Any adult retaining a shred of childhood innocence is bound to get a nostalgia buzz upon entering the courtyard of the Springfield Museums complex in Springfield, Mass.
And children will be rapturous when set loose amid the oversized bronze sculptures of the $6.2-million Dr. Seuss National Memorial that celebrates the city's most famous native son.
Most tourists going to Springfield make a beeline for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
But the regional center on the Connecticut River has great attractions for those who aren't sports junkies.
Several stem from the prized connection to Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), born there in 1904 and whose 46 children's books incorporate buildings and other sights he saw growing up in the manufacturing center.
The Seuss saga is told on panels in the lobby of the Springfield Museums' new Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History. But the real fun comes across the street in the sprawling 10-year-old memorial park created by Seuss' stepdaughter, sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cates. Spread across the lawn are the author and his drawing board with The Cat in the Hat, a 14-foot-tall Horton the Elephant, the Grinch, the Lorax and other figures. There's also a 10-foot-tall copy of the book "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"
The history museum also gives an overview of the local firearms story, which includes the firearms made by Smith & Wesson, founded in 1852. It continues nearby at the Springfield Armory, one of two federal armories commissioned by George Washington and now a national historic site. It features guns made at the armory and around the world from the early days of the nation.
Out in the suburbs you can visit the headquarters of firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson, which has an informative museum, including a .44-caliber Magnum revolver popularized by the Dirty Harry movies and even more powerful .50-caliber model that brought down a grizzly bear with a single bullet. Weekday factory tours are available.
But Springfield's manufacturing legacy goes well beyond guns. At the history museum, there are legendary Indian motorcycles manufactured in the city from 1901 to 1953. There is the counter from the first Friendly Ice Cream parlor, which started in Springfield. There also are games developed by local manufacturer Milton Bradley. And there's an exhibit on abolitionist John Brown, who lived and worked in the city. You can even see the desk he used in a warehouse.
Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-723-1548, valleyvisitor.com
WHAT TO DO
Springfield Museums, 21 Edwards St. Besides the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, the complex includes the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, which houses Japanese armor, Middle Eastern textiles and one of the country's largest collections of Chinese cloisonné. Springfield Science Museum has a planetarium, a mineral hall and American Indian artifacts. Michele & Donald D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts has American and European art and sculpture, including works by George Bellows, Georgia O'Keeffe, Claude Monet and Winslow Homer. Admission for all four museums: $12.50 adults, $6.50 children. Sculpture garden is open daily and is free. Info: 800-625-7738, springfieldmuseums.org
Springfield Armory National Historic Site, entrance off Federal Street. Admission free. Info: 413-734-8551, nps.gov/spar
Smith & Wesson Museum, 2100 Roosevelt Ave. Admission free. Info: 800-331-0852
Titanic Historical Society Museum, 208 Main St., Indian Orchard, Mass. About seven miles from downtown Springfield, in the back of Henry's Jewelry Store, the museum features Titanic artifacts from passengers and crew. Admission $4 adults, $2 kids. Info: 415-543-4770, titanic1.org/museum
Sheraton Springfield, 1 Boland Way ($104-$135). Across from the Tower Square Mall, 413-781-1010, sheraton.com/springfieldma