The Winooski restaurant scene on a Friday afternoon in spring

Winooski stands out from most Vermont towns.

While many Vermont towns are losing population and stagnating, Winooski is growing and thriving.

Located within one-square mile, Winooski sometimes feels like a small town, and yet, we are the densest city in the state of Vermont offering a more dynamic lifestyle for residents than just about anywhere else in the state.

It is the best of both worlds; Winooski is a place where you can know your neighbors but have easy access to the world right at your fingertips.

I was thrilled when I decided to move to Winooski three years ago after falling for the city’s charms, and over time I’ve come to love it even more.

The real estate market is finally catching up with something Winooski residents have known for a long time; Winooski is the place to be.

The Best Food

Winooski has developed a reputation as a foodie city.

We have so many options when it comes to food and the diversity of cuisines offered makes it one of the richest culinary scenes in the state.

Our House Bistro, located in Winooski Circle, offers some of the best macaroni and cheese variations around. The menu includes 26 varieties of mac & cheese including Peanut Butter & Jelly Mac (spicy Thai peanut sauce, grapes, peanuts, scallions, cheddar cheese & topped with jalapeno jam), Nutty New England Mac (candied pecans, cheddar cheese, apple, caramelized onions & drizzled with maple syrup), and Jambalaya Mac (andouille sausage, shrimp, chicken, tomatoes, peppers & onions in a Cajun cheese sauce).

Waterworks Food + Drink, serving “inventive” American fare, is one of the prettiest spots for dinner in Chittenden County.

Housed within the renovated mill, the interior features high ceilings, exposed brick, and huge windows that overlook the stunning Winooski Falls. In the summer, the outdoor patio is perfect for an outdoor meal.

The patio at Waterworks Food + Drink

If you are looking for Nepali food, Friend’s Nepali on Main Street is one of the best local options. The menu has a ton of variety and offers affordable ($5-$11/entree) yet delicious offerings for sit-down service or takeout.

Right across the street is one of the newest additions to the Winooski food scene, Dale Boca Cafe, serving Argentinean food. The empanadas, which come in eight varieties (including four vegetarian options) are spectacular.

Other standout food offerings in Winooski include Mandarin (great Chinese food with good drink menu in a fun atmosphere), Tiny Thai (one of the top-rated Thai restaurants in the area), and Sneakers Bistro (which draws huge crowds on weekends due to the huge and delicious breakfast/brunch menu).

New food options are opening up all the time. Several weeks ago, El Cortijo Taqueria opened a new location right in Winooski Circle offering tacos, burritos, margaritas and tequila, and more.

Other than right off of Church Street, Winooski has more food and a more diverse range of food options than anywhere else in the state.

Close to Everything

If you are not someone that likes commuting, there are few places that are well-located as Winooski.

Located right off of I-89 and with a direct route to downtown Burlington, virtually everywhere feels close.

In 10-15 minutes, you can be in downtown Burlington, Williston shops, the mall in South Burlington, Five Corners in Essex, the beach, or the airport and train station to head out of state.

Very few parts of Vermont (including even many parts of Burlington) can offer such easy access to so many places, especially while offering so much to do within short walking or biking distance as well.

Culture

Winooski is both the densest and most diverse city in the state of Vermont.

New Americans are continuing to settle in Winooski and today over 20 languages are spoke at the Winooski schools with major languages including English, Nepali, Somali, Arabic, Swahili, French, and Burmese.

Winooski is such an interesting place to live. There are many opportunities to interact with people from all over the world, and if you visit one of the many local grocery stores such as A&A Asian Market, Sagarmatha Grocery Store, Nada International Market, and Spicy Land, you can feel as if you stepped into a totally different country offering food and other products you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

Living in Winooski, I have started to add lots of new ingredients to my cooking and discovered a whole world I knew nothing about.

I’ve had many great conversations with people who’ve lived all over the world, and have benefited from many stories, music, exposure to a variety of cultural customs and traditions.

Accessibility

As a 1-square-mile town, it is easy to get around Winooski by bike or by foot.

The vast majority of streets have sidewalks, and the recently adopted Municipal Plan (which I had the privilege to help write as a member of the Winooski Planning Commission) makes getting sidewalks on every street a goal.

Grab a bike on Winooski Falls Way and be in downtown Burlington in 15 minutes

No matter where you live in Winooski, you aren’t far from food and recreation.

Affordability

Winooski remains one of the most affordable places to live in the core of Chittenden County.

Many people moved here originally because the housing was less expensive but ended up staying once they realized how great it was to live here.

Now that other people are starting to recognize the benefits of Winooski living, prices have risen rapidly and bidding wars on low- to mid-range price houses throughout the city have become the norm.

Over the past year, the median days on market in Winooski has been just five days for single family homes with the the median sales price 103% of list price.

Still, our median home price remains substantially below the median in neighboring towns.

The median sales price for a single family home over the past year in Chittenden County has been $349,900. In Winooski, it is $287,000.

