Northampton is oft and aptly referred to in literature as "Paradise", 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.
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.
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!
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.
With an airport for small aircraft just outside of town, the closest major airport is Bradley International.
Passenger Trains no longer stop in Northampton, but Amtrak does offer service to Amherst, another lovely city about 7 miles away.
I-91 goes past Northampton and provides the easiest auto-access to the city.
The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA or "puta" as the locals call it) provides bus service to the Pioneer Valley and beyond.
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.
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.
Northampton has a wealth of delicious restaurants! The very best (all on Main St.) are:
A number of reasonable B&Bs in Northampton and the surrounding towns offer reasonable, comfortable lodging.
The Autumn Inn has a range of lodging options for a moderate budget.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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