The Perfect Winter Day in the Pioneer Valley, an Hour-by-Hour Guide

Spring will soon make her way into the Valley bringing longer days, birdsong, and bulbs. In the meantime, however, we’ve still got to forge through the remainder of winter, and although T.S. Eliot lamented, “April is the cruelest month,” those of us standing on this side of spring might consider February a worthy contender. But take heart; we’ve planned out the perfect winter day during which you’ll leap from bed prepared for an exciting adventure filled with great food, good fun, and cool activities. From breakfast to midnight, we’ve got your winter good times covered.

— Gina Beavers

8 a.m.: Comfort food for breakfast

For more than 45 years, the Shady Glen Diner has been hashing out home fries and frying up eggs in bucolic Turners Falls. There’s something comforting and nostalgic about diner food, even the greasy spoons. Shady Glen has all the fixings from what you’d expect from a local breakfast spot — the weathered, yet classic, diner booths, chefs cooking up meals on a hot stove right in front of view, and the classic breakfast staples — omelets, pancakes, waffles, and breakfast sandwiches. Open 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. with breakfast served all day, places like Shady Glen are the epitome of breakfast food comfort.

Shady Glen Diner, 7 Avenue A, Turners Falls,

Also check out: Miss Florence Diner, 99 N. Main St., Florence. New Bay Diner Restaurant, 950 Bay St., Springfield. Charlie’s Diner, 218 Union St., West Springfield.

— Chris Goudreau

9 a.m.: SLEDDING!!

Sledding is basically the most fun thing you can do during winter, and no perfect winter day guide would be complete without mentioning it. But which hill is the best? Try state hospital hill in Northampton, located at the former state hospital off of Route 66 and near the community gardens. For the more cautious sledders, stay to the left. Or for a faster ride down, head to the right-hand side. Sadly, there’s no ski-lift style rope tow, so you’ll have to trudge uphill, but hey — it builds character.

State Hospital Hill, 73 Prince Street, Northampton.

Also check out: Look Memorial Park, North Main St., Florence.

—Dave Eisenstadter

10 a.m.: Winter farmers’ markets

The Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market isn’t just a place where you can find fresh veggies during the frigid months of the year. You can also get fruit, meat, cheeses, eggs, herbs, honey, locally-sourced maple syrup, baked goods, jam, and more. The farmers’ market takes place every Saturday at the Hampshire Mall in Hadley outside Target from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and also includes local live music, workshops, and activities for kids.

Brenden Camphor, 10, left, and Tiffany McGee, both of Amherst, pick out fresh kale from Simple Gifts Farm Feb. 18, 2017 during the Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market in Amherst-Pelham Regional Middle School.

Also check out: The farmers’ market at Forest Park in Springfield, 2nd and 4th Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.,

The Northampton Winter Farmers’ Market, 67 Conz St., Northampton. Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Greenfield Farmers’ Market, Court Square, Greenfield, Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

— Chris Goudreau

11: 30 a.m.: Searching for old treasures

The perfect winter day always includes a leisurely stroll through a good antique store because, honestly, old stuff is awesome. Fortunately, there’s plenty of old stuff around here because antique stores in the Pioneer Valley are a dime a dozen. They are not, however, all equal. To have a satisfying antiquing experience, you have to find a store with plenty of vendors. Think food court — without the conflicting odors. Quaboag Valley Antiques Center, on the corners of Knox and Main Streets in Palmer, is filled with a wide range of merchandise. Over 40 vendor stations fill two floors.

Quaboag Valley Antiques Center:

Also check out: The Vintage Cellar East: For vintage clothes and jewelry:

— Gina Beavers

12:30 p.m.: Lunch at the Book Mill

Every time I ponder leaving New England, I’m reminded of little gems like the Montague Book Mill. Squirreled away in the tiny town of Montague, you might have to travel a bit but it’s worth every mile. The Book Mill is actually part of a little complex of shops at which you can while away a few winter hours. Grab some books and sequester yourself in a nook with a view of the rushing ice encrusted waters of the Saw Mill River; afterward, grab some lunch at The Lady Kilgrew Cafe, duck into Turn-It-Up Records, and stop by Saw Mill River Arts Gallery.

The Montague Book Mill, 440 Greenfield Road, Montague.

Also check out: The Book Bear.

— Gina Beavers

1:30 p.m.: A winter walk

Walking in cold weather not only helps you burn more calories, it just makes you feel good. And though there are plenty of places to take a winter stroll, don’t let the splendor of Forest Park elude you. Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, (of Central Park fame), Forest Park is 735 acres of well maintained roads, trails and aquatic gardens. Though the zoo is closed for the winter, wildlife is still abundant; I’ve seen deer, foxes and heron on my walks, and of course you’ll never escape the ubiquitous geese — so bring some wild bird feed and make a gaggle of friends. You can take the hills or stay on flat land, if you choose. Travel from the Sumner Ave entrance to the Rte. 5 exit and you’ll be sure to get your mojo back for your next adventure.

