Whether you’re a fan of culture, sports, or even a little Vegas glitz, you can find your ideal getaway in Springfield, MA.
By Yankee Staff
Nov 08 2018
The largest city in Massachusetts’s famed Pioneer Valley, Springfield — founded in 1636 — is the oldest settlement with that name in the U.S. No small feat, given that there are more than 40 Springfields from coast to coast! But that’s just the beginning of Springfield, MA’s claims to fame.
Long known as a regional center for industry and innovation, this city on the Connecticut River saw America’s first armory and the first American-made automobile. It is the birthplace of basketball and Dr. Seuss. New England’s biggest theme park is on its doorstep, as is the largest fair on the eastern seaboard (the Big E, held each September). And in 2018, the city’s profile rose to new heights with the opening of the first mega casino and resort in Massachusetts, a nearly $1 billion project called MGM Springfield.
Even better, Springfield’s immediate access to I-90 and I-91 and proximity to Boston and Hartford make it an easy-to-reach getaway destination. Feel like planning a trip? Here are some popular things to do, places to eat, and places to stay in Springfield, MA.
Museum-hopping doesn’t get any easier than this. The Springfield Museums offers five distinctly different experiences for a single admission price. Marvel at the wonders of the natural world at the Springfield Science Museum, and browse world-class artwork by the likes of Monet and O’Keeffe at the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts. Delve into local lore at the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, and check out the eclectic potpourri of art and artifacts at the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum. Finally, step back into childhood at the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, opened in 2017 to celebrate native son Theodor Geisel. The famed children’s book author is also memorialized in the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, which anchors the museums’ downtown campus (aka the Quadrangle).
Springfield is also where you’ll find the official museum of the Titanic Historical Society. This small but fascinating collection located in the Indian Orchard neighborhood includes a nearly 9-foot Titanic model, the life jacket worn by Mrs. Jacob Astor, and a flag from one of the doomed ocean liner’s lifeboats.
Hoops fans will want to make a pilgrimage to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, a shrine to the game first played in 1891 right here in Springfield, thanks to a local college PE instructor named James Naismith. An eye-catching building wrapped around a 100-foot-high metallic sphere, the hall packs some 35,000 square feet of exhibit space with memorabilia, artifacts, and hundreds of interactive displays. Don’t miss the full-size Center Court, where visitors can actually test their ball-handling skills.
As the headquarters of the American Hockey League, Springfield naturally has a team of its own: the Springfield Thunderbirds, a popular minor league team that has its home ice at MassMutual Arena. In 2019 Springfield is hosting the AHL All-Star Classic and Skills contest, the first AHL All-Star Game in the city since 1959.
All ages are guaranteed to get their fill of thrills at Six Flags New England, situated in the Springfield suburb of Agawam. What started as a humble 19th-century green space called Riverside Park has transformed over the years into a 235-acre amusement park with more than 100 rides, shows, and attractions, including New England’s largest water park, Hurricane Harbor.
One of the largest municipal parks in the country, 735-acre Forest Park a variety of recreation options for the whole family. There’s public ice skating at the park’s Cyr Arena, paddleboating on Porter Lake, playgrounds galore, and much more. The Zoo in Forest Park and Education Center, which marks its 125th anniversary in 2019, gives kids a close-up look at some 150 species of critters in a facility focused more on conservation and rehabilitation than the traditional zoo model.
When Springfield’s mega casino officially opened its doors in August 2018, it brought with it two notable newcomers to the city dining scene. The Chandler Steakhouse, helmed by Hell’s Kitchen winner Meghan Gill, is a plush outpost for dry-aged beef and locally sourced seafood. From award-winning West Coast chef Michael Mina comes the Italian-influence seafood eatery Cal Mare, which also has a separate pizza counter for quick eats.
This small storefront BYOB eatery is known for its expertly prepared cajun and creole favorites dished up by waitresses who will probably call you “hon.” From the spicy andouille and plump fried oysters to desserts as sweet as magnolia blossoms, look no further for a taste of New Orleans.
Red Rose keeps the faith with true pizza as it’s made in Naples by mixing up fresh dough daily, hand-stretching it very, very thin, and cooking the pies in a ferociously hot oven. It’s all part of a proud Italian family tradition. Although some heavier Americanized toppings are available, do yourself a favor and keep it light to enjoy the amazing crust.
Tucked off a side street, this small shop might elude the casual passerby, but almost any local can provide directions in a heartbeat. The pressed tuna paninis, made from oil-packed fish and fresh ciabatta baked next door, are so good they deserve their own aria.
Home to some of the best Vietnamese food in the Pioneer Valley, Pho Saigon is a family-run storefront eatery with an extensive menu (60-plus dishes) that includes Hanoi-style meatballs, savory soups, stir-fries, and hot pot creations. Afterward, you can cool your tastebuds with a refreshing tropical fruit shake or Vietnamese iced coffee.
Located in Agawam in the impressive setting of an 1862 mansion, the Federal bills itself as a special-occasion restaurant that’s still “sociable and affordable enough for every occasion.” The wide-ranging New American menu spans everything from risotto balls with black truffle butter and herb-roasted pork tenderloin to upscale pizzas — and even a signature lobster roll.
If you’re a brand loyalist, Springfield probably has your chain of choice. Among the options: The Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel is a 325-room riverside hotel that opened in 1987 and refreshed its look in 2013. The 87-room Hampton Inn & Suites is a slightly less expensive player with crisp, up-to-date decor, thanks to a fairly recent opening (2015). And talk about location: The Hilton Garden Inn, with its 143 rooms, is right next door to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Of course, the splashiest chain debut was that of the MGM Springfield casino resort hotel in 2018. The six-story, 250-room hotel includes 16 luxury suites, including a Presidential Suite crowned with a chandelier inspired by Dr. Seuss’ The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Among the resort’s amenities are a full-service spa, an in-house barbershop, and an 8,000-square-foot pool.
Have you been to Springfield, MA? Tell us about it!