This outlying eastern suburb of Springfield is bordered to the north by the Chicopee River. In times past, the northern part of the town was industrialized, while the southern end was agrarian.
Now Wilbraham is mostly residential, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of farms around, where you can pick your own fruit, purchase fresh produce as soon as it’s harvested, or indulge in homemade ice cream.
A dominant presence in Wilbraham’s center is the prestigious Wilbraham & Monson Academy, founded here in 1804 and commanded by the impressive Rich Hall.
The grounds set the scene for Wilbraham’s time-honored Peach Blossom Festival in June, and close by is the region’s oldest Methodist meeting house, now a museum of town history.
1. Spectacle Pond
A fine summer hangout for Wilbraham, Spectacle Pond is home to the town beach, with lifeguards on duty from mid-June to mid-August. During this season there’s a small feel for residents and non-residents.
This gives you access to a surprisingly large spread of sand, clean water that is checked every week, a concession stand, clean bathrooms, two swim rafts and a spray park for littler visitors.
Outside of this period, the beach is still open to visitors, but swimming is not permitted. Away from the pond there’s a large recreation area, with amenities such as a playground, picnic area, basketball courts and a multipurpose field.
2. Old Meeting House Museum
Next to Wilbraham Monson Academy in Wilbraham’s center is the oldest surviving Methodist meeting house in New England.
This building dates to 1794, and was used for worship until the 1830s when a new meeting house was built for Wilbraham’s growing Methodist congregation.
From that point until the 1970s this was a family home until it was bought by the town and restored.
The museum displays local artifacts to illustrate life in Wilbraham in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, and many of these items have been donated by families from the town.
You can call in on the second Sunday of the month, May through October, and there’s a special holiday event on the first Sunday of December.
3. Fountain Park
A fantastic public space for the town, Fountain Park is on 144 acres that had previously been the Massachusetts State Game Farm, from 1913 to 1984.
After this facility closed, the grounds were left to deteriorate, until a group of local citizens helped raise the funds to open a park here.
About two thirds of Fountain Park is composed of woodlands crossed by trails, popular with hikers, dog walkers and cross-country skiers in winter.
The remainder is verdant grassy space, providing a habitat for meadow birds, but also staging public outdoor events. The bandstand here hosts a beloved summer concert series, attracting crowds from around Western Massachusetts.
4. Crane Hill Disc Golf Course
There’s a professional-standard disc golf course in Wilbraham, open to residents and non-residents alike, and free to access. If you’ve ever been interested in taking up this pastime, you couldn’t ask for a better place to begin.
You don’t need a tee time to play the Crane Hill Disc Golf Course; in fact, all you need to bring with you are three discs and a scorecard.
With 18 holes, the course is sensational, laid out across woods and open ground, with a stream serving as OB in one area. Each hole is clearly labeled, and, depending on your level, you can choose between A and B baskets.
5. Interskate 91 South
At the core of this family fun center is a large roller skating rink that has been a part of local people’s childhoods for decades.
Interskate 91 South is a favored spot for children’s birthday parties, and has plenty of public skate sessions and special events on the schedule, all led by professional DJs.
Four-wheel and inline skates are available for rental, and if you’re visiting with kids still learning to skate, you can rent training aids so they can join you safely on the rink.
Right beside the rink itself there’s a multi-level soft playscape for youngsters, while bigger kids can hit the laser tag arena, which is open during public skate sessions.
6. Rice Preserve/Sunrise Peak Trail Walk
A big patch of high ground in rural Wilbraham is open to the public, at a nature preserve and the town conservation land that adjoins it to the east.
You can approach this space from the end of Highmoor Drive in the west and from Hollow Road in the east.
Further east, at 1.3 miles from Highmoor Drive is Sunset Peak, with views east towards Monson and Hampden. Between these viewpoints you’ll hike through mature woodlands, littered with exposed outcroppings and glacial erratics.
7. Wilbraham Children’s Museum
A wonderful resource for parents with children under the age of five, the Wilbraham Children’s Museum opened in 1981.
Inside and outside, the museum has an assortment of playscapes designed to foster little ones’ sense of creativity and imagination.
A few of the exhibits include a dress-up box, a spaceship, a replica kitchen, a castle with a slide, two race cars, along with tons of lego, musical instruments and a model train set.
Outside you’ll find the best public playground in the town, equipped with a variety of climbing structures, a swing set, a pirate ship and a clubhouse.
8. White Cedar Swamp
Something that is often overlooked in Wilbraham is a fragile Atlantic white cedar swamp habitat of regional importance.
This is the best example of a cedar wetland in the entire Connecticut Valley, comprising several distinct stands of white cedar.
The wetland area can be reached along a half-mile trail from the parking area on Decorie Drive, and there are lots of little spurs and dead ends to explore.
