I visited the Essex Steam Train because it's featured in the book 1000 Things to Do Before You Die: USA Edition. It's definitely worth doing, especially if you are travelling with kids. This authentic steam train ride really takes you back in time, and the steamboat ride is a great break on the Connecticut River.
First, make sure you pick which time you want to get on the train. The times are about an hour and a half apart so you don't want to spend an hour just waiting. Then, the train will load about 10-15 minutes before the scheduled time. A conductor takes your ticket and punches it and all. Very neat. I went during nice weather so I stayed with a regular seat in the open air and enjoyed it just as much as I would have in any nicer seat.
If you get the combination ticket with the steamboat then you will get off the train at the Connecticut River. If you do not have a combo ticket then you'll simply stay on the train and ride back. I got off and waited for the Steamboat, which was actually behind schedule so that was the kickback but it wasn't too bad. We toured the Connecticut River for about 45 minutes to an hour, very slowly. The young man who was the MC was very funny and we learned a lot about the area. Some people brought a sack lunch and ate on the Steamboat at the tables inside, others on the benches up top. They also sold candy, chips and sodas/water inside of the Steamboat. The only drawback was that when we were on the boat lots of people would stand to take pictures of Gillette Castle and the other beautiful sights and were kind of not aware of the ettiquette. However, not a big deal. After the boat we got back on the train and returned to the station.
Back at the station they had a fun gift shop and I picked up some fun souvenirs for my little nephews. Overall, a very fun, lighthearted activity to do here that I highly recommend...even if you're alone. :)
They also have fun specialty rides such as the Halloween Freight Train and the Polar Express during Christmas where they serve hot cocoa.
Steam Train & Riverboat Connection
Adults: $26.00 / Children (2 - 11): $17.00
Infants (Under 2): Free
Steam Train Only
Adults: $17.00 / Children (2 - 11): $9.00
Infants (Under 2): Free
Family Fare (2 Adults and up to 6 Kids)
Steam Train & Riverboat Connection: $80.00
Steam Train Only: $50.00
Special and Extras
Parlor Car: $5.00 per passenger
Open Car: $3.00 per passenger
Caboose: $5.00 per passenger
Dates of Operation
Spring Season: May 22 - June 27
Saturday - Sunday and Memorial Day (May 31)
Summer Season: June 28 - August 29
Monday - Sunday (Daily)
Fall Season: September 3 - September 26
Friday - Sunday and Labor Day (Sept 6)
Foliage Season: September 30 - October 25
Thursday - Monday
Steam Train & Riverboat Connection
11:00 am / 12:30 pm / 2:00 pm
Total trip approximately 2.5 hours
Steam Train Only
11:00 am / 12:30 pm / 2:00 pm / 3:30 pm
Total trip approximately 1 hour
There isn't a WHOLE LOT to do in Essex. So, towards the afternoon hours I decided to stroll the couple blocks of Main Street Essex. I thought there might be more shopping opportunities but didn't see many. Most of them were real estate agencies or private offices. And I was in the mood to shop too. LOL However, I found the Christmas Barn, coffee shop and a small book store, so not too bad.
However, it was kind of nice to have a spot to wander around without worrying about getting lost or going too far.
It seems to be a popular thing to do with couples and families around sunset or so. It's nice...
While visiting the Connecticut River Museum I found they offered schooner rides on the Mary E. twice a day. Well, it was mentioned in the book 1000 Things to See Before You Die so of course I said "Let's go!" For $26 you get an hour and half "ride" on the schooner.
Well, I didn't know much about schooners or sailing. An hour and a half I thought I'd get pretty far. However, the entire time I was on the ship I could still see the River Museum sitting right there waiting for me. Schooners are NOT fast. They have no engine whatsoever so the sails are doing the work. So, for all the non-boating people reading...you get about 500 yards out and then turn around and come back.
