2 Must-Stop Attractions for Your Springfield, MA Day Trip

Experience the best of Springfield, Massachusetts in just one day with this ultimate guide to this vibrant city's top attractions and hidden gems.

2 Must-Stop Attractions for Your Springfield, MA Day Trip
Photo by Vanessa Sezini / Unsplash

If you're searching for a city to explore for the day in the United States, Springfield might not be the first one that comes to mind. You might even be wondering which Springfield people are referring to - the one from The Simpsons, perhaps?

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However, this particular Springfield is situated in Massachusetts and is a delightful destination that often goes unnoticed by travelers. Despite its small size, this New England city offers a plethora of fascinating historical sites and unique attractions. Moreover, if you're traveling alone, it's an excellent place to visit and serves as a convenient starting point for exploring Southern New England. This day trip back in the summer of 2023 encompasses my experiences at two fantastic stops in the city: MGM Springfield and the Springfield Museums. Although this itinerary only scratches the surface, there is much more to discover, making it an ideal starting point for further exploration of the Pioneer Valley. The city is easily accessible by train, car, and is in close proximity to Bradley International Airport.


MGM Springfield

Take a virtual tour!

This was not my first rodeo at MGM Springfield, since this casino-hotel opened in 2017. I've visited this place multiple times and even stayed at the hotel before this summer day. Whether you're a newbie or a regular, there's always something new to explore. On this scorching yet surprisingly rainless day, I decided to make my first stop at the casino and conveniently parked my car in the attached parking garage. It's super convenient, especially with its close proximity to Interstate 91 and downtown. After parking, I hopped on the elevator and made my way into the casino. As soon as you step inside, you'll spot Tap Sports Bar on your right and the casino floor on your left, with security ensuring entry to the gaming area.

There are two ways to enter the casino - either through the casino floor or the peripheral space around it. If you choose to enter the casino floor, you'll need to go through security and the area is fenced off. Since it's a casino, you should be aware that you're being monitored at all times, so it's best to follow the rules. I decided to go through the casino floor and walked past the slot machines to the center where the Coke Freestyle machines are located. These machines are a lifesaver on a hot summer day! The center of the floor also has a bar with bartop gambling and plenty of seating. I'm not much of a gambler, so I skipped the slot machines and headed to the BetMGM area on the side. There were lots of seats and a big screen showing multiple sporting events. I placed a $5 baseball parlay bet (which I lost) and realized it was almost lunchtime, so I went to grab something to eat.

The good thing about MGM Springfield is, there’s plenty to do outside of gambling. I get the sense that they wanted to make this a destination for the area where you go for the gambling, and stay for the other amenities. The area surrounding the casino floor has a lot to offer, including the South End Market, a Regal Cinemas movie theatre, high-end restaurants, access to luxurious hotel rooms, and the TAP Sports Bar.

a building with a sign on the side
Photo by Tyson Moultrie on Unsplash

The TAP Sports Bar is a fantastic spot to grab a bite to eat and indulge in some delicious cocktails. Whether you prefer bar seating, tables, or booths, there's plenty of options for everyone. When I sat at the bar, the bartender promptly handed me menus for both drinks and food. After ordering my cocktail, I decided on my lunch. I had a pleasant conversation with the bartender. As previously mentioned in my previous post on food, the bartenders are always there to serve you and engage in conversation, although sometimes they may not. If they do, it's always enjoyable to keep the conversation flowing and be yourself. Having worked in the foodservice industry myself, I understand the importance of building relationships with customers. For my lunch, I opted for a burger without the bun and a side of fries, which was a satisfying and delcious trade-off in terms of carbs! Additionally, the TAP Sports Bar also boasts a bowling alley at the back, making it a great venue for events. Just like the rest of the casino, the bar has a modern industrial look that is both timeless and inviting in its design.

After my lunch, I decided to take a stroll and explore the surroundings of the casino. I started with the outdoor pavilion, which is an excellent event space. They make good use of it by organizing free concerts and events on summer weekends. During the winter months, it transforms into an ice rink where people can enjoy skating.

Adjacent to the pavilion, there is a TopGolf Swing Suite, which, in my opinion, is more like "fake golf" since you hit a golf ball against a projection screen. There is also an Indian Motorcycle store located at the edge of the pavilion.

As I continued my walk, I discovered a Wahlburgers restaurant nearby on the corner of Union and Main St. Let me tell you, it's a fantastic place to grab a burger! Interestingly, this Wahlburgers location is part of the MGM Springfield complex but is not situated within the main building. You can interpret this in two ways: Firstly, it feels like a separate downtown location that doesn't blend with the casino-hotel atmosphere. However, it's conveniently within walking distance, and the downtown area has the potential to develop around it. Secondly, if it's considered part of the casino-hotel, it should ideally be located within the premises.

Google Maps view of MGM Springfield

Overall, this is a great pit stop to start or end your day in this charming small city in New England. TAP Sports Bar is a fantastic choice, but if you're looking for something fast, South End Market is also a great option. The cinema appears to be quite enticing, and the next time I visit, I hope there will be an intriguing movie playing, so I might consider going there. Lastly, they offer a hotel with exceptionally pleasant rooms if you require a place to stay for the night, and there are also other hotels in the vicinity, such as Sheraton and Hampton Inn.

Springfield Museums

After my late morning/early afternoon lunch stop at the casino, I walked a few city blocks away to this group of museums. It took some effort to locate the entrance due to the lack of clear signage, but eventually, I found my way in. Upon entering, I noticed the coat check area on the left and the ticket desk on the right. Approaching the desk, I asked if this museum was affiliated with NARM, and indeed it was. I presented my membership card, allowing me to enter the museum for free and saving me $25. With my wristband secured, I turned around and made my way into the museum, which was conveniently connected to the Springfield Science Museum.

