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A family day trip to Lake Champlain

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One of the things I love about living where we do is that there are so many interesting places to visit within a few hours’ drive.  Back in early August, we decided to make a day trip to Burlington, VT via a ferry ride across Lake Champlain.  It was definitely worth the trip and we had no problem finding dog friendly places

On the Way

First stop was breakfast at Lox of Bagels & Moor in Queensbury, NY.  It’s less than a ½ mile off the interstate (exit 18), which makes it a quick stop (my friend Nicole says you haven’t lived if you haven’t had their bagels).  They have a variety of bagels and other items, including homemade cream cheese in a wide variety of flavors.  Another selling point – a very large covered porch with tables and chairs where we can eat with the dogs.  Both dogs (my dog Darwin, and his sister, Maddie, who lives with my parents) were admired by several other customers – no one seemed to have an issue with them being there.

After fueling ourselves with bagels and cream cheese, we headed to the ferry stop in Essex.  Essex is a tiny, but a picturesque, town with a lovely art gallery and an ice cream parlor.  We explored what there was to see of the town, then walked over to The Old Dock House.  The restaurant is practically next door to the ferry station and is right on the shores of Lake Champlain.  It’s a very picturesque location and, again, had a covered porch where we could eat outside with the dogs.  We sat at a booth that was under an actual roof (rather than an awning) which came in handy when a quick moving but fairly strong, summer storm moved through.  We stayed dry while we waited for the food and watched the storm thrash the lake.  It was pretty awesome.  Unfortunately for the waitress, the roof only went to the end of the table, so she got a soaking while delivering our food.  To her credit, she seemed unphased and remained happy and friendly despite being dripping wet.   The service was good, the food was decent and the location was great – I would definitely stop there again.

Essex, VT.  Behind the art gallery, along the walk to the Dock House Restaurant.
Essex, VT. Behind the art gallery, along the walk to the Dock House Restaurant.
The view from our table.
The view from our table.

A Ferry Ride

After lunch, we got in line for the ferry, which at that time of year was leaving every ½ hour.  We didn’t have to wait long before boarding.  Passengers – including dogs – are welcome to exit their cars and move around the ship.  This was particularly exciting for our 7 year old daughter, though the dogs were pretty interested in the scents blowing off the water as well.  The views are beautiful and all in all, it’s a nice way to travel, giving us a chance to just relax and enjoy the setting during the approximately 30 minute ride across.  Disembarking on the Vermont side went well and we were quickly on the main road heading to Burlington.

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View from the ferry, after the storm.
View from the ferry, after the storm.
Pulling into dock on the Vermont side.  Still looking a little stormy.
Pulling into dock on the Vermont side. Still looking a little stormy.

On the way to Burlington

Here is where we ran into our first bit of trouble.  Despite the fact that it was midday on a weekday, traffic heading into Burlington was pretty bad and we were slowed down quite a bit.  (The same thing happened on the way out to such a degree that we switched to side roads for several miles to avoid the rest of the congestion.)  The dogs and child started getting antsy, so we stopped at the Shelburne Country Store in (you guessed it) Shelburne, VT.  The store is unexpectedly huge – it seems to go on and on – with typical Vermont country store offerings such as candy, country-themed household items, candles, maple syrup, etc.  Anna was given a budget for candy and several minutes of deliberation and excruciating decisions ensued.

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The country store as viewed from the green across the street.
Decisions, decisions.
Decisions, decisions.

The dogs were not allowed in the store, but there was a very small park (more like a village green) across from the store (complete with a bench). We had enough people with us that we were easily able to switch off dog sitting duty so everyone got to explore. The park was just large enough to give us a nice place to walk them for a couple minutes for some exercise and a potty break (One note:  The park is alongside the main, very busy, road.  If your dog is freaked out by traffic, this is probably not a good place to stop.)  Much to the delight of Anna, it turns out that on the other end of the green, there was a toy store.  We picked up a new toy and some entertainment for the road (her favorite – Mad Libs) before continuing on our journey.

Burlington

Eventually we made our way into Burlington and drove around a bit surveying the area.  The University of Vermont campus here is huge and gorgeous (as my husband will tell you – I get extremely excited about visiting college campuses.  Weird form of entertainment, I know).  I was apparently so excited about touring the campus that I forgot to take any photos of it, so you’ll just have to see if for yourself if you’re into that kind of thing.

We had dinner at Sweetwaters on Church Street.  The location was excellent.  The street is closed to automobile traffic and lined with shops and restaurants, including some street vendors (I think they were having a sidewalk sale when we were there).  It reminded me of State Street in Madison, WI, where I did my undergraduate work, except this was a bit more upscale.  The restaurant had typical outdoor seating area with umbrellas, but no roof, so if it had rained, we probably would have gotten wet.  The food was decent, but perhaps I have been spoiled by our local Thai restaurant, because I was a little disappointed with my curry dish.  However, there were many options for outdoor seating in the area, so we should have plenty of options to choose from when we return.

View from our table at Sweetwaters.
View from our table at Sweetwaters.
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Coconut Curry shrimp

Heading Home

Unfortunately, at his point, we had run out of time and had to head back.  I think the ferry ride (both ways) was probably the highlight of the trip.

Some bird watching while waiting for the ferry to head back to New York.
Some bird watching while waiting for the ferry to head back to New York.
The nice thing about travel by ferry?  Being able to fit in some quality family time.
The nice thing about travel by ferry? Being able to fit in some quality family time.

If I had to do it over again, I would make fewer stops on the way so we have more time in Burlington.  I would have liked to be able to explore Waterfront Park, along the shores of Lake Champlain and walk around the campus a bit.  I’d also like to be able to explore the downtown area more thoroughly; we just didn’t have enough time in Burlington itself.  Finally, due to poor planning, we really didn’t get to do much that was terribly exciting for a 7 year old (other than the stop in Shelburne), so next time we definitely need to discover some kid- and dog-friendly activities for us all to enjoy.

For some reason I didn’t take many dog photos this time around – something I definitely need to remedy on the next trip!

Tuckered out after a long, busy day.
Tuckered out after a long, busy day.

Have you traveled with dogs in the Lake Champlain area?  What activities and locations did you particularly enjoy?

Kristina Spaulding

Kristina Spaulding

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