7 Tips for Stress-Free Parking in Downtown Burlington This Holiday Shopping Season | Paid Post | City | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
Brought to you by Park Burlington
Church Street Marketplace at dusk - COURTESY OF PARK BURLINGTON
  • Courtesy of Park Burlington
  • Church Street Marketplace at dusk
Downtown Burlington — great stores, top-notch restaurants, impossible parking, amirite? Not quite. When it comes to parking a car downtown, you just need to know where to look.

“There are around 4,000 publicly accessible spaces for shoppers downtown — over 1,000 on-street and 3,000 in public and private garages and lots,” explains Alex Bunten, special projects manager at the Burlington Business Association. Bunten is the BBA’s parking expert. He works directly with the Department of Public Works to help manage all things Park Burlington, including the popular interactive map. That includes clickable descriptions of price, location and photos of parking in the downtown area. 

But don’t take Bunten’s word for it. We talked with some other downtown denizens who work, shop and play in Burlington. Here are seven of their tried-and-true tips for finding a place to park it, followed by their recommendations for what to see and do downtown this holiday season. 

Tip #1: College Street, College Street, College Street!

Entrance to College Street Garage - COURTESY IMAGE
  • Courtesy image
  • Entrance to College Street Garage
The College Street Garage — with entrances on Battery Street and, you guessed it, College — is an underrated gem. It shares 1,200 spaces with with its northern neighbor, Lakeview Garage, the entrance of which is next to Hotel Vermont on Cherry Street. Kiss the Cook owner Luke Wight recommends that people park there to access businesses like his on Church Street. “What people don’t realize is, the entrance by car makes it feel farther than it is,” he says. “But you’re just a block and a half away from Church Street, and there’s always lots of parking.” Plus, the first four hours of parking at College and Lakeview are free during the holiday season.

Tip #2: Get four hours free.

The first two hours of parking are always free at city-owned garages, but through December 27, parking is free all day on Saturday and Sunday at the Lakeview and College Street garages! Also, on weekdays, you can get two more hours free at the College Street and Lakeview garages by shopping or dining downtown. Just remember to ask for parking validation at your favorite restaurant or retail shop. You’ll get a QR code to scan when you leave the garage. Four hours of free parking for supporting local businesses. Boom. You’re welcome.
Burlington's Lakeview and College Street garages are just a short walk to downtown shopping.
  • Burlington's Lakeview and College Street garages are just a short walk to downtown shopping.

Tip #3: Get a little closer by paying a little more.

There are 16 privately owned parking facilities downtown with plenty of spaces (see map). For up to $4 an hour, you can park right off of Church Street. That’s still half the price you’d pay in a bigger city. “These lots are all over, and there’s always plenty of spots left,” says Bunten.

Tip #4: Gotta stay overnight? Park in the Lakeview Garage.

The Cherry Street entrance to Lakeview Garage - COURTESY IMAGE
  • Courtesy image
  • The Cherry Street entrance to Lakeview Garage
If you’re planning to have a couple of drinks and catch a ride home, Lakeview is the perfect spot to leave your car for the night. Find the entrance by Hotel Vermont and the recently reopened Hen of the Wood. And Lakeview isn’t just a name: “As you’d expect, the top level of this garage has a beautiful view of Lake Champlain,” adds Bunten, making it “more than just a sweet place to park.”

Tip #5: Avoid the Marketplace Garage across from City Market, Onion River Co-op.

It’s a busy area to begin with, and almost everyone heading to Church Street tries to park in that garage, says Lara Allen, owner of ECCO, a clothing store a couple of blocks away on the corner of Church and Bank streets. “I always encourage people to not go there, since it can be frustrating to get caught on South Winooski,” she says. “I love the Lakeview Garage by Hotel Vermont, and it’s a short walk when you cut up through Bank Street. That garage always has spaces.”

Tip #6: Got an electric car? There are parking spots just for you.

Skirack on Main Street - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Skirack on Main Street
Every parking garage has designated spots for electric vehicles, and there are quite a few available spots on the street, too, says EV driver Zoe Dawson. “In the evening, I usually hit the spots by Skirack and the Flynn,” says the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation employee. Dawson has the PlugShare app downloaded on her phone; it tells her where to find all the EV parking places.

Tip #7: On a busy evening, park up the hill instead of down.

Jared Katz works in Winooski and drives downtown often. “If I’m around for more than two hours, I’ll look in the area of Perrywinkle’s for streetside parking,” he says. “For example, my wife and I frequent the Flynn, and we pretty reliably find a free place to park up the hill. It’s a short walk downtown, and when we leave we have less traffic to deal with getting out.”

Need more parking information?

OK, We’re Parked. Now What?

There are more than 200 stores and restaurants in downtown Burlington. You can pick up everything from fashionable and functional outdoor gear to artisan jewelry, a cast-iron skillet to custom menswear. Once you’re done shopping, sit down and enjoy a burger, a bowl of noodles or some baba ghanoush — or drinks at an arcade bar. You won’t find this kind of diverse, eclectic selection anywhere else in Vermont.

We asked three of our downtown parking guides to tell us what they like to do when they’re out on the town.

Luke Wight - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Luke Wight
Luke Wight, owner of Kiss the Cook
This kitchen-themed shop sells cookware, cutlery, bakeware and cooking tools. It’s home to the area’s largest selection of knives; the staff sharpen them right in the store.

