Though I have spent a lot of time in Western Massachusetts, and even considered living here while my husband Stephen was working full time at the nearby Air Force Reserve Base, I wasn't sure what to expect as we navigated it with our 2 year old daughter. She and I have a routine back home: the library, the park, daily mass, errands, etc. But because I entered fully into the vacation mindset (read: sleeping in, self-care, and extra family time), seeing the sights and enjoying the local fun was top priority.
Here are the places we loved visiting during our month away from home, and there were many more we didn't get to (Emily Dickinson Museum! Norman Rockwell Museum! The National Divine Mercy Shrine!) that I hope we can visit another time.
THE ERIC CARLE MUSEUM OF PICTURE BOOK ART
The Eric Carle Museum was such a fun experience because there were exhibits on other authors and illustrators of children's books, like Robert McCloskey who wrote Blueberries for Sal and Make Way for Ducklings, endless painting in a bright, serene art studio, storytime in the library with the staff, and a whole lot of space for little ones to run around and explore.
We snacked in the courtyard, read new (to us) books in the exhibit rooms, played a matching game while listening to stories in the library, and marveled at Eric Carle's bright illustrations.
THE SPRINGFIELD MUSEUMS
In downtown Springfield's historic district lies beautiful buildings that house the Art, History, and Science museums, with the Dr. Seuss Sculptural Garden in the interior quad. They are also in the process of building an entire museum dedicated to Dr. Seuss who grew up in Springfield, MA in an old house downtown, and after seeing the fantastical characters on the quad, I can only imagine how wonderful the museum will be when it's set to finish in 2017.
FOOD & DRINK
There were a few places we frequented for food and treats during our stay. We loved Flayvors at Cook Farm for homemade ice cream, cow watching, and a few moments of farm life only minutes outside of downtown Amherst in Hadley. We visited the Whole Foods up the road for our weekly groceries and this was always a pit stop on the way home.
Amherst has tons of cute spots for coffee, but Share Coffee is definitely the place to go. The exposed brick, bright light, and menu was something out of Brooklyn and we felt right at home. I ordered an espresso (which was super creamy) and my little one had an Italian Soda with local maple syrup, and a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie, which the barista said were his favorite.
Downtown Amherst has the most charming buildings, including the gorgeous Town Hall with the old clock. The Lord Jeffery Inn looked like the perfect place to stay for a long weekend, with a veranda that was calling me for an afternoon tea and a book.
Northampton, MA is also one of my favorite little hippie towns in Western Mass (not pictured). My favorite place to get coffee, tea, and treats is Woodstar Cafe, a family-owned business. Their cookies are the size of my face and so, so addicting. We also love Local Burger for their grass-fed burgers, sweet potato fries, and corner view of downtown Northampton.
OUT AND ABOUT
Other places we loved visiting was the Springfield Farmer's Market at Forest Park for grass-fed beef and bones from Farmer Bill at his local Chicoine Farm. We went to mass regularly at St. Stanislaus Basilica or St. Anne parish (with the famous pink bathroom) in Chicopee, both of which are faithful little communities. Chicopee Library had a great kids section with a fish-tank that would mesmerize any little one. There were many more things to do if we only had more time, but we loved enjoying our time in the mountains near quaint college towns, where local produce and pride in it is abounding.