15 Best Things to Do in South Hadley (MA)

Located on the east bank of the Connecticut River, South Hadley is best known for being home to the historic Mount Holyoke College.

Founded in 1837, this prestigious women’s liberal arts college has perhaps the finest campus in New England.

Magnificent brick architecture, fall foliage, mosaic gardens, and sights like the exceptional Mount Holyoke College Museum of Art and the Skinner Museum, a fascinating curiosity cabinet housed in an ancient church, are worth enjoying.

To the north of South Hadley is the Trapprock Ridge of the Holyoke Mountains. Two state parks are easily accessible for hiking and bluff views. 

1. Lady Bea Boat Rides

From Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day, travel along the mighty Connecticut River aboard this cruise ship docked at Brunel’s Marina in South Hadley.

This is a family business and Lady Bea is named after her early 20th century matriarch. In season, cruises depart at 1:00, 4:00, and 6:00 pm Thursday through Sunday, with additional departures at 7:00 pm on sunny days in midsummer.

Listen to a fun and engaging narration full of historical tidbits as you travel upstream to Northampton and back, enjoying spectacular scenery along the way.

Lady Bea is also available for private charters, parties, and corporate outings and has a fully stocked bar serving drinks and snacks.  

2. McCray’s Farm

For nearly half a century, this local dairy has welcomed the public to a variety of activities and events. In the fall, the best part is taking a hay wagon ride to the pumpkin fields and star gazing after dark.

Since its inception in 1991, this haunted hay wagon with a haunted park has been one of the most popular Halloween attractions in western Massachusetts every weekend in October.

McCray’s Farm also has a mini golf course, a children’s playground, and a petting zoo where you can feed sheep, cows, ducks, and goats. As for the food, there are plenty of ice cream flavors and sandwiches ranging from burgers to melts to wraps to hot dogs.  

3. Skinner Museum

Silk magnate Joseph Allen Skinner (1862-1946) was a principal patron of Mount Holyoke College and bequeathed a very diverse collection after his death.

The work is kept at Mount He’s Holyoke University Museum of Art, displayed as a cabinet of traditional curiosities in the memorable setting of the old First Congregational Church (1846) in Prescott, Massachusetts.

Every square inch of available space is filled with Native American artifacts, marine-related items, rare books and documents, minerals and fossils, 19th-century memorabilia, fine glassware, pottery, historic lighting, and marine ethnography. It is filled with items such as 

4. Tower Theaters

A two-screen movie theater, open since 1989, is housed in a pretty gabled building on the Village Commons. Tower Theaters is a boutique hotel, but the auditorium has ample space and large, comfortable seating.

Being a small business, service is a big improvement over corporate complexes, with lots of nice touches like freshly baked popcorn and refills on most drinks.

You can usually see Hollywood premieres, indie movies, and sometimes cult and classic movies here. 

5. Odyssey Bookshop

A must-stop at the Village Commons is the independent bookstore, which opened in 1963.

The Odyssey Bookshop is the exclusive retailer of Mount Holyoke University textbooks, but there’s also a top-notch children’s section on the ground floor that’s a must-see for parents.

If you live in South Hadley, you can take advantage of the Booklover program for frequent shopping and discounts.

One of the notable things about this store is that it has a very busy calendar of events. Several authors appear each week in book readings, question-and-answer sessions, and book signings.  

6. Mount Holyoke Range State Park

If Skinner State Park whets your appetite for cinematic scenery and unique rock formations, explore the eastern half of the range at Mt Holyoke Range State Park.

There are more than 3,700 acres of wilderness here, followed by the Metacomet Monadnock Trail, which stretches along the ridge for miles.

If you’re hiking east to the highest point in the range, Mount Norwotuck (1,106 feet), the Notch Visitor Center is a great place to pit and get your bearings.

Away from the ledges, the park offers miles of hiking trails through forests and wetlands, and some of the best mountain biking in the area along the Serpentine and roller-coaster trails.  

7. Ledges Golf Club

Located near the eastern bank of the Connecticut River, this 18-hole public course is set in beautiful and varied scenery. Some are open-and-link style holes that incorporate natural wetlands, while others pass through undulating mature forests.

The course has a number of elevated tees and greens offering great views of the surrounding hills.

He can choose from 4 sets of tees to suit his skill level. Aside from the woods, the main obstacle is his 78 bunkers, which are known to be tough on even the most experienced players.

Amenities include a driving range, a short game area, an accessible clubhouse, a golf shop, and a sunset grill to relax after a round.  

8. ValleyBike Share

Over the past decade, the City of South Hadley has put a lot of effort into improving its infrastructure to make it safer for motorcycle travelers.

The city is already characterized by relatively low car traffic. You may have noticed that US 116 and US 202 have designated minor curb bike lanes along Morgan Street and Lyman Street.

