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.
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.
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.
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.
Today, science lets children as young as 7 years old stand in the eye of a hurricane and fly over the surface of Mars—at least at the Connecticut Science Center. The multi-sensory center encourages all ages to explore the exciting side of natural and man-made phenomena. Whether they're braving gale-force winds in the hurricane simulator or engaging with exotic critters in the live animal touch tanks, visitors play an active role in the center's more than 150 hands-on exhibits. In the Sight and Sound Experience, adventurers feel sound vibrations, experiment with lasers and movement, and hear light, whereas Planet Earth encourages them to probe for fossils in a real seabed core. Exploring Space journeys outside the atmosphere with moon rocks and an up-close visit to a black hole, before Invention Dimension, which features LEGOs, returns to Earth so that fledgling engineers can build their own Rube Goldberg machine without the calculating the effects of zero gravity.
Recently, the center welcomed its newest resident: a sound-equipped animatronic dilophosaurus, whose reptilian movements and noises recreate the goosebumps felt during the species's starring role in Jurassic Park. Robotics also play a central role in Forces in Motion, which introduces the fundamentals of engineering and design through the use of sleek, responsive mechanical flyers. The center's dedication to machine life also extends to its partnerships; working with First Niagara Bank Foundation and scientist Tim Gifford, the center sponsors a teen robotics team for camps and competitions.
Beyond the permanent exhibits, the museum is also a frequent stop for headline-grabbing traveling exhibits from around the country; with multiple exhibits coming through every year, no visit is likely to be the same as the last. The center also houses learning areas suited to even smaller guests: in KidSpace, ages 3–6 splash in a water play area, partake in story time, experiment with a wall of magnetic balls, and test their object recognition in searching activities designed by I Spy author Walter Wick. Beyond the exhibits, a state-of-the-art 3D digital theatre screens science-focused films, and four educational labs host special events such as summer exploration camps and experiments in cootie vaccination. An on-site café, meanwhile, keeps visitors fueled with dishes made from organic, locally sourced ingredients. All of this academic adventure unfold in the center's sleek building, which honors its green architecture with a rooftop garden boasting panoramic views of Hartford.
The full-scale Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art houses three galleries and 40,000 square feet of picture-book art, with rotating exhibitions showcasing both national and international galleries. Founded in part by Eric Carle, the famous author and illustrator of over 70 children's books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Eric Carle Museum aims to inspire an appreciation of the art of the picture book in adults, children, and lovable curmudgeons alike. The museum rouses the eyes with a large selection of exhibitions by a variety of artists, such as the currently running Tomi Ungerer, Chronicler of the Absurd, which takes audiences through the vibrant artwork of Tomi Ungerer's award-winning children's books, including The Mellops Go Flying, The Three Robbers, and Flat Stanley. Selections from private collections and archives enhance the exhibit, giving viewers an ever-deeper look into the absurdities and wonders of Ungerer's fantastic artwork.