The Gift of Stepping Out
Picking out the right gift for a loved one, partner, friend, or child can be a stressful experience. There are many different factors to consider, and there’s always the worry they won’t like what you pick out. Luckily, Western Mass. has a wide variety of places that offer great experiences you can all share together. Whether it be a go-karting adventure, having dinner at a great local restaurant, or visiting an art museum, there are plenty of experience-based options out there for you and a loved one to share. Save yourself the stress of buying material things this year, and try out one of these experiences for the holidays.
For Adventurers and Adrenaline Seekers
Berkshire East Mountain Resort
66 Thunder Mountain Road, Charlemont, MA
(413) 339-6617; www.berkshireeast.com
This resort is Southern New England’s year-round outdoor destination. With everything from whitewater rafting to skiing and snowboarding — and the resort’s signature mountain coaster — there are plenty of options for all types of adventure seekers. Whether you want to celebrate the holidays now or save it for a warm, summer day, a trip to the mountains is the perfect getaway.
Nomad’s Adventure Quest
100 Bidwell Road, South Windsor, CT
(860) 290-1177; www.nomadsadventurequest.com
With more than 65,000 square feet of space, there is something for people of all ages at Nomad’s. The facility has laser tag, glow-in-the-dark black-light mini golf, thunderbowl bowling, a climbing wall, more than 80 arcade and redemption games, two full-size basketball courts, a billiard room, conference and banquet rooms with overhead projection screens, a full bar, a full service café, and more. There is no admission price to enter; activities are individually priced.
Pioneer Valley Indoor Karting
10 West St., West Hatfield, MA
(413) 446-7845; www.pioneervalleykarting.com
Conveniently located just over the Northampton town line right off I-91 exit 21, Pioneer Valley Indoor Karting is perfect for the adventurous family that loves a good adrenaline rush. The facility opens daily at 11 a.m. for ‘arrive and drive’ high-speed gas go-karting. All pricing is per person, and the facility offers high-speed junior karts specifically designed for junior racers ages 8 to 13 who are taller than 48 inches and weigh less than 180 pounds.
MassMutual Center, 1277 Main St., Springfield, MA
(413) 787-6600; www.springfieldthunderbirds.com
If you’re a sports lover, this is the event for you. The Springfield Thunderbirds are the American Hockey League’s minor-league affiliate of the Florida Panthers, now playing their fourth season in Springfield. The Thunderbirds play their home games at the MassMutual Center. Tickets start at $10 depending on seating and game night.
For History and Art Lovers
Clark Art Institute
225 South St., Williamstown, MA
(413) 458-2303; www.clarkart.edu
The intimate scale and the wide variety of the galleries at the Clark makes for the perfect family trip, no matter what age a person may be. This institution also offers special programs and events throughout the year that are catered to families specifically, such as gallery talks, art making, and related entertainment.
Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
125 West Bay Road, Amherst, MA
(413) 559-6300; www.carlemuseum.org
The Eric Carle Museum is a nonprofit organization seeking to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. The Carle houses more than 11,000 objects, including thousands of permanent-collection illustrations, three art galleries, an art studio, a theater, educational programs for families, and more.
Connecticut Science Center
250 Columbus Blvd., Hartford, CT
(860) 724-3623; www.ctsciencecenter.org
Only a half-hour from Springfield, the Connecticut Science Center boasts more than 165 hands-on exhibits in 10 galleries and live science demos daily. There is a state-of-the-art 3D digital theater, four educational labs, and daily programs and events. General admission for members is free, youth (ages 3-17) tickets are $16.95, adults (ages 18-64) are $23.95, and seniors (65+) are $21.95.
Norman Rockwell Museum
9 Glendale Road, Stockbridge, MA
The Norman Rockwell Museum houses the world’s largest and most significant collection of Rockwell art. It presents, preserves, and studies the art of illustration and is a world resource for reflection, involvement, and discovery inspired by Norman Rockwell and the power of visual images to shape and reflect society. The museum is open seven days a week, year-round. Admission for members and youth ages 18 and under are free, adult tickets are $20, seniors (65+) are $18, veterans are $17, and college students with an ID are $10.
1843 West Housatonic St., Pittsfield, MA
(413) 443-0188; www.hancockshakervillage.org
Shake Village boasts 20 authentic Shaker buildings, rich collections of Shaker furniture and artifacts in rotating exhibits, a full schedule of activities and workshops, a mile-long hiking trail and hundreds of acres of additional land with a variety of trails for all skill levels, picnic areas, a store and café, and a working farm with extensive gardens and heritage-breed livestock. Admission for adults is $20; seniors and active/retired military are $18; youth (ages 13-17) are $8; children 12 and under are free. From Nov. 16 through Dec. 22, the village is open weekends only. It is closed for the season Dec. 23 through April 10 and reopens for the spring season April 11.