The swamp and its surrounding woods are a habitat for rare and protected species, including Hessel’s hairstreak butterfly, two salamanders species, and the eastern spadefoot toad.
9. Rice Fruit Farm
The history of this much-loved farmstand in Wilbraham goes back a long way, to the late 19th century. What you’ll find at Rice Fruit Farm today is a thriving country store with many specialities.
Most popular may be the ice cream, which is homemade and comes in 30+ flavors, from vanilla to stracciatella.
You can come for soft serve, flurries, sundaes, shakes, floats, while the pick of the toppings is locally made maple syrup.
Rice Fruit Farm offers breakfast and lunch menus, and a lot of customers make the trip for the breakfast sandwiches, with two eggs served on bagels, ciabatta or croissant and grilled to order.
There’s a big choice, but the California, with avocado, pepper jack cheese, tomato and red onion, is a top-tier veggie option.
10. Wilbraham Peach Blossom Festival
A highlight of the summer in Wilbraham is this festival held at the historic Wilbraham Monson Academy campus in mid-June.
Central to this heartwarming community event is a craft fair, with more than 80 artisans showing off their wares.
There’s also a kids’ carnival, a schedule of live music, and all kinds of fun competitive events, like a frying pan toss competition and a spouse-carrying race.
Food trucks and non-alcoholic beverages are on site, and you can take a look inside the academy’s magnificent, Georgian Revival Rich Hall.
11. Silver Bell Farm
On weekends in fall you can make your way to this beautiful farm, just over in Monson, for all kinds of autumnal fun.
For a sense of what’s going on at Silver Bell Farm at this time of year, you’ve got a produce stand with a choice of pumpkins and gourds, wagon rides, friendly goats to feed, barrel train rides, a bounce house, and a corn maze with a scavenger hunt for kids.
Delicious food and drink are on hand, from hot apple cider to ice cream, home-baked pies, apple cider donuts, and lots of local gourmet items at the farm store.
Later in the year, the farm opens up again, selling fraser fir and balsam fir trees, as well as Christmas decorations, and tree accessories, while young ones can meet Santa.
12. Titanic Historical Society
The modest looking jewelry store at 208 Main Street, Indian Orchard, is the headquarters for the Titanic Historical Society.
This organization was founded in 1963 by the historian Edward Kamuda (1939-2014), who spent much of his life studying the RMS Titanic and its famous sinking.
Kamuda secured numerous rare survivor artifacts, many of which are sent out on loan to renowned institutions around the United States.
As well as compelling accounts from James Cameron’s Titanic (1997), you can view a selection of items at the society HQ in Indian Orchard.
This might include the bell from sister ship, RMS Olympic, a drawing of the iceberg by Fred Fleet (1887-1965), and the first class dinner menu from the rescue ship, RMS Carpathia.
13. Fenway Golf
Moments away in East Longmeadow there’s a golf center with an assortment of facilities, a couple of which are family attractions.
That goes for the well-designed 18-hole mini golf course, with a cascading waterfall and a tricky river water hazard. Kids will also have a great time at the pitch & putt course, where you can get the hang of swinging an iron.
For something more long form, Pine Knoll is a traditional par 3, with 18 holes, right around the corner from Fenway Golf.
Added to all this is a driving range, up to 300 yards, with plenty of targets to aim for, as well as batting cages with six speed settings, and a snack bar for soft serve, fro-yo and savory bites like burgers and hot dogs.
14. Keep Homestead Museum
If you’d like to dip a little further into the area’s history, this historic house in Monson is open on the first Sunday of the month, April to December.
The Keep family has deep ties with the Monson, and were among the first Europeans to settle the area at the turn of the 18th century.
The Keep Homestead has elements dating from 1749, and was transformed twice in the 19th century, in 1820 and 1863.
The building is more or less unchanged since then, and was in the Keep family for 150 years until the last resident, Myra Keep, deeded it to the town in the 1980s.
She was an avid collector, and as you tour the homestead you’ll see the historical artifacts and geological specimens that she gathered, as well as Keep family possessions, for an intimate portrait of local domestic life in the 19th and early 20th century.
15. Echo Hill Orchards & Winery
Established in 1948, this family-owned orchard opens for a long pick-your-own season, but also uses its fruits to make a variety of wines and spirits, served on site.
Growing at Echo Hill Orchards are apples, pears, peaches, pumpkins and sunflowers, as well as an assortment of wildflowers.
The scenery is splendid here, and can be enjoyed on a tractor ride out to the picking areas, while the gift shop sells everything from apple cider to handmade candles.
Finally, tastings are available for a small fee at the winery/distillery, which produces an array of whiskeys, moonshines and other spirits. This spot stays open until around Christmas, and is visited by local food trucks on weekend evenings.