ESSEX, CT (WFSB) -- Essex and it's "old world" warmth and charm is arguably the most New England "feeling" town in this part of New England.
"We wanted to be in Essex because when I was here about a year ago, I could only stay here a few minutes and it was so fascinating, it kind of reminds me of Williamsburg and other places where we’ve been,” said Susan Crosby, who hails from Kansas City, MO.
Fewer than 7,000 people live in town, but thousands more come to visit.
"I like the architecture, I like the fact that the buildings are old and everyone we met here has been very, very friendly so I would say those are three great things for Connecticut,” Crosby said.
Essex became a town in 1852, and the township is really three separate villages, including nearby Ivoryton and Centerbrook.
Main Street in Essex is right on the Connecticut River, where the appropriately named Connecticut River Museum celebrates the history of the river.
In 1814, during the war of 1812, British forces torched more than two-dozen ships in the town that was known for shipbuilding then, and so much more today.
"The architecture, the history, you have the water, it’s like a quintessential New England town with a little bit of history captured in the present moment,” said Pamela St. Clair, of the Cooper & Smith art gallery, which has been in town for about four years.
From art, to restaurants, to the Essex Steam Train, to antique stores and specialty shops, you'll find it all in Essex.
“Well, you feel great here, I mean it’s a great, relaxing place to come. We’ve got history, we’ve got architecture, we’ve got the river and the things that go with it. It’s scenic and it’s relaxed and it’s a fun place to be,” said Larry Athay, of Truffle Shots.
Truffle Shots opened in 2012 and they offer shots of chocolate, and if that doesn't get your attention, the scenery sure will.
Just ask Jo-Ann and Gary Carlson from Niantic, who ride their bike all over, but nothing beats Essex.
"It’s just a beautiful ride along the river, coming up here and then you come down here, it’s just a neat little town. Usually all the boats are out here, it’s beautiful,” said Jo-Ann Carlson.
Heading over to the heart of Essex, you’ll find the Griswold Inn.
It opened in 1776, making it the oldest continually operating inn in the country.
"It was just a part of life, the ‘Gris’ was always the centerpiece of the community, it was always a place where you ran into people you knew,” said Geoffrey Paul, of The Griswold Inn.
He and his family have owned the inn and restaurant since 1995.
"Like every single community in New England, there was a tavern where information was exchanged, news was shared, people celebrated life events, marriages, the birth of children and so on - those inns are largely gone today, there are a handful left and the Griswold Inn is fortunately one of those,” Paul said.
There are actually three restaurants in one—The Griswold Inn with classic meals, the wine bar that opened 14 years ago with small plates and 50 wines by the glass, and the tap room, the original Essex schoolhouse, once named by Esquire Magazine as one of the great bars of America.
"It's still the same. The same horse-hair crushed oyster shell plaster ceiling that has been here for almost 300 years. It's really magical,” Paul said.
Magical, but also a museum with the largest collection of steamboat related art and objects from Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River.
"It's beautiful! Actually, when we walked in, I was like, I have never been here before, it's like really a lot of history, we came through the other door and we were looking around and I was like, I never knew this is what it looked like from the inside,” said Alicia Canning, of Canton.
People come from all over to browse, dine and hang out where they have live music seven nights a week, and fresh popcorn from a machine that's more than 100 years old.
"Good food, a lot of fun, we can sit and chat and converse with friends without feeling rushed,” said Ida Schnipper, from Unionville.
It’s a place that still performs the same function today as it did in the past.
"It's the special places, like the Griswold Inn, those unique places, those authentic spaces that provide life's great experiences and what we want people to take away is wow, that place is special,” Paul said.
Also during 20 Towns in 20 Days, Channel 3 is making a $1,000 donation to Bikes for Kids, which is an organization that collects, repairs, and safety tests donated, used bicycles that are given away to those in need.
For more information, click here.