2 Best Sights in Essex, Hartford and the Connecticut River Valley

Connecticut River Museum

Fodor's choice

Housed in an 1878 steamboat warehouse, this museum tells the story of the Connecticut River through maritime artifacts, interactive displays, and ship models. The riverfront museum even has a full-size working reproduction of the world's first submarine, the American Turtle (named for its appearance); the original was built by David Bushnell, from nearby Westbrook, in 1775 as a "secret weapon" to win the Revolutionary War.

Essex Steam Train & Riverboat

Fodor's choice

This excursion offers some of the best views of the Connecticut River Valley from a vintage steam locomotive pulled by 1920s-era coaches and an old-fashioned riverboat. The train, traveling along the Connecticut River through the lower valley, makes a 12-mile round-trip from Essex to Deep River Landing. Before returning by train to Essex, you have the option of boarding the Becky Thatcher riverboat and cruising along the river past Gillette Castle, Goodspeed Opera House, and fascinating deep-water coves and inlets. (The open promenade deck on the boat's third level offers the best views.) The train also hosts themed excursions such as the seasonal North Pole Express (from mid-November until Christmas).