Whether you find yourself in Western Mass visiting family, for an event associated with one of the 5-colleges, on business, or just for a fun vacation, you and your kids are going to have the best time! You will find a surprising amount of kid friendly activities in the Western Massachusetts area.
New England feels its seasons intensely, and Western Mass is no different. From lush green summers, bright and dramatic foliage in fall, to a winter wonderland in the winter, you’re going to love it. There is really something for everyone at all times of the year, no matter your age or family interests.
We are Western Mass Moms who have found a ton of great activities to do with our families. If you are planning to come to Western Mass, this post highlights all of our go-to places with some info about why each of these places is great for families.
In addition to giving you our favorite places, there are also suggested planned days at the end of this article to ensure you really get the most out of all that Western Mass has to offer.
The Kid Friendly Museums:
The Eric Carle Museum of Amherst, MA
This museum is perfect for any Eric Carle reader but geared mostly for little children. An excellent place for toddlers and elementary school kids, the museum contains three exhibits, a library, art room, theater and eating area.
The exhibits are always changing and are built with children in mind. They can explore, touch and play in the exhibits. The library is not only filled with a fantastic selection of children’s books but also a lot of toys. The art room has a toddler area along with a craft that older children can create based on the exhibit themes. All of the materials and supplies to complete the project are included with your admission price.
Depending on the day’s schedule, the theater plays videos of different children’s books and features puppet shows or short plays on weekends and during vacation weeks, so be sure to check their website. While there is no food to buy at Eric Carle (but there is free coffee!), stop by Atkin’s Farm down the road and bring snacks to enjoy in their cafe area.
Dr. Seuss Museum of Springfield, MA
This museum opened in recent years and has been a hit. Perfect for your tiniest reader, this museum is created to look like Dr. Seuss’ worlds. Your toddlers and elementary kids will have a blast seeing his picture books come to life. In addition to the indoor section, the outside has a green space filled with statues and structures.
The Dr. Seuss museum is actually one of five museums located on the same campus known as the Springfield Museums, and your admission to one gets you into all five. While Dr. Seuss is definitely the most appealing for kids, the museum of Springfield history actually has some great exhibits for kids too! You may not have known that Indian Motorcycles and Friendly’s Ice Cream, along with some other American icons were all founded right there.
The Springfield science museum will also interest young visitors with its variety of North American and African animal displays, planetarium and live animal center and more.
Children’s Museum of Holyoke
This museum has it all. From a gigantic climbing structure to tiny shops and stores that will let your kids’ imaginations run wild, you could spend hours here. Be sure to bring an extra pair of clothing in case your kids have a little too much fun at the water table. Besides the water play, our favorites here include the life size ambulance, cars and tractors and the kid size grocery store and restaurant. They even have a pretend mug shot area.
Before you go, it may be smart to call to see if they have a school field trip or camp coming that day because it can get really crowded. Also be sure to bring a pair of socks so you don’t have to buy them from the gift shop!
Museum of Natural History at Amherst College: FREE!
Amherst College is the oldest of the five colleges located in Western Mass and its beautiful campus is exactly what you picture in terms of “quintessential small town New England”. What many don’t know, is that there is a hidden gem of a natural history museum tucked in the campus too!
Here you’ll see larger than life skeletons of prehistoric mammals like mammoths and elks, a saber-toothed tiger and a dire wolf. You will see replica skulls of various dinosaurs and a few complete skeletons of smaller dinosaurs as well. There is an exhibit full of fossils found right here in Western Mass. There is an extensive gem and stone exhibit and you can learn more about the geological history of the Connecticut River Valley.
Hit the museum and then grab lunch to go in town to enjoy it on Amherst College’s beautiful, park-like lawns that overlook the Holyoke range. The campus also has a fine arts museum that features many famous artists (including Monet) in their permanent collection. Stop in here too!
Mass MoCA North Adams, MA
The drive to visit this museum is a beauty in its own right, and so worth the journey to this awesome Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum is housed in a giant old mill building and features a huge variety of art to view both in and outdoors. They are known for featuring very large-scale installations because of the unique size and space the museum can offer. Mass MoCA is also a venue for a variety of performing art shows and some well-known singers and bands perform here too.
