The biggest surprise of Burlington was the restaurants. You have to do some searching to get to the good stuff, but once you get past the fast food and typical chain restaurants there are some really good places to eat. My three favorite restaurants were the Bistro, Mister Motos Cafe, and Shokai. The Bistro was a small little french restaurant with amazing food. Mr Motos only serves pizza, but it was the best damn pizza I have ever had, and they have a great beer selection. The biggest surprise for me was Shokai, which is a sushi restaurant, they have some of the best sushi I have had. Shokai was nicknamed by my crew as the "Hidden Gem" of Burlington because it is located in a rundown strip mall on the edge of town, and they have no sign out front. If someone had not told us about Shokai we would have never found it.
Another surprise of Burlington is that it is home to the World's Crookedest Alley, Snake Alley. I could spew out some facts about Snake Alley, but it would be easier just for you to look it up on Wikipedia!
My personal favorite surprise was the discovery that Burlington is the birthplace of Aldo Leopold. I learned allot about Aldo in college and read his most famous book "A Sand County Almanac" Aldo is a naturalist, philosopher, and author. I found this plaque in his honor at the end of a dead end street overlooking the Mississippi River.
If you ever find yourself heading to Burlington, Iowa let me know and I can give you all the recommendations you need.