10 Black Friday Alternatives to the Mall in Western MA, 2016

See our Black Friday special segment on Mass Appeal: Click Here.
Download a copy of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western MA for Nov/Dec. (38 page PDF) for the holiday season.

10 Smart Black Friday Alternatives to the Mall
Friday, November 25th, 2016

In addition to community events for Black Friday, a self-initiated family activity might include visiting a local tree farm and cutting your own evergreen for the holidays. Linking the holidays and environmental science, an examination of evergreen tree farming can help children learn about a non-food related form of sustainable farming. Tree farming contributes to oxygen production, provides food and habitat for variety of animal species, and doesn’t have a huge impact on the location in which it takes place. Read more in our post, Local Christmas Tree Farms: A Lens Into Environmental Science.

In Amherst at 1pm and 2:30pm
Families who love Eric Carle’s artwork have the chance to see some of them brought to life by Picture Book Theater! The group will be performing The Very Quiet Cricket and The Lamb and The Butterfly, at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Each family will receive a copy of Carle’s The Very Quiet Cricket during the show. Older kids and parents will be able to think about how the theater troupe interpreted and performed their adaptation of a heavily visual story. 413-658-1100. 125 West Bay Road. Amherst, MA. (<$)

In Cummington from 10am-12noon
Artists often draw upon time spent in nature, and natural scenes, as inspiration from their works. You are invited to do the same at William Cullen Bryant Homestead. For “Green Friday,” enjoy a guided hike to explore the Old Growth Forest. Walk leaders will read poetry inspired by the grounds, look at examples of nature drawings, and sketch some trees. Bring a sketchbook and pencil. For information call The Trustees at 413-628-4485 x3. 413-532-1631. 207 Bryant Road. Cummington, MA. (FREE)

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10 Black Friday Alternatives to the Mall in Western MA, 2015

10 Smart Black Friday Alternatives to the Mall
Friday, November 27th, 2015

The annual Moonlight Magic holiday stroll will be kicking off the holiday season in the village of Shelburne Falls on Black Friday! Stroll the Village with your family and enjoy local shopping and holiday fun!

In Deerfield from 9:30am-4:30pm
Opt-out of Black Friday chaos, and instead let Historic Deerfield be your destination for handmade, heartfelt giving in preparation for the holiday season. On the Day of Giving, every museum visitor will have the opportunity to handcraft a special gift using simple or natural materials. Historic trade demonstrations of paper marbling and redware pottery-making will provide inspiration for handcrafted gifts. Works by paper marblers Regina and Dan St. John and redware potter Stephen Earp will be available for purchase at the Museum Gift Shop and Bookstore.The Day of Giving kicks off the museum’s support of the Community Action Holiday Gift Program. Visitors can bring unwrapped gifts for children up to 18 years old until December 13. 413-774-5581. 84B Old Main Street, ($)

In Sturbridge from 9:30am-5pm
Just in time for your holiday shopping, Old Sturbridge Village‘s Winter Market offers unique items from more than 30 juried craft vendors offering the finest hand-made treasures for the special people on your list. Marvel at diverse creations including pottery, paper goods, arts and crafts, treats for your pets, ornaments, gourmet foods, artisan jewelry, and gorgeous home accessories. 800-733-1830. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road. (FREE Members, <$ Non-members, MARKET/SALE)

In Williamsburg from 10am-4pm
Glassblowing is an ancient art form, dating back at least 2,000 years with origins in Jerusalem, spreading to the Roman Empire in the 1st century BC. Originally, the craft of blowing glass was used for utilitarian purposes, like containers, table wear and window glass. It wasn’t until the late 60s was glassblowing was raised to the level of art, lead by German artist, Hans Godo Frabel. Make your own glass ornament at the Snow Farm. No advance sign up necessary. Check in at the Hot Shop when you arrive to be placed on the list, do a little shopping or have lunch, then come back to the shop when it’s your turn. No experience necessary;ages 8 and up. 413-268-3101. 5 Clary Road. ($$)

In Lee from 10am-4pm
May the force be with you at the Star Wars Marathon at the Lee Library. Bring your comfy soccer chair; bring lunch. At 10am: A New Hope (PG, 1977). At 12:15: The Empire Strikes Back (PG, 1980). At 2:30: Return of the Jedi (PG, 1983). Children under 12 must be supervised. Brown bag snacks and lunches welcome. 413-243-0385. 100 Main Street. (FREE)

