Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Hampden County, MA

  • Published 2023/08/13

Hampden County, Massachusetts, is on the southern border next to Connecticut.

This county covers an area of about 1,600 square kilometers.

It was founded in 1812 as part of the Pioneer Valley and is now home to over 465,000 residents.

Springfield City is Hampden’s county seat which also happens to be the biggest city in the area.

I discovered many historic sites in Springfield, while neighboring towns and cities have their attractions.

I spent my time wandering in its museums, zoos, and natural areas.

Nature lovers will appreciate Hampden County’s vibrant flora and fauna, while sports fans can’t miss a world-renowned place for sports hall-of-fame.

It has something for all, and I’m excited to let everyone explore this awesome place by reading this list of the best things to do in Hampden County, Massachusetts.

**About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it’s important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

Have Fun Outdoors at Forest Park

The waters of Forest Park

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Check out Forest Park, one of Springfield‘s most popular outdoor recreation destinations.

This 735-acre park is a favorite for fun and outdoor recreation among locals and tourists.

So, I decided to head to this park, and it didn’t disappoint after discovering plenty of attractions besides outdoor activities.

A swan at Forest Park

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One of the park’s main attractions is the Forest Park Zoo which houses a diverse collection of exotic and native animals.

Also, during winter, the park transforms into a winter wonderland where locals enjoy skating and ice hockey through its frozen pond.

Of course, I didn’t forget Forest Park’s picnic area, where I relaxed and enjoyed its scenic view.

A trail at Forest Park

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Make a Swing at the East Mountain Country Club

I yearned for a leisurely golf session and headed to the East Mountain Country Club.

This golf and country club is situated in Westfield.

It features a par-71, 18-hole public golf course operated and owned by a family.

This golf course has been operating since 1963, making it one of the go-to places for local golfers to play their favorite sport.

As an avid golfer who wants to try Hampden County’s courses, I appreciate the gorgeous landscape, which spans over 6,100 yards.

I had fun maneuvering this golf course’s narrow fairways and bunkers.

After a tiring but fun-filled golf session, I proceeded to its clubhouse restaurant and ordered a delicious meal.

Also, the East Mountain Country Club has a massive banquet hall, one of the locals’ favorite event venues.

Visit the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Exterior of Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

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One of Springfield‘s most popular attractions is the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

This iconic place houses the history of basketball and its legendary players, making it an encyclopedia of the sport.

Since its opening in 1959, it has drawn millions of visitors worldwide, and I’m proud to be part of it.

For those who aren’t aware, it’s where most of the memorabilia of James Naismith, the “Father of Basketball,” is housed.

Inside the 40,000 square feet facility, I saw its exhibits showcasing memorabilia from Naismith and 300 Hall of Fame inductees.

At the same time, I had fun with its interactive activities, like the basketball hoop.

So, I recommend visiting the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame upon arriving in Hampden County for a wonderful start to this travel adventure.

Skate all You Want at the Interstate 91 South

The Interstate 91 South is a highly-popular roller skating rink and party venue.

I visited this amazing indoor skating center in Wilbraham.

Like most indoor skating rinks, this one welcomed me with its lively party vibes fueled by its in-house disc jockeys.

The rink features regular “quad” and inline skates, which I’m familiar with.

I joined many of Hampden County’s locals who partied and had fun on one of its party nights.

Amazingly, this skating rink can cater to all parties and other affairs, making it an ideal venue.

Also, I didn’t grow bored at Interstate 91 South since it has a laser tag facility and many arcade games, which I also tried.

Feel the Thrill at Six Flags New England

Entrance to Six Flags New England

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Six Flags New England is a massive amusement park in Agawam, east of Springfield.

Like most amusement parks, this one offers everyone an exciting experience with its signature rides, such as roller coasters, carousels, bump cars, and other forms of entertainment.

It’s a perfect place to bring my loved ones and friends.

In addition, it has a water park too!

A rollercoaster at Six Flags New England

James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

It’s completely a must-visit attraction in Hampden County.

I enjoyed its bump cars, roller coaster, and other rides I haven’t tried yet.

So, remember to visit Six Flags New England, especially if those bring their family to Hampden County.