With this in mind, South Hadley is Pioneer Valley’s first bike-sharing program, with police stations and stations in town. Pay per ride or become a member and enjoy unlimited 45-minute rides daily, monthly, or yearly.  

9. Buttery Brook Park

South Hadley’s largest public park is located south of the city, about three miles from downtown.

Situated along the creek of the same name that meanders through the park’s vast open fields, the property was chartered by the city in the late 1950s and used by the fire department until the 1990s.

A great summer attraction for families is the fantastic wading pool. Other amenities include a large playground, gazebo, basketball court, and new pickleball court.

Buttery Brook Park has a number of attractions, including a car show every Friday and Big Rig Day in late July, when kids can get into one of the many public vehicles, including police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks, and learn about Buttery Brook Park. We have a busy social calendar full of summer events. people who operate them.  

10. River to Range Trail

You can take scenic excursions along the easily accessible 1-mile-long trail, about a mile from the center of South Hadley.

The River to Range Trail parking lot is located next to the Mount Holyoke College Boathouse at 280 Ferry Street.

From here enter the Bachelor Brook/Stoney Brook resource area and start at the edge of a hayfield with beautiful views of the Connecticut River.

It then passes through a wooded area overlooking the Bachelor Brook Fork. The trail has a gravel surface and four seats to sit and enjoy the tranquility along the way. 

11. Mount Holyoke College

Founded in 1837, this private liberal arts college is at the center of life in South Hadley. She is the eldest son of the Seven Sisters, a highly selective group of liberal arts schools in the Northeast.

The 2,000-acre campus is integrated with the South Hadley Center and is regularly named one of the best campuses in the country.

The campus was designed by Olmsted and Sons over his 16 years, ending in 1922, using mature hardwood trees and his 19th-century brick architecture.

The grounds incorporate a botanical garden, which you can take self-guided tours with student commentary using a guidebook app that can be downloaded from the university’s website.

As you’ll see, there are many reasons to visit, but one of the most important is the heartwarming annual Christmas Vespers Show at the Abbey Memorial Chapel since 1899.  

12. Mount Holyoke College Art Museum

The museum on the campus of Mount Holyoke College is a member of the Western Massachusetts Museums10 consortium and dates back to 1876. It is one of the oldest educational museums in the United States.

The permanent collection is astonishing and includes Egyptian, Greek, and Roman classics, medieval and Renaissance art, Islamic art, African art, ancient American art, coins and numismatics, and contemporary art from the United States, Asia, and Europe…

A selection of works from this remarkable collection and cutting-edge contemporary exhibitions are on display. Recent solo exhibitions have featured notable artists such as Martine Gutierrez, Catrien Vermeer, Lenka Clayton, and Rosamond W. Purcell.  

13. Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden

The entire Mount Holyoke College campus is surrounded by numerous sacred gardens, arboretums, and botanical gardens, including the historic Talcott Conservatory.

Gardens to explore include Bullard Gardens (Chapel Gardens) with shrubs, trees, and perennials; Virginia “Timmy” Craig ’31 Rhododendron Gardens; and Drew Matthews Gardens with alpine and rock plants.

Located in the Arboretum, Talcott Conservatory was built in 1899 after a fire destroyed its predecessor. A tradition associated with the greenhouse is the freshman plant raffle, where new students receive free houseplants to care for while in college.  

14. South Hadley Center

The city’s business district blends with the Mount Holyoke University campus on the northwestern edge. At its heart is the triangular South Hadley Commons, which hosts a bandstand for community events, including an open-air concert series on Thursdays in the summer.

There are some historic brick commercial blocks here, but much of the architecture is newer than it looks.

On the green west side is the University-owned Village Commons, a compact lifestyle hub of independent businesses.

Here you’ll find small corridors between quaint clapboard buildings that house international restaurants and a variety of other hospitality businesses, as well as a popular bookstore and cinema. More on these later. 

15. Skinner State Park

A prominent feature of South Hadley’s northern boundary is the Holyoke Range, a prominent ridge of rocky peaks. These western mountains are part of the Metacomet Ridge, which stretches 160 miles from Long Island Sound through the Connecticut River valley to the northern tip of Franklin County.

There are 110 miles of hiking trails along the ridge and through Skinner State Park, which surrounds the western Holyoke Mountains.

The park’s highest peak is Mount Holyoke, which stands 935 feet above sea level and offers awe-inspiring views of the Connecticut River Valley and is accessible by car.

If you have the energy, you can also hike to the top. This is what his Mount Holyoke College students have been doing since 1838 on a mountain day. An autumn mountain day is secretly chosen by the university rector, and along with the ringing of bells from the Abbey Chapel, classes are canceled for the day and students are invited to hike to the top of the mountain. 

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