Recreation and Natural Beauty

Winooski may not offer the kind of natural beauty Vermont is known for like rolling hills and grazing cows.

However, Winooski actually has a surprising amount of green space and beautiful natural areas.

Our most standout feature, of course, is the Winooski Falls. The stunning falls provide a dramatic greeting to the city as you drive across the bridge from Burlington.

The Winooski Riverwalk

Take your time to get out and walk, though, and you will likely be mesmerized by the power and majesty of the falls.

The city embarked on a major project about a decade ago to build a river walk along the falls, and today it serves as a recreational trail for residents and visitors.

Lined with tables and benches, it is a place where families picnic, people meditate and do yoga, and meet up with friends. It is a central gathering spot in our community.

Follow the path down far enough to the east, and you will begin to walk on wooded trails that open up to a clearing, Casavant Park.

This hidden gem makes you feel like you’ve stumbled upon a piece of rural Vermont tucked away in the city. Often people are playing frisbee or are out with their dogs in this space, and most recently, the city has begun to use this space to host events such as last summer’s city-wide Urban Campout.

Casavant Natural Area

On the north-east side of the city, Gilbrook Natural Area, offers another opportunity for recreation.

Completely wooded, Gilbrook offers a network of trails that are great for long walks and runs.

For some reason, Gilbrook has remained a bit of a secret, even to Winooski residents, and it is often easy to find some seclusion right in the middle of the city.

Landry Park is the go-to spot for families with kids offering a great playground, sledding hill, and sports fields. Across the street is the old Myers Memorial Pool which the city has plans to rebuild over the next couple of years into one of the best outdoor pool facilities in the county.

Other Winooski parks and natural areas include the wooded Memorial Park, Rotary Park (in the center of Winooski Circle, where the city hosts concerts throughout the summer), Falls Terrace Park, Richards Park, and West Allen Park.

No matter where you live in Winooski, you always have easy access to nature.

Music

In addition to being known for offering a wide range of top notch food options, Winooski has been gaining a growing reputation for music.

The core of that reputation has been the annual music festival hosted in Winooski, Waking Windows. Held in early May each year, the 3-day festival draws huge crowds, usually about 6,000 people, and features approximately 175 performances spread out across different venues in the city.

People come from all over the state and the region to attend the festival, which brings in a diverse range of acts from across the country, including a couple of big headliners.

During summer, the city puts on concerts at Rotary Park

During the rest of the year, Winooski continues to offer opportunities to listen to great music. The Monkey House, located in the heart of Winooski Circle, offers a variety of entertainment – music, comedy, and other events -almost every night.

Innovation

In 1979, several city planners in Winooski were upset about the cold Vermont winters and high heating bills, and they came up with a pretty outlandish idea; they proposed enclosing the city in a 250 ft high glass dome.

Despite how crazy this sounds, the idea actually went pretty far. The city council was on board, and the city pursued federal funding.

An International Dome Symposium was held and politicians in Washington weighed in with their opinions about the project.

Unfortunately, the funding required to make it happen never came together after over a year of trying.

Despite the failure, I recount this story as way to explain the culture of Winooski, even today. Winooski is a place that doesn’t shy away from innovation.

In this way, it stands out from the rest of Vermont that tends to prefer the status quo and preserving the past.

If you look at what Winooski was fifteen years ago versus what it is today, you will see a city that has transformed tremendously.

Our entire downtown core has been reconfigured from a problematic intersection to a lively roundabout surrounded by trendy restaurants and a lovely riverwalk.

A hidden oasis along the Riverwalk

The diversity of our population, the variety of food offerings now available, and the built environment has completely transformed, and it is still transforming.

Several years ago, Winooski changed its zoning regulations, creating three “Gateway Districts” that would allow for more flexibility in development in a couple of major corridors throughout the city.

We are now seeing new projects being built in some of these areas, including along East Allen Street and up Main Street.

Over the next couple of years, the Main Street Revitalization Project will likely have a major impact on the section of the Main Street between the railroad tracks and the Colchester border.

The sidewalks will be greatly expanded on both sides, green space will be installed with trees, flowers, and lighting lining the street, electric lines will be put underground, and a protected bike lane will be installed on one side of the road.

These improvements should add charm to the street and provide opportunities for restaurants and cafes to offer outdoor seating and more inviting storefronts.

Winooski is not afraid of the future, and combined with all the other reasons listed above, it is one of the reasons Winooski is one of the only places in Vermont that is growing and thriving.

Winooski is a great place to live, work, and just be.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pallas Ziporyn is a Realtor based in Burlington, VT. She is the founder and head writer for The Vermont Real Estate Blog, and she works with both buyers and sellers in Chittenden County and surrounding areas.

In addition to her real estate pursuits, Pallas enjoys serving on the Winooski Planning Commission, skiing, writing, and spending time with her husband Chris and their two small children, Leander and Hugo.