Many a 19th-century summer day, William Skinner would wipe his brow with a silk handkerchief and breathe in the sweet scent of wisteria vines. His wife, Sarah, had trained the vines to grow alongside their sprawling home, which he had built in 1874 with the profits from his silk-manufacturing business. He named it Wistariahurst in honor of his wife’s prized vines, which continued to grow even after the stately home passed down to the next generation of the Skinner family and, in 1959, to the city of Holyoke.
The wisteria vines have not stood the test of time alone. The home's elaborate woodwork, original leather wall coverings, and elegant columns have also remained intact. Every week, the docents at Wistariahurst Museum lead tours across the historical estate, elaborating on the Skinner family's history and showcasing collections of architectural prints and silk textiles from the family's manufacturing business. In addition to tours, staff members regularly offer workshops that teach Girl Scouts about such Victorian-era pastimes as knitting and playing parlor games with the ghosts in the attic.
In the warmer months, Wistariahurst’s immaculately manicured gardens play host to a wide variety of events. Concerts and lectures remain open to the public, and private rentals allow guests to hold weddings or play ill-advised games of hide-and-seek in the minotaur labyrinth.
Fun Time Lanes sends patrons back in time for candlestick bowling sessions that predate traditional tenpin rounds. After fitting feet into rental shoes, participants launch 3- to 6-pound balls down one of 20 polished lanes toward huddled masses of slim pins. Automatic scoring, ball returns, and cash prizes to pins that fall the fastest keep frames moving swiftly along. Glow bowl sessions awash vintage orbs and lanes in radiant neon hues every Saturday night during atomic bowl. During breaks, customers can stop fantasizing about marinating a duckpin and instead recharge at Fun Time Lanes' snack bar with bites of burgers, hot dogs, or chicken tenders.
The Volleyball Hall of Fame remembers and honors exceptional players, coaches, and leading members of the volleyball community through a collection of memorabilia and displays. Within walls insulated entirely with discarded volleyball nets, the hall inducts honorees from all over the globe, championing individuals who have significantly impacted the game of volleyball throughout its worldwide, more than 100-year history. The hall appropriately makes its home in Holyoke, where William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical-education director, invented the game in 1895. Morgan was the sole individual honored at the first induction ceremony in 1985, and the hall has been recognizing important volleyballers and self-aware volleyballs at its annual induction ceremony ever since.
The two screens of Tower Theaters host an eclectic cast of characters, from the flying superheroes of summer blockbusters to elaborately costumed opera singers. And 3D technology propels many of them toward the audience with the vivid clarity of digital projection. The dancers and singers appear as part of an opera-and-ballet series, which showcases stage productions such as Caravaggio or Die Fledermaus in digital high definition. But on the first Saturday of every month, film and live performance combine with midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, during which a shadow cast poses in front of the screen to mirror the cult classic's plot and catch Tim Curry when he falls out.
One of the largest conservation organizations in New England, Mass Audubon cares for 34,000 acres of natural land in a network of more than 50 wildlife sanctuaries across the state. Its members receive free admission to these pacific preserves, where, alongside more than 150 endangered or threatened native species, they can breathe in Mother Nature’s perfume or have a good cry on her mossy bosom. During bird-migration season, alert gazes can capture some 300 species of sky surfer at Allens Pond on the South Coast, and visitors to Lincoln’s Drumlin Farm can re-enact Charlotte's Web with a motley band of sheep, cows, goats, and pigs.
Travel back to the time of the dinosaurs, see classic Indian Motocycles, marvel at art from the ancient world, fly to the stars in our planetarium, view Impressionist paintings and play among life-size Dr. Seuss characters. One stop. Five museums. Free parking.