Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley offers a wide spectrum of great attractions and distractions for Girlfriend Get Away travelers

Chandlers Restaurant at Yankee Candle

Chandlers Restaurant at Yankee Candle

Women who want to take a trip with their best girlfriends can discover a wealth of opportunities for shopping, dining, touring, unwinding and enjoying top entertainment.

The Pioneer Valley is a 3-county region in western Massachusetts, nestled in between the Berkshires (to the west) and central Massachusetts (to the east).  Its unique and eclectic mix of charming college towns, arts communities, urban settings and buc

olic sprawl make it an unforgettable destination.

For fans of arts and crafts fairs, there is no shortage of choices.  The Old Deerfield Craft Fair (www.deerfield-craft.org), held three times a year, is a juried craft fair that takes place outdoors in the village of Old Deerfield, MA, and at Eastern States Exposition (www.thebige.com) in West Springfield, MA.  Typical items include quilts, baskets, wood carvings, pottery, dolls, jewelry and more.  Ranked among the Top 200 shows by Sunshine Artist Magazine, The Christmas Sampler, Fall Craft Fair and Summer Craft Fairs were each recognized in the “Best Show” rankings, with the Christmas Sampler holding the top spot for Traditional Craft Fairs in New England.

Antique hunters will delve into the Brimfield Outdoors Antique Show (www.brimfieldshow.com), held each May, July and September, in Brimfield, MA.  Dubbed “The World’s Largest Outdoor Antique Show,” Brimfield draws shoppers from around the globe who happily browse among the half-mile stretch of vendors along Route 20.  Everything from the finest antiques to the tiniest trinkets can be found in this picturesque, rural New England town.

paradise city berkshires girlfriend get away shopping

Paradise City is a popular shopping stop

More treasures await at the Paradise City Arts Festival (www.paradisecityarts.com), held every Memorial and Columbus Day weekend in the “cultural heart” of New England, Northampton, MA.  More than 250 craftsmen and artists participate in this event, which also includes terrific cuisine from Northampton’s best chefs, live jazz music, craft demonstrations and interactive theater for children.  Boston magazine wrote of Paradise City, “There’s no better place in the cou

ntry to pick up original artwork.”

Downtown Northampton (www.explorenorthampton.com) is a must for visitors who will enjoy the galleries, unique shops and creative bistros of this charming place that was dubbed “#1 Small Arts Town in America.”  Situated prominently on Main Street is Thornes Marketplace (www.thornesmarketplace.com), the cornerstone of downtown Northampton for more than a century. This handsome 5-story building features pressed tin ceilings, hardwood floors, stained glass windows, a walnut center staircase and a host of other classic Victorian details.  More than 25 shops, restaurants, galleries, studios and businesses fill the building.

Shopping expeditions in the Pioneer Valley are incomplete without a trip to the Yankee Candle Flagship (www.yankeecandle.com) store, located in South Deerfield.  This expansive retail complex is filled with thousands of candles with hundreds of scents, and also includes a Home Store, a “make your own jar candle” section, and a Bavarian Christmas Village.  Right next door is Chandler’s Restaurant, an award-winning eatery that offers an extraordinary dining experience when the shopping’s all done.

Just 25 miles south of Yankee Candle Flagship is Holyoke Mall (www.holyokemall.com), which contains nearly 200 specialty shops, restaurants and department stores.  Among the many retailers in the Holyoke Mall are Macy’s, Sephora, Borders, Williams-Sonoma, Victoria’s Secret, Swarovski, Apple, Target and many more.

Prime Outlets Pioneer Valley

Prime Outlets at Lee

A quick bus trip west to the Berkshires continues the shopping expedition to the Prime Outlets at Lee (www.primeoutlets.com), where visitors can find savings of up to 65% at 60 designer outlet stores including COACH Factory, Cole Haan, Michael Kors, Nike Factory Store, Under Armour and many more.  While enjoying the Berkshires, girlfriend getaway summer trips can be enhanced by a visit to Tanglewood (www.tanglewoodmusicfestival.org), the exquisite summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops, or Jacob’s Pillow (www.jacobspillow.org), which features dance companies from all over the world each summer.

Theater fans can enjoy renowned performers and hit Broadway plays at CityStage & Symphony Hall (www.symphonyhall.com) in Springfield, and top the evening off with a visit to exciting and fashionable downtown restaurants like Onyx (www.onyxfusion.com), 350 Grill (www.350grill.net) or Max’s Tavern (www.maxrestaurantgroup.com/tavern).  Nearby Chicopee is home to the Hu Ke Lau Restaurant (www.hukelau.com), which blends terrific Chinese, Polynesian and American cuisine with an dazzling Hawaiian show.

Table & Vine (www.tableandvine.com), located in West Springfield, offers a full roster of tasting events that highlight wine, beer, vodka and other liqueurs.  Girlfriend groups can learn tips about pairing food and wine, and selecting the right wine to present as a gift.

Ladies who love to explore museums will have many options in the Pioneer Valley.  Museums10 (www.museums10.org/), in the upper Valley, is a consortium created to promote some of the area’s top attractions, including the Emily Dickinson Museum, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Historic Deerfield, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, the Smith College Museum of Art and five others.  Museums10 will launch “Table For 10,” a region-wide, multifaceted look at food, in the summer and fall of 2010. This new cultural tourism initiative will bring together a diverse array of offerings organized around a core group of new food-themed museum exhibitions and public programs at the Museums10 partner sites.  A short drive south to Springfield brings culture fans to the Springfield Museums (www.springfieldmuseums.org), a collection that include 2 art museums, a science museum, the brand new Museum of Springfield History, and the whimsical Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden.

No matter what the interest, the age level, or the pursuits, group tours of all kinds can have an exceptional and unforgettable visitor experience in the Pioneer Valley.  For regional information, visit the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau’s (GSCVB) web site at www.valleyvisitor.com.

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