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Places to Go With Children

Posted by nechc on May 16, 2011

Originally posted by Cheryl Wilcox at her blog.  Cheryl has closed her blog, but gave us this information to share here.  We would like to congratulate Cheryl on the birth of her sixth child last night.

I am writing this post for people coming to the New England Catholic Homeschool Conference, who may want to stick around the Chicopee area for the weekend, and are wondering what there is to do around here. Or maybe for Dads who are looking to do something with their children while their wives are at the conference. Or maybe for people who live here inWestern Massachusetts and want to read my long-winded commentary about local area attractions.

 First of all, let me tell you that there is a great blog called Exploring Western Massachusetts. On its “Things to Do” page you’ll find links to over eighty Things to Do and nearly fifty Museums. But if you want to narrow it down a bit, here’s my list.


Springfield Museums

21 Edwards Street

Springfield, MA 01103

(413) 263-6800 or 800-625-7738

This is actually a group of five museums and The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. So you can spend the whole day here and not see everything. You could spend a whole day in just the Science Museum and not see everything. That’s the only one we usually go to. My kids love it. My younger ones melt down before we can check out the rest of the museums. Of course, we all love Horton, and we often eat a picnic lunch on the green near the sculpture garden. It is less than 15 minutes from the conference location.

Children’s Museum at Holyoke

444 Dwight Street

Holyoke, MA 01040

(413) 536-7048

This one is just 10 minutes from the conference location, which is a plus. Children’s museums are not my favorite places to go, but the kids love them… (I never said I was good at writing reviews.) I believe this museum has been popular with homeschoolers. I remember hearing about people enjoying meeting here weekly when their children were young. (Ages 8 and under is suggested in a book I have.) Once a year was enough for me. The museum is in Holyoke Heritage State Park. Also located there is the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round. It’s just a short walk from the museum. I’ve been there a couple of times for birthday parties and it’s very nice. It’s the same merry-go-round I used to ride as a child at Mountain Park. (Awwww.)

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

125 West Bay Rd.

Amherst, MA 01002

(413) 658-1100

Our membership here just expired. We’ve visited it fairly regularly for the past two years. What I really like about it is that it’s simple. It’s a relaxing place to go to with a variety of ages. My experience has been that some places can be stressful when one age group is in one place, and I’m nursing the baby, and the toddler keeps taking off. That’s not the case here. We often start in the library. It’s a picture book heaven. I can read to the kids or just peruse the books while the older ones read and the younger ones play with the wooden toys and puppets. Next we go to the art studio. Everyone can do the Public Art Program project currently available. There is a place for little ones to play while the others are creating. Sometimes we go to a film in the auditorium which is usually a 10-30 minute Scholastic Books video.  Then we go to the gallery to see the exhibits. There’s a café for lunch, but I usually pack our own. Or we go before or after lunch. Once we ate at Antonio’s Pizza in Amherst for lunch. Penderwicks fans or pizza lovers might be interested. (The Carle is 32 minutes from the conference location.)

Old Sturbridge Village

1 Old Sturbridge Village Road

Sturbridge, MA 01566

(508) 347-3362

It’s about 42 minutes from the conference location. We had a membership to OSV last year. We’ve enjoyed going there alone and also meeting up with friends from the eastern part of the state. I haven’t been there (or any of these places) on the weekends, when I imagine it’s much more crowded. I love this place where I can fantasize about living with so few possessions. (Of course, I would probably want to live in the Salem Towne House.) My children have enjoyed a puppet show, seeing how things were made back then, and their favorite place seems to be the indoor children’s museum. There they can pretend to work in the general store, on a farm, live in an home in that period, etc. There is more than you can see and do in one day here. It’s well worth the drive (coming from someone who doesn’t like to drive.) As for food, we ate lunch in the Tavern cafeteria once when we were traveling and I remember it being acceptable. Usually we bring a picnic lunch to eat on the green.

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory

281 Greenfield Road

South Deerfield, MA 01373

(413) 665-2805

This place is unique. It’s beautiful. If you have children who love butterflies, you may want to make the trip. (It’s about 36 minutes from the conference location.) I had a couple of butterflies land on me when we went. I think the suggestion is to wear bright or light clothing. The employees were knowledgeable and ready to answer questions. I don’t think you could spend a day here. I remember it being extremely warm in the conservatory, so warm, that we left it and went back in later after we cooled off. There is a restaurant and a gift shop. If you do go there, then you may also want to go to the Yankee Candle Flagship Store in South Deerfield. It’s just 3 minutes away, on the same road, and it’s much more than a candle store. I used to visit it often when the kids were younger. Back then they would enjoy the BavarianVillage, theNutcracker Castle, the trains running on tracks through different rooms, the puppet band, Santa’s Toy Shop and more. We’d sit outside and have a picnic on a picnic table in a gazebo – so pretty. Now I’d rather not bring them to a place that will make them want to buy things. (The toy store is huge.) But if you’re not from around here, the place is quite a sight to see. 

