A Visit to Charming Essex, Connecticut

The New Oxford Dictionary defines charm as the power or quality of giving delight or arousing admiration. The town of Essex, Connecticut does just that. Don’t get me wrong, there are A LOT of charming towns all over New England! Some towns I want to visit over and over again. Essex has quickly become one of those places I find myself wanting to go back to in every season. I’ve been there in spring, summer, and fall and each one has been a delight.

I’ll let these images from our last summer visit illustrate the charm. Then, I’ll share some places and points of interest to check out at the end of this post.















Upon entering the historic town of Essex, Connecticut you are struck by nostalgia and charm. You’ll understand right away why this quaint village has been dubbed “The Perfect Small American Town” by the travel guide 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. The homes are pristine and elegant. The tree-lined streets beg for leisurely walks. You’ll want to stop and stare at every home you pass by. The architecture is beautiful.

Main Street will take you to every location on this itinerary. We usually park in the lot by Main Street Park. This park is a great place to picnic with nice tables right by the water and restrooms. Also, a prime location to access Main Street shopping. You can walk to everything from here.

To make the most of your day, I’ll take through some favorites of ours…

AM Coffee Break

Park on Main Street or the nearby lot and grab a cup of joe at the Essex Coffee and Tea Company. It’s located right across from the famed Griswold Inn.

A Piece of History

Essex sits at the mouth of the Connecticut River and goes right out to the Sound. Right off of Main Street, you can head down to the water and visit the Connecticut River Museum. Learn about the history of this Connecticut river port, see a working model of the “turtle” submarine used in the Revolutionary War, and step aboard the historic ship named“On Rust”.

Strolling & Shopping

After a little history, take a stroll along Main Street. Some of the prettiest historic New England homes you’ve ever seen sit prominently next to mature trees and rows of white fencing. Each home proudly displaying a flag or two.

There are plenty of shops to visit. Everything from apparel, antiques, and home furnishings. Also, we like the toy store named Toys Ahoy! (which has a toy train running along the ceiling) and the Griswold Inn’s Gift Shop.

Time to Dine

No visit to Essex would be complete without a visit and meal at the historic Griswold Inn. It’s a great way to end your day. On warmer days, you can dine al fresco or be more casual in the tap room. Dinners are special here. Last year, we got the coveted table by the fireplace for a lovely fall meal in the dining room. They also host a wonderful weekend brunch if that is more your speed.

This is one of the oldest, continuously operated inns in the country dating back to 1776. The staff is very kind to let you look around if you’ve never visited before. If you are looking for a place to rest your head, their rooms are well-appointed and in the center of town.

Ice Cream

If you have room left in your belly, head on over to Sweet P’s Ice Cream and Organic Juice Bar. They proudly serve Ashley’s Ice Cream (voted #1 in Connecticut) and have a smoothie and juice bar too.

More Things to Do

Full Steam Ahead!

Hop aboard a vintage steam train and dine in style with Essex Steam Train & Riverboat Cruises. This is on our list to try and it looks so fun!

Around the holidays, they host a Polar Express Train for the little ones. Best to book early because those tickets sell out fast!

Be Entertained…

Drive to nearby Ivoryton, and take in a musical at the Ivoryton Playhouse.

Get on the Water & Explore…

Love being on the water? Rent a kayak or canoe from Essex River Basin Adventures.


Hop aboard the 1906 Schooner Mary E. for a sunset sail. You can even help hoist the sail!

I hope this helps you plan your visit to Essex! Every time we visit, we find something new to try and another way to explore the area. I’ll update this as we find good things to share.

Until Next Time,


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