Family Fun in New England, Part 7: Amherst, MA to Rutland, VT

This is my seventh post about our family's visit to New England. I suggest reading the first, second, third, fourthfifth, and sixth posts from the trip before this one. Because I blog about educational travel, I received comped tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits for some of the places we visited during our trip. A few places are free for everyone, while we paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I recommend without hesitation. If you see any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, restaurant, or hotel enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.


Amherst, Massachusetts to Rutland, Vermont

Sunday, June 18 (Father's Day) began with a short drive north from Springfield to Holyoke. We pulled off the highway, squeezed our large rental car into a small gap between two cars, and headed down a short, wooded trail. 

The trail took us to this. 

If it's not obvious, that is the first EVER scientifically observed and described dinosaur footprint, preserved in a slab of sandstone. You can actually see 134 footprints from 28 trackways made from four distinct dinosaurs at Dinosaur Footprints. The larger prints were likely made a 15-foot tall ancestor of the Tyrannosaurus rex.

They can be hard to spot at first, unless you're lucky enough to find one with water in it, like the one above. A friendly local said they bring a spray bottle with them to highlight the tracks when they show the spot to out-of-town visitors. Here's Trevor's foot next to a dry dinosaur footprint. You can just see a wet one a stride away toward the top. 

It was incredibly cool to literally walk in the dinosaurs' footprints (though their stride was a bit too big for me). And the area is very pretty - bonus!

Next, we continued another 12 miles to the city of Amherst, home of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

I am a huge fan of Eric Carle and have wanted to visit this museum for a long time. I was so happy to finally get to go!


We started in the auditorium, where different films play throughout the day. We watched Mr. Rogers' visit to Eric Carle's studio. Outstanding!

Outside the auditorium is an exhibit about Eric Carle himself. His life was really interesting and it was so neat to see the progression of his art. 

I love the way the galleries at the Carle are designed to be both adult- and child-friendly. Each has spaces for parents to read with their children. Check here to see the current exhibits. 

They also have stations for writing stories or making art inspired by the exhibits. 

The museum has a fabulous library. There were children there enjoying it, so we only took pictures of the area that wasn't being used. It's a great space that's super comfortable and inviting. I would have happily spent all day there reading and admiring picture book art. 

I loved everything about the Carle, but my very favorite part was the Studio. It is huge, with tons of art materials and picture books for inspiration. While I would have spent a full day in the library, I would move into the Studio permanently!

I gave myself 5 minutes to play with the materials. I'd never tried those Stabilos before (affiliate link). They're on my wishlist now. 

We had such a great time at the Carle and I hated to leave. If I were local, I would get a membership and visit at least once a week. 

We had a delicious lunch at Crazy Noodles in downtown Amherst. 

Then it was off to Turners Falls, home of the Great Falls Discovery Center

This state park consists of old mill buildings along the Connecticut River and teaches visitors about the natural, cultural, and industrial history of the river's watershed.

From the building, we had a nice view of the Connecticut River. I wondered out loud if we could walk across that bridge, as it looked iffy. About a minute later, we saw a couple walk across it without incident, so we headed out to do the same. 

Perfectly solid and not the slightest bit iffy.

Here we are on the bridge, looking back at the same windows where we'd first seen the bridge.

This is the view in the other direction. 

Following the construction of a dam and canal, many companies were lured to the area by cheap hydropower. They included numerous paper companies, along with a cotton mill, cutlery maker, and more. The workers were primarily Irish, French Canadian, Polish and German immigrants. Turners Falls marketed itself as the "Home of the White Coal," which is a strange thing to call water, in my opinion (though not unique to the area). 

As we walked along the river, we could see the abandoned factories. 

After another nearly 2 hours in the car, we arrived in Rutland, Vermont, where we would be staying for the night. We ate dinner at the Ninety Nine Restaurant that was walking distance from our hotel. This beloved chain has 90 locations in New England and it was very popular for Father's Day. We had a bit of a wait, but the food was well worth it. Everything was delicious, but it was the sirloin tips that really stood out. 

Come back tomorrow to hear all about our adventures in Vermont and what iconic local specialty we tried (and loved).

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