Pioneer Valley - Massachusetts

Wood Pond Press

The Connecticut River snakes through the Pioneer Valley, through historic towns (Deerfield and Montague) and bustling cities (Holyoke and Springfield). The heart of the valley is considered to be Northampton and Amherst, site of the five colleges that lead the valley's designation as "New England's knowledge corridor."


>> Montague Dining Suggestions

Blue Heron Restaurant, 440 Greenfield Road, Montague Center. (413) 367-0200.


A national historic landmark, this unspoiled 330-year-old village reflects the essence of old New England. Founded in 1669, the tiny village was a frontier outpost in British North America and hasn't grown much since. It's home to museums, working farms and three schools, including prestigious Deerfield Academy. For more than 250 years, education and the preservation of the past has been the village's chief occupation.

Historic Deerfield.
This is a museum of New England history and art – a most unusual one at that. Off by itself in the midst of fields and meadows between Interstate 91 and U.S. Route 5, it is a collection of restored houses strung out along the mile-long Main Street, simply called "The Street." Although the entire village seems like a living museum, the official one comprises fourteen beautifully restored 18th and 19th century homes and other structures and the Flynt Center of Early New England Life. Together they are filled with more than 25,000 objects made or used in America from 1650 to 1850. You can drive or walk through the village free and at will. But unless you go inside the houses you'll miss the treasures of furniture, ceramics, textiles, glass and silver that form one of the country's finest collections of useful and decorative arts. The original benefactors were the Henry Flynts of Connecticut, whose son attended Deerfield Academy. They liked the village so much they bought a saltbox, the 1725 Allen House, on The Street in the 1950s and devoted their lives to buying more houses, restoring them and filling them with fine furnishings. Most of the houses are on their original sites and most furnishings are original. The structures include the Hall Tavern Information center, the Museum Store and Bookshop, and the Deerfield Inn. Admission includes an orientation program, a guided walking tour of the village, a self-guided tour of the Flynt Center and guided house tours that last about half an hour each.
(413) 774-5581. Open daily, 9:30 to 4:30. Adults $12, children $5.

>> Deerfield Lodging and Dining Suggestions

The Deerfield Inn, 81 Old Main St., Deerfield. (413) 774-5587 or (800) 926-3865.

>> Deerfield Dining Suggestions

Sienna, 6-B Elm St., South Deerfield. (413) 665-0215.

Chandler's Restaurant, Routes 5&10, South Deerfield. (413) 665-1277.


Northampton, home of Smith College, touts its acclamation as "the best small arts town in America." Arts and artists are evident everywhere, from the landmark Academy of Music to the two imposing bank buildings lately turned into art galleries. Northampton's downtown of local stores, galleries, theaters, restaurants and the like is one of New England's liveliest.

The Smith College Museum of Art, one of the best college art museums in the country, was closed until early 2003 for four years of renovations and expansion. The $35 million makeover of the Fine Arts Center is the most ambitious capital project in Smith history. The college also hosts the Lyman Plant House and Botanical Gardens, containing plant species from across the world.

>> Northampton Lodging and Dining Suggestions

The Hotel Northampton, 36 King St., Northampton. (413) 584-3100 or (800) 547-3529.

>> Northampton Lodging Suggestions

The Autumn Inn, 259 Elm St., Northampton. (413) 584-7660.

>> Northampton Dining Suggestions

Del Raye Bar & Grille, 1 Bridge St., Northampton. (413) 586-2664.

Circa, 57 Center St., Northampton. (413) 586-2622.

Unmi, 134 Main St., Northampton. (413) 582-6765.

Spoleto, 50 Main St., Northampton.(413) 586-6313.

Eastside Grill, 19 Strong Ave., Northampton. (413) 586-3347.

La Cazuela, 271 Main St., Northampton. (413) 586-0400.

Thai Kitchen, 2 Bridge St., Northampton. (413) 584-2774.


>> Hadley Lodging Suggestions

Ivory Creek Inn, 31 Chmura Road, Hadley. (413) 587-3115 or (866) 331-3115.

Clark Tavern Inn, 98 Bay Road , Hadley. (413) 586-1900.

>> Hadley Dining Suggestions

Carmelina's At the Commons, 96 Russell St. Hadley. (413) 584-8000.


Amherst is the home of prestigious Amherst College, the huge University of Massachusetts (its campus is almost a city unto itself) and the newer Hampshire College. The Amherst College campus contains the Pratt Museum of Natural History and the Mead Art Museum. The college also owns the Emily Dickinson Homestead, 280 Main St., where guided tours of some rooms of the famous poet's birthplace and longtime residence are available. The Jones Library, 43 Amity St., a small public library resembling a luxurious private home, has a fine collection of Dickinson memorabilia. The National Yiddish Book Center, 1061 West St. (Route 116) on the Hampshire campus, is the world's only museum devoted exclusively to Yiddish literature and culture. It preserves more than 1.3 million books written in Yiddish.

