What to See and Do in Western Massachusetts
Tie on your running shoes — there are so many unique things to see and do that you may have to scurry to fit them all in. Of course, you don't have to do them all on your first visit.
Western Massachusetts offers all-season fun for all ages. Catch March Madness at the Basketball Hall of Fame. Spend a summer day at New England's top amusement park. Leaf-peep from an antique train. And marvel at hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights as you drive through an illuminated holiday wonderland.
Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum
Housatonic Street and Willow Creek Road, Lenox
On summer weekends and holidays, board a historic train for a one-and-a-half-hour scenic ride from Lenox to Stockbridge, or opt for the shorter, forty-five-minute trip from Lenox to Lee if your little ones are likely to get fidgety.
281 Greenfield Road, South Deerfield
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, it's tropically warm and enchanting inside this 8,000-square-foot glass butterfly conservatory that is home to thousands of fluttering specimens. If you're lucky, one may land right on your shoulder. Open daily year-round, Magic Wings is also home to a one-acre outdoor butterfly garden and Monarchs Restaurant, which serves family fare for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday and brunch on Sunday.
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
1150 West Columbus Avenue, Springfield
Basketball was invented in Springfield by Dr. James Naismith, and the Basketball Hall of Fame celebrates this truly American sport and the great players, coaches, and teams that have captured fans' imaginations. Open daily year-round, the hall even offers a chance to get in the game, although without the typical NBA player's salary.
Six Flags New England
1623 Main Street/Route 159, Agawam
The Six Flags theme park company made its mark on New England in 2000 when it took over the former Riverside amusement park. Six Flags New England features thrill rides such as the Superman Ride of Steel (one of the fastest and tallest roller coasters in the world), children's rides and amusements, shows, Looney Tunes Movietown, Wiggles World, and the Hurricane Harbor Water Park. The park is open daily from late May through Labor Day and on weekends and select holidays in the spring and fall. Admission includes all rides and shows; save money by purchasing your tickets online. If you arrive early, you may be able to purchase one of the limited number of Flash Passes available for the day. This ride reservation device will cut your time spent waiting in lines.
The Zoo in Forest Park
302 Sumner Avenue, Springfield
This small zoo is home to a variety of domestic and exotic animals, and children will enjoy meeting and feeding some of the furry residents. The zoo operates daily from April through mid-October and weekends only the rest of the year.
Historic, 750-acre Forest Park (Sumner Avenue, Springfield) is transformed each holiday season into Bright Nights (413-733-3800,
Museums and Historic Sites
This culturally rich region is home to many museums and historic attractions; here are just a few with distinct family appeal. You can even rub elbows with the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch.
39 South Street/Route 7, Pittsfield
See a diverse collection of art, history, and science exhibits year-round and a breathtaking display of Christmas trees during the annual Festival of Trees from mid-November through December. Kids will especially like the hands-on Dinosaur Dig; there are more activities in the Dino Den.
For a study in contrasts, visit Hancock Shaker Village (Route 20, Pittsfield, 413-443-0188 or 800-817-1137,
4 Williamsville Road, Stockbridge
Chesterwood was the home of sculptor Daniel Chester French, best known for the statue of the sitting president at the Lincoln Memorial. Visit his studio and gardens late May through mid-October.
Emily Dickinson Museum
280 Main Street, Amherst
Tours of two historic houses, The Homestead and The Evergreens, are available from March through early December and provide fascinating insight into the life of the reclusive poet, who lived in Amherst for most of her life.
Old Main Street, Deerfield
This 330-year-old, mile-long street is one of the Pioneer Valley's most popular day-trip destinations. Admission includes guided tours of the village's eighteenth- and nineteenth-century houses, a self-guided tour of the Flynt Center of Early New England Life, and all special programs on the day of your visit, including hands-on activities at the Children's History Workshop. Historic Deerfield is open weekends from January through March and daily the remainder of the year.
Norman Rockwell Museum
9 Glendale Road/Route 183, Stockbridge
Norman Rockwell was one of America's best-loved artists, and his gift for capturing a slice of American life is even more evident when you see his original works up-close. This museum, which has the world's largest collection of original Rockwell art, is open daily year-round.
Springfield Museums at the Quadrangle
21 Edwards Street, Springfield
Where can you see art masterpieces, ancient treasures, dinosaurs, an aquarium, a planetarium, and arms and armor all in one place? At this unique collection of four museums, clustered around a central green. They include the Museum of Fine Arts, the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, the Springfield Science Museum, and the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum. One admission fee admits you to all four, which are open daily except Monday year-round.
A national memorial dedicated to beloved children's book author and Springfield native Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was unveiled at the Quadrangle in Springfield in 2002. The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden (
Music, Theater, and Dance
The Berkshires have been called “America's Premiere Cultural Resort,” and it's no wonder; the bucolic region is home to dozens of renowned cultural institutions. Summer is the most vibrant season for arts here, and many esteemed organizations offer opportunities to introduce young people to the enchantment of theater, music, and dance.
