Along the Connecticut River not far from the Connecticut coastline is a beautiful idyllic small town called Essex. It’s filled with historic buildings, homes, water views, and a maritime vibe that will leave you spellbound.
The Griswold Inn has been the backdrop for films and literature and was most recently featured in the Hallmark Channel movie, Christmas at Pemberley Manor. Once you set foot in this historic town you will quickly understand what all the talk is about…it’s just quite frankly, right out of a storybook.
Cameron and I were invited to experience Essex and The Griswold Inn this holiday season and genuinely had the best time! It’s the perfect escape from reality and ideal for a couple’s getaway during the holidays.
History and a Tour of the Inn
“The Griswold Inn, a destination for seafarers and land travelers alike for more than 244 years. Today the “Gris” remains the center of a thriving community, offering a unique experience and a comfortable connection to the past.”
The Gris was built in 1776 — you guys….244 years worth of history happened in this old New England inn! Can you imagine all the things those walls have heard and seen? Too cool!
The inn went through the Great Depression and even at one point was a speakeasy! Even after hardship, it was able to hold on and get through these times and continue to be a warm spot for travelers and locals to come to visit for a warm meal and also to find community. You can read more about the rich history of the inn here!
Essex and The Gris feel like a real life Disneyland…it really is that beautiful!
When you visit, you really do fall under it’s spell… I promise, you will be counting the days until you return!
Consisting of 34 unique guest rooms the inn has something for everyone. They have several larger rooms for a family or bridal party and then smaller rooms for travelers of one or two.
The lobby greets you with a warm welcome…a warm fire always lit in the winter and a glistening tree with presents all around.
The Gris Goods store is right across the street from the main part of the Inn and is another must visit when coming to town. They have a great selection of gifts and souvenirs that are unique to New England!
Suite #4 at The Griswold Inn
Cam and I stayed in Superior Suite #4. I loved the aesthetic of this room so much and this sea captain above the fireplace was too fabulous. Surrounded by antique furniture and traditional nautical decor – it’s the perfect setting for your Essex adventure.
“Inviting spaces, exuding charm, a sense of tradition and a touch of luxury. Superior Suites feature Leonard’s king-sized beds with fireplaces at their foot, spacious bathrooms with showers and vintage claw-foot tubs, and a separate sitting or dressing room. Superior Suites are accessed from our lovely Griswold Square.” – The Gris
The Gris has all of your amenities as well as a lovely continental breakfast in the morning.
The night that we stayed, I genuinely didn’t want to fall asleep because I loved being in this room so much. I felt inspired creatively in it and in this town. I could definitely see an author or filmmaker coming here to find inspiration or to start or finish a novel!
One of my favorite things was looking out the big window in your living area and bedroom…you will see the Gris Goods shop and Christmas tree square all lit up during the night. Then in the morning you will see the river off in the distance with ships!
I can’t recommend this room enough. It was so cozy and fun to be in for our little romantic getaway together!
Dining at The Griswold Inn
Dining at the Gris is a must. The food is fantastic and the atmosphere is something right out of a classic novel. Each space has it’s own historic maritime art for you to look at and you will feel as If you have stepped into another world…a world that only the Griswold Inn can take you.
The Inn also did a wonderful job of protecting its visitors during this time of COVID-19. You will find sanitizer in each room as well as more than 6′ distance from the other guests at tables. All staff also always wears a mask. We felt very well taken care of and safe during our visit.
For the art lovers out there, the inn has some of the best maritime art you will ever see in one space. Their collection is museum worthy – and best of all you get to eat your dinner and drink your wine right alongside it!
Be sure and get the hot Buttered Rum during the holidays! It’s the perfect drink on a cold night!
And be sure to take your obligatory photo by the friendly pirates at the bar. 🙂
The Gris has a full restaurant, bar and tap room for your enjoyment! They are all decorated festively for the season and you just might hear some carolers singing holiday tunes during your visit.
Things to Do
Have a picnic in the Essex Town Park!
You could either pack your own lunch or stop by a local restaurant to grab a meal to go. We decided to get our meal from Olive Oyls down the street from the park. Great sandwiches and goodies and it’s a darling old gas station turned diner!
The view of the Connecticut River is beautiful and you can even head down to that public dock below to get a good look at the river. We also saw a really nice kayak launch here and a map for the summer months!
Walk Downtown Essex
Welcome to New England at it’s finest! A walk down Main street will put you in a great mood – be sure to have your camera ready for all of the beautiful historic homes!
A great website for you to refer to as well for the town is Experience Essex! I looked to this site for help on how to plan our trip!
Be sure and walk down some side streets If you have a little extra time – there are so many beautiful nooks and crannies in this town.
Go shopping on Main Street
The shopping in Essex is fantastic! Main Street is filled with local shops filled with goodies that will satisfy any New Englanders fancy.
Visit a Museum
The Connecticut River Museum is a must see! They have a beautiful Annual Holiday Train show each year that is perfect for families and the art buffs.
Take a ride on the Essex Steam Train and River boat
Another wonderful thing to do is to hop aboard the Essex Steam Train for a North Pole adventure! Cameron and I have done the train and River Boat Tour during the summer months, but I have definitely wanted to check out the train for the holidays! It looks like so much fun and perfect to get you in the holiday spirit! Even if you can’t make it to a tour – be sure and pop over to see the lights on the trains at night!
Visit Ivoryton Illuminations
Hop in the car and head on over to the town of Ivoryton just 5 or so minutes away from the Gris! Turn on your radio to the specified channel and watch in wonder as the town square lights up in unison with your radio station! This was such a sweet and fun thing to do after dinner. Another charming small town with a whole lot of heart. You can learn more about Ivoryton Illuminations on the Ivoryton Village Alliance Facebook page. Thank you to the amazing patrons who worked so hard on this for the public to enjoy!
If you love New England and history…add Essex to your list of must see spots! It will steal a bit of your heart and put you in just the right holiday mood.
Thank you to The Paul family for inviting us into your little slice of heaven here in Connecticut! We are so excited for many more years of meals and memories at The Gris.
Get ready to experience that Christmas magic in Essex, Connecticut!
Happy Holidays, friends!
Want to see more videos and photos of this trip? Head to my Instagram stories labeled “Griswold Inn” for the full recap!