When someone mentions Massachusetts to you, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Boston? Cape Cod? Those places are both great, but there is a lot of fun located in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, too. There are so many fun-filled attractions in the western part of the state and they are definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for some family fun this summer.
1. Six Flags New England
Did you know that Six Flags New England is the Coaster Capital of New England? Six Flags New England is home to the New England SkyScreamer, Flashback, Pandemonium, Mind Eraser, Batman the Dark Knight, Goliath, Wicked Cyclone and the brand new Fireball, which just opened this year. Six Flag New England also relaunched the BIZARRO coaster this season. It’s now SUPERMAN(TM) the Ride.
If coasters aren’t your thing, you are not alone. I don’t like them either, but fear not – there is a ton of other stuff to do at the park. For the little ones, there are four areas specifically dedicated to kids including Looney Tunes Movie Town, Kidzopolis, Whistlestop Park and Splash Island (in the water park). There are tons of rides in those areas including bumper cars, a carousel, the scrambler and many more classics.
In the summer Six Flags New England is also home to New England’s largest water park, Hurricane Harbor. Hurricane Harbor is a true tropical oasis with two sandy beaches, two wave pools, numerous slides and my kids favorite – the lazy river. All of this is included FREE with your park admission, so it’s two parks for the price of one!
If you get hungry, there are lots of food options within the park and if you are lucky you might just run into one of the Looney Tunes characters walking around or putting on a show.
Six Flags New England is located at 1623 Main Street in Agawam, MA. Be sure to plan ahead & check their website for directions, ticket prices and park hours.
2. The Springfield Armory
The Springfield Armory, located in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, is a free museum operated by the National Park Service.
“In 1777 George Washington ordered the creation of Springfield Armory to store revolutionary ammunition and gun carriages. In 1794, The Armory began the manufacture of muskets for a young country. For the next 150 years, Springfield Armory functioned as a supplier for every major American conflict as well as a “think tank” for new firearm concepts. In 1968, citing budgetary concerns, the U.S. Government closed Springfield Armory. Now the walls of Springfield Armory would house historians, paying homage to the past rather than those with an eye to the future”.
The Springfield Armory features the world’s largest collection of historic American firearms. Even if you are not into guns, at the armory you will get a chance to learn about the manufacturing process and it’s quite interesting. The museum has many of the original manufacturing machines that were used in the industrial section of the museum.
I would recommend visiting if you enjoy military history or have an interest in historic guns. Their collection is extensive. Plus there are Park Rangers on site who are knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions you have.
The Springfield Armory is located at One Armory Sq, Suite 2, Springfield, Massachusetts 01105. Oh and if you missed it, the museum is free!
3. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Did you know that Eric Carle is the author and illustrator of more than 70 books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar? I have read that book thousands of times and I’m fairly certain I can recite it word for word without looking at the book.
The Eric Carle Museum was started by Eric and his wife. The museum showcases his picture book art and provides hands-on activities for kids. In all honesty, I do not think the Eric Carle Museum is really a children’s museum. It’s an art museum that just happens to focus on children’s books.
There is a wonderful art gallery at the museum, but everything is at adult height, so I had to lift up my youngest son to look at it. While my husband and I truly enjoyed looking at the approximately 80 pieces of art on display at the museum, the kids were not as interested in that area. They were interested in the children’s art room, though. It’s a fantastic area in the back of the museum where the kids can express their artistic creativity. The museum also has an amazing library with an extensive amount of children’s picture books. My boys probably could have spent hours in there looking through everything. There is also a large caterpillar and butterfly from The Very Hungry Caterpillar that you can take pictures with – and of course we did!
Honestly the bookstore at the museum was our favorite part of the visit. The bookstore is small in size, but it’s filled will all types of children’s (and a few adult) books. We could have spent the whole day in there.
If you are a fan of picture book art, you should definitely make the trip to this museum. It’s worth every penny. The museum is located at 125 W Bay Rd, Amherst, MA 01002. Check their website for hours and ticket prices.
4. Basketball Hall of Fame
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is a fantastic destination for everyone from lifelong basketball fans to families with children who are just beginning to explore the sport. The Hall of Fame is located in Springfield, MA, which is “The Birthplace of Basketball”.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is home to more than three hundred inductees and more than 40,000 square feet of basketball history.
There are fun interactive exhibits located throughout the museum for visitors to enjoy. There are skills challenges, live clinics, shooting contests and a court for people to shoot hoops & practice their slam dunks on the lower level.
The Basketball Hall of Fame is located at 1000 Hall of Fame Avenue in Springfield, MA. Right now The Hall of Fame is open Sunday through Friday – 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday – 10 am to 5 pm. They do have special events from time to time & close early, so be sure to check their website for current hours.
5. Lupa Zoo
The Lupa zoo is a small family owned zoo in Ludlow, MA. It is a true hidden gem and my family absolutely loved our visit there. They have a large array of animals, many which you can pet and feed through feeding tubes in the fences. You can buy bags of food for a few dollars at the ticket window and I highly recommend doing so because it gives you an opportunity to see many of the animals up close.
In addition to all the animals, there is a playground and many animal sculptures for the kids to climb on at the zoo. Make sure you bring extra camera batteries because there are lots of photo ops at this zoo.
The Lupa Zoo is located at 62 Nash Hill Rd, Ludlow, MA 01056. Check their website for hours and ticket prices before you head out.
6. Yankee Candle Village
At the Yankee Candle Village store you will find 400,000 candles in over 200 different famous Yankee scents. In addition to enjoying all of the fabulous candles, you can shop for home decor and even do a little Christmas shopping there. While you are at the store, be sure to grab some freshly-made fudge and other sweets from their fudge shop.
At the Yankee Candle Village, it’s Christmas every day. There are animated characters who will sing to you, so you’re entertained while you shop! And don’t miss the Wax Works while you’re there. It’s an interactive activity center that includes candle dipping, making wax hands and you can even make your own jar candle. It’s fun for the whole family. Plus there are a bunch of seasonal activities year round. Hay rides are starting Memorial day weekend and run all summer long.
The Yankee Candle Village is open Monday – Sunday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, 363 days a year (they are only closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day). You will find the store at 25 Greenfield Road South Deerfield, MA 01373.
Of course there is much, much more to see and do in the Pioneer Valley – these are just a few of the highlights. So what are you waiting for, head out west to get a taste of what Western Massachusetts has to offer.
**Note: My family was provided with accommodations, some meals and complimentary admission to all of the places featured in this post. All opinions expressed here are strictly my own and were not influenced in any way**