Jan 242017
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is fabulous.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is fabulous.

Just two hours west of Boston and three hours north of New York City, the town of Amherst, Massachusetts snuggles amid rolling hills. Are you seeking a getaway destination that’s yummy for kids and adults alike? Read on, because this region brims with delights… and donuts.

Original Maurice Sendak illustrations!

Original Maurice Sendak illustrations to explore up close.

Destination 1: The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is amazing. It turns out that several high-profile children’s book illustrators have lived in Western Massachusetts, including Eric Carle, the creator of the beloved text, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Now there’s a museum to revel in this art!

Look at the materials used to illustrate The Very Hungry Caterpillar!

Behold the materials used to illustrate The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

In 2002, Carle launched the museum: a light-filled beauty that houses more than 13,000 objects related to the art of picture books. It is the only full-scale museum of its kind in the entire country, and will provide hours of joy for you and your family.

The light-filled kids' art room.

The sun-soaked kids’ art room where visitors can do hands-on crafts.

The picture book art that lines the walls of the collections is astounding, but what I love most about the museum is its hands-on kids’ art center, pictured above. The museum frequently provides trained artists to lead crafts projects with visiting youth, usually linked to the works of featured illustrators. Each table hosts different activities, meaning kids can choose what most moves them.

My little guy loves his Hungry Caterpillar book.

My little guy loves his Hungry Caterpillar book.

The day I visited I was traveling with my little baby, leaving our 3-year-old at home with his Daddy, but I am definitely popping back to the museum soon with Devi in tow. I know the little guy would go wild for the art room. “Mommy, I wanna make a capi-piller!”

The main lobby of the museum.

The main lobby of the museum. Isn’t it pretty?

The museum also has a large library of children’s books, but with a twist: they are organized on the shelf by illustrator, not by author! This must be a refreshing change for the artists who have been second in the literary hierarchy for so long. During my visit, my 9-month-old was more interested in reading the inside of her eyelids, snoring throughout our trip, but when I return to the museum with Devi I plan to cuddle and read for hours on the library’s cushy sofas.

Eric Carle's blue horse, on display in the museum.

Eric Carle’s blue horse, on display in the museum.

The story of Eric Carle is a powerful one. Born in 1929, he arrived in the United States from Germany in 1952 with just $40 in his pocket. Now in his late 80s, Carle has sold more than 138 million copies of his 70+ picture books around the world! (Click to see Carle’s full book list.) My son’s favorite is From Head to Toe because it’s so fun to do the movements while we read. Most people don’t realize that Carle’s bright illustrations are created by hand-painting paper, then cutting and layering those pieces with glue!

A whimsical sculpture in the museum's library.

A whimsical sculpture in the museum’s library.

What I find particularly moving is that Carle could have simply bathed solo in his success, but instead, he created the Museum of Picture Book Art — a nonprofit organization, no less — to bring the beauty of illustration to over half a million visitors so far. The museum also offers frequent performances in its theater, rotating new exhibits, and professional development workshops for educators. What a great destination for our beloved state! But what’s that grumbling tummy sound? Are you getting hungry?

So many delicious treats at Atkins Farm market.

Mosey down the street to Atkins Farms market for delicious food.

Destination 2: Once you’ve worked up a Hungry Caterpillar-sized appetite ogling all that picture book art, head two minutes away to Atkins Farms Country Market. Started in 1962 from a 1887 apple farm, this large market features groceries, meals, snacks, gifts, and most importantly… apple cider donuts! Atkins Farms was voted one of the 12 best donuts in the country by Saveur Magazine, and churns out 10,000 delectable O-shaped confections during peak autumn season. Do not miss picking up a donut pack, because they are HEAVEN.

Cider donuts at Atkins Farm!

The apple cider donuts at Atkins Farm are some of the best in the country.

Bonus Destination 1: Still got energy? The Yiddish Book Center is just down the street from the Carle Museum, and though we didn’t get a chance to check it out on this visit, it looks excellent.

Mill 180 Park is a phenomenal indoor park in nearby Easthampton, MA.

Mill 180 Park is a phenomenal indoor park in nearby Easthampton, MA.

Bonus Destination 2: Although it’s a 30-minute drive from Amherst in Easthampton, MA, I simply cannot skip mentioning Mill 180 Park which is a FREE, giant indoor park with mind-blowingly cool activities for kids, plus a cafe for adults! It is absolutely worth any slight detour to stop by on your Hampshire County adventures. Trust me and check it out.

Baby and I were like, "WHOA! This indoor park is crazy!"

Baby and I were like, “WHOA! This indoor park is crazy!”

I hope these destination tips help create magical fun for you and your family. Massachusetts has so much to offer travelers, and I can’t believe, as a lifelong Bostonian, that I am only now discovering the “other side” of my state. What a place!

Mill 180 Park has all sorts of activities, including this cottage.

Mill 180 Park has all sorts of nooks to explore, including this cottage.

Where to stay near Amherst, MA:

2 Great Places Near Amherst, MA to Visit With Kids: The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and Atkins Farms.

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So what do YOU think? Have you been to Amherst? Would you like to go? Do share!

Check out my article on nearby Northampton, MA to continue the Amherst-area fun.

Hampshire County Tourism helped make this trip possible, but all opinions and donut obsessions are my own. Affiliates in this article support this site at no extra cost to you. Thanks, and happy travels!


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  12 Responses to “2 Great Places Near Amherst, MA to Visit With Kids”

  1. I’m theoretically an adult, yet I know I’d have a blast here. Especially the picture book art museum, it looks incredible 😀 I am not easily excited about farms, because I spent all my summers as a kid in the countryside, running around anywhere I wanted. Still would give it a go, if anyone can drag me out of the first museum!

  2. You’re right Amherst is a great place for kids! The Eric Carle Museum is so nicely set up with all those colorful paintings – I’m sure any kid would love a visit there (and then to Atkins Market for some sweets)!

  3. This place looks amazing for a family break. Not only kids like this place, but I love to go there too. It seems such a fun museum

  4. I am drooling over all those cakes in the display at Atkins Farms Country Market. The apple cider donuts sound fab too! Growing up in Pennsylvania, we had a cider mill that opened every fall. Not only did they have the most delicious apple cider, but they had all sorts of apple baked goods. I definitely miss that place.

  5. Loved Children’s Museums when my son was little and that caterpillar book! There’s a Sendak Museum in San Francisco – Where the wild things are. You’d love it.

  6. BUT HOW CUTE ARE YOUR KIDS! Great post 🙂 Count me in for the apple cider donuts.

  7. Amherst sounds like a great place to visit Massachusetts, especially with kids – I’ve never heard of a museum of picture book art, but LOVE the concept! And who can turn down one of the 12 best donuts in the country!!! I’m inspired. Thanks!

  8. You had me at apple cider donuts!! WOW, yum! It’s a bit far for me to fly over for just the donuts so I would definitely check out your bonus destinations too! The book centre sounds cool and definitely something up my street

  9. The Eric Carle Museum looks like such a fun place. Bummer that your 3 year old couldn’t come along.

  10. We so need to visit. I LOVE LOVE LOVE picture books!

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