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Forest Park, the Jewel of Springfield, Massachusetts

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.

Forest Park

Forest Park

Situated on the banks of the Connecticut River, about one hundred miles west of Boston, is Springfield, Massachusetts. Known predominantly as the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame, this community is also home to one of the largest city parks in the United States--Forest Park.

This 735-acre jewel of the Pioneer Valley has something for everyone and is a frequent destination for those looking for a beautiful park to visit with family. Forest Park has much to offer, including the Forest Park Zoo, ducks ponds, a rose garden, an indoor skating rink, hiking trails, ball fields, basketball courts, bocce courts, a swimming pool, a picnic area, tennis courts, and much more. If you’re looking for a great place to bring the family for some outdoor fun, then this is the place.

The Forest Park Zoo

The Forest Park Zoo features over 200 domestic and exotic animals and birds including large cats, bears, monkeys, kangaroo, zebra, camels and many more.

The zoo has a learning center dedicated to promoting public awareness and respect for the animals and their environment. An adopt an animal program is also available and is a wonderful opportunity to assist in the care and upkeep of your favorite species.

The zoo has many programs available for the local community from “Zoo on the Go” to “Zoo Camp” to “Zoo Birthday Parties with the animals.” The zoo is open daily from 10 am until 6 pm weather permitting.

Katunga, the spotted leopard at the Forest Park Zoo

Katunga, the spotted leopard at the Forest Park Zoo

Party with the animals.  Forest Park Learning Center.

Party with the animals. Forest Park Learning Center.

Rose Garden

This beautiful section of the park features a large rose garden and is a great area for a walk. The gazebo located in the rose garden is a favorite venue for outdoor wedding ceremonies and offers a beautiful setting for any visitor. If roses are your thing be sure to take a walk through the rose garden while you're visiting Forest Park.

The rose garden in Forest park.  Great place for a wedding

The rose garden in Forest park. Great place for a wedding

Bright Nights Display

This nationally acclaimed holiday spectacle honors the many works of the late Theodor Seuss Geisel, affectionately known as Dr. Seuss, and a native of Springfield. The annual holiday lighting display features a two-mile-long drive through the park where the trees and shrubs are decorated to look like characters from the Dr. Seuss books.

The display opens the third week of November and runs through the holiday season. A ride through the Bright Nights display has become a family holiday tradition for many living in this area. The display is changed every year to keep it fresh and new.

Brights Nights

Brights Nights

Brights Nights

Brights Nights

Duck Ponds

This area of the park is a favorite with visitors who are looking for a relaxing stroll through the beautiful duck ponds of Forest Park. Numerous paths lead visitors over covered bridges and through the many ponds that are home to a variety of ducks including Mallard, Wood, Black, Common Merganser, and Pintail.

The ponds are also home to swans, egret, blue heron, and Canadian Geese. This is a great place to bring the kids to feed the ducks. It's also a great place to just sit and watch the ducks and swans in a beautiful setting.

Duck pond

Duck pond

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Duck Ponds

Duck Ponds

Barney House

This beautifully restored Victorian home sits high on a hill looking over the Connecticut River in the west end of Forest Park. Home to local businessman Everett Barney in the late 1800s; much of the land that makes up Forest Park today was part of his estate. The Carriage House at the Barney Estate today is used to host a variety of events from weddings to anniversary parties to civic functions.

The Barney House

The Barney House

Tennis Courts

Forest Park is home to 23 public tennis courts including several clay courts and plays host to a variety of tennis programs for both adults and children. The courts are used for lessons, leagues and numerous tournaments during the summer months. Professional tennis player Tim Mayotte learned to play tennis on these courts and went on to play professionally for many years achieving a ranking as high as number 7 in the world.

Walk, Run, Hike

The many roads, paths and trails of Forest park are popular with walkers and runners alike. The beautiful setting of the park makes for a very serene and scenic trek and draws outdoor enthusiasts from all over western Massachusetts. The park is home to the “Summer Sizzler” series of cross country and road races during the summer months hosted by the local Springfield Harrier Running Club. The club also hosts a winter series of races called the “Snowstorm Classic”.

Beautiful Forest Park.  Great place for a walk, hike or run.

Beautiful Forest Park. Great place for a walk, hike or run.

Play Ball

No matter what your game you can play it here in Forest park. The Walker Baseball Field plays host to many a baseball game and the grandstand gives it that big league feel. The park also has numerous basketball courts, fields to play soccer, 23 tennis courts and 2 bocce courts. A little something for everyone.

Walker Grandstand Baseball Field, Forest Park.

Walker Grandstand Baseball Field, Forest Park.

No matter what your interest, Forest Park is sure to have something to get you occupied and happy. Whether it’s just stopping by for a picnic on a beautiful summer day or a visit to its popular zoo there is plenty to keep everyone well entertained and active. This park is truly the shining jewel of Springfield and makes for a great destination on your visit to western Massachusetts.

Forest Park is conveniently located not far off of Interstate 91, which runs north-south through Springfield. Take exit 2 to Sumner Avenue to the park entrance. The vehicle entry fee to Forest Park for instate vehicles is just $3. For out of state vehicle the fee is $5.

Questions & Answers

Question: How do I get to the covered bridge in Forest Park?

Answer: It’s located down where the duck ponds flow into the Pecousic Brook. From the ball fields, you drive around the zoo and go down the hill where the duck ponds are. After the duck ponds is the covered bridge that crosses over the start of the brook. It’s a walking bridge only.

Question: Is there any fee for tying the knot at the rose garden in Forest Park?

Answer: Yes, there is a fee to reserve the rose garden for a wedding ceremony. I don't recall exactly what the fee is, but you can call the recreation office at 413-787-6435 and they will be able to help you.

Question: Are dogs allowed in Springfield Massachusetts' Forest Park?

Answer: Yes, dogs are allowed in Forest Park. We used to take our ship tzu to the park all the time and she would love watching the ducks and geese. It’s a great place for a walk with our four legged friends.

Question: Is there a playground or playscape in Forest Park, Massachusetts?

Answer: Yes, there is a playground in Springfield’s Forest Park. It’s just one of many things to do with kids in the park.

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

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