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Essex, Connecticut | Could You Live Here?

Essex, Connecticut | Could You Live Here?
8 votes, 4.12 avg. rating (82% score)


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.

The Reality: The history scene gets livelier the deeper you dig. The active Essex Historical Society keeps its fingers on the pulse of the town’s heritage. Rail buffs can ride the vintage Essex Steam Train through the Connecticut River Valley, then hop on the Becky Thatcher riverboat. In May, the Loser’s Day Parade presents a fife-and-drum extravaganza to commemorate the 1814 British raid on Essex and the burning of American ships in the harbor. (The Museum of Fife and Drum is a just a drumbeat away in Ivoryton.)

Overheard: “Fweaky!” exclaimed a 6-year-old, from inside a 1775 submarine at the Connecticut River Museum.

First Impression: Put “French” on your shop sign, and I’m happy; thus the jazzy little French Hen and its faux treasures fit the bill. If you’re gift shopping, you can probably cover all the bases in Essex, from kids (Toys Ahoy!) to chocolate (Truffle Shots) to teapots (Weekend Kitchen) to reproduction antique games (Goods & Curiosities).

The Reality: If you want to put food on your table, you’ll have to travel a few miles to Centerbrook, where all amenities—super­market, pharmacy, gas stations—are tucked away.

Essex Board of Trade

Town of Essex

Middlesex Chamber of Commerce
393 Main St., Middletown. 860-347-6924;

Essex Steam Train
1 Railroad Ave. 860-767-0103;

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Annie Graves


Annie Graves


Annie Graves is a regular contributor to Yankee. A New Hampshire native, she has been a writer and editor for over 25 years, while composing music and writing young adult novels. Find out more about Annie at

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2 Responses to Essex, Connecticut | Could You Live Here?

  1. Jenny Tripp January 8, 2015 at 7:10 pm #

    I DO live here. Have since ’01. A fantastic place to be; wonderful architecture and natural setting, but beyond that, great neighbors and neighborhoods.

    • Kim Romero February 6, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

      Hi Jenny- I was reading this article and didn’t think there would be such a “current” reply!

      My husband and I are thinking about making Essex our next home. We have lived in Westport for 25 years where we raised our twin daughters.

      Can you tell me a little about the variety of people that live in Essex? Why do people tend to relocate there? Interests?

      What do you think of the art, food/restaurants/ boating life of the area?


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