Traveling With Kids: Deerfield, MA

A couple of weeks ago I had the delightful opportunity to visit Deerfield, MA in a media capacity with Jon, Laurel, and Violet. Despite the many times I’ve crossed the fine state of Massachusetts, I had never visited Deerfield (it’s about 20-25 minutes north of Northampton, 30 minutes south of Brattleboro, VT, and under 2 hours west of Boston). It was such a lovely trip and I'm eager to return; we were already plotting our next visit during the car ride home! Here are 7 reasons I think you ought to consider a trip as well:

1. Historic Deerfield (in general)

Turning onto Old Main Street to enter Historic Deerfield is like dropping back in time. Private homes and historical buildings line the wide, picturesque street (and Deerfield Academy is further down on the right) and the buildings are simply wonderful to view from the outside. Even the fire station (pictured at the bottom of this post) is incredibly charming. At the Visitor Center, you can obtain a pass to access the various historic buildings on the strip.

2. Deerfield Inn

Positioned at the center of the Historic Deerfield strip, Deerfield Inn – established in 1884 and one of the original historic inns of New England -- is welcoming and well appointed. You truly couldn’t ask for a more charming and elegantly hip innkeeper than Jane Howard. The inn includes 24 rooms across two buildings (the main building and carriage house) and underwent a massive renovation following damage via Hurricane Irene. We stayed in the carriage house in two adjoining rooms: a king + twin beds. The positioning ended up being perfect because I forgot to ask about refrigeration for Violet’s rice milk (per her dairy allergy) and right outside our door was a station including a refrigerator (and Keurig machine: SWEET).

As far as I could tell, we were the only people at Deerfield Inn with small children (boy oh boy the dining room felt quiet and even more elegant when we walked in…). However, the inn is, in fact, welcoming and prepared for kids. (Notably, it's also a pet-friendly inn.) The staff was wonderful to Laurel and Violet (as were the other guests) and the inn offers conveniences such as pack n’ plays to use. The twin room was equipped with a tub, perfect for tubby time. And while the inn’s restaurant (Champney’s) does not have a separate kids menu, there were plenty of elegantly presented basics (e.g., pizza) available, including vegetarian and gluten-free options.

3. Lunch Box Truck

We arrived around 2pm on Saturday and were famished and in need of a quick, informal bite to eat. We were happy to find this food truck tucked behind the Visitor Center. It’s the perfect stop for easy classic, casual fare (hot dogs, grilled cheese, etc.) and if the weather is amenable you can, as we did, pull up a seat at the nearby picnic tables overlooking Cooks’ Garden.

4. History Workshop

The History Workshop at the top of the strip is fantastic for kids. There was a woman named Faith who staffed the center during our visit and she was AMAZING. She was knowledgeable and had a wonderful, gentle rapport with children; Laurel (and even Violet) hung on to her every word. After playing at the various activity stations, the girls learned about making homemade dyes (crushed bugs!) and dyed and filled lavender satchels. So fun.

5. Museum Gift Shop & Bookstore

Open daily, this gift shop offers classic gift items, snacks, and hot beverages. My favorite gift picks were the craft kits; we bought a basket weaving kit for Laurel and she jumped into the project as soon as we got home.

6. Magic Wings

Just a five-minute drive from the Historic Deerfield strip is the butterfly conservatory Magic Wings. In addition to the butterflies, the conservatory is preceded by tanks including various reptiles and other critters. Super fun for science exploration.

7. Flynt Center of Early New England Life

Our last stop before we departed Deerfield was the Flynt Center of Early New England Life. This museum completely blew my mind; modern and beautiful and almost hidden at the end of the Historic Deerfield strip, well off the road. The museum is very doable with kids (two floors, reasonably sized) and includes an impressive collection of early American pieces. The viewable “attic” (second floor) of the museum’s archives includes a huge array of furniture, housewares, and formidable looking weapons. What was particularly stunning was the textiles room, which includes clothing, shoes, and other textiles dating 100+ years ago. Seeing Laurel’s eyes widen as we read the dates and uses for various garments was simply awesome.

In a nutshell, we loved our trip to Deerfield and are eager to return (we're already talking about making it a recurring fall excursion). Next time around we'd like to book  two nights, so the first day could be spent enjoying Historic Deerfield (we didn’t manage to see the Indian House Memorial in full, or the Apprentice’s Workshop at Dwight House, an activity center featuring woodworking, ceramics, and textiles...among other stops) and a second day could involve zipping down to Northampton and the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst.

All images by Christine Koh. Disclosure: Deerfield Inn kindly hosted my family while I explored the property for editorial consideration. All opinions and experiences are, of course, my own.