“Northampton…where the coffee is strong and the women are stronger.” Pull into the garage of Thornes Marketplace in offbeat Northampton, MA, and you’ll be greeted by this signifying mantra. Northampton has been a bastion of feminist rebellion and counter-cultural activity for over 140 years. Home to one of the first women’s colleges, Smith, it’s a hub of LGBTQ activism, artistic innovation, and revolutionary music. Drop into town and experience a unique, thriving enclave where women rule and creativity is queen. They don’t call it “Paradise City” for nothing.
Northampton is idyllic, and the city offers tons of outdoor activity options no matter the time of year. Bike the Norwottuck Rail Trail ( 446 Damon Rd.) over the Connecticut River on an old rail bridge, hike Mount Tom (125 Reservation Rd., Holyoke) on a clear day and look out over the valley, rent a boat at the Sportsmans Marina (1 Russell St.) just over the river in Hadley and head out down the Connecticut River, or simply stroll the town from end to end.
BOOZE AND FOOD
For a small town, Northampton is overflowing with international food and beverage options. It also boasts many vegan and vegetarian eateries, like Paul and Elizabeth’s (150 Main St., main level in Thornes Marketplace), which offers a light-filled, lofted space and absurdly tasty risotto cakes. If you’d like another drink after dinner, head downstairs to Con Vino (101 Armory St.), an intimate, exposed-brick cellar wine bar with an extensive wine list and live music. For the carnivores in your group, grab a bite at the Northampton Brewery (11 Brewster Ct.), where you can have a burger with your flight brewed on-site. If spice is more your style, dimly lit Thai Garden (2 Bridge St.) lays out traditional dishes including massaman curry, pad thai, and beef macadamia. Just up the street, casual Cafe Amanouz (44 Main St.) delights with Moroccan dishes like savory tagine, as well as a delicious Sunday brunch. Once you’ve had your fill, head out on the town to one of the many stylish bars.
The Dirty Truth (29 Main St.) is a casual watering hole with an extensive beer selection. Tucked away down a side street, The Green Room (28 Center St.) harkens back to the speakeasy era, serving delicious craft cocktails with a contemporary twist. To end the night, don’t miss the renowned Tunnel Bar (125 Pleasant St. A), an atmospheric martini bar located through a masonry archway in an old, converted rail tunnel.
View from Mount Tom
Northampton has long been on the map for its indie music scene. While in town, check out the Calvin (19 King St.), a classic theater which has featured musicians including Ani DiFranco and Mary Chapin Carpenter. The Iron Horse (20 Center St.) is a cozier venue with a chill atmosphere, and acts like Dar Williams and Melissa Ferrick make their rounds there often. Another option is Pearl Street (10 Pearl St.), which showcases underground and emerging artists. For those into the visual arts, you can visit all the hot galleries during Arts Night Out on the second Friday of every month, or stop by the Smith College Museum of Art (20 Elm St.) for a small but well-curated selection of contemporary and historic art.
Winter brings a need for strong coffee, and Northampton has a cornucopia of indie coffee shops and roasters to choose from. Haymarket (185 Main St.) is a warm, quirky spot (and a central hangout for LGBTQ women), with an art-laden upstairs and a bakery case filled with heavenly vegan and organic confections. The Roost (1 Market St.) sits just off the main drag and provides a rustic modern atmosphere with late hours, when beer and wine join coffee on the menu. If you prefer locally roasted beans, stop by Shelburne Falls’ (124 King St.) yellow hut, which has many fair trade and seasonal varieties of coffee.
Northampton is home to numerous independent shops owned by locals, including many women. A fantastic first stop is Thornes Marketplace (150 Main St.), a multi-level indie shopping center with home goods and clothing stores, the countercultural bookstore Booklink Booksellers, and surplus store Acme, plus chocolatiers and cupcake artisans. Across the street from Thornes, you’ll find Faces (175 Main St.), selling political T-shirts, off-beat home items, and hipster threads. Just a few doors down, Shop Therapy (189 Main St.) has wall-to-wall hippie gear with a head shop upstairs. If craftsmanship is more your style, check out Pinch (179 Main St.) for locally made ceramics, paintings, and glasswork. Or visit Essentials (88 Main St.) for handmade stationery.
By Lindsay Valentin
Photographed by Megan Haley
Top photo: View from Mount Tom
This article originally appeared in the February/March 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
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