In Springfield from 10am-5pm
Celebrate the season and Dr. Seuss at the opening of “Seussian Holiday,” the Springfield Science Museum‘s sixth annual gingerbread exhibition and competition! See incredible creations by bakery shops, restaurants, schools, and area residents. The gingerbread creations will be displayed until January 3. There will also be festively decorated holiday trees, enchanting lights, and a backdrop of beautifully painted murals representing popular Seussian characters and stories in anticipation of the opening of The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in fall 2016. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. ($$)

In Sunderland at 11am
The Forest Park Zoo’s “Zoo on the Go” program will give a special presentation at the Sunderland Public Library. Educators will bring a variety of zoo animals so children can see them up close and learn all about their behaviors, diets, adaptations, conservation statuses, and natural habitats. Children will be able to ask questions and, in some cases, touch the animals. Perfect for children in pre-school through elementary school. Space is limited, so please pre-register. 413-665 2642. 20 School Street. (FREE)

In Springfield at 11am
Since 1991, the Spirit of Springfield has helped welcome Santa Claus to town with The Parade of the Big Balloons. Springfield’s own 75-foot inflatable “Cat in the Hat,” a few of his inflatable friends, bands, and colorful contingents will promenade down Main Street, entertaining young and old alike. 413-733-3800. Main Street from Lyman Street to Locust Street. (FREE)

In Amherst at 2pm and 3pm
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is pleased to present Picture Book Theatre featuring Eric Carle’s “Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” said the Sloth and Rooster’s Off To See The World. Directed by founder Therese Brady Donohue, Picture Book Theatre is now in its 10th season and is known for adapting picture books into puppets and dance productions suitable for all ages, especially the very young. 413-658-1126. 125 West Bay Road. ($)

In Shelburne Falls from 4pm-9pm
The annual Moonlight Magic will be kicking off the holiday season in the village of Shelburne Falls! See the Lighting of the Village, meet Santa, hear local vocalists and instrumental groups, purchase from street vendors, go on trolley rides, and more. A great post Thanksgiving holiday tradition! (FREE)

In Great Barrington from 6:15pm-8:30pm
Children may be little, but their feelings are often anything but! Explore the inner emotional world of a child in Inside Out (PG, 2015). This film, screened as part of the Mason Library‘s Family Films program, tells the story of Riley, an 11-year-old girl who is uprooted from her Midwest life to move to San Francisco. Her emotions –joy, fear, anger, disgust, and sadness– are featured characters in the film, sharing with the audience Riley’s experience with navigating a new city, house, school, and relationships. This movie shares important messages about our healthy, human need to feel and express a wide range of emotions, and provides countless opportunities to exercise empathy. Pre-registration required. 413-528-2403. 231 Main Street. (FREE)

15 Black Friday Alternatives to the Mall in Western MA

15 Smart Black Friday Alternatives to the Mall
Friday, November 28th, 2014

The annual Moonlight Magic holiday stroll will be kicking off the holiday season in the village of Shelburne Falls on Black Friday! Stroll the Village with your family and enjoy local shopping and holiday fun!

  1. The Springfield Museums’  “Holiday Wonderland and Lighting of the Quadrangle” begins on Black Friday, with special exhibitions, performances, and hands-on art activities.
  2. Zoo on the Go will be at Sunderland Public Library with an educational program that brings live animals, artifacts, and other educational materials.
  3. Discover the art of glass blowing at Snow Farm by making your own glass ornament during their annual Seconds Sale in Williamsburg.
  4. Join the Berkshire Museum on a wildlife expedition through the galleries with this year’s “Festival of Trees 2014 On Safari” in Pittsfield.
  5. Learn about the historic trade of paper marbling and redware potter at Historic Deerfield.
  6. The Spirit of Springfield’s annual Tower Square Parade of the Big Balloons is on Black Friday, an exciting big balloon street!
  7. See Leo Lionni’s stories come to life at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst with a performance of Tico and the Golden Wings and Geraldine the Music Mouse with puppets and dancers.
  8. Moonlight Magic will be kicking off the holiday season in the village of Shelburne Falls with a lighting of the village, Santa, music, street performances, and more!
  9. Bright Nights at Forest Park in Springfield returns this season for holiday fun!  Bring the whole family to come see the beautiful holiday light display.
  10. Get your bodies moving post Thanksgiving and enjoy time ice skating on Black Friday!  There are several open skates to choose from, including: Smead Skating Arena in Springfield; Collins/Moylan Arena in Greenfield; Fitzpatrick Skating Arena in Holyoke; and UMass Mullins Center in Amherst.
  11. If you want some Santa time, but want to skip the mall, Santa will be arriving by helicopter at  Amelia Park Children’s Museum in Westfield, by firetruck to the Hotel Northampton
  12. Bring the family to KidSpace at MASS MoCA in North Adams to see their current exhibit, It’s Only Human. Before heading out, download their gallery guide for this exhibit and get ready to explore the pedagogical concept of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and ART!)
  13. Discover how New Englanders of the past cooked their Thanksgiving meals at Historic Deerfield’s Open Hearth Cooking Demonstrations.
  14. The New England Air Museum is holding their annual Santa visit and behind-the-scenes event. Photos with Santa and a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum in Windsor Locks, CT.
  15. Spend Thanksgiving weekend at Old Sturbridge Village and learn about Thanksgiving customs of the 19th Century.