  • Where I shop for myself: Outdoor Gear Exchange.
  • Where I shop for gifts: Common Deer.
  • Where I stop to eat: If it’s just me doing some last-minute shopping, I’ll pop into Ken’s Pizza and Pub for a slice and a beer. If I’m going out with my wife, we usually go to Leunig’s Bistro & Café for a nice sit-down dinner.
  • Why I shop downtown: I shop downtown for the variety of stores: outdoor apparel, all sorts of clothing, housewares, gift shops, candy stores, a bunch of restaurants. Such a high percentage of the businesses are locally owned and operated, so it has a real sense of community, which is what Vermont and Burlington are all about. Having a mix of local businesses and national brands gives people a lot of options. It’s our neighbors and community members that make it really unique.
Frog Hollow Vermont Craft Gallery, American Flatbread — Burlington Hearth and Outdoor Gear Exchange - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Frog Hollow Vermont Craft Gallery, American Flatbread — Burlington Hearth and Outdoor Gear Exchange
Zoe Dawson, senior consultant at VEIC
Located on Pine Street in Burlington’s South End, VEIC is working to reduce 20 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont by the year 2027 through projects and partnerships, such as Efficiency Vermont and the Energy Co-op of Vermont.

  • How often I go downtown: Pretty much every day. I live in Hinesburg, but I work in Burlington.
  • Where I shop for myself: I’m a super outdoorsy person, so I love L.L.Bean, Skirack and Outdoor Gear Exchange. I can usually find things for my family there, too.
  • Where I shop for gifts: I love going to Frog Hollow Vermont Craft Gallery. There are so many beautiful things to see there around the holiday season. It really showcases Vermont artistry. And it’s the perfect place to find something for somebody. Even if you don’t buy anything, it really puts you in the mood for the season.
  • Where I stop to eat: I really like August First, on the corner of South Champlain and Main streets, in the summer and fall. In the wintertime, American Flatbread has great brunch pizzas — I’d never heard of that before, but they’re really yummy.
  • Burlington’s hidden gem: The Vermont Comedy Club is phenomenal. I just discovered it myself the other day. They have comedy shows five nights a week and bring in comedians from all over. It’s somewhere fun to go at night that’s different from your typical evening plans.

Lara Allen - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Lara Allen
Lara Allen, Owner of ECCO
One of the first designer boutiques in Burlington, ECCO is located on the Church Street Marketplace. It caters to the style of Burlington, blending exclusive labels with small-town charm.

  • Where I shop for myself: Lately I’m into home goods. I love to go to Slate and Homeport.
  • Where I shop for gifts: I have two sons, so I go to Urban Outfitters, the Gap and Patagonia. FatFace is also a really great place to shop for men’s apparel.
  • Where I stop to eat: Have you been to Revolution Kitchen? Try their maple cake; it’s gluten-free and out of this world.
  • You have to try: Poco just opened up this year over by August First. I love it. There are all these little restaurants and holes-in-the-wall right off of Church Street, so it’s great to get around and explore.

  • Courtesy image
  • Santa Parade

Getting In the Spirit

Burlington doesn’t shut down when the temperature drops — it livens up. Here’s a partial list of downtown events this holiday season, including a Shop & Sip, reindeer visits and a shop window decoration contest.

Holiday Window Contest
Which downtown store has the best holiday window display? Come downtown, check them out and cast your vote. The contest will run from November 27 through December 16. Stop by a local downtown store or visit churchstmarketplace.com for details.

Santa Parade and Lighting Ceremony
'Twas the Night Before Christmas - COURTESY IMAGE
  • Courtesy image
  • 'Twas the Night Before Christmas
On Friday, November 29, Santa makes a quick trip to the Marketplace during his busy season to kick off the annual Holiday Parade in downtown Burlington. The parade starts at noon on City Hall Block. At 5:30 p.m., the holiday season kicks off with a classic rendition of the stage production 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. The performance culminates with the illumination of 250,000 LED lights downtown, including the Top Block Christmas Tree, a cherished tradition, as well as side-street lighting — candy cane-style lighting on street lamps on College, Bank, Center and Cherry streets.

Small Business Saturday
With more than 70 percent of its stores and restaurants locally owned, downtown Burlington is proud to support Small Business Saturday on November 30. Remember, when millions shop small, the impact can be huge! Drop the kids with SunCommon and spend a peaceful afternoon visiting the vast selection of local retailers and restaurants downtown. Subsidized daycare is available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Center of Recreation & Education at the ONE Community Center, at 20 Allen Street in Burlington. Free parking at the Elmwood Lot.

Holiday Shop & Sip
On Wednesday, December 4, from 5 to 8 p.m., more than 20 local shops pair up with locally owned craft breweries, wineries, distilleries and more to let visitors shop and sip through town. Must be 21+ to participate. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased ahead of time at churchstmarketplace.com — or pick up a tasting flute that evening inside the entrance to CityPlace Burlington.

12 Days of Church Street
People who post pictures of themselves on Instagram using #12DaysofChurchStreet while holiday shopping or dining on the Church Street Marketplace from December 13 through 24 will be chosen at random to win 12 prizes.

Visits from Vermont Reindeer Farm
Come meet reindeer in real life! Real live reindeer will visit the Mall Block of the Church Street Marketplace every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This article was commissioned and paid for by Park Burlington.