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 Indoor Golf Center

Play a round of golf on one of 6 state-of-the art simulators.  Or for the non-golfers, mini-golf and other virtual games are offered. Food and beverages also available.


Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
A scenic ride on a vintage steam train and a cruise on the riverboat Becky Thatcher.


Gillette Castle and State Park
Stone 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 Exploration
Home to whales, penguins and other species with many living exhibits and a marine theater.


Mystic Seaport
Authentic seaport village with 19th century whaling ships, maritime exhibits, and historic homes on Mystic River in Mystic.


Submarine Museum
Submarine 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 Museum
Overlooking 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 Association
Established in 1946 and located just up the street from The Griswold Inn. Exhibitions and sales by professional artists, amateurs and students.


Essex Historical Society
The Essex Historical Society at Hills Academy and the 1700 Pratt House are both a short walk from The Griswold Inn.


Florence Griswold Museum
The 19th century home of the Lyme Art Colony and the center of American Impressionism.


Lyme Art Association
Exhibitions and sales by professional and developing artists.


Museum of Fife and Drum
Celebrates the historical significance and folk tradition of fife and drum music.


Mystic Seaport
Authentic Seaport village with 19th century whaling ships, maritime exhibits, and historic homes on the Mystic River in Mystic.

Area Attractions Within 35 minutes  

Connecticut Historical Society /Hartford

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center/Hartford

Mashantucket Pequot Museum/Ledyard

New Britain Museum of American Art/New Britain

Peabody Museum of Natural History/New Haven

The Mark Twain House & Museum/Hartford

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art/Hartford

Yale Center for British Art/New Haven

Yale University Art Gallery/New Haven


Foxwoods Resort Casino /Ledyard

MGM Grand at Foxwoods/Ledyard

Mohegan Sun /Uncasville


Madison Art Cinema /Madison

Marquee Cinemas 12 Screen /Westbrook

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 Riverboat
After a ride aboard the Essex Steam Train, enjoy a cruise up the Connecticut River on the riverboat Becky Thatcher. Other special excursions/events available.


Enjoy eagle cruises and summer and fall expeditions on the Connecticut River aboard RiverQuest.


Stony Creek Kayak
Explore the historic Thimble Islands and Connecticut River. Daytime, sunset and moonlit trips by certified guides. Equipment provided. 203.481.6401.


Thimble Island Cruise
Sightseeing tour around the scenic Thimble Islands.

Music & Theatre

Goodspeed Musical TheatreTony-award-winning theatre with world-renowned productions of musicals. Located in a 19th century theatre on the banks of the Connecticut River in East Haddam.

Ivoryton PlayhouseAmerica’s oldest self-supporting summer theatre now showcases productions most of the year.

Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center “The Kate”A tribute to Old Saybrook’s most celebrated resident, it houses a variety of productions including dance, concerts, comedy, film, drama, lectures and classics.

Norma Terris TheatreTheatre located in neighboring Chester, operated by Goodspeed Musical Theatre showcasing original productions.

Within 35 minutes

Recreation & Active Pursuits On Land

Golf – Public Courses

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.


Boutiques & Unique Shops

    • Essex VillageBrowse The Griswold Inn’s own eclectic and whimsical store, Goods & Curiosities, as well as boutiques, antiques shops, gift shops, clothing stores and galleries on Main Street right outside The Griswold Inn.

Neighboring Villages

Visit antique shops, boutiques, clothing stores and galleries in these neighboring villages.