10 Black Friday Alternatives to the Mall in Western MA

10 Smart Black Friday Alternatives to the Mall
Friday, November 29th, 2013

The annual Moonlight Magic holiday stroll will be kicking off the holiday season in the village of Shelburne Falls on Black Friday! Stroll the Village with your family and enjoy local shopping and holiday fun!

  1. Visit Santa in the morning at the Hotel Northampton.
  2. Discover how New Englanders of the past cooked their Thanksgiving meals at Historic Deerfield’s Open Hearth Cooking Demonstrations.
  3. Springfield Museums host a day of festive celebrations!
  4. Bring the family to KidSpace at MASS MoCA in North Adams to see their current exhibit, Freedom. Before heading out, download their gallery guide for this exhibit which offers a trail through the exhibit with activities and questions to inspire interpretation.
  5. Shop local and handmade at in Snow Farm’s Seconds Sale in Williamsburg.
  6. The annual Moonlight Magic will be kicking off the holiday season in the village of Shelburne Falls in the evening!
  7. Take the kids to the Spirit of Springfield’s annual Tower Square Parade of the Big Balloons.
  8. Take in an afternoon performance of “Mr. Seahorse and a House for Hermit Crab” at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst.
  9. Narragansett descendant Jennifer Lee will discuss and demonstrate Native American basket-weaving in Deerfield.
  10. Adopt a Feline Day at the Dakin Humane Society Adoption Centers in Springfield and Leverett.

More ideas here: Friday, November 27th, 2013.

Plaid Friday in Western MA

Move Over Black Friday! Make Way for Plaid Friday!

Plaid Friday is the fun and enjoyable alternative to the big store “Black Friday,” and is designed to promote both local and independently owned businesses during the holidays.

The day after Thanksgiving, in the mass consumer world, is typically known as Black Friday. Instead of shopping at the big box stores that day, support Plaid Friday in Western Massachusetts! Plaid Friday celebrates the diversity and creativity of independent businesses.

Very much like the already well known Small Business Saturday, Plaid Friday ensures that the dollars you spend this holiday season go back into YOUR community. Smaller and independent retailers return a total of 51.1% of revenue to the local economy, while national chains, only return an average of 13.6% of revenue within the market that hosts the store.

Many locally owned, independent businesses are giving back to their community during the holiday season to, supporting causes like food security in the region…  Read the rest of this entry »

32 Community Highlights: Silver Mines to Labyrinths. Laura Ingalls Wilder to Citizen King.

Educators can learn about creative ways to connect comics to curriculum at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge during an educators workshop on Saturday, January 12th. Participants will learn a bit about the history of comic book art, as well as many ideas for using comics as learning material alongside common curriculum topics. This special workshop is being held in conjunction with the museum’s exhibit, “Heroes and Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross.” ($$)

From Silver Mines to Labyrinths. Fiddler on the Roof to The Tempest. Laura Ingalls Wilder to Citizen King… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week, including opportunities to get outside and take the family snowshoeing! Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!

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31 Community Highlights: Balloon Parade to Puppets. Wild Turkeys to Kitchen Science.

