Essex Culinary Resort and Spa
They say location is everything. This is especially true when you choosing a hotel for a family stay in Vermont. You’d like to be centrally located. Not too far from the airport and not too far from Burlington. Perhaps you want to be just a short drive to major ski resorts like Stowe, Sugarbush and Smuggler’s Notch too. Do we have a hotel that fits the bill? We do and it’s called The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort and Spa. This hotel has a lot more than just location to offer its guests.
With the word “culinary” in the hotel’s name it should go without saying that there is a cooking academy on property. There is a Chef’s Kitchen for smaller classes and the 2,000 square foot J.K. Adams kitchen that can accommodate up to 18 people. During my family’s stay we took the Soufflés and Baked Custards class with our 8 year old who has a sweet tooth similar to Nigella Lawson. In just two hours we were mastering sumptuous desserts such as Crème Brulee and Chocolate Expresso Pot de Crème.
You don’t just have to come to cook. On-site there are a myriad of activities to occupy even the most restless toddler or the most active teen. There are two pools, one indoor, one out, so no matter the season or weather, swimming is always available. I loved that the indoor pool had a smaller inlet that was only 2’ deep so that younger kids could feel comfortable in the water. Families can rent bikes and helmets and take a ride to the near by Indian Brook Park. I did notice only one child’s bike (appropriate for ages 5-8) and one youth bike (appropriate for ages 9-12) in their fleet and no infant seats. If biking is a must, you might call ahead to make sure they can accommodate your family.
From May to September the 6 har-tru (clay) courts are open. Too bad our snooze-heads couldn’t manage to get up for the regular 8:00 am Jr. Tennis Clinics (ages 4-10). Golf is available across the street at the Links at Lang Farm. Kids ages 5-12 who need some instruction can participate in the Jr. Clinics on Saturdays from May-August. Hoping to hook the big one? Then check out the fully stocked casting pond on the front lawn. Green Mountain Troutfitters will come and give the family a lesson on fly fishing or for those more experienced, an off-site Orvis endorsed guided fly fishing trip can be arranged.
Ultimate adventure seekers can book a hot air balloon ride or pop over next door to Northern Lights Rock and Ice which has year round fun that the whole family can enjoy. It boasts high and low ropes courses, a climbing wall, ice wall, twin zip lines and the biggest Rainbow Playground I have ever seen. There is also a less intimidating playground across the street at Myers Park that is just perfect for little kids.
In the winter families can enjoy snowshoeing or cross country skiing on or off property. And of course you are within an hour’s drive of some of the best skiing in the northeast. On the front lawn we played a quick round of gigantic lawn checkers. In between meals, our kids checked out the small game room with table hockey and arcade video games. The library is stocked with board games families can take back to their rooms.
After a day of fun and games you’ll have most likely worked up an appetite. During the weekend we were there, we ate at both Butler’s Restaurant and in the Tavern. To make family dinning completely enjoyable, you are able to get the same menu in either place. Meaning you if you are looking for a quiet dinner with white table cloth service, choose the dinning room. Have a meal in the Tavern if you’re a family who might need the cover of a louder space but still desire the porcini dusted filet mignon. The atmosphere is that of a cozy taproom plus a patio for outdoor dinning. In either place they were happy to accommodate all of our needs. From our one child’s tree nut allergy, to our other child’s request for nachos with everything (and I mean everything) on the side, to both children’s desire to taste almost every decadent French and Italian soda possible. Weather permitting on Saturday nights, I’d recommend heading to the bonfire pit on the back lawn for dessert – s’mores!
Accommodation choices are plentiful. The Resort is made up of 4 buildings; the Mansion, the Manor, the Main Inn and the Spa. The Mansion has 30 traditional style rooms, all with two beds (queens or doubles). An underground tunnel connects this building to the Main Inn. We stayed here in a Fireplace mini suite. The room was quite spacious. It had two queen beds with a sitting area that had two chairs, a pullout sofa and a gas fireplace. Although the room was very large, the bathroom felt very small for our family of four.
Over in the Manor Building, I did find the bathrooms to be much larger. These suites are ideally set up for families. Book a one or two bedroom suite with a full kitchen, living room, dinning area and fireplace. For a fee the resort will stock your fridge prior to arrival or you can find a supermarket right across the street in the Essex Shoppes. As an added bonus on the first floor of this building there is a coin operated laundry facility, a nice alternative to paying resort dry cleaning fees. And if your pet must travel with you, Rover is welcome for an extra $25/night.
Not that I am an huge advocate of television on vacation, but I must say that our kids were a little disappointed to find the only kid friendly channels available to them were PBS (our kids are 8 and 11) and Cartoon Network (which wasn’t working during our visit). If you are looking for Disney you will find that as a “kids only” offering in the paid on-demand section. Pricing: pay $2.99 per show or $9.99 for all unlimited Hannah Montana, Suite Life on Deck and the likes.
In summary, if you want it all and Vermont is your family’s next vacation destination take a look at The Essex. It is reasonably priced (from $169/night), has just about something for everyone on property, and the setting is ideal. You and your family will find yourselves close to shopping, skiing, downtown Burlington, many Vermont attractions and even a trip Montreal.
Disclosure: While I was invited to Essex Resort & Spa and they paid for some of my expenses, my review reflects the honest opinions of my experience without outside influence.
Photo Credits:Essex Resort & Spa & Dana Freeman