Barrington Stage Company
30 Union Street, Pittsfield
Kids five to thirteen are admitted free with an adult to MainStage productions, except for preview and Saturday shows, at this critically acclaimed theater, which presents dramas and musicals from mid May through mid-October.
Berkshire Theatre Festival (BTF)
Main Street, Stockbridge
One of the country's oldest theaters, BTF presents several family plays each summer, in addition to its schedule of professional productions on two stages.
358 George Carter Road, Becket
If you're a dance fan, catch a summertime ballet, modern, or ethnic dance performance at America's oldest dance festival. Many free talks and demonstrations are open to the public, too. For families, the free Inside/Out performances, held Wednesday through Saturday evenings in a casual outdoor setting, are the best bet.
Shakespeare & Company
70 Kemble Street, Lenox
Introduce your teens to the Bard's best at this Shakespearean playhouse, which offers free outdoor prelude performances before each evening's show at the Founders' Theatre.
297 West Street, Lenox
Imagine lazing on your picnic blanket, feasting on gourmet goodies, sipping something bubbly, and listening to the rich strains of a symphony or the cool sounds of jazz. A musical evening at Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home in the Berkshires since 1936, may be the most memorable event of your stay in the region. Located in Lenox, Tanglewood is open from late June through early September each year and hosts a variety of performances. Call SymphonyCharge at 617-266-1200 or 888-266-1200 for tickets, or purchase them online. Even if you haven't planned ahead, you may still be able to get Shed or lawn tickets at the gate.
Children younger than five are not permitted in the Koussevitzky Music Shed and other indoor concert venues, and families with young children may only sit on the rear half of the lawn.
Whether your idea of outdoor enjoyment is schussing down slopes or stopping to smell the roses at a historic garden, western Massachusetts will delight your senses. Even if you're only able to get away for a weekend, you'll feel totally away from it all at these outdoor attractions.
Bash Bish Falls State Park
Falls Road, Mt. Washington
The striking twin cascades of Bash Bish Falls — the state's highest waterfall — await at the end of a short, easy hike. Hidden in the southwest corner of the state, the scenic falls make a worthy day-trip destination; you can even take Baby along in a backpack-style carrier.
Berkshire Botanical Garden
Junction Routes 102 and 183, Stockbridge
Stroll through fifteen acres of pretty plantings at one of America's oldest public display gardens, open daily May through mid-October.
322 Lander Road, Lee
Introduce youngsters to the joy and adventure of hiking with llamas. Pack a picnic to enjoy by the pond after your outing.
Natural Bridge State Park
McCauley Road, North Adams
Stand atop North America's only marble bridge, a geologic wonder located on the site of a former quarry. There is a parking fee at this seasonal park, open Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day.
Skiing in the Berkshires
With a half-dozen ski areas, the Berkshires are the state's top winter destination. While the peaks here can't rival those farther north in Vermont, the region's ski mountains are a good choice for families with children who are just learning to snowboard or ski.
Bousquet Ski Area
As you ramble this region, you'll find shopping surprises around every bend — antique shops, flea markets, church tag sales, galleries, boutiques. Here are some of prime places to splurge.
You may just believe you've reached nirvana when you discover Main Street in Northampton. This funky little college town is the perfect destination for an afternoon drifting in and out of clever shops, discovering the works and wares of New England artists and entrepreneurs. Don't miss the endless greeting card department at Faces (175 Main Street, 413-584-4081,
39 Main Street, South Egremont Village
Even if you're not in the market for ski gear and warm outerwear, it's worth the trip to Kenver, where winter sports equipment and fashions are displayed in a former eighteenth-century stagecoach stop, and free apples, cider, and coffee are served by a roaring fire.
Want to stretch your vacation dollars in the Berkshires? Trade your U.S. currency for BerkShares (413-528-1737,
Prime Outlets at Lee
50 Water Street, Lee
Save some serious shopping time to search for deals at Prime Outlets, home to more than sixty name-brand outlet stores including Little Me, Gap, J. Crew, Jones New York, Liz Claiborne, and Polo Ralph Lauren.
307 Main Street, Great Barrington
With an inventory of 16,000 different toys, you're sure to find a plaything to enchant every little one on your list at this colorful store, where young patrons can climb up into the treehouse … if they're brave enough to walk through the jungle of stuffed animals.
Yankee Candle Village
Routes 5 and 10 North, South Deerfield
The Yankee Candle flagship store draws millions of visitors each year and is one of New England's most popular tourist attractions. You can spend hours lost inside its cavernous showrooms. The world's largest candle store features a Candlemaking Museum, a dip-your-own-candle area, a Bavarian Christmas Village, the Black Forest where it snows indoors year-round, Santa's Enchanted Toy Works, animatronic musical entertainers, a restaurant with an award-winning kids' menu, and more.