People on Six Flags New England's rollercoaster

James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

Bring Your Child to the Amelia Park Children’s Museum

Another noteworthy museum is the Amelia Park Children’s Museum in Westfield.

This museum is the perfect place to bring a child; even a grownup like me also had fun when I visited this place.

I enjoyed roaming inside the museum and seeing kids interact with fun-filled activities in various themed sections.

Fascinatingly, this museum was founded by parents and teachers in 1994.

It was originally named Discover Westfield Children’s Museum.

Besides Springfield’s famous theme park, I recommend the Amelia Park Children’s Museum for a fun-filled experience for kids.

Join the Festivities During the Big E

People at Big E

Keith J Finks / Shutterstock.com

The Famous Big E, or the Eastern States Exposition, is one of the nation’s biggest fairs.

Out of curiosity, I joined this fair every September in West Springfield.

A brief background of this fair, it’s been happening since 1966.

I was in awe to witness thousands of farmers, ranchers, and exhibitors flock to West Springfield to feature their best agricultural products.

Of course, I headed to the fair’s carnival for some rides and games.

Parade at Big E

Keith J Finks / Shutterstock.com

Unlike other fairs, the Big E Arena is renowned for its world-class concerts featuring popular artists.

So, I didn’t forget to watch one of its highly-entertaining concerts and finished my visit there with delicious food and drink.

More than a hundred thousand people across the nation participate in this annual trade fair and have fun, and I’m proud to be one of them.

Climb the Top of Mt. Tom State Reservation

Mt. Tom State Reservation is an ascending nature trail that I find perfect for some hiking adventure.

I visited this attraction north of Springfield in the Connecticut River Valley Region.

I came across many outdoor enthusiasts who, like me, want to test their mettle hiking through 22 miles of natural trails to the top of Mount Tom.

Despite the rugged and steep hike to the top, I was rewarded with the sweeping view of the Pioneer Valley and surrounding areas.

It was an awesome moment that I will cherish for a long time.

I spent a few hours on top and hesitated to go down because of the gorgeous view.

Besides the hike, I appreciate the time making stops as I spot local wildlife, such as birds.

All-in-all, I recommend Mt. Tom State Reservation for a challenging but rewarding outdoor experience.

Explore the Holyoke Heritage State Park

Daytime view of Holyoke Heritage State Park

John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Holyoke Heritage State Park is a massive outdoor and history-oriented destination in the City of Holyoke.

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation currently operates the park, which only spans five acres.

This park, established in 1986, provided me with a unique experience of history and outdoor recreation that are worth my time.

Despite its size, I was surprised that this park is packed with historical sites and outdoor attractions, all worthy of checking out.

But before I explored the park, I first visited its visitors center to get acquainted with its history and park rules.

Afterward, I headed to the Children’s Museum for fascinating and engaging activities.

I rode the antique Holyoke Merry-Go-Round to the Volleyball Hall of Fame museum.

Those were just some worthwhile attractions I enjoyed at the Holyoke Heritage State Park, making this an awesome place to spend them with.

Channel Your Inner Childhood at the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum

Stepping inside the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum was one of the highlights of my trip to Hampden County.

Like all major museums in Hampden County, this one is in Springfield.

Since its opening in 2017, this museum has welcomed millions of visitors, including me, who grew up with Dr. Seuss’s books and movies.

Visiting this museum wasn’t just a warm nostalgic experience for me but also magical.

I was amazed to see all of Dr. Seuss’ or, in real name, Ted Geisel’s quirky characters, such as the Horton, the Grinch, and The Cat in the Hat, among others.

While browsing the museum exhibits, I was fascinated by the interactive experience that details Dr. Seuss’ roots in Springfield and his famous works.

Also, I checked out the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum’s famous memorabilia, personal belongings, and never-before-seen artworks to complete my visit there.

Learn Valuable Stuff at the Springfield Science Museum

Interior of Springfield Science Museum

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hampden County is best known throughout Massachusetts for being home to many museums.

One of these museums is the Springfield Science Museum, where I spend my day with.

This museum is part of the “Quadrangle,” which refers to the cluster of museum institutions in Springfield’s Metro Center.

