Gift Shopping in Burlington With an Eye for Vintage

vermont-holidayshopping1-1-0f605b33c97d3 One of the best gifts I’ve ever received was a floral fascinator from a vintage shop in Ottawa, a pile of dried flowers atop a headband that made me feel like a fairy. It was an absurd thing for a 13-year-old to own, and I had neither the occasion nor the confidence to wear it. But my grandma’s best friend bought it for me anyway, because it was beautiful and she thought this was reason enough for me to have it. This is what comes to mind when I ponder my own gift-giving philosophy. The best presents are either a slightly fancy version of something practical or delightfully frivolous. Either way, gifts must be something the recipients wouldn’t think to buy for themselves — something that makes them feel seen and a little bit spoiled. Thus, I implore you this holiday season: Consider vintage shops, where you can find unique, even heirloom gifts. Buying secondhand is not only more environmentally friendly, it makes for a more whimsical experience. I took a day out on the town in Burlington to craft a shopping itinerary so you can appreciate all of the quirk Vermont’s biggest city has to offer. The downtown district and its surrounding streets are an ideal place for checking everyone off your list. My outing was in mid-November, so the status of in-person shopping could change in the lead-up to the holidays, or you may prefer some alternatives. In that case, many local stores offer online shopping, browsing by appointment or curbside pickup. Stay flexible and, of course, wear a mask, as all the shopkeepers and customers did while I was reporting. First: coffee. Muddy Waters, one of Burlington’s coolest watering holes, has reopened its coffee counter and cozy dining area — with some new guests. Massive, neon, bug-eyed beasts occupy chairs and corners and hang from the ceiling, encouraging customers to sit apart from one another. They’re called «Distance Beasts» and were created by Brooklyn/Burlington artist Abby Manock. The beasts, covered in a chaotic rainbow of fabric and fur, are difficult to describe and absolutely worth seeing. I gawked at them while waiting for my mocha, then took the drink around the corner to the newly reopened City Hall Park. After more than a year of hotly contested renovations, the park just west of Church Street is now a wide, open space dotted with trees, benches…
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