Looking to escape the stress of the fall semester? The Big E may have come and gone, but there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the beauty of Western Massachusetts this October. With winter temperatures looming in the near future, the coming weekends present an opportune time to enjoy leisure off campus in the form of a day trip.
Enjoy a local farm:
Western Massachusetts is home to a myriad of farms that present opportunities for a day trip during the fall harvest. Activities around farms in the local area include apple and pumpkin picking, hayrides, and sampling the most delicious of fall treats. While there are countless farms in the area, here are two of the most popular:
Distance from campus: 14 miles;
Address: 55 Alvord St. South Hadley, MA 01075;
Hours: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
McCray’s Farm is worthy of a visit for its long list of autumn activities. The farm hosts scenic hayrides, as well as hayrides in which you can pick your own pumpkins. For Halloween-lovers, McCray’s haunted hayride is a wildly popular Friday or Saturday night activity. For information on the haunted hayride or to reserve tickets, call the phone number listed above. The farm is also host to bonfires during this season. Much acclaim is given to the homemade lunches and homemade ice cream at McCray’s. The farm boasts a free petting zoo, as well as an 18-hole mini golf course. Whether in the form of a daytime or evening trip, McCray’s offers an ideal place to enjoy delicious food and experience the pleasures of fall in New England.
Distance from campus: 26.8 miles;
Address: 1150 West St. Amherst, MA 01002;
Phone: (413) 253-9528;
Hours: Mon. – Sat.: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sun.: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Apples have been grown at Atkins Farms for over 100 years. Every fall, tourists travel to the farm to sample their famous cider donuts and other treats from the bakery. The farm is home to one of the largest and most successful fresh produce stands in the area. In addition to drawing in customers with their produce and bakery, Atkins also has a homemade ice cream stand, deli and café. The farm’s marketplace is a fresh food heaven. From fresh sushi, to local beer, wine, maple syrups and honey, Atkins offers a mouth-watering variety of options.
Take a hike:
Hiking is a fantastic way to get some outdoor exercise before the harsh conditions of winter. Now that the heat of summer has disappeared, a hike can be a cool, relaxing way to be active. Before being confined to the streets of the city and the gym over the winter months, take advantage of some of the nearby hiking trails here in Western Mass.
Mount Tom State Reservation:
Distance from campus: 17.1 miles;
Address: 125 Reservation Rd. Holyoke, MA 01040;
Phone: (413) 534-1186;
Hours: Hours vary, call for more information.
The Mount Tom State Reservation is home to 22 miles of hiking and walking trails as part of the Holyoke Mountain Range. The observation areas at Mount Tom capture a terrific view of the Connecticut River Valley. In the fall, the mountain serves as one of the best places in New England to view hawks and other birds. As a fairly easy climb, Mount Tom is a welcoming option to hikers of all ability levels.
Skinner State Park:
Distance from campus: 18.3 miles;
Address: 10 Skinner State Park Rd. Hadley, MA 01035;
Phone: (413) 586-0350;
Hours: October 7 through October 26: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., October 27 – Auto Road Closed for the Season
Also a part of the Holyoke Mountain Range, Mount Skinner is located on the western end. While the mountain’s historic summit house is currently closed for renovations, it stills remains a viable autumn hiking option. On the grounds there are 20 picnic sites, complete with charcoal grills and restrooms. Mount Skinner is a strong option for those looking for a less rigorous climb, as visitors can choose to hike the trails or walk up a paved road. For those looking for a lengthy hike, paths from the summit connect with marked trails that traverse the Holyoke Mountain Range.
Remember that spontaneity and creativity are fun, too. If you are strapped for time, perhaps take a quick stroll in nearby Forest Park and enjoy the changing foliage. If either money or transportation seems to be hard to come by, you could host a Halloween film marathon with your friends. Maybe you have always wanted to know how to make your family’s best fall dessert recipe; now is an opportune time to learn. Overall, when the fall semester becomes stressful, it is important to find stress relief. Come up with your own ideas, and have fun!
Tyler Leahy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org