The Lower Connecticut River Valley

A Journey into Historical and Natural Wonder

The picturesque Connecticut River traces a path through New England from its source in northern New Hampshire to the Connecticut coastline along Long Island Sound. Some of the river’s most beautiful towns are near the river's mouth, bearing the memorable names Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, Essex, Deep River, Ivoryton, Chester, and Haddam, CT. Here you find town greens, white, steepled churches, and unique explorations, include a riverside train paired with a riverboat ride, and walking trails to a real castle.

Find more great things to do and places to visit in this region.

South Pacific at Ivoryton Playhouse - Lower CT River Valley

Steeped in History

Historic sites dating from the early 20th century to the Revolutionary War (and earlier) are found throughout the Lower Connecticut River Valley.

  • One such site is the Nathan Hale Schoolhouse in East Haddam, CT, one of two schoolhouses named for the teacher and American patriot who taught there.
  • Also in East Haddam, are a duo of performing arts venues: The Goodspeed Opera House, which dates to 1876, and Ivoryton Playhouse, built in 1911. Both venues present musical theater past & present.
  • Gillette Castle was built in the early 20th century by a stage actor who came to embody the character of Sherlock Holmes.
  • Learn about the seafaring history and view historical artwork & artifacts from the area at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, CT. The museum also focuses on the present, offering science & nature courses year-round.
  • Board the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, a two-part trip along the river in a historic excursion train, followed by a cruise in a paddlewheel steamer.
  • The historic house and gardens of the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme tell the story of America’s native Impressionist painters.
  • Many of the towns host fun seasonal events, like Deep River’s huge fife-and-drum parade in mid-July.

Onrust at the Dock at Connecticut River Museum - Lower CT River Valley

Train Aerial View - Essex Steam Train & Riverboat - Essex, CT - Lower CT River Valley

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Essex CT Calendar of Events
Essex Steam Train and riverboat Essex CT
Essex Steam Train & Riverboat

One Railroad Avenue Essex, CT, 06426 Phone: 860-767-0103

Essex Steam Train & Riverboat's two-and-a-half -hour journey begins at the historic Essex Station for a narrated round trip into the heart of the unspoiled Connecticut River Valley. The steam locomotive pulls vintage coaches at 20 mph through the towns of Deep River and Chester. At Deep River Landing, passengers board the Becky Thatcher riverboat for a cruise along the Connecticut River. The deep water, coves, inlets, marshes, wildlife, and rocky shoreline are breathtaking. Upon Becky's return to Deep River Landing, the steam train welcomes passengers for the return trip to Essex Station. Trips conducted mid-May to late October.
Gallery Girl - Connecticut River Museum - Essex, CT
Connecticut River Museum

67 Main Street, Steamboat Dock Essex, CT, 06426 Phone: 860-767-8269

Families can explore the Connecticut river with indoor, outdoor exhibits and activities

At the Connecticut River Museum, families can learn about and enjoy the great river with inside and outside activities. In the museum, exhibits tell the history of the river from Indigenous peoples through the early 19th century, and describe its environmental impact and how it has been used over the years, from a power source for mills to quarrying and fisheries and recreation. And, speaking of recreation, outside, you can board the re-created 1614 sailing vessel Onrust for an afternoon or evening cruise (or explore the unique ship at the dock) or board the 64-foot RiverQuest eco-tour boat for scenic tours of the river. A kid’s cruise on Saturday morning shows kids how to use binoculars, what nautical terms mean and what birds they are seeing.
Summer Front View 500x250 - The Griswold Inn - Essex, CT
The Griswold Inn

36 Main Street Essex, CT, 06426 Phone: 860-767-1776

Longstanding heritage of hospitality at this Revolutionary War-era inn

The heritage of hospitality at the Griswold Inn began when the first visitors were welcomed in 1776 and proudly continues today with first-rate service, comfortable accommodations and fine dining. One of the oldest continuously operated inns in the United States, the Griswold, in a picturesque and historic seaport village, offers guests a choice of 34 unique rooms, furnished individually with antiques and period reproductions. The inn hosts an impressive collection of maritime art and illustrations as well as a collection of firearms used in the War of 1812. Guests can dine in the Tap Room, attached to the inn in 1801 after being rolled down Main Street by a team of oxen.