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

1000 West Columbus Avenue

Springfield, MA 01001

(413) 781-6500 or (877) 4-HOOPLA

I haven’t been to the new museum that opened in 2002. I probably went to the old one when I was about twenty. I’m listing it because if you or someone in your family is a huge basketball fan, then you probably won’t want to miss it. It’s just 10 minutes away from the conference location.

Rainy Day Fun

AMF Bowling – Airway Lanes

1387 Liberty St.

Springfield, MA 01104

(413) 733-7865

Big balls and candlepin -your basic bowling alley I guess. We used to go here for homeschool bowling once a month, before we cut back on expenses. If you like grilled hot dogs and cheeseburgers and fries, you’ll enjoy their lunch food. I was surprised at how yummy it was. Way better than fast food.

Springfield Cinemas


1250 St. James Avenue

Springfield, MA 01104

I’ve never been to this one, but my relatives have. I think it’s nice. And it’s close to the bowling alley.

Rave Motion Pictures West Springfield

864 Riverdale Road

West Springfield, MA 01089

(413) 733-5131

This is the theater I always go to – once or twice a year, when I actually go to the movies. It’s a typical cinema. Movies, bathrooms, food… overpriced buttered popcorn and soft drinks.Riverdale Road is the home of nearly every chain restaurant in Western Mass, which is convenient for date nights. What are those, you say?

Things to Do Outdoors

Stanley Park

400 Western Avenue

Westfield, MA 01085

(413) 568-9312

I may be biased because this park is close to where I live, but I think it’s the best around.

#1 It’s gorgeous. (Check out the pictures in the Major Points of Interest section on their website.)

#2 It’s Free.

#3 You can play basketball, tennis, soccer, walk on trails, through flower gardens, by the ponds, see ducks, swans, dinosaur tracks, old buildings, fountains, frogs, (stay away from the geese), play on the playscapes, in the sand, have a picnic, and more….

#4 It’s FREE!

(It’s about 29 minutes from the conference.)

Look Park

300 North Main St.

Florence, MA 01062

(413) 584-5457

This park is approximately 30 minutes from the conference location, which is about the same time away as StanleyPark, but in a different direction. This park is also beautiful, and it has it all – a train, pedal boats, miniature golf, bumper boats, refreshments, playgrounds, a zoo, a water spray park, picnic areas, and more. You can spend the whole day here. We’ve been there for office picnics and family reunions. My kids love this place. The down side though, is there are lots of fees.

Forest Park

Sumner Avenue

Springfield, MA

(413) 787-6434

I haven’t been to Forest Park in years, but my friends go there often. There doesn’t appear to be a park website, but there is one for The Zoo in Forest Park. I found out online that the park has (in addition to the zoo) : a playground, picnic area, pool, fountain and spray structure,  sports fields, tennis courts and a public ice skating facility. I remember the duck pond from my childhood. (Mapquest guesses it’s 14 minutes from the conference location.)


Nash Hill Road

Ludlow, MA 01056

(413) 589-9883

I used to go there with the kids once a year, until the admission fees went up. It was always fun. I couldn’t believe there were giraffes inLudlow. There was much more to see at Lupa than at the other local zoos. They had a small playground and a picnic area that wasn’t that clean, but it was acceptable. Lots of good photo opportunities.

Six Flags New England

1623 Main Street
Agawam, Massachusetts 01001
(413) 786-9300

We always have a great time at Six Flags. It’s expensive as amusement parks usually are, but sometimes when you’re on vacation you splurge. And last year, my sister got us free tickets. (added by Christine: There are many people immodestly dressed here, so don’t go if you are easily offended by other people’s clothing choices.)

Quabbin Reservoir

485 Ware Rd.(Rte.9)

Belchertown, MA 01007

(413) 323-7221

I haven’t been to Quabbin since I was an itty bitty school girl on a field trip. I don’t remember too much about the experience. But Quabbin Reservoir has a fascinating history, and my friend just wrote about a trip she took there with her family recently, so I put it on my mental list of things to do this summer. Maybe you might like to go there too. Mapquest says it’s 37 minutes from the conference location.

The Robert E. Barrett Fishway at the Holyoke Dam

(413) 659-3714 or (413) 659-4462

I’ve never been to it, but I’m including it on my list because it’s educational, it’s close to the conference location, and I believe it’s the time of year for the fish to migrate. I found a review of the place here.

Well, there you have it. If you’re coming to the conference this year, I hope you have a wonderful conference experience. I know that I found last year’s conference to be inspiring. I left the day with a comforting sense of peace.


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