Family Getaways In Vermont: Stowe Get Out and Go and The Essex Family Camp Cook Packages
There was a period in my childhood when we went to Vermont every summer thanks to a friend with property there. We camped on his land, visited a completely off the grid artists commune, and performed with the radical Bread and Puppet Theater group. But I was lucky enough this summer to get a taste of the other side of Vermont. My luck started with an offer from Toyota to test out their Toyota Highlander, a large feature-packed SUV that seats 7. Fitting transportation assured, we headed up to the Green Mountain State to check out two resorts that are offering exceptional family programs unique to Vermont. The first was Stowe Mountain Lodge's Destination Family Escapes, site-inspired weekend packages that immerse your family in the location. We also visited The Essex Resort and Spa that offers a farm to table kids camp that is out of this world.
Stowe Mountain Resort
Stowe Mountain Lodge by Destination Hotels and Resorts is a luxury resort at the base of Stowe ski mountain. In the winter they are obviously a popular destination for skiing, but they are offering a growing number of summer programs that make them a great warm weather destination as well. At the Stowe Mountain Kids Adventure Camp children play golf, tennis, swim, rock climb, do tie dye and crafts and explore the local hikes, streams and rivers. They also offer family packages with unique experiences specific to the destination that families can do together.
We experienced the Get Out and Go Family Package, which includes two-night accommodations, a rustic furniture-making class, a guided hike (or snowshoe adventure in winter), dinner at the casual dining resort restaurant for a family and a welcome snack of local milk and cookies. For our hike, we took an easy, level walk through the woods to visit the old logging camp where we learned how loggers led to the popularization of skiing in Stowe by using their logging trails as ski runs. Afterward our guide drove us a few minutes away where we hiked a steeper incline to visit Bingham Falls. My son isn't a big hiker, but he took the hill like a trooper, loving cooling off in the mountain stream and scrambling on the rocks there.
The second scheduled activity in our package was the rustic woodworking class. The class takes place at a the beautiful private workshop of local artisan, Greg Speer of Turner Mill Timbers. Greg taught us about his process, from the environmentally friendly method he uses to harvest saplings, to stripping the bark, and then making mortise and tenon joints with hand tools. After learning our skills, we put them to use to make a coat hook which we got to take home at the end.
This class was a highlight for us. Destination Hotels and Resorts succeeds in their goal of creating unique local experiences here. The private class in Greg's home and workshop feels as authentic as it gets and we learned local craftsmanship using local materials and tried something we would never have done otherwise. Doing the woodworking together as a family was really special and, of course, we got an amazing souvenir to take home.
The Get Out and Go Package includes one dinner at the Hourglass Lounge, which offers casual, but innovative farm-to-table fare. The menu includes gourmet burgers, salads and pastas and the food was all great. The resort also has a more upscale restaurant option, Solstice, which we didn't try, but is highly acclaimed.
Stowe Mountain Lodge is a gorgeous resort set at the base of the ski slope. Our room was large, with a view of the mountain from our balcony, had a small kitchen with everything you would need to prepare and eat a simple meal. And, what I always care about the most, the bathroom is large and gorgeous with a tub and separate shower, and the beds are luxuriously comfortable. The resort has a gorgeous pool area with hot tubs, swimming lanes and free swim areas. There are also hiking trails and a forest playground on-site. For additional fees, guests can enjoy tennis, horseback riding, fishing, canoeing, zip-lining and guided excursions. Of course, there's lots of things to do in Stowe and nearby Burlington to keep you busy.
2014 rates for the Get Out and Go Package at Stowe Mountain Lodge begin at $1,254 for two nights, for a family of four. Personally, I love a vacation that enriches our family with unique experiences outside of our normal routines and this one certainly did that. Between the luxury of the beautiful Stowe Mountain Lodge and all the activities available, this felt like a true resort vacation in the mountains of Vermont. Find out more and book at stowemountainlodge.com.
The Essex Culinary Resort and Spa
The Essex is just outside Burlington which means it's easy to get to via inexpensive flights, for those who don't like long drives, and all the fun things to do in Burlington are just a hop away. The hotel is a popular spot for weddings and other celebrations as well as cooking classes for adults, but what intrigued us the most was the Camp Cook for kids.
The Essex kids cooking camp provides a true farm to table experience where children harvest herbs and vegetables from the beautiful on-site gardens, gather eggs from the chickens, and learn how to turn their ingredients into delicious meals. And The Essex isn't kidding around when they teach kids to cook. Your little chefs will learn to prepare things like arroz con pollo, zucchini pancakes, gazpacho, and Creme Catalan, not the typical "kids meals" many cooking programs teach.
In addition to cooking and playing in the on-site pool, campers will go on field trips to culinary destinations (after assembling their own picnic lunches, of course). They might visit a local farm, have lunch in a park, and go berry picking. They may also participate in Cook for a Cause, preparing one meal for a local charity organization. The week of camp ends with a party where parents are invited to share the food their children have prepared.
While kids are at camp, parents can enjoy the grounds of the resort with tennis, golf, hiking trails and a challenge course (additional fees apply), retreat to the spa for some pampering, or head out to Burlington and all Vermont has to offer.
The 2014 Family Camp Cook Package at The Essex starts at $1295 (plus fees and taxes) and includes 5 nights accommodations, Camp Cook for one child (additional children can be added for $400), 25% off spa services, and Buy One Get One Free cooking classes for parents. Even if your kids don't start making dinner every night, it sounds pretty sweet. And, at least this is one camp where they can't complain about the food. Find out more and book at essexresortspa.com.