The 12 Best Things to Do in Springfield, Massachusetts

Autumn in Springfield, Massachusetts
DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

It's the New England city that everyone has been through but no one has been to. But that's all changing now that Springfield, Massachusetts, has hit the jackpot. Located at the crossroads of I-91 and the Mass Pike (I-90), New England's fourth largest city by population is suddenly a destination now that the $960 million MGM Springfield casino and entertainment complex is open 24/7. MGM's investment has changed the pulse and complexion of Springfield—it's like the Vegas-based company restarted the heart of the Pioneer Valley. If you're planning a visit, it's important to realize there were already plenty of things to do in Springfield before MGM came to town. Your best bet is to see some of the city's tried-and-true attractions by day, then play the night away at multifaceted MGM.

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    MGM Springfield

    Courtesy of MGM Springfield

    Vegas meets New England at this new mega-property, thoughtfully designed to reflect its location in a city known for industrial innovation in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There's so much to do here that the only way to avoid FOMO is to book a stay in the 252-room hotel. In addition to slot machines and table games, MGM Springfield has diverse nightlife and entertainment offerings including indoor and outdoor concert venues, a luxurious seven-screen cinema with recliner seats and a full bar, Topgolf swing suites for simulated play, and a soon-to-open comedy club. The casino is also home to don't-miss dining experiences like Michael Mina's Cal Mare, where New England seafood gets an Amalfi coast-inspired splash, and the Chandler Steakhouse, helmed by “Hell’s Kitchen” Season 14 winner Meghan Gill.

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    Basketball Hall of Fame

    Massachsuetts Office of Travel & Tourism

    In a YMCA gym in Springfield, James Naismith invented basketball in 1891. Oh, what heights the sport has seen since then. At the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, you can view artifacts and pay tribute to the game's star players and coaches, then get in the game yourself with interactive exhibits, skills challenges, and shooting contests. The public can buy tickets to the annual Enshrinement Ceremony and related events each September, too.

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    The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield

    © Kim Knox Beckius

    Oh, the places you'll go—without leaving Springfield—when you visit the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum and the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. Theodor Geisel, the beloved and prolific children's book author better known as Dr. Seuss, was born and grew up in Springfield, and his first published book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was inspired by a street you can still stroll down: It's just outside the city's downtown. The outdoor sculpture garden, featuring famous Seuss characters like the Cat in the Hat and the Lorax, has been an attraction in Springfield 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.

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    Bratwurst and spätzle and 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 everywhere you look, you'll see beer steins—the restaurant's collection is one of the largest in the U.S. The stained glass and woodwork add to the Old World ambiance. Known as "The Fort" to locals, this enduring institution 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: You don't want to say "no" to desserts like apple strudel and Black Forest cake.

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    Springfield Armory
    Westhoff / Getty Images

    Springfield holds a unique place in US military history. Visit the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, and you'll be on the spot where guns that won the American Revolution were manufactured. From 1777 right up 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 whisk visitors back to wartime eras in American history.

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    Managed by MGM Springfield, the MassMutual Center's 8,000-seat arena is the largest venue in the city. It's your place to see concerts by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Cher. From late September through early April, it's also the home ice arena for the Springfield Thunderbirds, an AHL minor league hockey team. Kids love Boomer, the team's colorful mascot, and with free parking on game days and tickets for most matchups priced as low as $10, you can afford to take the whole family.

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    See Forest Park's Animals and Bright Nights

    Brights Nights Forest Park Springfield

     Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

    Springfield's small Zoo in Forest Park has 150 furry, feathered and finned residents—just enough to delight children and to remind you how diverse life on this planet is. The focus here is on education, and up-close encounters are often on the day's schedule. City-owned Forest Park has another claim to fame starting the eve before Thanksgiving each year. Bright Nights at Forest Park is a drive-through holiday light show with enchanting extras including horse-drawn wagon and carriage rides and suppers with Santa.

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    Kringle Emporium Springfield MA

    © Kim Knox Beckius

    Springfield has long been the gateway to the candle epicenter of New England: Yankee Candle Village is just a 35-minute drive north on I-91, and Kringle Candle is an additional 20-minute trip. Now, though, the spinoff Kringle Emporium at MGM Springfield is a shopping destination with a grown-up twist. While you browse the array of scented gifts, sip a very adult boozy milkshake like the S'more or Nothing made with chocolate vodka and topped with toasted marshmallow and a graham cracker. Kringle Emporium's cafe also serves inventive paninis and flatbreads.

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    Don't worry. These zombies aren't dead and hungering for brains. They've actually just come to life, and they want nothing but net. The Western Massachusetts Zombies are the newest team in the American Basketball Association (ABA), and they're keeping minor-league basketball action alive in the city where the sport was invented. New owner Bill Bullock purchased and renamed the Springfield Sting to create this macabre squad in time for the 2018-19 season, and fans of the game are in for fast-paced, affordable entertainment November through April. 

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    Big E Mardi Gras Parade

    Media photo courtesy of The Big E. 

    New England's largest fair is an extravaganza that celebrates all six states' farmers and producers. Known for everything from headline entertainment to huge cream puffs (and more massively caloric fair food), the Big E is a fall tradition that draws more than 1.5 million folks to Springfield over 17 days each September. Musts include visiting all six New England states in one place along the Avenue of States, watching butter sculptors at work, cheering for racing pigs, catching beads during daily Mardi Gras parades, and eating a Maine potato.

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    On the Eastern States Exposition grounds, where the Big E is held each year, 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. There's another most wonderful time of the year to visit the Storrowtown Village Museum. In early December, holiday decorations and delights await visitors during Yuletide events, Santa makes appearances, and the shop is your place to find unique gifts.

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    For more than three decades, Theodores' Booze, Blues & BBQ has kept Springfielders and visitors fed and entertained. Friday and Saturday late nights are the time to hear live blues bands. Catch open mic acts starting at 10 p.m. most Wednesdays and karaoke singers starting at 9 p.m. most Fridays. The menu's a mix of classic BBQ—from burnt ends to ribs—and Cajun and Creole dishes.