Google Maps walking distance map

Before I begin with the grand tour, I will say this place in Springfield is truly a hidden gem. I want to highlight that when you purchase a ticket to this museum, you actually gain access to FIVE museums, all conveniently located within walking distance. It's truly remarkable how there is something for everyone here. Although I did not visit the Amazing World of Dr Seuss Museum (as it seemed more geared towards children and families), I did make stops at the other museums nearby. Let’s begin!

I made my way up the stairs and stepped into the Springfield Science Museum, starting my visit in Dinosaur Hall. Although this section seemed a bit worn-out and in need of some renovation, it still held some intriguing information. As you enter the museum, you can't miss the amazing and life-sized Tyrannosaurus Rex standing proudly in the atrium. Despite the museum showing signs of aging, it's still a pleasant place to explore, and families seem to enjoy their time here. One of the highlights for me were the animal "halls", such as the Mammal Hall, Reptile Hall, and Habitat Hall. These halls showcase a collection of animals that have been preserved through taxidermy. It's a peaceful and delightful experience to stroll through these halls, marveling at the immense size of these creatures, all without any danger. I was particularly captivated by the grandeur of some of the animals, like the moose and deer, as shown in the picture below.

After exiting the Science Museum and moving outside, you enter the the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. This is a beautiful pathway adorned with bronze sculptures that pay tribute to the beloved characters created by Dr. Seuss. It serves as a serene and tranquil walkway, acting as a central promenade that links various museums together. It's a vibrant place, often bustling with events and activities. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture to share with you at the moment, but it's definitely worth taking a brief stroll through.

Dr Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden and Museum Layout. Courtesy of Springfield Museums website.

Next to the Science Museum, you'll find the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum. This museum is housed in a beautiful old mansion and has a fascinating Japanese Arms and Armor gallery on the ground level. As you enter the building, you'll notice a grand staircase to your right. You can either take those stairs or use the elevator to reach the top level, which showcases a wide variety of paintings and sculptures. On one end of the top floor, there is a lovely American Paintings Salon. While the lower level is a pleasant area to explore, the top level offers a particularly serene atmosphere. There's even a central bench in the gallery where visitors can sit and appreciate the artwork in peace. After being on my feet for a while, it was a wonderful spot to take a break, relax, and take in the view of the paintings that surround you.

After departing the art museum, I proceeded back on to the outdoor walkway to the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, which has an extensive collection of European art, Japanese prints, and a Currier & Ives collection. I was short on time, so I quickly visited this museum, but it seemed to have multiple galleries and a well-organized layout. Sadly, no pictures though!

The Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History is an absolute must-visit. As someone who appreciates history museums, this one truly stands out. It is conveniently located just across the street from the main entrance of the Springfield Museums campus, with a walkway that leads directly to this hidden gem. While there are dining options available at the main museum building, you'll also find a food truck here most of the time. As you step inside, you'll often spot a friendly security guard on the left and a captivating mural sponsored by MassMutual on the right. This mural beautifully depicts the rich history of the Connecticut River Valley.

There are two different paths you can take once inside. The first path leads directly to the permanent collections, starting with the early transportation wing. This area showcases a variety of classic cars, including those made by Knox in the late 1800s. You'll also find exhibits on the Springfield Trolley and local/regional bus company Peter Pan. The second path takes you through the SIS Hall, which features special exhibitions. During my visit, the special exhibition focused on toys and board games created in the region, such as Lego and Milton Bradley. Both paths lead to a stairwell that takes you to the second level.

The upper level of the museum is home to the Esta Manthos Indian Motorcycle Collection, which showcases a wide range of classic Indian motorcycles that played a significant role in the development of Springfield. If you have a passion for cars and motorcycles and enjoy studying their evolution over time, this museum is perfect for you. During my visit, I explored the early bicycles area, which was quite interesting. I also came across a captivating exhibit on John Brown and Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War. Finally, I made my way to the "Downtown Retail Gallery", where I embarked on a journey through the local chains that have shaped the city, such as Big Y Supermarkets and Friendly's. Additionally, I discovered fascinating information about past local retailers like Steigers and Johnson Bookstore. It was truly fascinating to see how Springfield tried to revitalize its downtown area with a shopping mall, but faced challenges at the beginning of the 21st century. However, it is now making a comeback and it's exciting to witness its progress.

Descend to the lower floor where you'll find the "Made in the Valley" exhibit, featuring the exceptional products made by famous national companies that once resided in Springfield, including Milton Bradley, Merriam-Webster, and Breck Shampoo. Witness the impressive scale of manufacturing that occurred during that time period and discover the numerous renowned companies that originated from Springfield, Massachusetts. It's a captivating experience that's not to be missed, and a great way to conclude this visit.

Closing Thoughts

Springfield is a fantastic destination for solo travelers or those visiting friends and family. In the past, I have been to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (perhaps next time?), which is a fantastic museum to explore the history of basketball and those well known faces who shaped the game over the years. During mid to late September, The Big E is the place to be for a lively "state fair" experience in New England. I try to visit once a year and it’s always a fun experience. The Forest Park Zoo is a charming haven for various animals, such as coyotes, wolves, exotic birds, turtles, and many other captivating species. If you love breweries and local shops, Northhampton and Amherst is a great stop nearby, and finally, the Berkshires provide for breathtaking and scenic views. The I-91 corridor is also a picturesque route to take. If you're in New England, Springfield is an exceptional place to discover.

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