Now, I'm not complaining. The weather was beautiful and all the men aboard the ship were very friendly, as well as the other tourists. We all kind of got to know each other and everything was really well. I would recommend bringing a drink though, and perhaps splurging another $4 for the sunset cruise with a picnic.
The website talks about reservations but I just showed up at the Connecticut River Museum and it was fine. In fact, I paid a flat $30 for both entrance to the museum and the schooner ride. However, there have to be 6 or so people to go on the ship for it to sail and that was an issue when I was visiting (probably on a week day). Thankfully they found a few people who wanted to go so we got to enjoy the trip without a full boat. I enjoyed it, just didn't know what to expect. Now you do!
However, if the weather is not permitting there will be no cruising :( If it's hot outside bring plenty of sunscreen, hats, water, etc. because there is no shade.
The Connecticut River Museum was mentioned in the Essex tip in 1000 Things to See Before You Die: USA Edition. So, of course, I had to visit. :)
When approaching the museum you will park to the left of Main Street right in front of the River Museum. I went in the double doors and paid my admission fee. There are three floors but they aren't very big so it's kind of easy to explore without being completely confused or overwhelmed with maritime things I had no clue about. The highlights of the museum would definitely have to be the working reconstruction of the Turtle, the first submarine ever used where only one man was inside back in 1776. The second would be the local history. The third would be the fun game they have for children (and children at heart) to pretend you're a person living in the past. It's sort of a scavenger hunt of sorts but with a little bit of education thrown in. This makes this fun museum very child appropriate. Last but not least, they have a small but very nice gift shop. I was able to find an ornament which I always look for. They also had lots of toys and books for sale. Overall, I appreciated the Connecticut River Museum because I learned a lot about the local economy and maritime amusement/business but it wasn't overwhelming, nor did it wear me out. You have to love that in a museum! You could easily visit this place in an hour or two then continue to further explore Essex.
Members - FREE
Adults - $8.00
Seniors - $7.00
Children(6-12) - $5.00
The Connecticut River Museum is open to visitors Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am - 5 pm.
They are open on Mondays from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
**The River Museum also offers summer camps for kids that focus on colonial activities and history as well as river pasttimes and activities. Might be fun for kids while the parents do a bit of historical travelling for themselves.
The Connecticut River Museum is a small museum located on the riverfront in Essex, CT. You can see all sorts of things from their docks, and learn about the history of the river and it's peoples inside. It includes family-friendly exibits for all ages.
This is a MUST-DO for anyone vistiting Essex or anyone interested in Rail Travel. Not only is it fun for the whole family, but it is great for anyone because it is so convienent, informative, and fun!
The train runs 4 times per day during the summer and the boat 3 times. I highly suggest you ride both together, because they complement each other and you can get back on the train after the booat tour. I would also highly suggest investing ($5.00 extre per person) in the Parlour Car, as the seats are much bigger, they swiver, and there is really cheap drink service!
There is no eating on the train, but you can eat on the boat and there is even a snack bar. Of course there is a sandwich place at the station, as well as a sort of outdoor museum of the various train cars. Overall it is great place to visit and is loads of fun!
This is where I like to eat my lunch or just go chill and relax. Quite lovely every season. There are many varietys of trees here too which are all labeled and mapped. Great kayaking too in the coves with good currents
Essex has 8 parades a year. The biggest is Groundhog Day (with Essex Ed or Essex Edna). Everyone grabs a pot and pan, clangs them together, marchs down main street- then march to the Griswold Inn and the Black Seal. Another big one is the "Burning of the Ships Parade" (celebrating the 1814 British raid that left 29 ships burning in the harbor).
At the Essex Railroad Station, there are many antique steam engines to look at. There are also excursions available. The train ride is a 12-mile trip along the Connecticut River Valley. At the other end, there is a Connecticut River Cruise. Unfortunately, we could not go on this excursion because of time constraints. But it definitely seems like this is a must do. Pictured below is an engine at the Essex Railroad Station.