For kids, the museum has a special, hands-on art space just for kids called Kidspace that your elementary-aged kids will love. The large exhibit halls and outdoor green spaces also make this a very kid-friendly museum for exploring and more on-the-go ‘toddler style’ art viewing.
Beyond the Museums
Yankee Candle Village in South Deerfield, MA
I have been here more times than I can count. The perfect outing for the family especially when the weather isn’t so great. A store so big you need a map, which you get upon entrance. Each room has a theme. In the Christmas room, it snows fake snow, has train sets and Christmas villages set up, along with Christmas trees. One room has a waterfall and bridge. There is a toy room where you can visit Santa and a candle making room. While each room is filled with an assortment of items for sale, even my toddler made it through without breaking anything. She had a blast. There is an eating area within Yankee Candle and a restaurant attached to it.
Mill 180 Indoor Park in Easthampton, MA
Mill 180 describes itself as the “reimagined urban park” and it is an absolute must-see! This free indoor park is located in a renovated mill building and is just so cool. They took an industrial space and put in wall-to-wall turf, café tables, and a variety of platforms and ramps to lounge on and for kids to climb. They have an area with giant foam blocks and mats for kids to play with, corn hole, giant chess, checkers and more. In the center of the park there is a café that serves hot food, snacks, coffee and alcohol. Enjoy a beer at a safe inside park while watching your kids have a blast running around and exploring. What more could you want?
The only ‘rule’ to be aware of is that no outside food is allowed, and they do enforce this. I have spent countless rainy or freezing days here with my toddler and she has an absolute blast running around and exploring this amazing space.
Hitchcock Center in Amherst, MA
This is a really cool space located on Hampshire College’s campus that will help you kids explore and get more in touch with nature. Drop-in for a visit and checkout their collection of locally rescued reptiles and animals, learn about local flora and fauna, or read a book in their library.
Check out their website to see what’s going on during your time visiting Western Mass to see what fun family programs are going on. Many are free or have only a small fee associated. Some activities include Family Story Walks, Family Birding Outings and other guided nature walks.
If you are having an extended stay during the summer, I have heard only the BEST things about their summer camp programs for elementary-aged kids from many friends of mine.
SunnyTown Place in South Hadley, MA
A smaller version of an exploration museum, this place has kid sized stores and shops. A variety of toddler toys, a ball pit and a trampoline. SunnyTown Place is best for littler ones such as toddlers. The perfect low key activity on any rainy or snowy day. Be sure to bring socks for everyone who is going because all shoes must be removed to enter. If you forget, you can buy socks there but easier to save the cost and bring your own. This place is also great for Winter-time toddler birthday parties.
Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory South Deerfield, MA
This indoor butterfly conservatory is so incredible. This large, warehouse-sized greenhouse allows you to step into a rainforest habitat. You’ll enjoy exploring meticulously-maintained gardens with water-features all while being surrounded by thousands of butterflies! It truly feels like you have been transported into a magical land. In addition to the butterflies you will meet various reptiles, and birds and see tropical flowers.
This is a fun activity for all ages. New moms can baby-wear through the exhibit with ease, older family members can sit on one of the many benches and have butterflies land, and toddlers can waddle through. Older children will enjoy learning from the employees about the butterfly life-cycle and other animals in the greenhouse.
When you visit, have your kids (and you!) wear bright colored clothing. You’ll most definitely have butterflies landing on you with this tip.
The Great Outdoors:
Bridge of Flowers and Highledges Wildlife Sanctuary in Shelburne Falls, MA
Shelburne Falls is a must-see town in the hills of Western Mass. As the town name suggests, it sits on a giant farm and waterfall on the Deerfield River. Most iconic in the town is the gorgeous bridge of flowers. This footbridge that crosses the river is over-flowing with meticulous gardens and landscaping that bloom throughout the growing season.
Have lunch in the town after wandering the bridge of flowers and then visit the nearby Highledges Wildlife Sanctuary for a flat, kid friendly nature walk that offers stunning views.
