Essex Junction, VT


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Essex Junction, Vermont, sits along the northern bank of the Winooski River, about eight miles east of Burlington and beautiful Lake Champlain. It is situated on Amtrak’s “Vermonter” line, which runs to Washington, D.C. But the city really caters to folks who live and travel with dogs. Both two-legged and four-legged tourists can find active adventures and a range of accommodations when visiting Essex Junction.

The first step in the ultimate pet-friendly trip to Essex Junction is a place to stay. One of the city’s signature pet-friendly hotels is The Essex, where animals are welcomed with water bowls and dog-walking and pet-sitting services. Still, The Essex is known as “Vermont’s Culinary Resort and Spa,” as it provides guests with an AAA Four-Diamond resort experience, with a strong focus on fine dining and cooking education—for the people, not the pets.

Travelers might relax at the Essex in front of fireplaces in colorful guest rooms before dining at one of the two on-site restaurants run by the New England Culinary Institute. Amuse is a sophisticated restaurant featuring a seasonal menu, while the Tavern presents dishes made with local produce, meats and cheeses in a casual pub setting.

Fledgling chefs staying at The Essex can leave pets with the sitter and take a cooking class, stirring and mixing with the masters using ingredients produced in Vermont. After creating a culinary masterpiece, rejuvenate at the resort’s full-service spa with a deep-tissue, Shiatsu, Swedish or warm-stone massage.

Families visiting Essex Junction with kids and dogs can explore 38-acre Maple Street Park, near the center of town. The park features nature trails for frolicking with Fido, two swimming pools with water slides, and basketball and tennis courts. Maple Street Park also pleases kids with a playground and a skate park complete with banked turns, pump tracks and dirt jump lines.

Active families visiting Essex Junction should pack the mountain bikes and a leash, and make the short journey west to Burlington to cycle on the city’s waterfront bike path. The paved trail runs for 7.5 miles along Lake Champlain and connects six of the town’s waterfront parks.

After some outdoor fun, shoppers and their pets make their way to Burlington’s historic Church Street Marketplace. The open-air mall features leading name brands like Banana Republic and Eddie Bauer and also hosts festivals and events throughout the year. Dogs are welcome in any of the stores that have a picture of a dog or a bone on the door.

Seventeen miles to the east lies Underhill State Park, the site of more pet-friendly activity near Essex Junction for families that like to camp. Day use areas are not accessible to pets, but hikers with dogs can pitch their tents at the lower camp area and trek the 3-mile Sunset Ridge Trail to the summit of Mt. Mansfield, the state’s tallest peak. After a climb to take a last look at the surrounding forestland, you can return to base camp and bunk with Bowser.