Springfield was once the Massachusetts city that many had been through and few had been to, but everything changed when it opened the $960 million MGM Springfield, a 24/7 casino and entertainment complex. Now, New England's fourth largest city by population is not just a road trip pit stop but itself a destination. The addition of a Vegas-based franchise quickly changed the pulse and complexion of the city, catapulting it to the forefront of Pioneer Valley tourism at once. Springfield has no shortage of attractions—casino aside—from hip and music-oriented eateries to museums and a New England outpost of Six Flags, so be sure to peel yourself from away the slots for a bit of exploring during your stay.
Western Massachusetts is home to one of 16 Six Flags locations throughout the U.S. The largest theme park in New England, the Agawam attraction covers an area of 235 acres, packed with a dozen thrilling coasters and a waterpark, Hurricane Harbor. Some of the most notable rides at Six Flags New England include Superman the Ride, one of the highest-ranked steel coasters in the world, and Wicked Cyclone, the first "hybrid roller coaster" (mixing wood and steel) to arrive on the East Coast.
Attend a Springfield Symphony Orchestra Concert
The Springfield Symphony Orchestra—aka SSO—has been playing since 1944. It's now the largest symphony in Massachusetts outside of Boston, consisting of 80 musicians from New England and Canada. SSO plays more than 100 shows a year, most at its home Symphony Hall, a stunning, 2,611-seat Greek Revival performing arts venue worth visiting in itself. The architectural masterpiece was built in the early 1900s.
Brush up on Your Titanic History
Springfield has one of the many Titanic museums located throughout the country, but only this one is run by the official Titanic Historical Society, a nonprofit dedicated to the historical preservation of the famous ocean liner. The organization's extensive collection—housed in a tucked-away antique store-esque environment—includes such artifacts as life jackets, ship blueprints, china, and pieces of the boat's railing removed from the wreckage.
Try Your Luck at MGM Springfield
Thoughtfully designed to reflect its location in a city known for 19th- and 20th-century industrial innovation, this 252-room hotel and casino is perhaps Springfield's most notable attraction. In addition to slot machines and table games, MGM Springfield has diverse nightlife and entertainment offerings including indoor and outdoor concert venues, a seven-screen cinema with recliner seats and a full bar, Topgolf swing suites for simulated play, and a comedy club. Restaurants include Wahlburgers, the actor-founded burger joint, and the Chandler Steakhouse, helmed by “Hell’s Kitchen” winner Meghan Gill.
Shopping at the MGM Springfield includes the Kringle Emporium by Yankee Candle. While browsing the array of scented gifts, guests can sip on boozy milkshakes like the S'more or Nothing, made with chocolate vodka and topped with toasted marshmallow and graham cracker. Kringle Emporium's cafe also serves inventive paninis and flatbreads.
James Naismith allegedly invented basketball in a Springfield YMCA gym in 1891. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is, of course, named after the legend and pays tribute to more than 400 star players and coaches. The museum packs 40,000 square feet of floor space with interactive exhibits, skills challenges, and shooting contests. The public can buy tickets to the annual Enshrinement Ceremony (and related events) each September, too.
Peruse Dr. Seuss Artifacts
Oh, the places you'll go... even without leaving Springfield. The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum and corresponding Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden is a tribute to beloved Springfieldian Theodor Geisel, the children's book author behind Dr. Seuss. His first published book, "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," was inspired by a street you can still stroll down today: It's just outside downtown. The outdoor sculpture garden, featuring famous Seuss characters like the Cat in the Hat and the Lorax, has been an attraction since 2002, but the museum didn't make its debut until 2017. Inside, you'll find kid-friendly, interactive spaces and an artifact-filled recreation of Dr. Seuss's studio. The museum even owns the author's 117 bowties. Consider a visit in early March to celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday.
Sample Authentic German Food
Be it bratwurst or spätzle, or schnitzel with noodles, your favorite German dishes are all on the menu at the Student Prince, a Springfield dining destination since 1935. German beers are on tap, too, and always served in traditional steins (the largest stein collection in the U.S. resides here). Known as "The Fort" to locals, this enduring institution—adorned with Old World stained glass and woodwork—is on the site of a fort constructed in 1660 that survived the burning of Springfield in 1675. Here's hoping your appetite has the same staying power because you certainly won't want to say "no" to desserts like apple strudel and Black Forest cake.
Visit a Revolutionary-Era Armory
Springfield holds a unique place in U.S. military history. Visit the Springfield Armory National Historic Site and you'll be at the very spot where guns that won the American Revolution were manufactured. From 1777 until 1968, this factory supplied the U.S. armed forces with weapons. Today, the museum holds the world's largest collection of American military small arms, some of which are on exhibit. Big-band concerts and other special events held here whisk visitors back to wartime eras in American history.
Catch a Concert or Game at the MassMutual Center
Managed by MGM Springfield, the MassMutual Center's 8,000-seat arena is the largest venue in the city. It's where big-name concerts (Stevie Wonder, Cher) are held and where the Springfield Thunderbirds, a minor-league hockey team, plays from late September through early April. Kids love Boomer, the team's colorful mascot, and tickets are priced as low as $10.
Explore Forest Park
Springfield's Forest Park is the 735-acre green space that houses an entire zoo, containing 150 animals, plus aquatic gardens and an outdoor amphitheater. In fact, it's one of the largest urban, municipal parks in the U.S. The zoo focuses primarily on education, and up-close encounters are on its daily schedule. The park's other claim to fame, kicking off on the eve of Thanksgiving, is Bright Nights, a drive-through holiday light show with enchanting horse-drawn wagon and carriage rides and suppers with Santa.
Tour Storrowton Village
On the Eastern States Exposition grounds, this recreated village whisks you back to old-time New England. The 18th- and 19th-century buildings were moved here from Massachusetts and New Hampshire towns, and tours led by docents in period costume are offered mid-June through mid-August. In early December, holiday decorations and delights await visitors of the Storrowton Village Museum. Santa will be making regular appearances and the shop is ideal for finding unique gifts.
Enjoy Blues with Your BBQ
Theodores' Booze, Blues, and BBQ has kept Springfieldians and visitors fed and entertained for more than three decades. Friday and Saturday late nights are the time to hear live blues bands, but you can also catch open-mic acts starting at 10 p.m. most Wednesdays and karaoke singers at 9 p.m. most Fridays. The menu's a mix of classic barbecue staples—from burnt ends to ribs—and Cajun and Creole dishes.