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Northampton (Massachusetts)

Travel Guide North America USA Northeastern United States New England Massachusetts Northampton

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Introduction

Northampton is oft and aptly referred to in literature as "Paradise"[1], home of Smith College and several other wonders of the world. A cultural capital of New England, "NoHo," as the locals call it, attracts artists of all varieties and great intellectual minds.

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Sights and Activities

  • The Calvin Theater and Iron Horse Music Hall host internationally renowned performers and brilliant new acts.
  • The Pleasant Street Theater is an old fashioned art house cinema with a big heart, showing great films.
  • The Academy of Music hosts a range of events throughout the year from plays to benefits to sing-along performances of Cabaret!
  • Thornes Marketplace attracts visitor for its fascinating architectural history as well as over a dozen venues: bookshop, boutiques, a restaurant, an organic market, and the famous Herrell's Ice Cream. If it's a nice take, take it outside and explore the many other offerings of Main Street, including Faces and numerous galleries.
  • Smith College, the largest – and arguably oldest – women's college in the US, is perhaps the best resource in Northampton. The college's libraries are open to the public, the Botanical Gardens and Greenhouse offer exhibits and events throughout the year, and the Smith College Museum of Art has an impressive permanent collection and hosts fabulous exhibits. Many lectures, performances, and other events hosted by the college are open to the public, and simply a walk through campus is in itself a joy! The campus is an arboretum designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, and each building was designed to reflect the architectural fashion of the era in which it was built, turning the campus into an architectural history lesson. Be sure not to miss Paradise Pond!

In the Valley and Beyond

Amherst (don't pronounce the "h"), is home to the Emily Dickinson House and Museum and Hampshire College, Amherst College and University of Massachusetts Amherst. These three colleges along with Smith College and Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley make up the Five College Consortium.

Well worth the short trip if you have a car or can bum a ride, Shelbourne Falls is just up I-91, and offers the stunning Bridge of Flowers and some amazing geological formations as well as a cute little town.

Not far from Shelbourne Falls is North Adams and the incredible Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts (Mass MoCA).

A little further on is Williamstown, home to Williams College and the college's fine Art Museum (WCMA).

Of course the Yankee Candle Factory is also in the area, but that is not recommended. Historic Deerfield (in Deerfield) is, however, well worth mentioning. The open-air history museum has a number of fascinating sites and events.

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Events and Festivals

Every Saturday morning from about April through October, a Farmers' Market runs nearly the length of Gothic St. selling local flowers, fruit, vegetables, herbs, honey, baked goods, milk, cheese, and other treats!

NoHo celebrates pride too, with her own Northampton Pride parade at the beginning of May.

The Northampton Independent Film Festival (NIFF) each October brings a fabulous selection of films, short and full length, to venues across the city.

In November, the Paradise City Arts Festival provides a forum for contemporary craft and fine art.

Northampton's "First Night" Celebration takes place each New Year's Eve into New Years, with galleries open, performances, music on the streets, and much partying!

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Weather

Northampton is paradise, primarily in the spring and autumn. Late September through early November is the perfect season to visit the city and enjoy some of the finest fall foliage in the world.

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Getting There

By Plane

With an airport for small aircraft just outside of town, the closest major airport is Bradley International.

By Train

Passenger Trains no longer stop in Northampton, but Amtrak does offer service to Amherst, another lovely city about 7 miles away.

By Car

I-91 goes past Northampton and provides the easiest auto-access to the city.

By Bus

Peter Pan and Greyhound run through (and stop in) Northampton, with easy access to Boston and New York, nearly every hour.

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Getting Around

By Public Transport

The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA or "puta" as the locals call it) provides bus service to the Pioneer Valley and beyond.

By Foot

Northampton is extremely pedestrian friendly, often to the chagrin of motorists, who would rather not stop every 50 meters for a cross walk. Not only is walking the most practical transportation for Northampton, but also the most enjoyable, giving you time to enjoy the little wonders at each turn.

By Bike

If you've brought your own bike, you're all set to enjoy the bike-friendly city and the bike paths branching off in several directions (check out the Norwottuck Rail Trail). If you need to rent one, then the closest places to go are Valley Bicycle in Hadley and Valley Bicycle in Amherst. Or if you are looking for a long-term rental, the Smith College Bicycle Kitchen rents bikes for $15/semester.