>> Amherst Lodging and Dining Suggestions

The Lord Jeffery Inn, 30 Boltwood Ave., Amherst.(413) 253-2576 or (800) 742-0358.

>> Amherst Lodging Suggestions

Allen House, 599 Main St., Amherst. (413) 253-5000.

Black Walnut Inn, 1184 North Pleasant St., Amherst. (413) 549-5649.

>> Amherst Dining Suggestions

Bistro 63 at the Monkey Bar, 63 North Pleasant St., Amherst. (413) 259-1600.

Atlantis, 41 Boltwood Walk, Amherst. (413) 253-0025.


>> Holyoke Dining Suggestions

The Delaney House, Route 5 at Smith's Ferry, Holyoke. (413) 532-1800.


The Pioneer Valley's largest city, Springfield is of interest to visitors for its museums and historic sites. The Springfield Armory National Historic Site holds the world's largest firearms collection and shows how armory inventions revolutionized the manufacture of many consumer products. The Indian Motorcycle Museum, 33 Hendee St., displays models made by the first American motorcycle manufacturer, Indian of Springfield.

The Springfield area also hosts the annual Eastern States Exposition (New England's six-state fair) in West Springfield and Six Flags New England, the region's largest amusement park in Agawam.

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, 1150 West Columbus Ave., Springfield.
When Dr. James Naismith nailed a couple of peach baskets at either end of a gymnasium here so his YMCA charges would have an indoor game to play in the winter of 1891, the game of basketball was born. That makes Springfield a natural for the expanding international shrine to basketball. Housed originally at Springfield College and since 1985 in a building graced with giant murals of basketball players along I-91, the venture doubled in size in mid-2002 with a new state-of-the-art building, the centerpiece of which is in the shape of a giant basketball. The "basketball" is the Center Court, visible from all three levels of the museum and featuring a full-size basketball court and suspended scoreboard. Each level is divided into themes and areas that tell the story of the game. The hall incorporates interactive exhibits honoring the game's greats. A cinema places you right in the center of a rousing basketball game, you can shoot baskets from a moving walkway, and you can second-guess the referee in a video as he officiates a game. A locker room with all the sound effects shows coaches at work and allows the visitor to determine strategy in crucial game situations, with analysis provided by a video coach. Basketball buffs will probably enjoy most the interactive displays, personal memorabilia and videos showing top basketball players in action. The new $103-million hall allows visitors not only to participate in interactive trivia and skills contests, but also to partake in a basketball-themed retail and restaurant environment.
(401) 781-6500 or (877) 446-6752. Open daily, 10 to 5. Adults $10, children $6.

Springfield Library and Quadrangle Museums, State and Chestnut streets.
Four museums and the public library are nicely grouped around a verdant downtown green in a unique cultural complex called the Quadrangle. The bronze Puritan statue sculpted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens welcomes visitors at the entrance. In 2002, five imaginative sculptures of Dr. Seuss characters were to be placed on the green in a national memorial for Theodor Geisel, the children's author and illustrator, who was born in Springfield in 1904. The Café on the Quadrangle in the Museum of Fine Arts serves lunch. The museums:
The Museum of Fine Arts, housed in a 1930s art deco building with a central court, contains fourteen galleries of paintings and sculpture from 3000 B.C. to the present. Two focus on Oriental art and six feature American art from the 18th through the 20th centuries.
George Walter Vincent Smith Museum was the first to be built in the Quadrangle in 1896 and many feel the most unusual. After George W.V. Smith made his fortune in New York, he married a Springfield woman and retired here to spend five decades amassing a vast collection of Chinese and Japanese decorative arts and paintings (including the largest western collection of cloisonné), all showcased in magnificent Italian palazzo with Tiffany windows. The collection remains by will the way it was at the couple's death.
The Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, a Colonial Revival mansion built in 1927, displays furniture, manufactured goods, toys and games, paintings and graphics that help trace the development of the region since 1636. One exhibit matches the boyhood sights in Springfield of author Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) with the landscape of his books. The museum also houses an excellent genealogy and local history library.
Springfield Science Museum is of particular interest to children and families. The Dinosaur Hall is dominated by a life-size replica of Tyrannosaurus rex and the multi-level African Hall by a mounted elephant, giraffe and other animals, as well as exhibits on African cultures. Other features are an aquarium and live animal center, a mineral hall, a Native American hall and a small planetarium and observatory.
(413) 263-6800. Museums are open Wednesday-Friday noon to 5, Saturday and Sunday 11 to 4. Combination ticket, $6.

>> Springfield Dining Suggestions

The Student Prince and The Fort, 8 Fort St., Springfield. (413) 734-7475.

Caffeines Downtown, 254 Worthington St., Springfield. (413) 788-6646.

Chef Wayne's Big Mamou, 63 Liberty St., Springfield. (403) 732-1011.

This content is excerpted from New England's Best, by Nancy and Richard Woodworth, copyright 2002, published by Wood Pond Press.

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