The Cat in the Hat. Goodnight Moon. Where the Wild Things Are.
You know...the stories from your childhood. And while you might not remember exactly what the stories were about, you'd be able to pick those images out in a storybook line up, no problem.
The beauty of children's books is often in the artwork. And the beauty of the artwork is that you don't have to be a child to enjoy it.
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art has all kinds of art that can be enjoyed by kids, parents, and kids at heart. And it's just a quick drive from Albany.
The 40,000 square-foot space has three wings dedicated to the picture book artwork that has remained in our collective memories since childhood. The iconic caterpillar made famous by Carle in 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' is the veritable 'Mickey Mouse' of this museum and can be found on just about everything there. (There's even a VW beetle painted as the caterpillar. If you spot it around town you can win free passes to the museum.)
The west gallery is a permanent exhibit of Eric Carle's work. Here you can see the first copies of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' (originally Willie the Worm) and see some of Eric Carle's childhood artwork (kind of makes me thing twice about tossing out my daughter's preschool projects). The other two galleries currently feature works by Tomie DePaola (think Strega Nona) and the original artwork from the Winnie the Pooh books.
While I originally thought this would be more of a 'kids' museum, I found myself taking my time in the galleries. My kids...not so much. They preferred the Reading Library (with its story time) and the Art Studio where they could choose to make a directed art project or get creative on their own.
The gift shop here is awesome. I'm a big museum gift store person in general, but if you like children's books, Eric Carle, hungry caterpillars, or quirky tote bags, this is the place to go. They have a unique selection of hard to find picture books and other book related gifts.
The nice thing about this museum is that it is not so big and overwhelming -- you won't need to spend a whole day there. With other cool destinations nearby (Northampton, Trader Joe's, The Dr. Seuss Memorial Garden in Springfield, Trader Joe's...ahem) you can spend about two hours here and feel that you have seen it all. If the weather is nice, I would suggest a stroll around the grounds with its views and apple orchard.
If you're planning on going to 'The Carle Café', which they make sound very cool on the website, check ahead for the hours. When we visited it was closed and there were no closings posted on the website. I was really looking forward to their famed caterpillar cookies (they have a hole in them) but had to settle for an old granola bar in my bag until we could figure something else out. Luckily, there is a huge Country Market right around the corner, so we were able to have an impromptu picnic on the grounds.
Overall, this is a fun day trip. You really get a chance to appreciate artwork that often goes unnoticed and it's a beautiful drive, especially as the leaves start changing.
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
125 West Bay Road
Amherst , MA 01002
Adult admission $9
Youth (under 18), Student, Teacher and Senior Admission $6
Family Admission (2 adults and 2 youth) $22.50
10 am – 4 pm Tuesday through Friday
10 am – 5 pm Saturday
12 – 5 pm Sundays
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