UMass Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown, MA
If you are visiting Western Mass in the fall, apple picking is a must. While you can find a lot of places to pick apples by just driving around, our go-to is Cold Spring Orchard. Associated with UMass Amherst, this place always has tons of delicious apples for a good price along with a mini store where you can purchase cider, donuts, and other souvenirs. Grab some fun photos of the day while you pick apples.
Quonquont Farm & Orchard in Whately, MA
This beautiful farm offers you-pick blueberries, flowers, peaches, and apples depending on the time of year. Starting in early July you can visit for blueberries and flowers, mid-august starts peaches and apples are ready for picking from August to late October.
Leashed friendly dogs are welcome and the farm is very accessible to strollers and wagons making it perfect for any aged child.
Mt. Sugarloaf South Deerfield, MA
Mt. Sugarloaf is located right next to the Connecticut river and is a very kid-friendly mountain with amazing views. There is a paved road to walk or drive up whichever you prefer. The paved roadway is very stroller friendly. There is also a trail through the woods to the top, but while fast, it is quite steep and rigorous compared to the paved path, so be warned.
At the top you’ll see amazing views of the Connecticut River Valley. It takes about ~45 min to walk up depending on pace. Located at the summit is a Pavilion with picnic tables, a grassy lawn, viewing tower, and restrooms. Bring lunch and enjoy the park-like setting at the top of this mountain. You’ll love spending time up here.
Silvio Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Hadley, MA
While this isn’t the biggest or even most well-known trail in Western Mass, it is one that I love for families because the entire thing is handicap and stroller accessible. Walk on graveled pathways and elevated boardwalks through a variety of habitats including woods, fields with mountain views, wetlands and the Fort River.
In spring, summer and fall you are guaranteed to see wildlife on your visit. The path is exactly one mile making it very doable, and is set-up as a story-book path. Your kids will love racing to the next podium and reading a story as they make their way through the loop.
Flayvors of Cook Farm in Hadley, MA
This is a dairy farm, where they make and sell their own ice cream. An excellent place to stop on a hot day to enjoy fantastic ice cream. You can eat your ice cream in the surrounding grassy areas and watch the cows out in the pasture or see them up close. In addition to cows, they also have chickens running around. A great place for little ones who like visiting farms to see the animals.
Look Park Northampton, MA
While there is a fee to enter the park, you will find plenty to do here and it can be an all-day event for any family. In addition to the nature, you can enjoy playgrounds, a train ride, a bike path, mini golf, a picnic area, paddle boats and a tiny animal exhibit.
If you are in the area over the holiday season, there is an annual train exhibit with Santa. If you are in the area in the summer, you can cool off in their sprinkler park. Check the website before your visit, they often host fun theme-days, concerts, fireworks and other fun events.
Forest Park Springfield, MA
This is another huge park that can fill a day with fun for every family. This park is free to enter and offers and variety of playgrounds, gardens, picnic areas, splash parks, train rides, and has a zoo which does have an admission fee.
Seasonally, they have their Bright Nights Holiday Light display which is a drive through light display that is very popular.
Jessica’s Playground Belchertown, MA
Located near downtown Belchertown, Jessica’s playground is for kids of all abilities. The main structure is built to be handicap accessible. The ramp framework allows parents to easily follow children on the play structure and also allows toddlers to easily navigate through the playground with the help of a parent.
The play structure and surrounding play equipment will give your kid plenty of space to run and play. Compared to other playgrounds in the area, this one outshines them all. Your kids, and you, will have a blast. There is also an eating area with picnic tables nearby.
Mt. Tom Reservation in Easthampton, MA
Mt. Tom Reservation is a large state park that offers something for everyone in the family. It has a picnic area with grills, an easy paved walk around a lake, and playground. There are accessible hiking trails and fishing meaning it is stroller friendly too!
For more adventurous families with older kids, hike to the top of the mountain and enjoy gorgeous views.
Lake Wyola State Park in Shutesbury, MA
Lake Wyola is a quiet, not crowded lake that is a great place to visit for swimming or boating with your kids in the summer and for hiking or cross-country skiing in other seasons. Lake Wyola’s boat launch is free to use, find a place to rent a kayak or canoe and spend a day on the water.
