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.
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.
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.
The Amherst College–owned Emily Dickinson Museum preserves the memory and work of the poet and hyphen master by maintaining the estate where she lived and composed many of her nearly 1,800 poems. The museum includes The Homestead, her birthplace and longtime residence, which stands near The Evergreens, where her brother, Austin, lived with his family. Emily and her siblings were all avid gardeners, cultivating flowers and hedges throughout their 3-acre estate. Emily herself maintained a conservatory for her collection of exotic plants, and she drew endless inspiration from her natural surroundings for her work.
The Emily Dickinson Museum welcomes field trips for groups of students and schedules events throughout the year to celebrate her poetry and role in American literary history. Interactive poetry discussion groups meet at various Amherst locations, keeping Dickinson's style relevant by communicating only in rhyming quatrains.
It takes three large exhibit hangars and an open-air tarmac to hold New England Air Museum’s large collection of more than 80 civilian and military aircraft. Here you can see one of the remaining Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, one of the most advanced bombers during World War II. The museum also contains the Republic RC-3 Seabee, a single-engine amphibian aircraft. The collection encompasses helicopters, gyrocopters, and gliders. There’s even the Silas Brooks Balloon Basket, a basket circa-1870 that’s thought to be the oldest surviving aircraft in the United States.
A variety of special events run periodically, such as kid-friendly demonstrations that explain of the scientific principles that make flight possible, and the Build and Fly Station, where visitors are encouraged construct and keep their own aircraft.