What Is Cool on I-91?
June 16, 2005 1:51 PM   Subscribe

What cool stuff is there to visit/see along Interstate 91 in Massachusetts and Vermont?

We'll be taking I-91 on our annual trip to Northern Vermont next month. In the past, we've gone via I-87 through New York. We'll be stopping for night in Brattleboro. I have a 9-year-old and a 13-year-old. I'm looking for interesting quick stops along or near the interstate.
posted by mmahaffie to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Provided you're not a vegetarian, Curtis's Barbeque in Putney (Exit 4) is teriffic, according to friends who've eaten there and my own olfactory estimation... It's within spitting distance of 91, too.
posted by piro at 2:06 PM on June 16, 2005

You and/or your kids might be interested in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA (exit 7 on I-91). It's worth an hour or two depending on how much of a basketball fanatic you are. I found the history section interesting, even though I'm not much into basketball.
posted by purple_frogs at 2:08 PM on June 16, 2005

I reccomend Thorne's Marketplace in Northampton, and the downtown area in general. Lots of fun stuff, cool shops, kid friendly.
posted by Specklet at 2:16 PM on June 16, 2005

I also recommend that I use the spellcheck.
posted by Specklet at 2:17 PM on June 16, 2005

The Yankee Candle Flagship Store is really neat! More than just candle stuff there - lots of housewares, toys, candy.

If you like Korean food, there is a fabulous place off of Exit 19, the Gohyang Restaurant. Take a right off of the ramp, follow Rt. 9 east over the bridge. It's RIGHT after the Cumberland Farms gas station (in a tiny, nondescript vinyl-sided building that's very easy to overlook).

Northampton, MA is right off of 91 - get off of exit 19, take a left, and keep on driving straight on Rt 9 west and you'll find downtown Northampton - great dining and shopping establishments - nothing "big box" like, but family owned restaurants and cozy little shops.

Oh! And the Dr. Seuss National Memorial! I wish I'd gotten a chance to see that before I left the area.
posted by cajo at 2:28 PM on June 16, 2005

King Arthur Flour store in Norwich has amazing baked goods and an insane collection of high-end cookware, some of which may be on sale and thus reasonably priced. If you were ever looking for spelt flour or donut flavoring, or you just want a good cookie, I'd stop in. Right off the highway and they have food as well as just snack-y stuff.

You might want to try grabbing one of these Valley Quest books which have a lot of off-the-beaten-track things to check out in at least here in the Upper Valley area [sort of mid-state route 91] in a kid friendly way. It's sort of like geocaching for novices, I've heard it's fun.

Fairlee Vermont has a drive-in that is neat.

Windsor Vermont has two things that would be very interesting to very specific people: The American Precision Museum [free on Saturday!] and The Constitution House where the VT Constitution was signed.

Since this is a regular trip for you, I assume you know all about the Fairbanks Museum/Planetarium.
posted by jessamyn at 2:50 PM on June 16, 2005

The Miss Bellows Falls Diner in Bellows Falls, Vermont is really cool and still in business last I heard.
posted by LarryC at 2:50 PM on June 16, 2005

Yankee Candle and Northampton have already been mentioned, but I'll second them. I grew up in the next town over from where Yankee Candle is (drove past it every day on the way to middle/high school) and saw it grow from tiny to huge.

Bub's BBQ should absolutely, positively not be missed. It's on Route 116 in Sunderland; you can most easily get there by getting off I-91 at exit 24 and going on Rt 116 towards Sunderland/Amherst/Hadley (I believe it's considered Rt 116 "south" but it really goes kinda southeast...ish...and changes direction often). You'll see the sign on the road about 10-15 minutes from the interstate, it's in the same general neighborhood as a couple of 7-11s and an auction house.

There's really not a lot else that comes to my mind despite having spent 21 years in the Pioneer Valley...it's actually kind of boring, heh. Aside from the other stuff mentioned, that is, and a whole host of small cultural and historical spots that don't really qualify as 'quick stops'.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 3:05 PM on June 16, 2005

Oh man, I miss Bub's...
posted by Specklet at 3:16 PM on June 16, 2005

Oh, I just remembered something else, although it's even farther off the beaten path than Bub's: the Potholes at Shelburne Falls. It's a big rock formation pitted with holes and pools of water, on one of the local rivers...I'd be more specific as to how it was formed but I can't recall right now.