Families can make their own holiday gifts at many of the craft fairs happening now through the holiday season. Families can make their own glass ornaments this weekend at Snow Farm’s Seconds Sale in Williamsburg, MA. It’s a great way for older kids to learn about this skilled craft while making a family keepsake for the holidays. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Balloon Parade to Puppets. Family Volunteering to Shopping Local. Wild Turkeys to Kitchen Science… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week, including fun things to do on Black Friday other than going to the mall! Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!


Music from different cultures and genres will be performed this weekend in Western MA. At noon on Saturday, Nov. 17th at the Pelham Library, Ricardo Frota will be performing, “Sounds from the Brazilian Rainforest: The Ecology of Sound.” This free performance emulates the sounds, rhythms, and feelings of the rainforest, and also includes music from indigenous cultures around the world.

Balinese Gamelan, an innovative cross-cultural form of music, will be performed by Gamelan Galak Tika at Williams College on Sunday afternoon, Nov 18th. Balinese Gamelana is a music style which features gongs, mellophones, and hand drums to create a percussion-heavy hammer-like sound. This free performance takes place in Chapin Hall in Williamstown.

In the evening on Saturday, Nov. 17th, older children with audience skills can take in a performance of a capella music by local a capella groups at Smith College in Northampton, or an evening of blues and gospel music at the Village Congregational Church in Cummington. Both performances would also be a great choice for a date night!


On Saturday, Nov. 17th kids can choose from chemistry in Berkshire County or engineering in Franklin County. In the late morning the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield hosts Kitchen Kaboom! – a hands-on science activity for kids where they will learn to use kitchen materials to do safe but exciting (and simple!) science experiments. The Sunderland Library has a free LEGO Club that meets this morning too. Children ages 6yo+ and their adults can come and practice their engineering and architectural skills while getting creative and sharing their inventions. Space is limited for both events, so call ahead.

There’s a free LEGO club that meets mid-week too. The Berkshire Athenaeum’s LEGO club meets on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 21st. This month’s meeting’s theme is favorite foods – kids can use blocks to make food-inspired creations, work together to develop ideas, and use the blocks to discover and experiment with basic principles of architecture and design.


On Saturday, Nov. 17th there are a couple of opportunities for kids to learn about local wild birds with Mass Audubon!

Wild turkeys are easy to spot in Western Massachusetts – they seem to be in nearly everyone’s backyard! On Saturday morning, come to Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton to learn about turkey feathers, turkey habitat, turkey habits, and more – then explore the sanctuary’s trails and search for some real live turkeys. Kids can also learn firsthand about bird banding on Saturday morning at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox. Visitors can watch as birds are caught in mist nets, then banded in order to be tracked and used for data collection. Participants will also be able to help record data, and learn what the information collected from banded birds is used for!


Take a hike! Explore the trails at High Ledges in Shelburne on Saturday morning, Nov. 17th and see panoramic views of the Deerfield Valley. The area is home to a wide variety of trees – practice identifying them while adventuring. Open to adults and older teens and lead by Mass Audubon. Later in the week on Wednesday morning, Nov. 21st, hike the Vermont-Massachusetts border with the Trustees of Reservations at Mountain Meadow in Williamstown! The hike will take visitors to the summit of Mason Hill – bring snacks and lots of water.


Apples were important in the diet of early Deerfield settlers- many homes even had their own orchards! Learn about the varieties of apples grown and the dishes created with at Historic Deerfield on Saturday, Nov. 17th (and Friday, Nov. 23rd). There will also be a craft activity where visitors can make their own apple pomander ornaments to take home.

On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 18th, learn about the “new elite” in colonial American at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts at the Springfield Museums. Museum Docent Betty Romer will lead a tour of the galleries, during which participants will learn about the history behind the artistic representations of the new Americans who made fortunes in commerce and banking. Best for older students, the tour fits well with studies of art history and early American history.

Want to learn how to “read” old photographs with the Pelham Historical Society? On Monday evening, Nov. 19th, Doug and Justin Kimball (of Kimball Auctions and Amherst College’s Art Department, respectively) will help attendees learn about photographs, and participants are encouraged to bring photos of their own to share and learn about! Takes place at the Community Center in Pelham.


Kids love puppets! Plus they’re great for encouraging creative free-play! On Saturday morning, Nov. 17th, at the Hatfield Library, there will be a morning of creative puppet play where kids can practice their puppetry skills, create characters, and use puppets to create a puppet production. A little later at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, families can watch puppeteer Jonathan Keezing’s production of Timeless Tales. Keezing uses unique and diverse puppetry styles to tell fables and folktales. Both opportunities are free.

