With a population of 145,000, Springfield, Massachusetts, is the largest city in Western New England and anchors what locals call the Pioneer Valley. Gently rolling, forested hills provide a backdrop, while the broad, majestic Connecticut River runs past the city’s door, affording great sightseeing in Downtown Springfield.
Many Northeasterners hit Springfield for day trips, bound for one of three places: the Naismith Basketball Center, Six Flags New England, and the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”). Play all day and hit the town for dinner and sightseeing in Springfield.
Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in the 1890s, and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame opened in 1968, evolving over the decades into a state-of-the-art facility. It houses a museum with hundreds of interactive exhibits and an almost-300-strong Hall of Fame. Throughout the year, special events such as clinics and shooting contests draw fans and casual observers alike. The center, fondly known as “Hoops Heaven,” is located just west of Downtown Springfield, between I-91 and the Connecticut River.
Six Flags of New England was originally known as Riverside Amusement Park and lies three miles from Springfield, in Agawam. Dating back to 1870, it is by far the oldest park in the Six Flags chain. It is also the biggest amusement park in New England, encompassing a wide range of rides and a water park.
Neighboring West Springfield is home to The Big E, a de-facto state fair for Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. It takes place for three weeks each September and October. Highlights include the Big E circus, midway games, thrill rides, a horse show, concerts, and food booths, featuring the legendary “Big E Creampuff.”
Events happen year round at both the fairgrounds and at the Big E’s Old Storrowtown Village, named for Boston philanthropist Helen Storrow. Storrow led the relocation of a dozen historic buildings to the site. A church, blacksmith’s shop and historic homes encircle a traditional New England Green.
Theodore Seuss Geisel—better known as Dr. Seuss—hailed from Springfield as well. The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden provides a key focal point for the Springfield Library and Museum. The sculpture garden, located at Metro Center, features renditions of Dr. Seuss and his most beloved characters.
The nearby Springfield Armory National Historic Site commemorates the nation’s first armory, which operated from 1777 to 1968. It holds the world’s largest collection of small arms from the U.S. military.
The Paramount entertainment complex, in the Club Quarter of Metro Center, houses Western New England’s largest nightclub. The current building opened in 1926 and, after several makeovers, much of its original glory has been restored.
If in Springfield for more than a day trip, take a walk or drive around the Forest Park neighborhood and adjacent Longmeadow, which boasts one of the nation’s highest concentrations of Victorian homes. Forest Park itself is about the size of New York City’s Central Park and was designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in 1884.