words // Chea Waters Evans
photo // Craig Thomas
It’s April, the sap is flowing, and it’s time to celebrate all things maple. It’s summer, and the day is perfect for boating and swimming in the refreshing waters of Lake Champlain. It’s fall, and the crisp air and brilliant foliage call for a coffee in hand and a walk through a small town green, lined with maple trees. It’s any time of year in Vermont, really, and a visit to St. Albans is in order.
This hidden-gem small town, resting on the northern shores of Lake Champlain, has everything visitors and residents could want, but without the crowds and hype of other tourism destinations across the state. Just north of Burlington and about fifteen miles from the Canadian border, it provides respite from city life and hectic ski towns, while still allowing access to all that northern Vermont has to offer. With a vibrant, historic downtown, scenic lakeshores, and a tight sense of community, it’s a delight for those who wander off the beaten path and onto its quiet streets.
Downtown, quaint brick buildings house cute shops, a movie theater, and restaurants offering everything from takeout at Mimmo’s Pizzeria to Twiggs, a true English gastropub. The recently revitalized center of town is peppered with gift shops, a florist, a jewelry store, yarn shop, and The Eloquent Page, a used and antique bookstore that offers hours of browsing. Coffee and bakery items—perfect to grab before a leisurely walk around town—are available from two different locations on Main Street.
Adjacent to a lush, rolling public green with a gazebo and plenty of room to run and play, Main Street is also the scene of many community gatherings, including the annual July 4 parade as well as the famous Maple Festival, which happens every April. For a town that is known as the “Maple Syrup Capital of the World,” this festival is a true heaven for maple-lovers of all ages. As the hub of the town, St. Albans’ downtown is conveniently located not far from the interstate, allowing easy access for visitors traveling by car.
For those who are looking to take advantage of the water, the Lake Champlain shores of St. Albans Bay are a treat for the whole family, with opportunities for swimming, fishing, and boating. Kamp Kill Kare State Park, the former site of a boys’ summer camp, is now a swimming beach and picnic pavilion as well as a ferry access point for the popular Burton Island State Park. In the late 1800s, before it was a camp, Kamp Kill Kare was the site of a popular hotel. The original building was restored in 2010 to bring back the structure’s colonial-style beauty, and is now home to The Rocky Point House, a museum dedicated to preserving the history of the area. Nearby St. Albans Bay Park offers lake access for swimming and boating, beach volleyball, and a historic stone bathhouse that is currently used for company gatherings, family reunions, and even weddings.
Vermont towns have character—personalities, quirks, and a way of life that supports its residents and welcomes anyone who may pass through. In this way, St. Albans is a must-visit for travelers who want to enjoy a real small-town Vermont experience.