It is difficult to imagine what improvements might be made to bring this dream of a New England waterside town any closer to perfection. Tree-bordered streets are lined with shops and homes that retain an early-18th-century flavor without the frozen-in-amber quality that can afflict towns as postcard-pretty as this. About 6,500 people live and work and play here, and bustle busily along Main Street, which runs down to Steamboat Dock and its flotilla of working vessels and pleasure craft.

In winter, bald eagles come to the lower reaches of the river, and Essex holds an Eagle Festival in mid-February in celebration, with music, Native American dancers, and guided boat and land-based viewing of the raptors. The Connecticut Audubon Society (tel. 800/714-7201; has information.

Other regional information is offered by the Essex Board of Trade (tel. 860/767-3904;

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.