If you enjoy museums and if you have ever in your life enjoyed looking at pictures in books, and especially if you have a fondness for picture books and children's literature, you should absolutely take a few hours to visit The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. My second visit was made not too long ago and I had the pleasure of going on a weekday afternoon when visitors were mostly adults and a few young children, not yet of school age. The exhibitions in three galleries were delightful and full of beautiful art, and yet not so crowded or plentiful to be overwhelming. What I saw were antique illustrations from Wind in the Willows, the Wizard of Oz books, and other familiars and unfamiliars by a large variety of artists. And from now through March 8, the main exhibit is entitled "Over Rainbows and Down Rabbit Holes: the Art of Children's Books." (I can't wait to see it!)
The museum does not only house and display exhibits, however. Also available is a library of picture books, occasional theatrical and musical performances, storytimes, movies, author/illustrator meet-and-greets, classes for professionals. There's also a make-and-take art studio for kids, a cafe, and a jam-packed gift shop of wonderful things (keep that in mind for future birthdays and holidays). If you're lucky, you might even see Eric Carle while you're there! And be sure to check out the decorative tiles in the bathrooms.
The entry fee is reasonable for a museum ($7/adults, $5/youth), but if you are running on a tight budget, check with your local library to see if it carries free passes to the museum. I know Belchertown's Clapp Memorial Library does, as do many others.
The Eric Carle Museum is fresh, clean, and child-friendly, and a very good place to visit regularly (the exhibits change a few times a year). The entire musuem can easily be toured in the space of a short afternoon, with plenty of time to grab a snack or peruse the gift shop. Be sure to take a little time to admire the spectacular view (especially if you visit in the autumn) -- the museum is set into the rolling hills of the area and is surrounded by trees and sky and mountains, and it is part of the local Museums 10.
Eric Carle Museum: 125 West Bay Road, Amherst; 413.658.1100
(Close to Atkins Market and Hampshire College)