The beautiful spring weather called for exploring a new town. I decided to explore Essex which is a small town on the Connecticut River in Middlesex county. I’ve driven past Essex multiple times on Route 9 when I travel to my family in Upstate NY. I have heard a lot about the Essex Steam Train especially at holidays time with their special run of the North Pole Express.
The Essex Steam Train was my first stop. The trains were not operating yet for the season, so the yard was a ghost town! I walked up and down the tracks admiring the 1920’s locomotive steam trains and inhaling in the smell of metal, oil, and grease. The trains were so tall that when I stood next to it, my head was leveled with the wheels. I was blown away by the beauty of them. Connecticut Valley Railroad Company operates the Essex Steam Train on the 12-miles railroad through Connecticut River valley. There is a scenic train ride and a dinner train that starts running for the season in May. The scenic train ride also takes you to a riverboat that you can ride on up and down on Connecticut River. During the holidays time, they have a special North Pole Express themed train rides for families to enjoy the holidays festivities. Someday I will take the scenic train ride during the fall foliage season!
After exploring the steam trains, I went down to the historical main street of Essex which had the Colonial seaport town vibe. The street is lined with Colonial style homes and buildings that house restaurants and shops. Few of my favorite shops included Weekend Kitchen (kitchen ware goods) and Essex Duck (rubber ducks - random but fun!). There was an adorable Boston terrier at Weekend Kitchen that made me smile! That wasn’t the only dog I saw that day, the main street is VERY dog friendly! There were so many people out walking with their dogs. It is perfect street to take a stroll with your pup!
The shopping eventually led me to a delicious lunch at Griswold Inn. One of my guilty pleasures is watching The Bachelor/The Bachelorette (cue some eye rollings!). In 2014 when Andi was the Bachelorette, she had her dinner date at the Griswold Inn in Essex after her day date at Mohegan Sun casino. I was excited to see local spots on the show but never had been to Griswold Inn, it sparked my curiosity to check it out someday. Well that someday finally has happened 5 years later!
It was worth the stop! Griswold Inn is one of the oldest operating inn in America. It was basically a museum with food and alcohol! The walls were filled with historical artifacts and paintings from 18th century. The ‘Gris’ was opened in 1776 and was a destination for seafarers since it was down the street from the Connecticut River. It was even captured by British troops during War of 1812, they used it as base of operations! There were also history tidbits from prohibition time - the ‘Gris’ was known as the place to be to get alcohol. The law struggled with capturing the ‘rum runners’ who would transport the alcohol via Connecticut River. During 1940’s many yacht clubs opened in the area so the ‘Gris’ catered to yachtsmen. The place is filled with intriguing history! The current owners purchased it in 1995 and operate an Inn where people can stay (34 rooms), the tap room and dining room serving New England cuisine for lunch/dinner, and a wine bar. It was such a beautiful day so I was able to eat outside on the patio. The views of main street was like a Norman Rockwell painting! I ate the clam chowder which was AMAZING and their fish was good! Across the street was their gift shop Goods & Curiosities which had ‘Gris’ merchandise and products inspired by the Inn and New England.
With my belly loaded up with goodness from the ‘Gris’, I walked down to the end of main street which meets the Connecticut River. I took a tour of Connecticut River Museum to learn about the history of the river. Whenever I travel on Interstate 95, I cross the Connecticut River from Old Lyme to Old Saybrook. I never knew the river had such a rich history! The museum was housed in a 3-story steamboat warehouse restored in 1878. The museum had preservation of the river history including tools for fishing/hunting, nautical artifacts, and navigation equipment. It also had the ‘Turtle’ which was the first American submarine built in Essex in 1776 to use against the British in American Revolution. It was an interesting tour! I was impressed by the mural they had in the staircase leading up to each floor. The mural is a illustrated map of all the cities along the Connecticut River traveling through out New England. After touring the museum, I went down to the green which had a few benches for people to sit and take in the beauty of the Connecticut River. I was disappointed that I had missed the bald eagle cruise they offered last month! There are many wildlife animals among the river that you can see if you get lucky with the timing.
Late afternoon called for some coffee, so off to Essex Coffee and Tea Company which is located across the street from Griswold Inn. Essex Coffee and Tea Company is a small coffee shop offering all kinds of coffee, teas, drinks and pastries. I enjoyed an iced white chocolate mocha while I sat out front of the shop taking in the views of the main street of Essex!
I was sad to leave the historical Essex village, it was the perfect small town for a stroll on a great weather day and I had such a fun time learning all the interesting historical tidbits!
On my way out of Essex, I came across Essex Chocolatier and Coffee Bar. The chocolates caught my eyes! They offer many types of chocolates, I picked up a few truffles and chocolates. My favorite was the espresso bean artisan chocolate. I was waited on by a very nice girl who knew some American Sign Language so it made my day when she signed to me. I just had some coffee from another shop so unfortunately I didn’t try out their coffee/mochas but I definitely will stop by again to try their drinks and get more delicious chocolates!
Recommendations of places to visit in Essex, Connecticut:
The Griswold Inn 36 Main Street
Goods & Curiosities 49 Main Street
Weekend Kitchen 16 Main Street
Essex Duck 51 Main Street
Connecticut River Museum 67 Main Street
Essex Coffee & Tea Company 51 Main Street
Essex Steam Train 1 Railroad Ave
Essex Chocolatier and Coffee Bar 124 Westbrook Road
This blog is not sponsored. All opinions in this blog are my own.