Springfield Symphony Orchestra
1441 Main St., Suite 121, Springfield, MA
(413) 733-0636; www.springfieldsymphony.org
The SSO is the largest Massachusetts symphony outside of Boston, featuring more than 80 musicians from the New England region of the U.S. and Canada, and holding many performances each season. A Holiday Celebration concert on Dec. 7 will feature guests conductor Nick Palmer, the SSO Chorus directed by Nikki Stoia, the [email protected] Chorus directed by Bob Cilman, cantor Elise Barber, and soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine. Tickets are available online starting at $25.
Yankee Candle Village
25 Greenfield Road, South Deerfield, MA
(877) 636-7707; www.yankeecandle.com/south-deerfield-village
This is more than just a candle store. The Yankee Candle Village provides everything from make-your-own-candles to irresistible food, and has plenty of options for the kids and the parents to enjoy — as well as a year-round Bavarian Christmas village.
For the Foodies
Capri Pizza Shop
18 Cabot St., Holyoke MA
Capri has been in the family since 1966 and is now owned and run by Fiore Santaniello and managed by his two sons, Salvatore and Gennaro. Though Capri’s look has changed over the years, it has maintained the quality of its food, even earning the People’s Choice Award from Best of Mass Pizza.
99 Russell St., Hadley, MA
(413) 585-1515; www.esselon.com
Esselon is an award-winning café featuring fresh roasted coffee, rare and exotic teas, and a full menu. Centrally located between Amherst and Northampton on Route 9 on the Common in Hadley, this café offers outdoor dining during the spring, summer, and fall months and a casual atmosphere indoors.
770 Tyler St., Pittsfield, MA
(413) 443-6969; www.lafogatarestaurante.com
La Fogata (Spanish for ‘the bonfire’) offers traditional Colombian cuisine. Owner Miguel Gomez moved to Pittsfield from Colombia in 1993 and realized there were no Latino restaurants in the area, so he decided to open his own. Items on the menu include everything from carne asada to pechuga apanada.
30 Boltwood Walk, Amherst
Johnny’s Tavern is a contemporary American restaurant nestled in the heart of the community of Amherst, priding itself on using organic produce, sustainable seafood, and hormone-free meat and poultry whenever possible. Items on the menu range from pizza to a pulled duck sandwich.
13 Center St., Chicopee, MA
(413) 594-8788; www.munichhaus.com
The Munich Haus gives customers a taste of Germany, no passport required. A family-owned restaurant that opened in 2004, this restaurant prides itself on its authenticity, right down to the food, beer, and décor. The comfortable, laid-back atmosphere paired with popular menu items like its wide array of schnitzels and a plentiful selection of beer and wine make the Munich Haus a place where anyone can find something to enjoy.
1597 Northampton St., Holyoke
This is the perfect place to go for those who want to spend quality time over some great food on a low budget. Founded in 1921 by Nick Malfas, Nick’s Nest started as a roadside popcorn cart. Now serving much more than popcorn, it continues to be a hot spot, featuring hot dogs, homemade potato and macaroni salad, ice cream, and much more.
For the Adults
Abandoned Building Brewery
142 Pleasant St., Easthampton
(413) 282-7062; www.abandonedbuildingbrewery.com
This brewery began in March 2013 when owner Matt Tarlecki transformed this abandoned mill building into what now stands as Abandoned Building Brewery, complete with a walk-in cooler, a 15-barrel brewhouse, two 30-barrel fermenters, and one 30-barrel bright tank. Its ales include a combination of year-round, seasonal, and collaboration beers.
MGM Springfield Topgolf Swing Suite
One MGM Way, Springfield
Located outside on the Plaza next to Indian Motorcycle, Topgolf Swing Suite is a perfect option for couples or a group of friends looking to have fun and enhance golfing skills. The experience offers a comfortable lounge to hang out in while enjoying food and drinks.
11 Brewster Court, Northampton
The Northampton Brewery brews fine ales and lagers, served with outstanding food and a friendly staff. The brewery is conveniently located in downtown Northampton and is an ideal place to go for a delicious meal and a couple beers in front of the fireplace on a chilly winter evening. The destination has been around for 35 years and continues to be one of the area’s most popular breweries.
8 Railroad St., Hadley, MA
The Quarters, located just off Route 9 and directly on the Norwottock Rail Trail, is a destination for those seeking a place to enjoy some creative food, excellent drinks, and a selection of more than 20 vintage arcade games — perfect for a group outing or a date night.
Kayla Ebner can be reached at [email protected]