A few days at the Essex Resort and Spa is a fantastic way to relax—and perfect for a partner of a ski fanatic who would rather “spa” and shop than hit the slopes! Essex Resort has 18 acres nestled at the base of Mt. Mansfield’s western foothills and is only 20 minutes from Burlington, Vermont’s largest city. Essex Factory Outlets (20-plus shops including Coach, Brooks Brothers, Orvis, and Ralph Lauren) are walking distance from the resort, though a bellman will also shuttle you upon request.
Stowe Mountain Resort and Sugarbush Resort are within an hour, and Bolton and Smuggler’s Notch are even closer.
The 120-room resort is always family- and pet-friendly and one of their three hotel buildings is pet-free. A visit with Baci, my well-traveled Chocolate Labrador, during their Top Dog Weekend, provided fun for all of us.
Learning culinary secrets
As one of the few culinary resorts in America, Essex Resort offers cooking classes daily. For our special Top Dog Weekend, we learned the art of making dog biscuits and homemade dog food. Chef Christine, a native Vermonter, taught us the skills with her fun and witty style.
After seeing how easy, economical, and healthy it is, I vowed to start making Baci her own food. The recipe was a base of ground beef, lentils, vegetables, and cottage cheese added after cooking. She loved it! The three different dog biscuits were pumpkin and apples, peanut butter and oats, and old-fashioned.
Room service, for us and our furry companion
Our first night, we had room service and even Baci had a three-choice entrée menu! Her salmon over tomato rice looked delicious, and she ate it by the gas-lit fireplace. We had the Tavern’s burgers and fish and chips by the fire.
The Essex Resort staff, including the reception people, the cleaning staff, the waiters, and the spa girls, couldn’t have been nicer or more down-to-earth. I was particularly impressed with a young man stationed behind the reception desk in the lobby who was kind to Baci. He made dogs and their owners feel most welcome!
A humungous indoor heated lap pool, an outdoor Jacuzzi, steam rooms, and saunas can be found in the newly renovated European-style spa. While you’re there, you must experience one of their treatments. I had a deep-tissue massage with Rich, who has a background in Physical Therapy and Sports Massage. Rich was the perfect choice for me after I’d sustained injuries from a fall; he knew exactly what to do and what not to do. I highly recommend him.
Not just for Baci
On Saturday night, “The Puppy Party” was a blast, with special waters and homemade biscuits for the dogs and cocktails and Tavern desserts for the owners. Baci really had a good time and, being seven, behaved well.
Nearby Mills Riverside Park is an awesome place to walk with spectacular views of Mount Mansfield and a great place to let the dog off the leash. Our group met there (by car) and enjoyed watching the different breeds of dogs interact. I wish such a fantastic dog park existed in my area.
Eating at Essex Resort
There are two restaurants at the resort where we had all of our meals during our weekend stay. The Tavern (link above) serves Vermont-sourced pub fare, local draft beers and Vermont spirits in a relaxing and casual atmosphere. Breakfasts are also served here.
Junction is the upscale restaurant where the open kitchen offers patrons a look at the chef’s wizardry in motion. My husband Cam had the Wagyu Beef Bourguignon with truffled couscous and I had the Lobster Ravioli with leeks, French horn mushrooms and roasted garlic. Be sure to look up at their artistically decorated ceilings—done with kitchen utensils.
Sitting outside, bundled up next to one of the two outdoor fires, reminiscing about the fun day and delicious meals at Junction with my husband and dog at my side—what could be better?
According to Baci:
“I LOVE the Essex Resort and Spa. I was allowed to stay alone in my room with the fireplace on, and have “room service” with my Mom and Dad. “I” was actually invited to a party where there were other dogs, and homemade dog biscuits. Human companions were admitted. The yard is also dog friendly and smelled delicious (nice gardens and friendly pigs!). I even had my own dog massage with a specialist from nearby Warren (Lora from Kneading Companions). It wasn’t even my birthday!!”