Things Are Heating Up
It’s really happening. After a 2020 summer season in which most recreational and cultural venues were shuttered, and a 2021 that made halting progress toward normalcy, with a mix of in-person and virtual offerings, most area attractions are planning a 2022 summer season with few, if any, restrictions, worrying less about COVID this year than the gas prices tourists will be paying to visit them. For those willing to brave the pump, Western Mass. offers a whole lot to do, from live music to theater and dance; from sporting events to Fourth of July festivities; from agricultural fairs to multiple ways to enjoy the Connecticut River. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
11 Bridge St., Sunderland
Year-round: People enjoy being out in nature, but planning an outdoor adventure can be time-consuming and challenging. So Adventure East handles the logistics of outings involving hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, skiing, shoeshoeing, and more — as well as the equipment — so participants can take in the region’s natural beauty without the hassle of figuring out the details. Its activities take place throughout the region’s forests, mountains, and waterways, with guided tours geared at a wide range of skill and experience levels.
The Big E
1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield
Admission: $10-$15; age 5 and under, free; 17-day pass, $20-$40
Sept. 16 to Oct. 2: As regional fairs go, it’s still the big one, and there’s something for everyone, whether it’s the copious fair food or the livestock shows, the Avenue of States houses or the parades, the local vendors and crafters or the live music, which in 2022 includes Nelly and the Dropkick Murphys. But the Big E isn’t the only agricultural fair on the block. The Westfield Fair kicks off the fair season on Aug. 19-21, followed by the Blandford Fair and the Three County Fair in Northampton on Sept. 2-5, the Franklin County Fair in Greenfield on Sept. 8-11, and the Belchertown Fair on Sept. 23-25, to name some of the larger gatherings.
Bridge of Flowers
Through Oct. 31: The Bridge of Flowers connects the towns of Shelburne and Buckland. The seasonal footbridge, once a trolley bridge, has a garden of flowers covering it, which has long drawn visitors from both near and far. While admission is free, visitors may express their appreciation by offering donations in the kiosks located at both entrances. The Bridge of Flowers was recognized as a Franklin Favorite tourist attraction four years in a row (2018-2021) in a contest sponsored by the Greenfield Recorder.
Brimfield Antique Flea Market
Route 20, Brimfield
July 12-17, Sept. 6-11: After expanding steadily through the decades, the Brimfield Antique Flea Market now encompasses six miles of Route 20 and has become a nationally known destination for people who value antiques, collectibles, and flea-market finds. Some 6,000 dealers and close to 1 million total visitors show up at the three annual, week-long events; the first was in May.
Concerts at the Drake
44 North Pleasant St., Amherst
Year-round: For decades, the Amherst community has clamored for a space for a live performance and music venue. The Amherst Business Improvement District and the Downtown Amherst Foundation listened, and the result is the Drake, a recently opened performing-arts venue in the heart of downtown Amherst, with a planned lineup of both legendary and emerging musical artists from Western Mass. and across the globe, as well as workshops and open-mic nights. Check out the website for a full lineup.
1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams
Admission: three-day pass, $54-$174; ages 6 and under, free
Sept. 23-25: The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is known for its musical events, and the FreshGrass festival is among the highlights, showcasing dozens of bluegrass artists and bands on four stages over three days. This year, the lineup includes Gary Clark Jr., Old Crow Medicine Show, Tanya Tucker, Trampled by Turtles, the Del McCoury Band, Taj Mahal, and many more.
Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival
300 North Main St., Florence
Admission: $22; ages 6-12, $5; age 5 and under, free
July 16: Celebrating its 27th anniversary, the largest Scottish festival in Massachusetts, held at Look Park, features Highland dancers, pipe bands, a pipe and drum competition, animals, spinners, weavers, harpists, Celtic music, athletic contests, activities for children, and the authentically dressed Historic Highlanders recreating everyday life in that society from the 14th through 18th centuries. Featured performers this year include Enter the Haggis, Albannach, Sarah the Fiddler, and Charlie Zahm.
Green River Festival
One College Dr., Greenfield
Admission: Weekend, $170; Friday, $55; Saturday, $75; Sunday, $75
June 24-26: For one weekend every summer, Greenfield Community College hosts a high-energy celebration of music; local food, beer, and wine; handmade crafts; and games and activities for families and children — all topped off with hot-air-balloon launches and evening ‘balloon glows.’ The music is continuous on three stages, with more than 30 artists and bands — from Father John Misty to Waxahatchee to Asleep at the Wheel — slated to perform this year.
Independence Day Weekend at Old Sturbridge Village
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge
July 2-4: Old Sturbridge Village will celebrate Independence Day weekend with a citizens’ parade, fife and drum music, cannon demonstrations, and more. Attendees can join in a game of old-fashioned baseball, watch a toy hot-air balloon flight, listen to a stirring reading of the Declaration of Independence, and hear excerpts from Frederick Douglass’s 1852 address “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July.” On July 4, a citizen naturalization ceremony will take place on the Village Common.
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
358 George Carter Road, Becket
Admission: Prices vary
June 18 to Aug. 28: Jacob’s Pillow has become one of the country’s premier showcases for dance. This season begins with the 90th anniversary gala on June 18, which precedes dozens of events, including “Eastern Woodland Dances” on June 22, Ted Shawn’s “Dance of the Ages” on June 23, Ronald K. Brown’s “Evidence” from June 29 to July 3, Caleb Teicher’s “Sw!ng Out” on July 6-10, Ballet Nepantla’s “Valentina” on July 13, and much, much more; check out the website for a full listing.