The beach is great for kids of all ages and is guarded from late June through Labor Day. This was a favorite spot of mine while I was expecting and know that other pregnant mamas will love it! The lake beach is well-maintained and they test water-quality daily. There are public restrooms, a fishing dock, horse shoes, volley ball nets, grills and picnic tables at the lakefront beach too.
Be aware that you have to pay to park, and it is cash only.
Puffers Pond in Amherst, MA
Puffers pond is a great little swimming hole that is a favorite among locals. It is a large and clean pond located in North Amherst. It is free to visit but unguarded and the pond is very, very deep at the center. Enjoy walking on the trails around it or spend the day on the sandy beach front with a packed picnic. Bring your rafts and tubes. Older kids will love taking a raft out to the middle of pond.
Green River Swimming and Recreation Area in Greenfield, MA
This is a great spot to take kids of all ages in the summer. There is a playground, picnic area with grills and a pavilion. You’ll enjoy a guarded sandy beach front on the green river that is the perfect spot to cool off on a hot day.
Musante Beach in Leeds, MA
This is a great swimming spot located just down the road from Northampton’s vibrant and fun downtown. There is a clean guarded beach and a beautiful setting for a day of fun.
Belchertown Beach in Belchertown, MA
While not the biggest lake in Western Mass, Belchertown Beach is located on Arcadia Lake. The small quaint beach is perfect for small kids with very few rocks, playable sand, a grassy area to picnic and a swing set. You can also take out paddle boats. The swimming area is sectioned off and has a lifeguard on duty. Parking is free but there is a small fee to utilize the beach. Bring your own food or you can purchase snacks there.
Zoar Outdoor in Charlemont, MA
Geared towards older children, Zoar is your ticket to exploring the great outdoors. It has everything from zip lining canopy tours, rafting, floating and kayaking. Make sure to book ahead of time. While the majority of their activities are best in summer, the zip lining is a fantastic way to see the foliage in the fall.
Plan The Perfect Day
One of the hardest parts of planning a trip or even a day is knowing what to do and when. Here are 4 outlined days based on location.
We know the area and the places so we hope by providing these outlines, you can make the most of your visit to Western Mass.
- As you head north on 1-91 towards Greenfield, you get into more rural and wooded parts of Western Mass. Make the most of a trip up there with your upper-elementary and middle-school aged kids by going on an outdoor excursion at Zoar Outdoor, having lunch and enjoying the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, MA and then doing a short and easy nature walk with a view at the High Ledges sanctuary.
- Your drive up that way will be gorgeous and you’ll hit up three of our favorite spots. Add-ons include a more rigorous hike or camping at the Mohawk State Forest.
A Day in South Deerfield
- South Deerfield is a great spot where you can enjoy a few great activities in one loop. Start your morning with an invigorating hike up Mt. Sugarloaf or drive to the top and enjoy coffee and muffins with a view.
- Head to Yankee Candle for some shopping and browsing and have lunch there. In the afternoon you can stop by Magic Wings and enjoy the butterflies and gardens in their giant indoor greenhouse.
Fun in Northampton
- Spend the day in vibrant downtown Northampton and surrounding areas! If you head here you’ll find a great downtown with shops and restaurants, you can grab lunch to go and bring it to Look Park for a day of fun, or break it up and hit up Musante Beach for a swim. It’s a great way to cool off after a long walk or busy time playing on the playgrounds at Look Park.
Amherst and Hadley
- Spend a day in Amherst and Hadley by starting your day at the Eric Carle Museum, they open at 10am. From there you should grab lunch to go from the amazing local market, Atkins Farm, and bring it to Silvio Conte Conservation area. On this one mile loop you will find lots of benches perfect for picnicking. After your nature-walk, head to Cook farm for animals and homemade ice cream!
No matter the time of year we know you are going to have the best time in Western Mass! There is so much to offer and truly something for everyone. With this guide, you are ready to plan a fun-filled family trip. Have a blast!