Thursday, February 25, 2016

Gillette Castle and Essex Steam Train

It was warm here? Yes, you heard me right it was 55 degrees in February in Connecticut. Crazy I know! With warm weather we decided that we better get out and take advantage of the day. So we began Round 1 of our New England Adventures. 

Again, I didn't do so hot on posting my review on Monday. Maybe I should make any day review day and just hope for the best on making a post Monday. I decided that this week I should review something Connecticut just incase any of my followers get an itch to visit this interesting small state.

We aren't from an area where state parks are closed during the winter (or better yet they maybe closed we just don't visit them during the winter) so we did no research on Gillette Castle State Park. The park itself is not closed during the winter but the ability to go in the castle is closed during the winter months. However, it is still a beautiful site to see just walking the grounds. Its amazing the structures that were built without modern equipment. 

Just my girl hanging at the castle. She loved it by the way!!! Wants to go back ASAP!

Just a little brief history on the castle. It was built by a famous actor named William Gillette (no relations to the shaving company according to Wikipedia). When Gillette died he had no family so the state of Connecticut took over the property in 1943 and made it into a state park. 

Highlights about the Castle:
  • Picnic area (would be awesome in summer time)
  • Hiking trail (to wear your kids out) 
  • Beautiful views from all areas
  • Toddlers enjoy it, especially those who think they are a princess
  • Restrooms (huge plus, but they are composting toilets so a little creepy to those no outdoorsy people like myself.

Our intentions were just to visit the castle and then head home. However, while standing out looking at the Connecticut river I heard the sounds of a steam train. Now, Elin has a book called Good Night Connecticut (we try to pick one of these books up everywhere we go, they have one for just about every state and major city) and I remembered reading about the Essex Steam Train. How we lived without internet based cell phones is beyond me. Whipping out the cell phone I found that Essex was just 5 miles away (20 minute drive because you have to go over the river and through the woods, literally). 

No clue why she stuck her tongue out all day.

The Mr. and I did no research prior to arriving in Essex. Again, remember this adventure was on a whim. We arrived at the station only to find that they had an 11:00 ride and 2:00 ride. We got there at exactly 1:40 just in time to purchase tickets (please remember we did not research our trip).

First ride on a Train

Elin was so excited to ride on the train (just like riding on Thomas). We are firm believers in buying experiences and want her to experience life to the fullest. We boarded the little train and discovered we would be on an 2 and half hour journey (we thought it might be 45 minutes, so we were a little taken a back, and left the sippy cup in the car, yikes). 

Yep, this was one of the views

Now it is important to note here that Essex Steam Train has many different types of trips (who would have known?) This past weekend just happened to be the Eagle Flyer Trip. Not knowing anything a head of time put us on a 2 and half hour trip of bird watching, putting our Eagle eyes on, and listening to a well informed lady provide information about eagles. Not really the ideal trip, seeing that we have no interest in birds, but again it was an experience riding on a steam train. Plus, Connecticut is pretty ugly in the winter so there was not much of a view, check out my pictures of the view and you will get the picture. 

Lots of houses along the way, people would come out and wave which shocked us seeing that New Englanders are suppose to be rude, just a myth.

I do hear that the Polar Express ride in December sells out quickly and is a must do. If we are here during the Polar Express trips we plan on returning and doing that trip. 

Highlights from the Steam Train:

  • Bathrooms on board
  • Plenty of space to move around
  • If need be they do serve food (in case you forget the sippy cup no worries)
  • Its fun to say you rode on a steam train, not many people can say that. 

We would definitely recommend both of these activities, just as we are quickly discovering here in the northeast, wait till spring or summer. Also make sure if you do the Essex Train you research what type of ride you are going on because while it was fun to ride the train, bird watching not so much. 

We have visitors coming this weekend (our first ones, wahoo). Stay tuned as maybe they will want to do some more exploring this weekend. I hear its suppose to be 45 degrees!!!

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