember to bring your mittens—depending on the weather the winds and colder temps might make for chilly fingers.

3. Fly High

Flying through the forests of the Green Mountains during a Smugglers' Notch Canopy Tour.
Flying through the forests of the Green Mountains during a Smugglers' Notch Canopy Tour. Norman Maddeaux

Smugglers’ Notch, just under an hour’s drive from Burlington, offers year-round zip line canopy tours. If you are looking for something different with the flavor of adventure this may be just the thing. Run by Arbortrek Canopy Adventures, the canopy tour offers three options ranging in length from one hour to three hours, and includes zip lines, suspension bridges, and rappels. This is a great way to get an aerial view of the Green Mountains and all their beauty high up in the trees. And, yes, they are still open even if there is snow on the ground. Just be sure to call ahead for reservations.

4. Ski the Notch

Family time, fun time cross-country skiing.
Family time, fun time cross-country skiing. Matt Schrag

If there is snow, then skiing the Notch is one of the most fun outdoor adventures in the winter. Once the flakes start to fall, the Notch Road, aka Route 108, is closed from Stowe Resort to the other side of the mountain at Smugglers’ Notch ski area. Park on either side—there is a nice lot right where the road closure starts on the Stowe side—strap on your skis, and have some fun along the narrow twisting road with its sharp turns. It’s all uphill to start, but once you reach the peak it’s downhill from there. Since it’s a road, it’s wide enough to chat with your crew on the way up and pick up some speed on the way down without fear of taking out other adventurers. This serene ski along one of the most beautiful roads in VT could easily fast become your newest Black Friday family tradition.

Even if there's no snow, it's worth the drive!

5. Santa Parade and Holiday Tree Lighting

Join Burlingtonians on Black Friday this year at the Church Street tree lighting ceremony.
Join Burlingtonians on Black Friday this year at the Church Street tree lighting ceremony. Courtesy of Church Street Marketplace

If you’re adamant about starting the "season of giving" the day after Thanksgiving, then Church Street Marketplace, the largest shopping area in town, offers a perfect combination of holiday fun and outdoor adventure all day long with the Santa Parade and Holiday Tree Lighting. Starting at 11am (yes, shopping starts earlier), the brick inlaid Church Street—closed year-round to traffic—is throwing an outdoor holiday extravaganza like no other with live reindeer, miniature horse rides, a Santa parade, a stage production of the Night Before Christmas, and the lighting of 250,000 lights up and down Church Street. Just remember it gets really crowded and parking can be tricky, so get there early to save yourself a good spot. For all those people in your family who wouldn’t take you up on your hike, this is a great compromise.

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