Suffice it to say that it's a really nifty spot to visit, especially in the summertime (lots of places to swim) and the village of Shelburne Falls is also a really nice small New England town with boutiques and an ice cream parlor or two, and the like. Plus it has the Bridge of Flowers which is another tourist attraction.

posted by cyrusdogstar at 3:33 PM on June 16, 2005

Haymarket in Northampton is a vegetarian café that's the best restaurant in the world. Stark opposite of Bub's, though ;)
posted by abcde at 3:33 PM on June 16, 2005

Also in Putney there is a wonderful you'pick'em strawberry place and general store. I can't recall the name but there are signs off the highway & a brochure at the Vermont visitor center.

That place was a particular delight for me last year because I drove north long enough that I drove back into strawberry season.

I imagine in July the strawberries will be out of season even in Vermont (although maybe not) but the general store is worth a stop if you are already getting off in Putney for BBQ.
posted by smash at 4:33 PM on June 16, 2005

I really like Texas Falls in Hancock, VT.

I would have recommended Brooksie's Diner in Sharon, but it's gone. Burned to the ground.

In MA, there's French King Bridge on the Connecticut River, and nearby Barton Cove, in Gill.

posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:44 PM on June 16, 2005

You might enjoy Vermont Country Store in Rockingham, Vermont.
posted by ericb at 5:21 PM on June 16, 2005

Seconding and thirding everything above - l lived along I-91 for ten years and took many road trips up and down it. I love the Potholes in Shelburne Falls.

Also, if you're in Springfield, MA, and want excellent Cajun food, I can't recommend Chef Wayne's Big Mamou highly enough. When I used to live in Springfield - almost 10 years ago - it had just opened in a little storefront and the lines were always out the door but totally worth the wait. They didn't have a liquor license, but Chef Wayne would walk around with his jug of hooch and pour. I still miss that place.
posted by bendy at 5:27 PM on June 16, 2005

If you do stop in Northampton, MA - and are interested in comics - be sure to visit the Words & Pictures Museum of Fine Sequential Art - located in the Beardsley's building and founded by Kevin B. Eastman (creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).
posted by ericb at 5:31 PM on June 16, 2005

BTW - Chronicle (a popular evening news magazine broadcast from Boston) had a program last night on the Pioneer Valley! Check out the resources they covered in the program.
posted by ericb at 5:35 PM on June 16, 2005

ericb - Alas, the Words & Pictures Museum has been closed for several years.

Certainly there are many other good things to see in Northampton, and it's a great place to eat.
posted by shaun at 7:03 PM on June 16, 2005

The Igloo restaurant in Putney VT. Get off at exit 4 left at the bottom of the ramp over the highway past curtis's bbq merge into rt 5 north through Putney village and about 3-5 miles further north on the right not to far after Harlows sugar house and the u-pick strawberries (julys kinda late) and just before Santa's Land. Built in the 70s with blown polyurethane foam. I have only been there for breakfast. There is a food coop with good stuff right across the street from Curtis's too. Carol Browns Tweeds up the hill from the village (ask). Blueberry picking at Darrow's Orchards on west hill (ask).

Further up the highway and across the river from Windsor VT is St Gauden's Gardens Highly recommended.
posted by flummox at 7:13 PM on June 16, 2005

Northampton is a good choice, and it's about 45 minutes south of Brattleboro, just hang out on Main street and soak up the atmosphere.

I grew up in Brattleboro as a kid, and it's got a unique vibe. To get a sense of the town make a stop at the "Co-op" you might get to see a real live "hippie" from the 60's! For more 60's counterculture vibes stop into the Common Ground restaurant on Eliot Street, although I'm not sure if it's still open, they've had some financial difficulties. If you want to soak up more atmosphere and get your caffeine fix at the same time, don't miss Mocha Joes.

If you're into art you can check out the Brattleboro museum, they will be having a show on Pop Art most of the summer. There are also many art galleries in town on Main Street.

