Essex, Connecticut with Kids: Top 10 Things To See and Do

Essex has genuine appeal for every family. Photo by Ally Noel.
Essex has genuine appeal for every family. Photo by Ally Noel.
4/3/22 - By Ally Noel

If you're looking for a nearby escape in the Nutmeg State, look no further. Colonial vibes and New England charm ooze out of the town of Essex, which is nestled on the banks of the Connecticut River. This quaint Connecticut town is home to one of the oldest continuously running inns in the country, a packed calendar of annual events, and tons of lovely shops and restaurants.

Time and time again, Essex has earned a spot as one of the Best Small Towns in America. Whether you grab a burger at The Gris, a cone of Essex Mud, or spend the day coasting down a historic railroad, this small New England town is anything but sleepy. Read on for the top 10 things to do in Essex, Connecticut with kids. For more cute towns and the best kid-friendly Connecticut activities, don't miss the Top Attractions in Connecticut for Families.


Kids take the helm at the Connecticut River Museum.

Things To Do In Essex, Connecticut with Kids

1. Connecticut River Museum

There are 406 miles of history that run along the path of the Connecticut River. The Connecticut River Museum serves to preserve and bring to life the cultural and natural history of this area. With two floors full of exhibits, families will love exploring the archeological treasures, nautical artwork, and a full-sized replica of the first American submarine.   

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Americana-inspired decor at The Griswold Inn.

2. The Griswold Inn 

Entering the Griswold Inn is like taking a step back to 1776 - this spot is full of history. The Griswold Inn & Tap Room is one of the oldest continuously operating inns in the country - and its nightly schedule of live music should not be missed!

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Pick-your-own at Scotts Farm and Greenhouses.

3. Scotts Farm and Greenhouses 

Located just outside of the center of town, Scotts Farm and Greenhouses lets visitors to pick their own nectarines, blueberries, raspberries, and peaches. In the summer, the farm sells pick-your-own flowers by the pound. Make sure you bring your own bucket to keep them in the water! 

4. Annual Events 

Check out Essex’s steady rotation of annual events. From the North Pole Express to Eagle Cruises, and the lesser-known Daffodil Days and Audubon Swallow Cruises, there is always something to do and see in Essex. 

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Come for the trains, stay for the charm! Photo courtesy of

5. The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat 

Perhaps Essex’s most popular family attraction is the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat. There is always a fun experience along the tracks, perhaps the most popular being The North Pole Express. The Steam Train’s schedule is packed year-round with everything from Easter Bunny train rides to rail bike adventures. 

6. Essex Indoor Golf Center 

Essex Indoor Golf Center offers virtual golf entertainment all year. Families will love the virtual mini-golf courses. Try your luck at Galactic Greens Mini-Golf, Lost Lagoon Mini-Golf, or Mystery Reef Mini-Golf.  Essex Indoor Golf also has other games like cornhole and skee-ball. 

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Check out the flavor of the day at Sweet P's.

7. Sweet P’s 

It is almost impossible to stroll through the center of town without stopping at Sweet P’s. This family-run ice cream shop has a delicious range of sweet treats from ice cream to smoothies. Make sure to try out the local favorite, Essex Mud, 

8. You, Me, and the Sea 

Whether you're shopping for souvenirs for yourself or gifts for friends, You, Me, and the Sea has a little something for everyone. The shop carries a large selection of children's clothes and accessories - many of which are made by talented local designers. 

9. Toys Ahoy! 

There's nothing quite like perusing the shelves of an old-fashioned toy store. Toys Ahoy! prides itself on being Is the “biggest little toystore” in Essex. This charming shop will make everyone feel like a kid again. 


With so many ducks to choose from, kids just might quack under the pressure.

10. Essex Duck 

Essex Duck may just sell one thing - rubber ducks - but it does it so well.  With hundreds of ducks to pick from, picking one may be downright impossible. 

All photos by Ally Noel, unless otherwise indicated

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