Lady Bea Cruise Boat
1 Alvord St., South Hadley, MA
Admission: $18-$25; kids 3 and under, free
All summer: Interstate 91 is not the only direct thoroughfare from South Hadley to Northampton. The Lady Bea, a 53-foot, 49-passenger, climate-controlled boat operated by Brunelle’s Marina, will take boarders up and back on daily cruises along the Valley’s other major highway: the Connecticut River. If you don’t feel like sharing the 75-minute narrated voyage with others, rent the boat out for a private excursion. Amenties include a PA system, video monitors, a full bar, and seating indoors and on the sun deck.
Main Street, Monson
July 4: In 1979, a group of parishioners from the town’s Methodist church wanted to start an Independence Day celebration focused on family and community. The first Summerfest featured food, games, and fun activities. With the addition of a parade, booths, bands, rides, and activities, the event — now in its 23rd year — has evolved into an attraction drawing between 10,000 and 13,000 people every July 4.
Shakespeare & Company
70 Kemble St., Lenox
This year marks Shakespeare & Company’s 45th season of performances, actor training, and education, taking place at two indoor venues and two outdoor spaces, including the 500-seat Spruce Theater, an amphitheater built just last summer. The two Shakespeare productions planned for 2022 include Much Ado About Nothing (July 2 to Aug. 14) and Measure for Measure (Aug. 19 to Sept. 18), while visitors can also take in plenty of contemporary plays, as well as comedy and other events.
Six Flags New England
1623 Main St., Agawam
Admission: $34.99 and up; season passes, $59.99 and up
All summer: Unlike most seasons, Six Flags has not announced a new ride for 2022, but is touting an improved visitor experience, adding single-rider lines on some of its most popular rides, including Batman the Dark Knight, Harley Quinn Spinsanity, Supergirl Sky Flyer, and more; as well as upgrading its Flash Pass system to a mobile app, offering mobile food ordering, and unveiling new dining options. The main park and the Hurricane Harbor water park are both open now.
Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival
Stearns Square, Springfield
Aug. 12-13: This year, Springfield’s biggest music festival moves to the Stearns Square neighborhood, and Worthington and Bridge streets will be closed to vehicles to create a pedestrian area. The Charles Neville Main Stage will be located near Stearns Square, and the Urban Roots Stage will be located near Tower Square Park. The music lineup will include Bomba de Aqui, Albino Mbie, Curtis Haywood, Dayme Arocena, and the Haneef Nelson Quintet, with more announcements to come.
Star Spangled Springfield
July 4: What’s a better end to an Independence Day filled with food, family, and outdoor fun than taking in a spectacle of the skies? Springfield’s annual event will feature family-friendly entertainment, a flyover by the 104th Fighter Wing, and a dazzling fireworks display from the Memorial Bridge. But that’s hardly the only display on tap. Among the Western Mass. communities that have announced fireworks events are Holyoke (June 24); Chicopee and Northampton (June 25); Greenfield (July 1); South Hadley (July 2); Agawam (July 2-4); East Longmeadow (July 3); Amherst, North Adams, and Pittsfield (July 4); and Otis (July 9).
Summer Stage at Ski Butternut
380 State Road, Great Barrington
Admission: $24 to $28
July 16, Aug. 27. Sept. 17: For the first time this summer, Ski Butternut will present a family-friendly concert series. The cover bands span a range of rock styles and time periods and include Dean Ford and the Beautiful Ones: A Tribute to Prince (July 16), The Machine: Dark Side of the Moon and Greatest Hits of Pink Floyd (Aug. 27), and The Breakers: A Tribute to Tom Petty (Sept. 17). A variety of food, beer, and wine will be available for purchase.
297 West St., Lenox
June 17 to Sept. 4: This summer, for the first time since 2019, Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, will offer a full season of concerts and events. With Ozawa Hall and the Linde Center for Music and Learning reopening to the public alongside the Koussevitzky Music Shed, Tanglewood will present a wide range of programs, including eight world and American premieres and 28 works by living composers, as well as 21 artists making their Tanglewood or BSO debuts. See the website for a full listing.
Valley Blue Sox
MacKenzie Stadium, 500 Beech St., Holyoke
Admission: $5-$7; flex packs, $59-$99
Through July 30: Western Mass. residents don’t have to trek to Boston to catch quality baseball. The Valley Blue Sox, two-time champions of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, play the home half of their 44-game schedule close to home at MacKenzie Stadium in Holyoke. Frequent promotional events like postgame fireworks and giveaways help make every game a fun, affordable event for the whole family.
Bullens Field, Westfield, MA
Admission: $10; flex packs, $99
Through Aug. 6: Still can’t get enough baseball? The newest baseball club to land in Western Mass., the Starfires, a member of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, play a slightly longer schedule (56 games) than the Blue Sox. Now in its fourth season, the team plays at Bullens Field in a city with a rich baseball history, and peppers its games with plenty of local flavor and fan experiences.
The Zoo in Forest Park
293 Sumner Ave., Springfield, MA
Admission: $5-$10; children under 1, free
Through Oct. 10: The Zoo in Forest Park, located inside Springfield’s Forest Park, is home to a wide variety of species found throughout the world and North America. Meanwhile, the zoo maintains a focus on conservation, wildlife education, and rehabilitations. The Zoo is open seven days a week, weather permitting, and, unlike 2020 and 2021, guests no longer need a timed ticket to visit. u