Springfield, Massachusetts Guide
Yankee ingenuity brought prosperity and fine museums, but Springfield's claim to world fame is that basketball was invented here.
Museum Quadrangle & Dr Seuss Park in Springfield MA.
Massachusetts' third-largest city has a proud history of Yankee ingenuity and calls itself "The City of Firsts." Its inventions include the internal-combustion auto, monkey wrench, ice skates, and basketball.
Springfield's firsts brought prosperity which allowed Springfield's citizens to endow fine museums of art, history and science.
The Springfield Armory, now a National Historic Site, produced weapons for American troops in the War of 1812. Union soldiers in the Civil War used the famous Springfield rifle. The armory was a virtual cornucopia of small arms, many examples of which you can still see in its museum.
Hall of Fame,
Elegant as these things may be, they were not Springfield's finest products. This honor is reserved for Duryea and Rolls-Royce automobiles. The Duryea brothers, Charles and Frank, built the first practical internal-combustion engine automobile (1894) on the top floor of the building at 41 Taylor St. And for a short time in the 1930s the world's most elegant auto, the Rolls-Royce, was assembled here in Springfield.
Among all its inventions, only one has brought real world fame to Springfield: basketball. Yes, this is the place where, in 1891, Dr James Naismith, a physical education instructor at Springfield's YMCA College, originated the game. The city has a suitable memorial, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, a place that's fascinating and fun even if you're not sports-minded.
In the early 21st century, Springfield's economy was suffering. To give it a boost, in 2018 the MGM Springfield Casino opened, competing with the very successful gambling casinos in southeastern Connecticut.
Every September, the Eastern States Exposition ("The Big E"), New England's largest state fair, glitters and swings in nearby West Springfield.
Exit from I-91 at State Street, go east one block to Main Street then north to the Visitor Information office between Harrison Avenue and Bridge Street to pick up a free Discovery Tour map of Springfield with all the important sights shown on it.
If you can't get it at the info office, you'll find it in many other places, such as at museums and hotels. Look in the brochure racks.
Street parking is scarce in the center of Springfield—most parking is in pay lots—so you might want to drive east uphill on State Street to the Springfield Armory first. There's on-street meter parking at the top of the hill next to the Armory.
What to See & Do
State Street is, in fact, your main sightseeing axis in Springfield: the Springfield Armory and Central Library are right on State Street. Museum Quadrangle is right behind the library just north of State Street. The Mass Mutual (Convention) Center is on State Street, and Court Square is just a half-block north along Main Street.
Just west of Court Square, the twin, huge Roman temples separated by a very tall classical tower are Springfield's City Hall and Symphony Hall. The Old First Church (1819) on the west side of the square is the latest meetinghouse for a congregation gathered in 1637.
The statue in Court Square is of William Pynchon, who led the group of Puritans who settled here in 1636, and incorporated the town five years later.
South and west of Court Square, the granite Hampden County Superior Courthouse, modeled somewhat on Venice's Palazzo Vecchio by Henry Hobson Richardson, is now used for less august judicial sessions, while the modern, beige Hampden County Hall of Justice to its west now houses the Superior Court.
Springfield Armory Museum, 1 Armory Square (Federal & State Streets)(map) was where, from 1795 to 1968, a good proportion of America's national defense budget was spent. Now Springfield and Garand rifles, weapons dating from the 1600s, early Gatling and other machine guns, and lots of Remingtons, Colts, and Lugers make up what is thought to be the world's largest collection of such weaponry.
The Springfield Armory is thought to have the world's largest such collection of weaponry, and it is mighty impressive.
No Personal Firearms Allowed!
"No personal firearms, knives over 2 inches, or other weapons of any kind are allowed on Federal Property due to Federal and State Laws even if you have a license to carry firearms. Please don’t bring them with you to this site."
The gun factories and officers' quarters at the armory, at 1 Armory Square (Federal at State streets: map) are now occupied by Springfield Technical Community College, but the Small Arms Museum, is what you've come to see.
Two and a half blocks northeast of Court Square is the Springfield Central Library, at Springfield Museums Quadrangle, corner of State and Chestnut streets (map).
At the entrance to the Quadrangle, in Merrick Park, is Augustus Saint Gaudens's statue of Deacon Samuel Chapin (1598-1675) called The Puritan.
The museum houses the collection of its eponymous founder, who amassed a fortune manufacturing carriages, and then spent it on works of art, everything from Japanese armor to Islamic carpets.
The armor collection is one of the finest outside Asia, and the Chinese cloisonné is equally impressive. There are lacquer-work screens, textiles, ceramics, and a fine collection of 19th-century European and American paintings. More...
This museum has more than 20 galleries. Its collection is built on lesser masters, or lesser paintings of the great masters, but is a fine representation nonetheless.
