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What’s Good in Springfield: Whimsical Sculptures, A Military Landmark, and Basketball History
Located on the banks of the Connecticut River, Springfield is experiencing a substantial renaissance as of late. It’s not surprising, given its long-standing place as a center of cultural and economic life in western Massachusetts. From the time that William Pynchon arrived in 1636, the city has grown as the river has served as the conduit for early industrial activities, and now as a site of leisure and recreation. The curious visitor will find much to do over a few days here and this short offering is meant to introduce you to a few of the area’s highlights.
Tucked into the campus of the Springfield Museums, one can explore the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. It’s the logical place for such a whimsical bit of public art, as Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in 1904. Growing up on Howard Street in Springfield, Geisel developed a love of animals by visiting the Forest Park Zoo, which later inspired many of his creations. Here visitors can meet the Lorax up close and personal, along with Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose, and of course, the Cat in the Hat.
Just a few miles away from the Seuss Sculpture Garden sits the monumental Springfield Armory which was turned into an impressive National Park site in 1968 after its closure as a weapons manufacturing plant. There’s two plus centuries of history on these grounds, as weapons were made on site for the United States military from 1777 to the late 1960s. Today, the grounds include the historic site, which features guided tours, a range of interactive displays, and opportunities to learn more about weapons manufacturing. Check out “Things to Do” to learn more about special events and activities. It’s a tremendous place to learn about military history and to learn about Springfield’s role in the Industrial Revolution.
On a cold day in 1891, noted physical culture enthusiast Dr. James Naismith invented a simple game at what is now Springfield College to keep young men active during the chill of winter. It was the start of the sport we now call basketball. Today, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame keeps the interest in the love of the game going, along with offering a range of exhibits and activities to keep fans coming back on return visits.
Once inside, you’ll find more than 40,000 square feet of basketball history, including the Hall of Fame, which celebrates legends like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley, and other luminaries. Visitors can also take part in skills clinics, and a range of special events throughout the year. Also, young and old alike will appreciate the opportunity to create their own basketball players card at the HoopShots photo center.
The Student Prince Cafe and the Fort Dining Room offer a bit of Deutschland in downtown Springfield in a manner that recalls German beer halls, complete with gemutlichkeit to go around for the whole family. As you walk inside the cafe, you’ll note the presence of decorative beer steins, wonderful flags, and a general coziness. You can adjourn to the dining room where you can definitely partake of some of the house specialties, which include the goulash soup, the half-roasted stuffed duck, and their metaloaf. Now, truth be told, if you’re feeling like something a bit lighter, they do have salads and other such vegetable-forward offerings. It’s definitely the place to relax after a long day of sightseeing in and around Springfield.
For more information about visiting Springfield and the surrounding area, make sure and check out valleyvisitor.com for details on lodging, family trips, transportation, and more.