Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Essex, VT

  • Published 2023/02/22

There’s a rich mix of natural points of interest and urban pleasures in the things to do in Essex.

At nearly 40 square miles, this town is the largest in Vermont and the second most populated state.

The charm of Essex for visitors and locals alike owes much to its superb location in Chittenden County.

Incorporated in 1763 and named after the Earl of Essex in 12th century England, this town flourished on the northern banks of the Winooski River.

Essex Junction, incorporated as Vermont’s 10th city in 2022, was notably a former incorporated village of Essex town.

Lake Champlain, an ancient freshwater lake famed for urban tales of a Loch Ness Monster equivalent, spreads just west of Essex.

There are plenty of natural attractions within Essex, with the Indian Brook Reservoir dominant in the town’s northern perimeter.

Check out the following list of things to do in Essex to help ensure an enjoyable visit to this part of the Green Mountain State.

Enjoy the Outdoors at Indian Brook Park

An eponymous reservoir led to the development of Indian Brook Park on the northwestern side of Essex.

A dam was built in the 1950s to impound the waters of Indian Brook, eventually creating the 60-acre reservoir.

These reservoir banners were built to meet the rising water demand in Chittenden County.

A park was developed in the Indian Brook Town Conservation Area during the late 1980s.

The recreational facilities in the 740-acre park, which is accessible via Indian Brook Road, include nature trails, picnic areas, and a launching area for non-motorized boats.

Visitors to Indian Brook Park can go fishing at the reservoir that the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department stocks with various species of trout.

Camping and hunting are allowed in the park but not near the reservoir where there’s a blue heron rookery.

Ride a Mountain Bike at the Saxon Hill Trail

The Saxon Hill Trail, accessible on the southeast side of Essex, is a classic network of paths for mountain bikers.

Take Saxon Hill Road via Thompson Drive from Essex to reach this popular destination for off-road biking.

To match your skills or abilities, you will encounter three different routes at the Saxon Hill Trail network.

If you’re a mountain biking novice, you can try the beginner-friendly Extendo that local bikers and students from the Center for Technology in Essex built.

The Saxon Hill Trail also offers its Flo route with classic multiple loops suited for varied skill levels.

Lastly, the trail network offers multiple jump lines of FreeFall catering to expert and advanced mountain bikers.

Swing Clubs at the Links at Lang Farm

The award-winning public golf course, the Links at Lang Farm, opened in 2002 and gained popularity for its 18-hole layout suited even for kid golfers.

Since 2006, this course off Essex Way has hosted the Parent-Child Championship, sponsored by the Vermont Golf Association.

The executive-style layout of the course extends to about 4,000 yards from its longest tees.

The scenic course is well-maintained and weaves around wetlands, old-growth white pines, and pumpkin patches.

The Links at Lang Farm provide various practice facilities, including a practice bunker and chipping and putting greens.

Soar with the Above Reality Hot Air Balloon Rides

Make your visit to Essex extra special with a flight on Above Reality Hot Air Balloon Rides.

The launch area of this unique recreational facility is located off Essex Way.

Launched in 2002, its rides will take you on an adventure over the foothills of the Green Mountains.

This ride unveils astonishing views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks peaks.

Rest easy in your adventure as an FAA-licensed pilot and an experienced crew handle Above Reality Hot Air Balloon Rides.

Group and private flights are available for this Essex destination rated as “One of the World’s Ten Best Hot Air Balloon Adventures.”

Pamper Yourself at the Spa at the Essex Salon

Book an appointment at the Spa at the Essex Salon, where the treatments and wellness offerings promise to create a balance of body, mind, and spirit.

You can draw this experience from the salon’s traditional massage with oils and creams infused with cannabidiol or CBD.

Derived from hemp and cannabis, CBD oils and creams are non-psychoactive and known to help soothe tension and anxiety.

Besides its healthy CBD massage, this spa on Essex Way also offers facials, manicures, pedicures, and haircuts.

The Spa at the Essex Salon also boasts a fitness center, hot tub, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools.

Experience the Maple Street Park and Pool

Aquatic delights and more await visitors of the 38-acre Maple Street Park and Pool on the southwest side of Essex.

Its aquatic recreational facilities include a zero-entry beach, a lap pool, a water slide, and diving boards.

Visitors to this Maple Street facility can also go to its freestyle bike parks, offering a variety of jumps, pump tracks, and banked turns suited for BMX bikes or freestyle mountain bikes.

An outdoor, beginner-friendly skatepark is also open to the public here.

It accommodates not only skateboards but also bikes and scooters.

Other parks include a recreation center, four pavilions, concession stands, baseball fields, tennis courts, a basketball court, a playground, nature trails, and a sand volleyball court.

In addition, Maple Street Park and Pool hosts many exciting programs, such as adult Tai Chi and youth camp.

Visit the Little Fenway Ballfield

Baseball fans on a trip to Essex are likely to enjoy a visit to Little Fenway on Sawmill Road.

This town attraction was built in 2001 as a replica of the famed Fenway Park in Boston.

It’s a quarter size of its model sports arena and comes complete with an old-school scoreboard, bases, and bleachers.

An avid baseball fan in Essex, Pat O’Connor, had Little Fenway built in his backyard.

This facility eventually became a popular local venue for charity ball games.

Pat’s Little Fenway Ballfield gained so much attention that he built two other ballfield replicas on his property.

