Saturday, June 22, 2013

Discover Western Massachusetts...in a Day!

(Guest Post) When people from outside of New England think of taking a vacation in Massachusetts, the first destinations that usually come to mind include historical sites in Boston and the windswept coast of Cape Cod. Less well known are the hidden treasures waiting to be discovered in Western Massachusetts.

Western Massachusetts includes the counties of Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden. These areas are home to a bounty of natural, historic and cultural sites and include activities for every member of the family. In addition, there are a wide variety of accommodations available to suit just about any lifestyle. In fact, families on a tight budget may find that their vacation dollar goes further here than in many other popular destinations.

Ideally, you would want to spend at least a week here, but what if you only have one day? Not to worry! While you may not have time to hike the Appalachian Trail, with a little planning you can pack a lot into your trip.

Let's Take the Tour

First things first: Gas up the car and get a good night's rest. It's going to be a very long 16 hour day. While this is clearly a road trip, the scenic drives in Western Massachusetts are part of the attraction. A comfortable car with good visibility will enhance the experience.

Warning: This trip is not for the faint of heart. Only "power tourists" need apply!

Stockbridge

Old town offices - Stockbridge, Mass.*
Our tour begins and ends in the historic town of Stockbridge. There are many fine accommodations and resorts in the immediate area. If possible, arrive early the day before the tour and take some time to explore this colonial town,
catch a concert or even play a round of golf.

The Mission House is a good bet if you are interested in the history of the area. Tanglewood is the summer home of the Boston Symphony and offers a variety of music programs. The Norman Rockwell Museum houses the world's largest collection of original art by America's favorite illustrator.

On the day of the tour, set your alarm and be out the door by 7am. Drive a few miles east to the city of Lee for breakfast.

Lee

Like Stockbridge, Lee is a colonial town rich in history and character.

A good place to stop for breakfast is Otto's Breakfast Deli on Main St. If you want to stretch your legs after breakfast, check out the quaint downtown area or drive a mile north to Lenox Town Beach located on beautiful Laurel Lake.

You'll need to hit the road by 9am. It's a 45 minute drive on I-90 East to Springfield.

Springfield

Springfield is located on the shores of the Connecticut River in Hampden County. This is the largest city in Western Massachusetts with a population of about 153,000 residents.

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
While Springfield is best known for the Basketball Hall of Fame, it also hosts numerous other museums. Take a stroll through the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden, open early at 9 am. Now head over to either the Basketball Hall of Fame or one of the other museums adjacent to the sculpture garden:

  • The Museum of Springfield History includes a collection of antique motorcycles produced by The Indian Manufacturing Company.
  • The Springfield Science Museum has live animals, a planetarium and dinosaur replicas.
  • The George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum

Get there for the 10am opening and limit your visit to an hour and a half, allowing you time to drive to...

Historic Deerfield

From Springfield, head north on I-91 to Deerfield. The drive should take about 40 minutes.
Historic Deerfield is an authentic 18th-century English settlement in the Connecticut River Valley. Step into early America as you tour Historic Deerfield's eleven house museums.

Take an hour or two to explore the village and grab a snack at the Museum Gift shop.

The Mohawk Trail

The Mohawk Trail - Charlemont, Mass.
From Deerfield, it's a short drive north on Route 10 to Greenfield. You can pick up the historic Mohawk Trail there by heading west on Route 2.

The beautiful Mohawk Trail runs east to west across the northwestern portion of the state. This trail, now State Route 2, was the first scenic automobile route in America. It consists of 63 miles of spectacular scenery, attractions and gift shops. The road follows the old trail Native Americans of the Five Nations used to pass between the Connecticut and Hudson Valleys.

Shelburne Falls

Shelburne Falls is a 15 minute drive from Greenfield. This town is most famous for the Bridge of Flowers, a former trolley bridge over the Deerfield River that is now maintained by the Shelburne Falls Women's Club as a floral display from April through October.

The West End Pub is a great place to stop for a late lunch. The dining area has large windows overlooking the river and bridge. You may want to check out the glacial potholes just downstream from the bridge.

Continue heading west along scenic Route 2 for about 27 miles to North Adams. The Mohawk Trail passes through several state forests and you may want to make some quick stops at shops and vistas along the way.

North Adams

If you can get to North Adams by 4:30 pm, then stop by the Natural Bridge State Park. It contains the only natural white marble arch/bridge in North America. The marble was carved into an arch by the force of glacial melt water over 13,000 years ago.

Williamstown

Route 2 in Williamstown, Mass.
Drive another five miles west on Route 2 to Williamstown. Have a nice dinner at Hops and Vines restaurant and then head over for an 8pm show at the Williamstown Theater Festival. This festival offers a variety of performances on two stages.

Complete the Loop

After the show, grab a cup of coffee and complete the tour by driving 1 hour south on US 7 back to Stockbridge. Congratulations...you made it!

While it's always fun to travel to famous destinations, you may find that visiting places that are off the beaten path can be even more exciting and enriching. Western Massachusetts is no exception. A one-day tour does not do justice to this beautiful region, but hopefully it will entice you to come back for more.

About the Author

Anton Pomakov is the Senior Vice President for Marketing at Dallas-based Silverleaf Resorts where he manages marketing development, operations and business growth initiatives. He has spent his entire career as a professional in the hospitality industry, leading marketing and management teams with a goals-based approach to improving customer experience and the bottom line. Follow Anton and Silverleaf Resorts @SLResorts or on Silverleaf Resorts LinkedIn.


*Photo Credits:

Stockbridge, Mass. - Old town offices: Joe Mabel [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Springfield, Mass.:By rizha ubal (DSC04206) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Charlemont, Mass. - Mohawk Trail: ToddC4176 at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Williamstown, Mass. - View along Route 2: By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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