When it comes to North Shore towns that beckon residents for a staycation, some jump straight to mind, like Salem, Newburyport, and Gloucester. But one that flies under the radar is Burlington, and that’s a shame because its destinations are fun and often overlooked, making it a bit of a hidden gem for a local getaway.
Many people know Burlington for the amenities that hug route 128, like the Burlington Mall and Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, and for good reason. It’s an in-demand spot for education and the life sciences, with Northeastern University’s Innovation Campus and biotech companies like MilliporeSigma calling Burlington home. It’s also a popular spot for out-of-town and business travelers who appreciate its proximity to Boston, Woburn, and tourist spots like Lexington and Concord. In fact, there are more than 1,000 guestrooms among its hotels in the core commercial area, says Melisa Tintocalis, economic development director for the town of Burlington.
Yet looking more closely at Burlington reveals it as a destination all its own, with fun locales that add up to a rejuvenating and relaxing weekend.
“It’s a unique hub,” Tintocalis says. “It has some of the amenities that other communities don’t have.”
Start your staycation by checking in at the Archer Hotel, a boutique hotel with 147 guest rooms and suites, located in the live/shop/play district called 3rd Ave. In addition to industrial-chic-style rooms, the AAA four-diamond hotel features a lively bar with craft cocktails and an outdoor patio, billiards, and firepit, plus house-made breakfast (think buttermilk pancakes, avocado toast, or huevos bowl) and dinner (try the small bites or heartier fare like a lobster roll or fish and chips). Also look for the seasonal “Love, Archer” special during January and February, which includes a discounted stay, drink and dine credit, and other goodies. It all adds up to a “buzzy,” “elevated” experience, says general manager Albert Kowalczykowski.
Burlington isn’t short on places to dine. In fact, it’s packed with great restaurants, from Tuscan Kitchen to Common Craft, and among the very best are Cafe Escadrille and The Bancroft, which Amy Severino of Webber Restaurant Group’s marketing team calls “a steakhouse, but not your average steakhouse.”
There are, indeed, delicious steaks on the menu, but there’s so much more, too, including entrée items of fully composed dishes like the Giannone Farm brick chicken with truffled Roman gnocchi and Swiss chard, or the miso-glazed Atlantic Cod with Okinawan yams, long beans, and crispy ginger. But there’s more than just food to recommend The Bancroft. You’ll also find comfortable dining and lounge areas, a fireplace, private little nooks, and a hopping bar—and even incredible art.
Be ready for a delicious fine-dining experience at Cafe Escadrille. With impressive menu classics like Oysters Rockefeller, Clams Casino, Lamb Lollipops, Chateaubriand, and Roast Duckling a l’Orange, you are sure to impress your Valentine.
There are so many things to keep you having fun in Burlington, whether it’s a night out with drinks and bowling at Kings Dining & Entertainment, hiking the rustic trails in the 216-acre Mary Cummings Park, or shopping at Burlington Mall or 3rd Ave.
But one off-the-beaten-path, hidden-gem option is to see a play by the Burlington Players, which produces live theater in the intimate Park Playhouse, the site of a former army barracks that recently underwent an interior renovation.
“The Burlington Players is a great escape,” says Robert Hallisey, the group’s president. “Some of the audience members will be just a couple of feet from where the actors are performing…people who go there can’t help but get engrossed in the piece.”
This spring, look for productions of Talking to Strangers by local playwright Christopher Lockheardt and Batboy: The Musical. The theater company is also planning two additional shows in the fall 2023, so keep your eyes on the schedule.
To treat your body right while in town, head to Life Time Burlington, a luxury athletic resort that offers not only fitness classes, equipment, and facilities, but also everything else you need to pamper yourself from head to foot.
Whether you’re a member or simply want to visit using a day pass, visitors can take advantage of everything the facility has to offer, including its two huge indoor pools for lap swimming and family swim; lounge areas; a full-service café; a day spa with massage, hair, skin, and nail services; a “kids academy” day care program; workout classes; fitness equipment; pickleball courts; sauna, hot tub, and steam room; and so much more. There’s also an outdoor pool and resort available in the summer months.
Although there’s always something new to try at Life Time, the hospitality and friendliness of the staff are constants.
“The one thing that never changes is the energy,” says Chris Weiner, senior general manager for the Burlington Life Time. “We consider energy the sixth sense.”
However you spend your time in Burlington, it’s a town worth giving a second look. Those who do will be rewarded by finding “hidden gems that are not as obvious if you’re kind of just breezing through on the highway,” says Tintocalis.
For more ways to enjoy your time in this unexpected town, check out our list of 20 Ways to Eat, Drink, and Play in Burlington.