Each museum has unique offerings, like this one, detailing Massachusetts’s history and the prehistoric era, natural science, and culture.

Dinosaur exhibit in Springfield Science Museum

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

This museum was founded in 1859 and further expanded in 1932.

Today, it remains one of Massachusetts’s best-known museums, and I can attest to it because of the fascinating and awe-inspiring exhibits I came across.

The exhibits that I love in this museum are anthropology, natural science, and prehistoric artifacts.

In addition, the Springfield Science Museum also has its planetarium named “Seymour Planetarium,” another attraction I didn’t miss visiting.

Displays in Springfield Science Museum

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Meet and Greet the Animals of Lupa Zoo

Lupa Zoo is a 20-acre zoo situated in Ludlow.

Despite its 18-acre size facility, this zoo is home to magnificent animals.

The privately-owned zoo houses over 500 animals from around the world.

Besides being a zoo, it is also an education and conservation institution.

Spending my time at this zoo was also great, and I can tell everyone that it’s one of the must-visit attractions in Hampden County.

While wandering this zoo, I encountered various animals, such as parrots, otters, snakes, birds, antelopes, giraffes, and llamas, some of my favorite animals.

Amazingly, Lupa Zoo has various activities I also experienced, such as petting and feeding sessions which add more fun to my visit there.

See Up Close the Famous Dinosaur Footprints

Daytime view of Dinosaur Footprints

Smokeybjb, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Dinosaur Footprints is one of the most fascinating prehistoric attractions I discovered in Hampden County.

This real-life dinosaur footprint is found in Holyoke.

Fascinatingly, nobody would think a real-life dinosaur footprint is found in an eight-acre wilderness reservation.

I was in awe upon seeing it myself, and I couldn’t help but imagine how majestic these dinosaurs were back in the day.

Historically, these footprints were discovered in the 1800s and were called Eubrontes prints.

According to those who discovered the footprints, they belonged to prehistoric giant bird-like dinosaurs called Anchisauripus and Grallator.

After its discovery, the footprints’ surrounding area was declared a wilderness reservation in 1935.

As someone who loves stuff about dinosaurs, I highly recommend visiting the Dinosaur Footprints.

Visit Scott Tower

Scott Tower is one of the most intriguing old structures standing tall in Holyoke I visited before returning home.

It usually draws visitors like me to check and see it up close because of its towering height.

The tower stands 54 feet tall on top of Craft Hill and is made from stones.

Back in the day, the tower was an observation post that gave onlookers a sweeping view of Hampden County.

The tower was constructed in 1923, named after Colonel Walter Scott, and was part of the proposed community park for Holyoke.

Eventually, the tower was abandoned, and restoration plans were shelved.

Sadly, it became a medium for vandals for their graffiti, further diminishing the tower’s once glorious past.

Still, I’m impressed that the tower still stands today and is a favorite spot for curious people like me.

I had a worthwhile visit to the Scott Tower, especially after learning about its fascinating past.

Spend Time at the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum

Exterior of George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another worthwhile museum I visited was the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum.

It’s in Springfield, featuring the fantastic art collections of George Walter Vincent Smith and Belle Townsley Smith from the 1800s to the early 1900s.

The museum is a work of art based on my visit there.

It features elegant Italian Palazzo-style architecture constructed in 1896, which became my background for an intimate photoshoot.

Inside, I was in awe of the eclectic collection of artworks of Smith and his wife that I could see up close.

Interior of George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The artwork collections include ancient Japanese Samurai armor, bronzes, ceramics, and other artifacts.

Also, the museum has a Chinese cloisonné collection and a wide range of Italian and American 19th-century paintings.

So, include the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum as one of the places to visit in Hampden County, especially for art lovers.

Exhibit in George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

After reading this post, it’s safe to say that everyone would agree that Hampden County, Massachusetts is a great travel destination.

While there, I explored amazing museums that detail the history of one of the world’s most beloved sports and children’s book authors.

At the same time, I spent my day at its theme park and other attractions that gave me memorable experiences.

I’m proud to have visited these places in this part of New England.

However, there are dozens of hidden gems and more things to do in Hampden County, Massachusetts.

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