Pride of place—right above the main stairway—goes to Erastus Salisbury Field's The Rise of the American Republic, which can keep you busy for the better part of an hour. You'll see why.
The Impressionist and Expressionist gallery includes a painting from Monet's Haystacks series, and works by Degas, Dufy, Gauguin, Pissarro, Renoir, Rouault, and Vlaminck.
In the Contemporary gallery you'll find works by George Bellows, Lyonel Feininger, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Picasso, among others. Modern sculptors featured include Leonard Baskin and Richard Stankiewicz. More...
Bas relief above the entrance to the Museum of Fine Arts
The Science Museum is a good place to take kids. Besides the historic Seymour Planetarium, there's a multilevel African Hall with exhibits explaining that continent's diverse peoples, animals, and ecology.
In the Dinosaur Hall, standing beneath the full-size replica of Tyrannosaurus Rex, you can learn what it feels like to be some creature's prospective lunch. In another exhibit, TAM (the Transparent Anatomical Mannikin) explains how her very visible and nicely illuminated organs and physical systems work. More...
Springfield native Theodore ("Ted") Geisel, author of the Dr Seuss books, would have loved this interactive museum which enhances the Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden in Museum Quadrangle. If you have children who love the Dr Seuss characters, from the Cat in the Hat on, they will love this museum and garden.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Springfield was a leading industrial and commercial city in New England. This museum tells its story, and its library and archives hold tens of thousands of books, documents, photographs, microfilms and databases. More...
About eight short blocks south of Court Square on the eastern shore of the Coonnecticut River is the Basketball Hall of Fame, 1000 West Columbus Avenue (at Union Street) (map). You can't miss its dramatic architecture, and you shouldn't miss its active many-things-to-see-and-do interior if you have any interest at all in this game invented in Springfield and now popular throughout the world. You can see and do a lot here in less than an hour, but you could also spend an entire morning because the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is no stuffy museum, but an active place.
Housed in a dramatic building designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, the 200-foot basketball-topped spire and bulbous dome are easily visible from I-91 as you speed through Springfield (map). Stop for a closer look.
You can see and do a lot here in less than an hour, but you could also spend an entire morning.
Find Union Street (south of State Street) and go west. Just after you pass under I-91, you'll see the dramatic architecture of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Eastern States Exposition, 1305 Memorial Avenue (MA Rte 147; map) in West Springfield is the ninth largest fair in North America, held each year during the last two weeks of September in the midst of foliage season.
Nicknamed "The Big E," it features free entertainment, a circus, the Avenue of States, thrill shows, New England history and agriculture exhibits, handicrafts, animals, rides, shops, a parade every day, and lots of food stands and eateries.
There's an admission fee to the grounds, but lots to do once you're inside. See the official website for details.
Where to Stay in Springfield
Springfield MA has several large modern hotels, good for business, conventions, and overnight tourist travel, right in the city center (map).
There's a 3-star, 143-room Hilton Garden Inn Springfield on the south side of the Basketball Hall of Fame. just off I-91 next to the Connecticut River.
Other hotels, motels and inns are somewhat out of the city center. Use this Hotel Map with Prices to help you find yours.
Car and bus are the easiest ways to reach Springfield MA, but there are some train and airplane connections also.
Located near the junction of the major east-west artery, the Massachusetts Turnpike (Interstate 90), and the major north-south artery along the Connecticut River (Interstate 91), with an active Amtrak train station, Springfield is easily accessible.
Distances to/from Springfield MA:
Boston MA: 89 miles (143-1/2 km) east
Hartford CT: 23 miles (37 km) south
Northampton MA: 21 miles (34 km) north
32 miles (51-1/2 km) east
Springfield is the home of Peter Pan Bus Lines, a major bus company in New England and indeed the entire northeastern USA. As Peter Pan's hub, it's an important stop on many bus routes, including to Boston and New York City.
The bus terminal is next to Union Station Transportation Center on Frank B Murray Street at Dwight Street in the city center.
Local and regional bus transport is handled by the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA).>
Springfield's historicUnion Station is on Frank B Murray Street at Dwight Street in the city center. The nearest hotel is only 1000 feet (350 meters) away.
The historic station (1926) is part Union Station Transportation Center, the city's intermodal transportation hub for trains, and intercity, regional and local buses.
Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited express train connects Boston, Worcester and Springfield daily with Albany/Rensselaer NY and Chicago IL. The trip between Springfield and Boston takes about 2-1/4 hours. Otherwise, there are daily Amtrak trains between Springfield, New
Haven CT and New
York City, and by changing trains at New Haven you can travel between Boston and Springfield in about 4 hours.
Unless you have mobility problems, you should be able to walk to just about everything there is to see and do in Springfield, with the possible exception of the Basketball Hall of Fame (about 7/10 mile [1 km] southwest of Court Square), and the probable exception of the Eastern States Exposition (1.7 miles/2.5 km west of Court Square).