My wife Brenda and I love to travel, but in the eight-and-a-half years since our English Springer Spaniel bounded into our lives, we have never taken him to a dog-friendly hotel. Brewski either sprawls across the back seat of our car on our trips to visit with family and friends who love him as much as we do, or he stays home in the care of a trusted overnight house sitter. That all changed this past November when the good people at The Essex Resort and Spa in Burington, VT, invited us to “Top Dog Weekend” to experience all the dog-friendly amenities they proudly offer at their culinary resort and spa.
The first luxury The Essex Resort and Spa lavished us with was the freedom to get away for the weekend without worrying about who would watch Brewski. Over the last few years, our two best dog-sitters have been claimed by the University of New Hampshire and a postgraduate career opportunity in Connecticut. As we packed our bags and loaded the car, Brenda and I both enjoyed not having to implore Brewski to “be a good boy while we’re gone.”
The three-story Essex Resort and Spa sits at the end of a grand driveway that ends in a U-shaped parking lot. The parking lot is flanked by two other structures separate from the main hotel with rooms for people who prefer to travel without their dogs, let alone other people’s pets. The front entrance was festively decorated for the fall season with pumpkins, mums, hay bales and corn stalks. Once in the lobby, we were greeted by a large poster welcoming us and the other invited guests. Everyone from the bellman and the housekeeping team to the front desk staff and the management was genuinely excited to see Brewski because “they’d been expecting him.”
While it’s common to see leashed dogs in the lobby, in the halls and on the grounds, the Vermont Essex Hotel staff does a great job of making sure their furry guests don’t disrupt the experiences of other paying customers. Our room on the third floor was in a designated dog-friendly section located far enough away from “human-only” rooms so that any woofs or whines that happened in the dog-friendly section stayed in the dog-friendly section.
As a culinary resort and spa, creative food options are the signature feature of The Essex Resort and Spa. This is especially true of the canine room service menu, where we faced the first-world dilemma of choosing Vermont Turkey Meatloaf or Salmon Cakes with Tomato Rice for Brewski’s evening meal. Out of respect for Brewski’s digestive system (and our respiratory comfort) we opted for the meatloaf which arrived with a beautiful garnish of carrots and apples. During the approximate thirty seconds it took Brewski to consume his dinner, I realized we forgot to take a photo of this decadent dish. I’m grateful to marketing manager Susan Klein for providing the photo below.
The next day was packed with organized activities for all of us. In the morning, Brenda attended a dog food cooking class where she learned to make a grain-free dinner Brewski devoured that night as well as pumpkin and peanut butter treats. While Brenda expanded her skills in the kitchen, Brewski and I toured the hotel grounds, where we got to know a few locals and took in the late fall scenery from the picturesque gazebo on the front lawn.
Later that afternoon, Brewski and I joined a caravan of other dogs and their parents on an excursion led by Essex tour guide Greg Doremus to nearby Mills Riverside Park. This beautiful 216-acre park includes a network of dog-friendly walking trails perfect for off-leash romping with new friends.
As the tried and true saying goes, “a tired dog is a happy dog.”
While Brewski recovered from his action-packed afternoon at the park, Brenda and I made our way downstairs to dinner at Junction. With an open kitchen and a quirky display of pots and plates hanging from the ceiling, this recently renovated restaurant is designed to delight the hearts, minds and of course, palettes of foodies. Our hosts at The Essex Resort and Spa are justifiably proud of Junction and its ever-changing menu, set by the chefs’ latest inspirations and the season’s freshest ingredients.
Our final day at The Essex Resort and Spa was all about pampering. Brenda was treated to a relaxing foot massage at the spa while Brewski and his new friends received a complimentary nail clipping. When Brenda’s spa session was over, she joined us for a session with a dog (and people) massage therapist where we learned the basics of how to relax our excitable dog.
It’s worth reinforcing the fact that Brenda, Brewski and I were invited guests of the Essex Hotel for this extremely enjoyable weekend. The complimentary services and dining experiences we enjoyed are available on an a la carte basis and reservations are strongly recommended. While I fully recognize over the top amenities like canine massages and salmon dinners fly in the face of traditional yankee values, I also know that no one loves their dogs like New Englanders. It’s the reason why rescue dogs from all over the country are transported to shelters in Maine and New Hampshire and websites like Dog Friendly New England provide canine-crazy people with a steady stream of dog-friendly events and travel options. If you and your pooch could use a dog-friendly weekend getaway with plenty of outdoor activities and optional indulgences, The Essex Resort and Spa in Burlington, VT is a dog-friendly hotel that makes everyone happy.