Essex, Connecticut | Could You Live Here?
Insider tip: Same school district, but Ivoryton, minutes away, is at least a third cheaper.
First Impression: If you’ve got kids, no problem, affirms Ann Thompson, head of adult services at the Essex Public Library; plenty of Little League and soccer to bond over. Apparently if you have an interest in anything else, too, you’re in luck. The library calls itself “The Cultural Hub”—and it actually is. Currently hosting 348 programs a year, activities include bridge, a knitting club, jewelry making, and lectures ranging from architecture to the paranormal. It’s even got books.
The Reality: If you’re 22, Essex probably isn’t for you. It’s a friendly town, but there aren’t a lot of young singles. “There aren’t many apartments, and no real nightlife,” Ann says. “Town makeup is generally families or retirees,” while younger families gravitate toward Ivoryton. Another route to friendship: volunteering. “Volunteerism is huge,” she says, with a garden club, ELT, Audubon, and, of course, the library.
“I don’t know anyone who isn’t volunteering for something.”
First Impression: The Griswold Inn’s Tap Room is like the inside of a dark whiskey barrel, but lively and crowded, with live music. The Wine Bar serves goose mousse pâté on grilled crostini and a signature fondue, with a wine selection that gets kudos from the New York Times and Wine Spectator. Colonial classics, like chicken potpie, are served in the historic dining room, where they feel right at home.
The Reality: Mostly the sidewalks roll up at 8:00 p.m., but “The Gris” stays up late (since 1776), along with the pub at The Black Seal seafood restaurant, catty-corner across Main Street. Dining options are limited in the village proper, but the Copper Beech Inn (Ivoryton), The Red House (Deep River), and Liv’s Oyster Bar (Old Saybrook) are minutes away. Olive Oyl’s in town does creative take-out; Essex
Coffee & Tea pours the lattes.
First Impression: It’s pretty cool having your own museum right in town. The Connecticut River Museum, at Steamboat Dock, sits within a historic 1878 warehouse. Besides sheltering artifacts and manuscripts, it’s busy with eagle watches, workshops, and special exhibits. During the Holiday Train Show, the third floor whistles and chugs with a mind-blowing model town that’ll thrill your kids and revive your inner child. Owner Steven Cryan is on hand to buzz the young crowd with a remote-controlled helicopter.