One of the most popular attractions in the Western part of Massachusetts, the Springfield Museums are a collection of five museums that showcase over 130,000 artifacts related to the areas of science, history, art, and culture. Located in downtown Springfield, the third largest city in Massachusetts, 90 minutes west of Boston and 30 minutes north of Hartford, Connecticut, the Springfield Museum welcome close to 400,000 visitors each year and offer dozens of exhibits that will engage families of all ages.
The first museum to open was the George Walter Vincent Smith Museum, named for the patron who donated his entire collection of art in 1896. The Science Museum followed in 1899, and the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts opened in1933. The most recent additions include the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, which opened in 2002, the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History which opened in 2009, and the Wonderful World of Dr. Seuss Museum, which opened in 2017 (it was our very first blog post!).
The Welcome Center, housed in the Science Museum, is a great palace to start a visit- admissions, gift shop, and restrooms are all located in the Welcome Center. In the middle of the quadrangle is the outdoor Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, which includes The Lorax, Dr, Seuss and The Cat in the Hat, The Storyteller, and Horton Court. The garden was commissioned by Geisel’s wife, Audrey, following his death in 1991, and opened in 2002.
Highlights of Each Museum Everyone Will Enjoy:
The Springfield Science Museum is the largest museum in the group and probably one of the most engaging for children. Its first floor exhibits feature replica dinosaurs, Native American exhibits, and the R.E. Phelon African Hall. Meteorites, a space station, Earth Hall, and a planetarium are located on the second floor, and the lower level is home to aquariums, water exhibits, and the Investigation Station.
Kids will especially love Spark!LAB which offers daily, guided science challenges, experiments, and arts and crafts projects; Investigation Station; the life size model (with an now inaccurate stance) of a Tyrannosaurus Rex; African Hall (to listen to the sounds of lions, leopards, zebras, and elephants); Discovery Lab (for experiments); the Solutia Live Animal Center and Aquarium (get up close to tons of fish and turtles).
Adults will especially love looking through magnifying glass to see meteorites; weighing yourself on a planetary scale; testing your knowledge in the Puzzle of Night Visitors trivia game.
The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum is an interactive museum that showcases three dimensional characters and scenes from Seuss’ books, as well as artifacts and timelines of Theodore Geisel’s (aka Dr. Seuss) personal life and career. The first floor exhibits are fully bilingual (English and Spanish) and invite guests to read, sing, dance, and play.
Kids will especially love everything!! But popular spots include the interactive exhibits like the pretend kitchen, fishing screen, wall puzzles and Pixel Pegs, Readingville games, sitting on the Wump of Gump in Whoville, and listening to Seuss narrate his books in the Ted2Ted exhibit.
Adults will especially love seeing the display of Seuss’s recreated office and living room (with authentic furniture, art supplies, and personal artifacts) and learning about the heritage of his family.
The Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History is located across the street from the Quadrangle. The museum opened in 2009 and is focused on local history. The Indian Motocycle collection is the largest in the world; there are over a dozen antique cars and airplanes on display, plus a collection of 1,600 firearms. Exhibits also focus on the history of the Connecticut River Valley, including a display from a Friendly’s ice cream parlor.
Kids will especially love the Hasbro GameLand which has four stations featuring challenges in memory, word play, imagination, and coordination.
Adults will especially love the collection of antique cars (multiple Rolls-Royce roadsters), fire engines, motorcycles, and airplanes.
The D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts is home to a large collection of European (French, Dutch, and Italian) paintings, prints, watercolors, and sculptures and the Currier and Ives Collection of lithographs.
Kids will especially love ArtSpace and the lower level galleries of contemporary art.
Adults will especially love the Blake Court of 19th century American art and the second floor chronological galleries of art (17th century through 19th century).
The George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum showcases the collections of George Walter Vincent Smith and his wife, Belle Townsley Smith, dating back to the late 1800s. The collection includes one of the largest collections of Chinese cloisonne outside of Asia; many Chinese jade and ceramics; Japanese arms and armor, and bronzes; many 19th century Middle Eastern carpets; and 19th century American and Italian paintings and watercolors.
Kids will especially love the Hasbro Games Art Discovery Center, which includes a wall of symbols, costume closet, and arts and crafts stations, and the Plaster Cast Gallery.
Adults will especially love walking through the art of Islamic World, Chinese Porcelain, Japanese Decorative Arts, Chinese Cloisonne, and American Painting Salon- take note of the change in doorways and wall colors; the Tiffany stained glass windows.
Bonus: The Seymour Planetarium (closed when we visited in mid April 2023, but slated to open by this publication date!) is home to the world’s oldest American-made projector. Shows are offered Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Looking for more fun in the Springfield area? Check out our full Springfield City Guide, and our posts featuring the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Lupa Zoo, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, the Springfield Armory, and the Yankee Candle Village. And follow along on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.
Disclosure: Our family was given a media pass to explore the museums; all opinions expressed are my own.