On stage, in the afternoon on Saturday, Nov. 17th, and Friday, Nov. 23rd, Picture Book Theater presents Eric Carle’s The Very Quiet Cricket and The Very Lonely Firefly – puppet style! – at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst. See these classic children’s stories come alive with all of the beauty of Carle’s signature collaged illustrations.


It’s so easy to shop local and handmade this holiday season! Choices even include recycled, repurposed and make your own! Here are a few craft and holiday fairs happening this Saturday, Nov. 17th to consider, but not an exhaustive list by any measure.

Looking for more ideas? Stop by River Valley Market Co-op in Northampton and check out the show in their gallery, Hilltown Families: Traveling Photography Exhibit. All images are from Western MA and the proceeds benefit Hilltown Families. Also, check out Sarah’s column this month for several more great suggestions, including a few of her favorite independently owned stores in the Valley, in her post Handmade, Independent and Local for the Holidays in Western MA.


Volunteering as a family is a fun way for families to create memories together while making a significant contribution to their communities. Over on our Facebook page we’ve shared several ways families can contribute to their community, including:

  • Clean up Burbank Park in Pittsfield this Sunday, Nov. 18th, home of Berkshire Bioblitz.
  • Crafternoon” this Sunday, Nov. 18th in Ashfield to help create items for Christmas Crafts for the Cure.
  • Socks for Seniors,” a sock drive at Florence Savings Bank for a program that supports the Highland Valley Elder Services.
  • Donation drives at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg that support the Hilltown Food Pantry, Northampton Survival Center and the Dakin PV Humane Society
  • An all-ages holiday card craft to benefit Concord Prison outreach project at the Greenfield Library

And much more! We post daily updates to our Facebook page, so make sure you “Like” our page. But “Liking” our page isn’t just enough… Facebook has changed the rules for organizations so that you won’t see all of our posts unless you do more than “like” our page. Find out how you can receive all of our juicy Facebook updates in your Facebook newsfeed!

Have you heard yet about the Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night? Join Hilltown Families for an evening of volunteering together with your family during our first ever Family Community Service Night. On Friday, November 30th from 4:30-7:30pm in Northampton, families can come together for a fun evening visiting five different volunteer stations, each offering a simple, hands-on service project for all ages. Volunteering as a family helps children learn values like kindness, respect and friendliness, and on this evening you can volunteer with five different local non-profits in a single evening! This is a free event, however, space is limited. Reserve a spot for your family today! Can’t make it but want to volunteer for the event? We have an acquisition list of things we need for the night of if you’d like to help us collect what we need. Email swildfield@hilltownfamilies.org for a list of what we are looking for.


Looking for something to do on the day after Thanksgiving rather than going to the malls to shop? Here are six suggestions:

  1. Visit the Amelia Park Children’s Museum in Westfield to explore the exhibits and play… and meet Santa, too! He’ll be visiting just for the day, so visit him while you can.
  2. Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in Lenox will kick off its 5th annual A Home for the Holidays program. The 1893 mansion will be lavishly decorated for a Gilded Age Christmas by a host of volunteers, among them the Ventfort Hall Flower Ladies.
  3. Celebrate the unofficial kick-off of the winter holidays with the Springfield Museums where there will be a special holiday puppet show, holiday art projects, science activities, and a chance to see the museum’s gingerbread house contest exhibit!
  4. Watch the Cat in the Hat (and many of his friends) parade through downtown Springfield in the annual Parade of Big Balloons! It’s like a mini-version of the Thanksgiving parade in New York – without the travel.
  5. Dress warmly and head to Moonlight Magic, the village of Shelburne Fall’s annual holiday stroll. Over 1,000 luminaries line the street and sidewalks to create a festive atmosphere. The event includes Lighting of the Village, Parade of Lights, Visits with Santa, Carolers, Street Performers, Vendors, Classic Cartoons, and Trolley Rides!
  6. Forest Park is lit up for the Holidays! Springfield’s annual Bright Nights display features intricate, sparkly scenes throughout the park – there are elaborate displays, as well as decorative lights everywhere. Celebrate the holidays with a drive through the park to enjoy the festive displays!

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events. All of our listed events are “suggested.” Please take a moment to confirm that these events are happening as scheduled, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before heading out.


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