1. People From Pioneer Valley Are Hard To Label
Pioneer Valley’s three counties–Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden–all have their own unique character. Hampden is highly urbanized Western Mass., while Franklin is the most rural county in the state. Hampshire is defined by the Five Colleges and the awesome college-town vibes they bring.
Source: Flickr user CarbonNYC
2. The Valley Pioneered Basketball
Source: Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame via Facebook
Since basketball was invented in Springfield in 1891, it seems only fitting that the Basketball Hall of Fame is in the same city. Definitely a must-visit for any fan of the game.
3. Springfield Knows How To Throw An Arts Festival
Source: Mattoon Street Arts Festival via Facebook
The Mattoon Street Arts Festival in Springfield is entering its 42nd year, making it the longest running arts festival in Pioneer Valley. Come for the 100+ exhibitors, stay for the food, strolling musicians, and good vibes.
4. The Green River Festival Is All About Hot Air And Cool Music
Source: Green River Festival via Facebook
Green River Festival is Pioneer Valley’s biggest outdoor event of the summer–and this year it sold out in advance for the first time in its 28 year history. And that’s not surprising; with multiple stages of music, 60 some odd hot air balloons in action, and artisan craftsman and chefs, this two-day affair is utterly without a dull moment.
5. Amherst’s Tastebud Popping Culinary Scene Is Massive
Source: Lumber Yard Restaurant via Facebook
One of the best parts about the town of Amherst is the sheer volume and variety of dining options. Locally-grown Chinese food across the street from an award winning brunch place? Check. An authentic African restaurant across the street from gourmet French food? Check. Cafes of the highest quality on pretty much every street? Check, check, check.
6. The UMass Minutemen Are Kinda A Big Deal
Source: UMass Minutemen Sports via Facebook
UMass’ Minutemen basketball team is the only NCAA Division 1 team in the region, and they handle the pressure like champs. They qualified for the men’s basketball tournament this year for the first time since 1998, which made for some seriously happy Amherst residents.
7. The Springfield Falcons Are The Valley’s Hockey Elite
Source: Springfield Falcons via Facebook
The Springfield Falcons are a part of the American Hockey League and a huge part of Pioneer Valley’s professional sports scene. For all the intensity of an NHL game for a fraction of the price, seeing a Falcons’ game is absolutely necessary.
8. The Holyoke Baseball Team Will Knock Your Blue Sox Off
Source: Valley Blue Sox via Facebook
Their socks might be blue instead of red, but the Valley Blue Sox team from Holyoke College is still a major regional sports team. The Blue Sox are a part of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, who have sent players to almost all Major League teams, so if you want to see pros before they’re cool, you’re in the right ballpark.
9. Hope And Olive Keeps It Fresh
Source: Hope and Olive via Facebook
If you’re the type who wants to eat where the locals eat, Hope and Olive in Greenfield is your place. Specializing in farm-inspired dishes made with fresh local ingredients, this place ranges from Pumpkin Korma to Italian seafood stew to shrimp and grits.
10. Beer Is Done Right At The People’s Pint
Source: The People’s Pint via Facebook
Craft beer is a point of pride for Pioneer Valley residents, and no place does craft beer better than the People’s Pint in Greenfield. With a massive menu of ales, stouts, and IPAs, you’re sure to develop a hunger–but you won’t need to leave, because the brewery also serves dishes of organic and homegrown foods.
11. Northampton’s Does Art After Dark
Source: Arts Night Out Northampton via Facebook
Annual festivals are great and all, but Northampton residents are a little less patient when it comes to art. The second Friday of every month is Arts Night Out, where the community can experience a diverse array of visual and performing arts.
12. Northampton’s Got You Covered From Breakfast…
Source: The Green Bean via Facebook
The Green Bean on Main Street serves locally grown breakfast and lunch, and won Best Breakfast in the Pioneer Valley in the first year they opened.
13. …To The Bar
Source: HINGE via Facebook
Right on the same street you’ll find Hinge, a three-level bar that meets anyone’s standards for a good night out. Three split-level lounges with two bars on separate floors, a small stage for live music, and dining booths or couches depending on what brought you out.
14. Liberal Arts Colleges Reign Supreme
Source: Amherst College via Facebook
Hampshire County is home to what are collectively known as the Five Colleges: UMass Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire, Smith, and Amherst. All are regarded as some of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, and, together, they make for a seriously palpable college-town vibe throughout Hampshire County.
15. The Springfield Armory Is The Place To Be During A Zombie Apocalypse
Source: Springfield Armory National Historic Site via nps.gov
The Springfield Armory was the largest center of American military firearms from the birth of the country until 1968. Today, the site serves as a museum with the largest collection of historic American firearms in the world.
