Filled with history and charm, Essex, CT is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxed vacation on your own, with a loved one, a group of friends, or the entire family. Start your trip with a meal at the Griswold Inn which has been welcoming travelers since 1776. Then head out to incomparable attractions such as the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, the Florence Griswold Museum, or one of the oldest standing buildings in the state, the Pratt House.

1.Essex Steam Train & Riverboat

Essex Steam Train & Riverboat
© Kybele/

The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, which is operated by the Valley Railroad Company, offers a memorable excursion across Connecticut’s rivers. It is the only steam train and riverboat connection in the entire United States and can be found operating seasonally from May through October. You’ll be able to choose from one of two operating steam locomotives and can pick from multiple class experiences such as coach, first class, an open-air car, and even ride aboard their caboose, or cabin car. There are several events held onboard throughout the year such as the Essex Clipper Dinner Train, which is a romantic culinary event which USA Today highlighted as a “Memorable Meal”.

1 Railroad Ave, Essex, CT 06426

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2.Connecticut River Museum

Connecticut River Museum
© Connecticut River Museum

Built in 1813, the Connecticut River Museum is a cultural and educational institution which focuses on the maritime heritage of the Connecticut River Valley. The three-story museum is housed in a restored steamboat warehouse from 1878 and is one of the last of its kind to remain on the river. You’ll see several maritime-related artifacts, nautical artwork, and navigation equipment - much of which was donated by the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. The permanent exhibition on shipbuilding includes models of steamboats and many historical maps which are fascinating to see. You’ll also be thrilled to see a full-scale replica of the first American submarine, Turtle, in the museum.

67 Main St, Essex, CT 06426

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3.Pratt House

Pratt House
© Essex Historical Society

The Pratt House, which was constructed sometime in the mid-17th century, is a historic house museum and one of the oldest surviving buildings in the state. Listed on the National Register of Historic Place, the house museum was owned by a single family for over 2½ centuries before coming into the hands of the local historical society. There are docent-led tours held within Pratt House daily. During the tour you will be able to see several stunning aspects in the architecture and decor like the period furniture as well as the accurate, period-appropriate kitchen gardens.

19 West Ave, Essex, CT 06426, Phone: 860-767-0681

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4.Cooper & Smith Gallery

Cooper & Smith Gallery
© Cooper & Smith Gallery

At the Cooper & Smith Gallery you’ll be able to explore over 5,000 square feet of exhibition space that is filled with contemporary fine art in a wide range of styles and genres. The gallery is steeped in tradition and emphasizes oil paintings using drawing-based disciplines. It’s a wonderful place for both new and experienced collectors alike as it’s the perfect environment to take in new art, from abstraction to realism. You’ll be able to see works by artists such as Tom Root, Molly McDonald, Henry St. Clair, Merrill French, Judith Pond Kudlow, and James Coe. There are several art exhibitions and other events which you can attend held at the gallery throughout the year.

10 Main St, Essex, CT 06426, Phone: 860-581-8526

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5.Prive Swiss Essex Wellness Center

Prive Swiss Essex Wellness Center
© Prive Swiss Essex Wellness Center

The Prive Swiss Essex Wellness Center offers evidence-based holistic healthcare that will help you increase longevity, prevent illness, and just overall feel your best. Bringing together practitioners and instructors that are the best in their field, you’ll be able to receive state-of-the-art physical, mental, and emotional care. One of the features that patients love the most is the attention to detail that is given to every single person in their care. Some of the holistic services offered at the wellness center are acupuncture, couples and family counseling, alcohol and drug abuse counseling, meditation, dialectical behavioral therapy, and expressive art therapy.

28 Main St, Essex, CT 06426, Phone: 860-767-7770

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6.Florence Griswold Museum

Florence Griswold Museum
© Florence Griswold Museum

A National Historic Landmark, the Florence Griswold Museum is focused on the home of Florence Griswold. To make ends meet, Florence would take in borders, one of whom was artist Henry Ward Ranger. He encouraged other artists to do so as well and the home soon became the epicenter of the Old Lyme Art Colony - the core center of growth for American Impressionism. You will be able to see an extensive collection of American Impressionist paintings in the 9,500 square feet of exhibit space. Some of the highlights in the collection are Summer Evening by Childe Hassam, Laurel by Edward Francis Rook, and East Hartford Meadow by Milton Avery.

96 Lyme St, Old Lyme, CT 06371, Phone: 860-434-5542

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7.Truffle Shots

Truffle Shots
© Truffle Shots

Locally created by a mother-daughter partnership, the chocolate truffles by Truffle Shots are internationally award winning. Created in small batches, their concoctions are created with premium ingredients which melt as soon as they hit your tongue. There are over thirty amazing flavors to try out with some of the most popular being the Minted Grapefruit, Tellicherry Cardamom, Caramel Beurre Noisette, Miel Habanero, and the Fig Balsamico. There is no alcohol in any of the Truffle Shots so chocolate lovers of all ages can indulge in their sweet tooth. You can create a nine-pack custom assortment so that you can mix and match different flavors to try out.

The Barn at Griswold Square, 47 Main St, Essex, CT 06426, Phone: 860-581-8351

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8.The Griswold Inn

The Griswold Inn
© The Griswold Inn

The Griswold Inn is a historic dining establishment that serves classic American cuisine using simple ingredients and imaginative form. Combined, this creates a perfect combination of flavors that is sure to satiate even the most finicky diner. The seasonal menus are created by award-winning Executive Chef Toppin and features high quality pork chops, aged beef, and fresh seafood. On Sunday mornings you can enjoy their famous buffet-style Hunt Breakfast, a tradition which started during the War of 1812. The black-tie dining room is full of charm and character and is a wonderful place to enjoy a romantic meal with your significant other.

36 Main St, Essex, CT 06426, Phone: 860-767-1776

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9.Abby's Place

Abby's Place
© Abby's Place

Abby’s Place is a casual waterfront dining establishment that can be found alongside the Dauntless Boatyard right in the heart of Essex. All of their culinary offerings are created using fresh, locally sourced ingredients to ensure that you have a flavorful dining experience. Stop by for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and they’re sure to become your favorite place for a delicious, comfort-food based meal. Popular choices from their menus are bagel and smoked salmon, fluffy puffy pancakes with Vermont maple syrup, Abby’s signature New England clam chowder, the extremely popular lobster roll, beef and black bean chili, and Portuguese-inspired seafood stew.

37 Pratt St, Essex, CT 06426, Phone: 860-767-0560

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10.Olive Oyl's

Olive Oyl's
© Olive Oyl's

Olive Oyl’s is a carry-out restaurant that was established in the heart of Essex in 1991. The restaurant is situated just steps away from the picturesque Connecticut River and is a lovely place to stop by and pick up some of the sweet and savory culinary concoctions they create. The menu changes to reflect the seasonal ingredients that are freshly available, so you’re sure to be in for a treat whenever you visit. You can feast on seasonal salads, fresh soups, and daily specials such as Ponzu grilled salmon and New England crab cakes. Other favorites also include their coffee cakes, buttermilk bran muffins, and their tempting scones.

6 Main St, Essex, CT 06426, Phone: 860-767-4909

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10 Best Things to Do in Essex, Connecticut