• Sensory Friendly Connecticut River Museum

    Whether you’re interested in rivers or riverboats, steamboats or submarines, the Connecticut River Museum has something for you. There are educational resources for all ages, including school groups. The mission of the Connecticut River Museum is “to deepen appreciation of the River’s history and to inspire its stewardship by providing unique educational and recreational experiences to diverse audiences.” As part of serving diverse audiences, the museum provides Sensory Day special hours.


    Sensory Day

    Of particular interest to our communities are the Sensory Day special hours. Whether you’re an autistic parent, a parent of an autistic child, or both, this is for you. On Sensory Days you’ll find cozy bean bag chairs to sink into, fidget toys available, and a quiet room when you need a break from all the museum fun. Exhibits that usually feature loud noises and/or bright lights will be modified to ensure the comfort of guests on Sensory Day. Make sure you visit their website at CTrivermuseum.org to find out when the next Sensory Day is scheduled and reserve your spot.

    While you’re on their website, check out the downloadable content, including a map, visual checklist, and social narrative.

    Transportation Fans…

    Once you step outside the museum doors, you’ll see the adventure does not end. If you love transportation in its many forms, you’ll find something to interest you here.


    If sensory needs aren’t a major concern and you like land-based vehicles as well as river boats, you may want to find out when the next Essex Auto Club Annual Car Show is scheduled at the museum.



    Also of note is the famous Steve Cryan’s Holiday Train Show, a tiny train world which is likely to run from sometime in November until February. Check the museum website for exact dates and times. This event is an annual crowd-pleaser, with many families making a point of visiting every year as a holiday tradition. Prepare to be delighted by this highly detailed miniature world!



    Being right on the river, you know that boats will be part of the Connecticut River Museum experience. It’s located on Steamboat Dock in Essex, CT, keep your eyes open for steamboats. In the museum you’ll find a display of an operational replica of the original American Turtle submarine from the Revolutionary War. You can’t take a ride in the Turtle, but you can book a river cruise on the Onrust or RiverQuest.


    You can book an afternoon or evening cruise on the Onrust. If you book your on-water expedition first, admission to the museum is included with your cruise ticket. Private charters are also available. Check it out at the museum website to learn more.


    Enjoy the beautiful scenery of the lower Connecticut River aboard the RiverQuest, a 64-foot eco-tour boat. This area has been named by The Nature Conservancy as “One of the Last Great Places in the Northern Hemisphere.” While cruising through an area rich in history and wildlife, you might spot an eagle, osprey, or other native birds and animals. This cruise operates Spring through Fall, so you might want to visit several times to enjoy the beauty of the seasons.

    Enjoy the Museum from Home

    Can’t make it to the Connecticut River Museum in person? Educational lectures are usually recorded and uploaded online. Check their website for past topics that may interest you.

    Find the Museum in Person

    The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street, Essex, CT 06426. Contact them through their website at [email protected] or call (860)767-8269. GPS may be problematic, so make sure you enter your destination as “Connecticut River Museum, Essex, CT” or “Steamboat Dock, Essex, CT 06426” to make sure the directions are accurate. Additional parking is available on the lawn of the Samuel Lay House, just two driveways up from the museum.

    If you’re planning to visit Connecticut soon, or if this is your home, you won’t want to miss this museum. If you’re a neurodivergent family on the road, check out this post for road trip tips. Happy exploring!

    Find out more about what sensory friendly means for you here.