16. Dr. Seuss’ Menagerie Comes Alive In Springfield
Source: Flickr user juliejordanscott
The beloved children’s book writer Dr. Seuss was born in Springfield, and Springfield residents know how to honor their own. The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden features statues of the Cat in the Hat, Yertle the Turtle, and of course, the legend behind the characters.
17. They’re Here, They’re Queer, Everyone’s Pretty Used To It
Source: Noho Pride Celebrate Diversity via Facebook
Pioneer Valley has one of the highest per capita LBGT populations in the country. Specifically, Springfield ranks tenth in same-sex couples per household, and Northampton has the highest percentage of lesbians anywhere in the country.
18. Readers Will Rejoice In Pioneer Valley
Source: World Eye Bookshop via Facebook
Pioneer Valley’s got an independent bookstore in almost every town, as well as loads of local authors and small publishers. While The Bookmill in Montague and World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield are the biggest names, there’s many more places for bookish folks to explore.
19. Pioneer Valley Is Ridiculously Economically Robust
Source: pixabay.com via Google Images
The Valley is considered to have a mature economy, meaning it’s varied enough to survive market fluctuations. The region really proved its economic resiliency in the recession, when Pioneer Valley ranked within the top 10 of all U.S. regional economies according to “The Republican.”
20. Emily Dickinson Called Pioneer Valley Home
Source: Emily Dickinson Museum via Facebook
If you’re a fan of poetry, the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst is a serious treat. The museum includes The Homestead, where Dickinson spent most of her life, as well as ever-changing tours that focus on everything from the poet’s love life to her gardening prowess.
21. Cinema Junkies Love The Amherst Cinema Arts Center
Source: Amherst Cinema via Facebook
The Amherst Cinema Arts Center screens over 120 films a year, from classics, to regional artists’ work, to lower budget independent films and Academy Award winners. You could put a blindfold on, walk into any theater, and be happy about your choice.
22. Smith College Has The Best Garden In The Valley
Source: Smith College Botanic Garden via Facebook
Smith College is one of the most renowned liberal arts colleges in the country, but you don’t have to go there to enjoy the Botanic Garden of Smith College, which has thousands of plants available for all residents and passersby to admire.
23. The Art Scene Is Alive And Well
Source: Mead Art Museum via Facebook
One of the best things about the college towns of Amherst and Northampton is that you can be sure the arts scene will always be lively and hip. The Smith College Museum of Art boasts equal parts traditional and modern art all on an intimate scale. The Mead Art Museum in Amherst is larger in size and has everything from Assyrian carvings to Russian avant-garde art.
24. People From Pioneer Valley Were Spooky Before It Was Cool
Source: Wikimedia user US Library of Congress
Everybody knows about the Salem witch trials, but Springfield had a witch trial 46 years before Salem did–the ruling (for some reason) was that there was unsatisfactory evidence of witchcraft.
25. Springfield Is THE City Of Progress
Source: Wikimedia user U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
Springfield is known as a hub of industrial innovation–the city invented manufacturing developments like interchangeable parts, the assembly line, and Goodyear’s vulcanized rubber production. The town even invented America’s first friction match.
26. Springfield Has All The Museums You’ll Want To Visit
Source: Springfield Museums via Facebook
Even though it’s referred to as the Quadrangle, the area is composed five museums–two for art, two for history, and one for science (which boasts the first planetarium built in America). And in the center is the Dr. Seuss Memorial Garden–ya gotta love efficient city planning.
27. Greenfield Is A Poet Magnet
Source: Wikimedia user public.fotki.com
The Poet’s Seat Tower in Greenfield was so named because poets have been drawn to the spot since before the tower was even erected in 1912. It’s located in the Rocky Mountain Park, so if you walk the grounds, it’s sure to be one of many breathtaking vistas you’ll see.
28. Historic Deerfield Is Like A Time Capsule
Source: Wikimedia user memory.loc.gov
Historic Deerfield is an open-air museum of sorts, made up of eleven historic house museums dating back to the 18th century. So if you want to see what villages in New England were like when they were still a part of Old England, this place will provide.
29. Six Flags New England – ‘Nuff Said
Source: Six Flags New England via Facebook
Agawam, Mass. is the proud home to Six Flags New England–a place pretty much everyone in New England is bound to visit. Bizarro is on many a list for top roller coasters in the country, but with a massive selection of rides, you don’t need to be an adrenaline junkie to love this park.
What do you love about living in Pioneer Valley? Tell us in the comments below!