I Visit a Real-Life Hallmark Christmas Movie Town Every Year, and It's as Magical as You'd Expect


Have you ever wanted to just live inside the village where a Hallmark Christmas movie takes place? The tinsel-covered towns are perpetually nestled in a blanket of snow, while garlands are draped from every outdoor fixture and holiday cheer fills the frosted air. It’s a magical place where Scrooge-esque business people come from the big city and melt into the very personification of the Christmas spirit, swept into a veritable snow globe of romance and familial comfort. If you think these towns are too quaint, too picture-perfect, too “Where is Candace Cameron Bure hiding?” to be real, let it be known that they do exist, (to quote that M&Ms Christmas commercial). And I’ve gone to the same one every holiday season for the past 15 years.

Every year, on a cold day in December, my family packs up the car with mugs of steaming hot chocolate and Bing Crosby crooning from the speakers to meet with our close family friends for what has become one of my favorite Christmas traditions of all. As we head straight up 95 North, visions of sugarplums — or, at least, the glistening morsels of our annual festive feast — dance in our heads. It doesn’t matter where my sister and I are living at the time — we make sure to come home for our outing to Essex, CT.

Essex is as close to an actual Stars Hollow as you can get. It features a bustling main street dotted with charming shops with bells that tinkle to announce your arrival. The quaint stores are settled in between large homes that date back to the 1800s. It even has its very own gazebo, lit up with fairy lights. And at Christmastime, the town becomes plump with holiday whimsy. Trees are trimmed, carolers sing, and colored lights twinkle merrily. I spend the day ducking in and out of the boutiques, which offer a warm respite from the winter cold. And as the sun sets and the cerulean sky starts to seep in, my friends and I enjoy a hot cocoa before dinner. We devour delicious food at the historic Griswold Inn — the highlight of the trip. Known for its holiday decor, my friend once dubbed Essex “Christmas Town.” And one year, it actually became just that.

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