Day: June 17th, 2007

The best small town in America

Sunday, June 17th, 2007 | All Things, Family, Travel

Returning to the city from our Fathers Day outing that afternoon, we crossed paths with the Essex Steam Train, with its restored Pullman cars, making its way through the Connecticut River Valley.

Connecticut Valley Train

Essex, a picturesque town of about 6,500 residents on the banks of the Connecticut River, bills itself as “The Best Small Town in America.” Situated halfway between New York City and Boston, the town actually consists of three villages: Essex, Centerbrook and Ivoryton.

Essex village originated as a prosperous shipbuilding community; the American warship, “Oliver Cromwell” was built here in 1775, the first of over 500 vessels to be built in Essex between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. In keeping with the nautical tradition, the town also claims the only working, full-scale model of The American Turtle, the first submarine to be used (and lost) in combat, built by Eli David Bushnell in 1776(!)

Exquisitely preserved colonial, Georgian and Victorian houses still line Main Street, among them the space housing the Connecticut River Museum and the Griswold Inn, one of the oldest continuously operated inns in the country. Today, the leafy streets are lined with art galleries, boutiques, and antique shops.

Essex Books

Essex Savings Bank

Essex Post Office


One day, perhaps a RiverQuest Sunset Cruise?

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Sunday, June 17th, 2007 | All Things, Family

On this brilliantly sunny Sunday, we piled into the car for a road trip to Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Mohegan Sun

Mohegan Sun

I remember when going to a casino was an experience punctuated by the cacophany of quarters cascading against steel bins. All that’s changed, though; as of May 1, 2007, all of Mohegan Sun’s 6,000 slot machines became coin-free, joining the ranks of those along the Las Vegas strip and Atlantic City’s boardwalk. Instead of coins or tokens, the casino now employs so-called “Ticket In/Ticket Out” (TITO) technology; payouts are made via bar-code printed vouchers, which can be inserted and scanned into any machine for gaming credits (just like paper currency), or redeemed for cash at redemption kiosks or cashier booths.

The shift to electronic ticketing allowed Mohegan Sun to trim 20% of its attendant and cashier staff and to clear up valuable floor space previously occupied by the bulky coin-redemption booths. In their place, the casino plans to set up new lounges designed by the ubiquitous Rockwell Group.

Certainly, it’s a quicker and more convenient system for the players, who no longer have to bother with heavy, dirty coins, or to wait for slot machines to be refilled or emptied. I have to believe, though, that visitors tend to gamble more money this way: once the bill ($10 minimum here, as we discovered) gets sucked out of sight, it’s very easy to forget you’re playing with real money. And players are far more likely to gamble away any remaining credits than to bother redeeming their tickets for a few dollars. Not to mention that the tickets, which are as good as cash inside the casino, can be lost or simply forgotten and unredeemed.

For those who feel nostalgic for the festive clink-clink-clinking, I was amused to note that Mohegan Sun’s slot machines will simulate the telltale payout sounds when printing the electronic tickets. I still miss those logo-emblazoned plastic buckets, grubby as they were, in which in visits past, I used to haul home weeks and weeks worth of laundry money.

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