Rambling over 18 acres where suburban Burlington meets the Green Mountains, The Essex is a laid-back resort with a welcoming staff. The 120 rooms feature four-poster beds, fireplaces, and fanciful rugs and pillows. A new full-service spa plus golf, tennis, hiking trails, and a huge pool offer plenty of distractions. But the cuisine is the standout. Partnering with the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, the resort runs a learning kitchen and offers classes in knife skills, backyard grilling, and more. Visit Butler’s Restaurant & Tavern for a BLT with smoked Vermont bacon or a Vermont goat cheese soufflé.