One is Little Field of Dreams, inspired by the eponymous Kevin Costner blockbuster, and the other is Little Wrigley replicating the famous ballfield of Chicago.

Stroll around the Fort Ethan Allen Parade Grounds

You’ll experience history at the Fort Ethan Allen Parade Grounds on Essex’s western border with the town of Colchester.

The parade grounds and the park is the centerpiece of an 1894 US Cavalry post-designated national historic district.

Named after the US Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen, this historic military installation can be accessed from Essex via Dalton Drive.

You can explore the Fort Ethan Allen Parade Grounds via its three walking trails extending from a half-mile to a full mile.

The park, which covers 19 acres, also features two tennis courts, athletic fields, a gazebo, and a playground.

Bring Your Family to the Essex Family Fun & Entertainment Center

Opportunities for bonding with loved ones and friends abound at the Essex Family Fun & Entertainment Center on Upper Main Street.

This family-oriented recreation center banners an 18-hole mini-golf course with waterfalls, bridges, and flower gardens.

The facility opens from spring to fall, with a driving range where a golf instructor can help you improve your skills.

Sharpen your baseball skills in this entertainment center’s batting cages, where picks on ball pitches range from slow to super-fast.

Bats and helmets are available in this facility, allowing guests to bring and use their equipment.

Climb the Walls of MetroRock Vermont

The indoor climbing gym MetroRock Vermont is located on Sunderland Way and caters to climbers of all abilities and experience.

Inexperienced climbers can rely on its auto-belay system installed throughout the gym.

This system only requires a short tutorial from one of the MetroRock staff.

Thanks to auto-belay, even those without rope-handling experience can climb the gym’s indoor walls as high as their strength allows.

Afterward, an automatic braking system will gently lower the climber to the ground.

At MetroRock Vermont, you can also enjoy bouldering on its shorter walls without using a rope.

Thick gym mats are laid out below the bouldering climbers for a well-cushioned landing once they jump or if they fall from their perch.

Check Out 1st Republic Brewing

The veteran-owned and operated brewery 1st Republic Brewing runs a popular taproom on River Road.

Patrons and guests of the taproom can choose from a wide selection of brews, including canned, bottled, and kegged beers.

The types of beers that 1st Republic Brewing brings to its customers include pilsner, stout, lager, and ale, available in varying flavors.

The fun events of its taproom have developed a strong following among locals and visitors.

These weekly happenings include live music, trivia nights, and art workshops.

Merchandise like caps, shirts, and hoodies are popular items at the 1st Republic Brewing taproom.

Grab a Souvenir at ArtHound Gallery

The ArtHound Gallery on Essex Way is a great place to shop for a gift or a souvenir from a visit to Vermont.

The gallery opened in 2019 as the showroom for more than 300 Vermont artists.

The crafted items include paintings, prints, photos, jewelry, and ceramics.

New items regularly come up at this gallery.

ArtHound Gallery also hosts seasonal art shows showcasing the vast pool of talents this gallery taps for its patrons.

Catch an Event at the Champlain Valley Exposition

More than 100 exciting events are held yearly at the Champlain Valley Exposition.

Founded in 1922, this nonprofit events venue gained prominence due to its flagship event Champlain Valley Fair.

This event was initially held as the Essex Fair and hosted at the Essex Center at the corner of Center Road and Tower Road.

The Champlain Valley Exposition grounds and its trademark have moved to Pearl Street at the entryway to Essex Junction.

The ten-day Champlain Valley Fair is traditionally held from late August to early September.

This event is Vermont’s largest fair, offering plenty of fun activities like music concerts, variety shows, sand sculpting, demolition derby, circus acts, and cooking demos.

At other times of the year, the Champlain Valley Exposition hosts dog and horse shows, quilt festivals, craft and antique shows, trade shows, and more.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Paddle on Lake Champlain

The waters of Lake Champlain

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Visit Lake Champlain for an enjoyable paddling adventure with a canoe, kayak, or standup board.

You can access the lake from Essex via a short eight-mile drive west to North Beach Park in Burlington.

Paddleboat rentals, including standup boards, are available at this beach park.

Two people admiring Lake Champlain

Dan Lewis /

Lake Champlain, the sixth largest lake in the U.S., features a 120-mile paddling trail.

There are many campsites along the lakeshore for a multi-day paddling adventure.

Boats on Lake Champlain

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Explore Winooski Gorge

The Winooski Gorge is a scenic natural area in the Ethan Allen Homestead off Lime Kiln Road in Burlington, only six minutes from Essex.

This gorge is one of Vermont’s deepest, 1,500 feet over the banks of the Winooski River.

The limestone bluff cedar-pine forest of the gorge has a footpath with three viewing areas atop rock outcrops.

You can marvel at the view of dramatic cliffs overlooking the river below at these vantage points.

The gorge is a birdwatcher’s delight, as it serves as a habitat for more than 20 bird species like cardinals and black-capped chickadees.

Beaver, deer, and buffalo live in the Winooski Gorge, where sweet fern and berry are likewise abundant.

Final Thoughts

Visitors won’t be disappointed when looking for exciting things to do in Essex.

This charming town abounds with natural attractions and urban points of interest.

In addition, this place is one of the tourist hotspots of Chittenden County; you won’t run out of the best things to do in Essex, Vermont!

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