Forest Park: 200 Trafton Road, Springfield

Also check out: The Quabbin Reservoir, Belchertown

— Gina Beavers

3 p.m.: Climbing the walls

Okay, your blood is pumping and now you’re feeling super sporty. You want to get indoors but try something that tests your inner athlete. Well, strap on your harness and start climbing … at Central Rock Gym in Hadley. It is a little imposing at first: 25-42 foot walls, 24,000 square feet of climbing terrain, 42 feet of lead wall, and 6,000 square feet of bouldering (the 10-16 foot walls that don’t need harnessing). But once your curiosity takes over, you warm up to the idea of scaling the funky, chunky colorful blocks plastered to the wall. If you’re not in the mood for climbing, Central Rock offers yoga and a traditional gym room. There are fitness classes every day but Fridays and they’re $10 for non-members.

Central Rock Gym, 165 Russell St, Hadley.

— Gina Beavers

4 p.m.: Have a brew

A perfect winter day wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of the great brewery options we have out here. One of the newest is Tin Bridge in Westfield, which Beer Hunter Columnist Hunter Styles wrote about in November. Tin Bridge is open Thursday through Sunday and has one of the most built-out and cozy taprooms around. Enjoy a game of shuffleboard or a few arcade games or watch the game on the wall-mounted TVs. If you’re hungry, the taproom serves as a stop for a number of local food trucks.

Tin Bridge Brewing Company: 487 E. Main St., Westfield.

Also check out: Lefty’s Brewing Company, 301 Wells St., Greenfield.

New City Brewery, 180 Pleasant St., Easthampton.

— Dave Eisenstadter

5:30 p.m.: A spectacular sunset

Daylight ends quickly in winter, and on the perfect winter day you don’t want to miss the chance at seeing the sunset. Head up to Mount Sugarloaf in South Deerfield. The park is open each day through sunset. You can drive right up and walk to the uniquely-shaped observatory, then take in the exquisite views of the Connecticut River and the vastness of Western Mass. Parking is $5 for Massachusetts residents and $10 for non-Massachusetts types.

The view from atop Mount Sugarloaf in Deerfield is shown Aug. 11, 2017.

Sugarloaf: 300 Sugarloaf St., South Deerfield

Also check out: Sunset Rock on the Hoosac Range, 2441 Mowhawk Trail, North Adams (1.5 mile hike). Mount Tom, 125 Reservation Road, Holyoke.

— Dave Eisenstadter

7 p.m.: A hot bowl of pho

Give chicken noodle soup a pass on your perfect winter day and try a spicy lemongrass soup instead. Pho Saigon dishes up authentic Vietnamese cuisine, including, of course, pho. Pho is a hot soup often served with vermicelli noodles and your choice of beef, chicken, escargot, or tofu. Then there are the sides options to throw in your pho, including fresh lime, jalapeno slices, or bean sprouts.

Pho Saigon, 400 Dickinson St., Springfield.

Also check out: Miss Saigon, 96 N. Pleasant St., Amherst.

Pho BQ Vietnamese Cuisine, 764 Riverdale St., West Springfield.

— Chris Goudreau

8 p.m.: Outdoor Adventures with Chronic Trips

Although it’s cold outside, that’s no excuse to forgo an outdoor adventure with owner and founder of Chronic Trips Seth Frappier. Frappier is a cannabis advocate and adventurer; he’s planning to open a combination holistic wellness studio and marijuana smoking lounge in Easthampton. Until then, enjoy the beauty of nature with Chronic Trips outdoor excursions, one of which is a full moon adventure planned for March 1.

Chronic Trips, Easthampton.

— Chris Goudreau

9 p.m.: Become an arcade wizard

The Quarters in Hadley specializes in arcade classics from the 1980s and 1990s. From the quest and tribulations of Frogger and the bloody fighting beat-em-ups of Mortal Kombat II to the mental puzzle solving madness of Tetris, you’ll get your fill of retro arcade games. While you’re checking out all the games that are geared towards millennial nostalgia, why not order a bowl of ramen or a mac and cheese hot dog.

The Quarters, 8 Railroad St., Hadley.

Also check out: Mystic Pinball, 104 Avenue A, Turners Falls.

— Chris Goudreau

10: 30 p.m.: Gaze into the stars

The sun has set. Now what? Bundle up and head to the Arunah Hill Science Center, at 218 Trouble St., Cummington, to take in some breathtaking views of the night sky in all its glory. Arunah Hill was designed for amateur stargazers to watch the stars. At 60 acres, the main observatory sits atop a hill and is far enough away from the light pollution that obscures the majority of the stars from view in the city.

Also check out: Bish Bash Falls, Falls Rd., Mt. Washington.

The John Payson Williston Observatory at Mount Holyoke College.

— Sarah Heinonen

Midnight: Rocky Horror Picture Show

Not quite ready to call it a night? A midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show will finish the night off right. Rocky Horror is a classic that is practically designed to be enjoyed at midnight showings with other movie-goers, some of whom will dress-up, yell back at the screen, and occasionally throw toast! South Hadley’s Tower Theaters are a great venue for this outing; the theater is unique and cozy. The price of admission for all this fun is just $8.75, less than you’d pay at the multiplex. The next showing is March 3, at 11:59 p.m.

Tower Theater in South Hadley.

— Sarah Heinonen

Author: Advocate Staff

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