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Eat

Northampton has a wealth of delicious restaurants! The very best (all on Main St.) are:

  • Lhasa Café cooks up the best Tibetan food in the world. Their lunch special is the best deal in town, but the dinner menu is well worth a splurge, especially for the Mo-Mos (dumplings)! Their spicy sauce is to die for and their noodle dishes are the perfect antidote to a snowy Northampton night. Their fried rice is unbelievably rich and filling, and the lentil soup is refreshing and delicious. To top it all off, try their chai, a Himachili/Tibetan spiced tea that completes any meal.
  • Whether for brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, or a late night baklava and Turkish coffee, Amanouz Café is a perfect choice with a wide range of North African and Mediterranean cuisine. Especially given that theirs must be the smallest kitchen in town, Amanouz has an unbelievably extensive menu for all meals, and the flexibility to create exactly what you want. For brunch, their omelets, served with a Portuguese muffin, are amazing. For lunch, try one of their salads or sandwiches. Their fruit crepes are fantastic, and the best starter is by far their crepe d'oignon. The Royal Feast and Lentil soup with warm baguette are bound to please, and the Moroccan mint tea is delightful!
  • If it's just a simple slice of pizza you are looking for, do Not go to Pinocchio's Pizza! Pinocchio's slices & pies are far from ordinary, with creative combinations and the best ingredients. Reviewer's pick: the Black Bean & Queso Pizza.
  • La Veracruzana has no right being in Massachussetts: the restaurant is simply too good. From the decor to the salsas, La Vercruzana got it just right.
  • Impeccable service and clear, fresh flavors are Thai Garden's finest qualities. The romantic atmosphere and authentic dishes are frosting on the cake. Order the Green Papaya Salad and Red Curry for a tantalizing mixture of textures and flavors.
  • Oh, and don't miss NoHo's famous Harrell's Ice Cream in Thornes Marketplace! (Now with a branch in Boston). A diversity of flavors, including Cinco de Mayo Jalapeño, which changes daily, makes each visit unique: uniquely delicious!

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Drink

  • Tunnel Bar.
  • Haymarket on Main St. is hip, with fabulous drinks (especially their smoothies), an excellent menu (their sandwiches and quesadillas make a perfect lunch, and you can't go wrong with their breakfast and brunch options). The art and ambiance are half the charm, and the clientele the other half, so you may not get much interneting in!
  • Upscale, with a more subdued yet urban feel, and interesting, earthy baked goods, you have Woodstar Cafe on Masonic St.
  • The newcomer to the NoHo café scene is Yellow Sofa. With live music, poetry readings, or some such most nights, and an interesting collection of cards and gifts for sale, this café is fast gaining popularity.
  • Northampton Coffee on Pleasant St. has great drinks (their iced teas in summer are like a fresh breeze) and a classy interior. Away from the bustle of the center of town, this café is a favorite among students actually wanting to study, and professors grading papers.

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Sleep

Budget

A number of reasonable B&Bs in Northampton and the surrounding towns offer reasonable, comfortable lodging.

Mid-Range

The Autumn Inn has a range of lodging options for a moderate budget.

Upscale

Hotel Northampton is the place to stay for any special occasion. Romantic, elegant, and welcoming, Hotel Northampton is right in the center of town, in a beautiful historic building. Be sure also to visit their tavern, which boasts a fun bar every day of the year and delicious menus for special occasions.

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Learn

Smith College is obviously at the center of Northampton's educational world, but another important school in the city's history and identity is the Clarke School For the Deaf‎.

The International Language Institute offers free English classes, intensive English courses from the introductory level on up as well as the TESOL certificate and courses on teaching English. In addition, they offer courses in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and German.

Center for New Americans is a non-profit organization offering immigrants, refugees or limited English speakers free English and Computer classes. The center also offers help with citizenship and employment.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

References

  1. 1 Swedish Nightingale Jenny Lind called Northampton "the Paradise of America."

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This is version 30. Last edited at 11:38 on Jul 11, 13 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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