If you have a slightly warped sensibility, or you just like 19th century architecture, drive around the Brattleboro Retreat which used to be the Vermont Asylum for the INSANE when it was founded in 1834. It's still a fully functioning treatment center today.

If you're chilling for the evening, try seeing a movie at the Latchis Theatre, it's one of the few Art Deco theatres left in New England. At the very least walk into the lobby and check out the floor and the murals.

Although Main Street is fun to walk around, I'd have to say avoid the restuarants there (unless you like Korean in which case Shin La is excellent) if you're with the kids and you like BBQ, try the Top of the Hill Grill on Putney Road, the food is pretty good, but it's more about the atmosphere especially if you get there at dusk. If you're really just chilling and are in pizza mode, go for Exit 3 pizza which is outstanding. If you choose to get fancy- the best restaurants are Max's and Peter Havens, with appropriately high prices.

If you enjoy beer, run do not walk to McNeill's brewhouse on Eliot Street. The brew here has won many awards and is regarded as some of the best anywhere in New England.

For a great breakfast before you hit the road go to the Chelsea Royal Diner, another art deco relic. I recommend the Cajun skillet.

Have fun.
posted by jeremias at 7:44 PM on June 16, 2005

ericb - Alas, the Words & Pictures Museum has been closed for several years.

shaun - thanks for the update. Sorry to hear that the museum has closed. At least it lives online.
posted by ericb at 8:25 PM on June 16, 2005

The best town between hartford (no much to see there) and Brattleboro (fun things there actually) is northampton. Smith college is in northampton, is beautiful to walk around, and has a world class museum of modern art. Lil's bbq in northampton is better than Smoking Bub's, but both are fine quality. Woodstar cafe is better than haymarket and has the best bakery items in town. I would check to see what shows are playing at the iron horse at iheg.com. Nearby is the Eric Carle Museum of Children's art, which is excellent for kids, if you've got em.
posted by about_time at 4:50 AM on June 17, 2005

Magic Wings in Deerfield on 116 is a very nicely run butterfly farm.
The Nash Dinosaur Museum, if you're into kitsch.
It's the wrong time of year, but the whole Pinoeer Valley is dotted with sugar shacks.
posted by plinth at 5:53 AM on June 17, 2005

I second McNeill's in Brattleboro. The cask Dead Horse IPA is mighty fine.
posted by transient at 6:51 AM on June 17, 2005

The Northampton and Amherst area is full of great places. Of those mentioned I've got to second Bub's Barbecue, a unique place with good food. The Yankee Candle store is well worth the stop provided you like aromatic candles. There are fine art collections on display in galleries at each of the Five Colleges. For the kids the single best thing mentioned so far is probably the Eric Carle museum, which is wonderful.

Of things not mentioned you might consider the Quabbin Reservoir, which is quite a sight. For the readers in the family the Montague Bookmill is a great place to visit. There might be something happening at the tri-county fairgrounds just over the bridge at Exit 19 in Massachusetts. And if you're looking for a longer detour for the kids there's always the Six Flags (formerly Riverside) amusement park in Springfield, MA.
posted by Songdog at 8:02 AM on June 17, 2005

My wife just reminded me: if you stop in Northampton don't miss Herrell's Ice Cream, for my money the best ice cream available in a very ice cream-rich area.
posted by Songdog at 8:05 AM on June 17, 2005

Mount Holyoke College (So. Hadley, MA, exit on 202, there are signs to follow) has a pleasant campus to walk, a fun old greenhouse and a neat Japanese garden and teahouse. The later two may not be open in the summer. The chapel is worth a look, and is usually unlocked during the day.

I miss Bub's horribly. It is a bit off 91, but delicious. The Glacial Potholes in Shelburne are also a bit off 91, but are very cool (literally, on a hot day).

Should you wish to do Bub's and Mount Holyoke, you can run 116 North from MHC, stop at the Notch Visitor's park (you can't miss it) and walk in the woods a bit, then continue on 116 past downtown Amherst (stopping at the town green if anything interesting is going on) to Bub's in Sunderland.
posted by QIbHom at 2:28 PM on June 18, 2005

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