Springfield, Massachusetts: Gateway to the Berkshires

Author: , March 27th, 2011
by Diana Henry, Lathrop House, Springfield, Massachusetts
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Mattoon Street, Springfield, MA

Dr. Seuss Statue, Springfield, MAWhat do Dr. Seuss, a new convention center, Five Colleges, Six Flags, the National Yiddish Book Center, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, The Big E, Basketball Hall of Fame, Bright Nights, Brimfield antiques, 735 acre Forest Park designed by Frederick Lay Olmsted; Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe House Museums and the best clay tennis courts in the Northeast have in common? They’re in or just a short drive from Springfield, MA with a great airport – Hartford’s Bradley International – as a gateway and Amtrak service too!

Springfield, MA is 2 1/2 hours from NYC, 1 1/2 hours from Boston, gateway city to the Berkshires, with attractions such as Tanglewood (the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s outdoor summer venue) , Jacob’s Pillow (dance), Shakespeare and Company (reportoire theatre), Norman Rockwell, Edith Wharton’s The Mount, and Hancock Shaker Village historic museums.

Springfield Farmer's Market

Springfield itself has several theatre venues, including City Stage and the Majestic Theatre just over the bridge in West Springfield, and Springfield Symphony features world-class musicians under the expert guidance of Maestro Kevin Rhodes.

Come on to Stearns square for free contemporary music outdoors every Thursday in summer, and enjoy the company of hundreds of bikers who throng downtown parading their chrome and leather.

Bright Night, SpringfieldThe entertainment district includes a ton of jazz, dance, and blues clubs, along with New England’s only gay club featuring nude male dancers. Pool rooms and multi-screen movie theaters beckon, as does the largest mall in New England, the Holyoke Mall.

Dining ranges from hole-in-the-wall exquisite Vietnamese and Louisiana cuisine, to several Indian and Italian signature restaurants, upscale fusion, German and French, steak and seafood emporia, and so much more.

Not for kids only there’s the Butterfly gardens, the skating rinks and minigolf, the planetarium and science museum right next to the Dr. Seuss sculpture garden, Storrowton and Deerfield village historic recreations, New England Air Museum with over 125 aircraft- climb right up to look into the cockpit of many of them- and Six Flags, Six Flags, Six Flags!

Forest Park, Springfield, MA

Sports nearby include kayaking and rafting, riverboat cruises for the less bold. golf courses galore, bicycling trails for miles along the majestic Connecticut River, tennis including 16 free courts right in Forest Park, skiing and ziplines, falconry, snowshoes and shooting at the Smith and Wesson range and others.

Some favorite attractions for history buffs are the Springfield Armory, a National Historic site for gunmaking from the Revolution to 1968, and the new Museum of Springfield History. There you can see the Duryea- the first successful gas-engine vehicle built in the U.S. – the Rolls Royces manufactured in Springfield through the 1920’s, the fire engines and airplanes that made this city a hub of pioneering transportation engineering.

Would you and your kids like to stroll through a sculpture park of Dr. Seuss characters, visit a science museum with dinosaurs, a 100-seat planetarium, dioramas of African animals, and an Eco-Center, finger-paint the afternoon away at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and hike and boat Mt. Holyoke and the Connecticut River?

Or would you rather revel at Six Flags New England or the Big E, New England’s regional fair, sampling all the maple goodies and taking in the Mardi Gras parade, or ride through the wonderment of Bright Nights in Forest Park, catch July 4th Fireworks from Riverfront Park by the Basketball Hall of Fame?

How about touring sugar shacks in late winter and early spring? Slogging through 100 plus acres of antique dealers wares in May, July and September at the Brimfield fair? Bask in Fourth of July fireworks by the Grucci Brothers off the Memorial Bridge? Farmers markets and u-pick farms in summer and fall?

Visiting all the New England states buildings and the milking barns, horse shows, sheep shearing, and endless eateries of the Big E, New England’s regional fair with a million visitors a year, in late September? Bright nights with its 600,000 light bulbs in December, the Boar’s Head medieval festival in February. There’s something unique, dramatic and delicious here at any time of year.

Lathrop House, Springfield, MAThe Lathrop House B&B, in Springfield’s Forest Park Heights historic district, is an 1899 mansion home that offers breakfast at any hour, wifi, king beds, art displays and permaculture herb, flower and vegetable gardens. Here you enter the elegant home of nationally-published and exhibited photojournalist/owner, who will welcome you to a romantic, pet-friendly, family or friend sojourn with special touches that are environmentally sound, esthetically pleasing, historically fascinating, Kosher, GLBT accommodating.

Come to “Tara North” as B&B owner Diana Mara Henry, nicknames her grand Victorian mansion in the best part of town. Surround yourself with stained glass, massive oak-beamed ceilings and paneling, recline on the front or upper story porch off your bedroom, sheltered by the two-story ionic columns of this neo-classical 1899 house that warmly offers to be your “home away from home.”