A Winter’s Night in Essex, Connecticut


Although the holidays are over, I wanted to share one of our favorite memories from the season. One weekend afternoon, Jimmy and I were sitting in our living room trying to devise a list of things to do while he was home for his two week holiday vacation. The list included visit Rockefeller Center (check!), try a new restaurant in town (check!) and the Essex Steam attain. Every winter, the train transforms into the Polar Express with a ride down the tracks, lights lining the way, and of course a visit from Santa!

Being a little late to the ticket game (Polar Express tickets sell out quickly so book early!), we were going to book whatever we could get, hoping there was some left. The only available date and time was December 27th (two days after Christmas) at 7:30pm (30 minutes after the boys’ bedtime). So we booked 10 tickets right away (for our family, Jimmy’s brother Sam and his family and Jimmy’s parents)! The boys would just meet Santa two days after he delivered his gifts – no big deal.

We heard so many great things about Essex itself and wanted to spend a little bit more time there. As we researched the area, we found the perfect restaurant downtown called The Griswold Inn to enjoy a quick bite before heading to the train. As soon as we pulled up it was so charming. Garland and lights were strung outside the 1776 establishment. There are a few parts to the Griswold; make sure you go to the taproom. It has a laid back vibe where you hover over seated tables waiting to pounce at the gesture of an opening. We got lucky and got a table for six right away, where we sat with two locals who were finishing up their drinks. They gave us the history of the Griswold and legend has it, the tavern was made out of an old ship, decorated with an endless gallery wall and ship memorabilia. It’s a really cool site to see and a must do if you’re ever in the area. After we indulged in burgers, fries, beer, wine and too many baskets of popcorn we drove the five minute drive through town, which was so adorable, to the train. I would love to venture here during the day and walk around the shops!

When we arrived at the Steam Train, all the children were dressed in their best pajamas, including James, Henry, and their cousins who were matching in gray and white stripes. We found two empty booths across from one another where we hunkered down for the night. As the train chugged down the tracks towards the North Pole, our car sang songs, sipped hot chocolate, ate sugar cookies, glanced out the window at the decorations, and met Santa! James and I stood up and danced for a few numbers too! It was so cute and the boys loved it! We hope to make it an annual tradition!

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