Area Attractions

Essex and the lower Connecticut River Valley and surrounding area are known for their natural beauty and many interesting activities and attractions.  These are listed alphabetically by category and include direct links to respective websites for your convenience.  When making your reservation at our Inn, please ask the Front Desk for any further information or assistance you might need.
Area Attractions Art & History
Casinos/Entertainment Cinema
Getting Out On The Water Music & Theatre
Recreation & Active Pursuits On Land Shopping
Spas & Fitness Centers Wineries


Area Attractions


  • Essex Steam Train and RiverboatA scenic ride on a vintage steam train and a cruise on the riverboat Becky Thatcher.
  • Gillette Castle and State ParkStone castle full of nooks and crannies with sweeping views of the Connecticut River built in 1919 by William Gillette, a “superstar” stage actor most noted for portraying Sherlock Holmes. The castle is on 184 acres with hiking trails and paths.
  • Mystic Aquarium and Institute for ExplorationHome to whales, penguins and other species with many living exhibits and a marine theater.
  • Mystic SeaportAuthentic seaport village with 19th century whaling ships, maritime exhibits, and historic homes on Mystic River in Mystic.
  • Submarine MuseumSubmarine museum and home of the Nautilus, the world’s finest nuclear submarine and the first to travel “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

Local Art & History


      • Connecticut River MuseumOverlooking Essex harbor and just 40 yards from The Griswold Inn, the Connecticut River Museum showcases permanent and changing exhibits about the history of the Connecticut River Valley. It is also a great vantage point to see bald eagles and migratory birds and a great spot to take in the stunning waterfront. Winter eagle watch excursions and summer and fall schooner cruises depart from the Museum.
      • Essex Art AssociationEstablished in 1946 and located just up the street from The Griswold Inn. Exhibitions and sales by professional artists, amateurs and students.
      • Essex Historical SocietyThe Essex Historical Society at Hills Academy and the 1700 Pratt House are both a short walk from The Griswold Inn.
      • Florence Griswold MuseumThe 19th century home of the Lyme Art Colony and the center of American Impressionism.
      • Lyme Art AssociationExhibitions and sales by professional and developing artists.
      • Museum of Fife and DrumCelebrates the historical significance and folk tradition of fife and drum music.
      • Mystic SeaportAuthentic Seaport village with 19th century whaling ships, maritime exhibits, and historic homes on the Mystic River in Mystic.
  • Getting Out On The Water

    • Connecticut River Museum Canoe, Kayak and Paddle Board Rentals are available here in season. One can explore the beautiful creeks and coves throughout Essex. If you bring your own kayak or canoe there are many public access spots around town. Also, winter eagle watch excursions and summer and fall schooner cruises leave from the Connecticut River Museum, about 40 yards from The Griswold Inn.
    • Essex Steam Train and RiverboatAfter a ride aboard the Essex Steam Train, enjoy a cruise up the Connecticut River on the riverboat Becky Thatcher. Other special excursions/events available.
    • RiverQuestEnjoy eagle cruises and summer and fall expeditions on the Connecticut River aboard RiverQuest.
    • Stony Creek KayakExplore the historic Thimble Islands and Connecticut River. Daytime, sunset and moonlit trips by certified guides. Equipment provided. 203.481.6401.
    • Thimble Island CruiseSightseeing tour around the scenic Thimble Islands.
    • Hiking, Nature Walks & Cycling

      • Pedal PowerBring your own bike and enjoy the many scenic roads throughout the area. More information regarding specific routes and group rides at Pedal Power.
      • Essex Land TrustThe Essex Land Trust and the town own a number of properties with varied scenic paths and hiking trails.
      • Surrounding Area State Parks in nearby Clinton, Madison, Chester and East Haddam offer many additional hiking opportunities.
      • Rocky Neck State Park and Beach in nearby East Lyme.
      • Hammonassett State Park and Beach in nearby Madison.
      • Public tennis courts located behind the Essex Town Hall, within walking distance of The Griswold Inn.
      • Seasonal ice skating on Sunset Pond less than 1 mile from The Griswold Inn.