What to do and where to go in western, MA
January 9, 2009 10:09 AM   Subscribe

What should I do and where should I visit in the Amherst area during my short stay next week?

I've got an interview in western Mass, specifically Deerfield, early next week. I'll likely have Tuesday evening til Wednesday early afternoon to explore the area, get a feel for it, and check out some of the surrounding towns.

Where should I go? Amherst? Northampton? Holyoke? Hadley? I'll be driving up so getting around shouldn't be an issue.

Any specific spots I should check out in these areas?

posted by pilibeen to Travel & Transportation around Massachusetts (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You could just wander around the local college campuses, maybe see about getting official campus tours. I like to do that (even being out of college) just to see what they say, and hear about the local history.

Northampton is a cute town, and Amherst has some cute shops in it, not to mention The Emily Dickinson House if you're into history/literature.
posted by knile at 10:27 AM on January 9, 2009

Since you're going to be in Deerfield you should check out the Yankee Candle Factory. It's pretty bananas.
posted by moxiedoll at 10:30 AM on January 9, 2009

Best answer: That's not a lot of time. I'd spend Tuesday evening in either Amherst or Northampton, and then Wednesday, during the day, in the other.

You'll see all that you need to know about Hadley by driving through it on your way from Amherst to Northampton or vice versa.

Given your short visit, I think that you could skip Holyoke and Greenfield entirely.

There are a wide variety of dining/entertainment options, depending on what you're into.

In Northampton, I'd recommend: Sierra Grille, Eastside Grill, Packard's, La Veracruzana, Bueno Y Sano.

In Amherst: Judie's, Amherst Brewing Company, La Veracruzana, Bueno Y Sano.

Ohhh ... I just noticed that Bill Frissell is at The Iron Horse in Northampton on Tuesday night. (http://www.iheg.com/). If you feel like taking in some of the best live music that the area has to offer, that's a must.

Feel free to MeMail me, if you have any specific questions about stuff to do.
posted by TurkishGolds at 10:44 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The action is all in Northampton if you ask me. Definitely a better selection of good restaurants. The Smith College art museum has some quality holdings that avoid cliche. The Iron Horse almost always books interesting acts. And the Academy of Music is a beautiful enough hall that it's worth a visit on its own merits - regardless of what's playing there.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:07 AM on January 9, 2009

I second the Emily Dickinson House in Amherst, and if you're into bookstores, let me know—there are a bunch of great ones in the area (Troubadour Books, at 336 West St. in North Hatfield, is one of the best used book stores I've ever been in).
posted by languagehat at 11:16 AM on January 9, 2009

Ain't much to do in Holyoke, unless you like blight or drugs. There's really not much to do in Greenfield, either, although it's not an awful place. Northampton is the best for just random browsing -- you can kill hours on Pleasant Street buying books and records and whatever else. You can't go wrong there. Amherst is basically just a toned-down version of the same, but it can be annoying to get all the way over there on Route 9.

If you make it down to Springfield (my ancestral home), there's always White Hut. Worth a trip out of your way.

Scenery-wise, there's a lot of nice towns near Greenfield -- Turner's Falls is one of my favorites. A great place to walk around. Brattleboro is fun, too, for a day trip, although it's not that happening.
posted by zvs at 11:46 AM on January 9, 2009

Best answer: I would go to Northampton and walk around--wicked cute little town w/ great shops. The art museum on Smith College's campus is definitely worth checking out. Not sure if it will be open because it's probably winter break, but give it a try. A soak in an outdoor hot tub at East Heaven is blissful. Get a big ol' burrito at Bueno y Sano.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 12:51 PM on January 9, 2009

"Given your short visit, I think that you could skip Holyoke and Greenfield entirely."

I'd agree with this, unless you're interviewing at one of the schools in Deerfield, in which case you should at least drive around in Greenfield and South Deerfield. You could easily miss them entirely, but they'll be important to your life if you move there, especially for a residential job.

I'd suggest driving from Greenfield east along rt. 2/2a to Riverside then across the river into Turners Falls and Montague, getting a look at the dams there, then when you head back into Deerfield, turn left and head onto River Road and drive down the other side of the Pocomtuck Ridge along the CT River. This will give you a sense of the more expanded lay of the land outside the 5 & 10 and I 91 Tunnel.

I too would recommend a trip to the Yankee Candle Store (unless you have bad allergies... the sents can be aggravating), but maybe not on so short a trip.
posted by Jahaza at 2:01 PM on January 9, 2009

Best answer: Agreeing with Jahaza: The dams and hydropower plant in Turner's Falls are *very* cool. There's apparently a digital media studio or something getting built there. It's right next to Greenfield, which will give you a feel for the funky-yet-gritty Valley resident.


Northampton is still the king of downtowns around here. Haymarket Cafe is my favorite coffee joint- spend an hour in there people watching. You'll get a good feel for the kinda absolutely darling or insanely annoying people who live up here.

Modern Myths is a fabulous comic shop. Raven books and the entirety of Thorne's Market could fill an hour or two of browsing. Hungry Ghost Bread must be seen to be believed- a big, wood-fired, low-tech artisan bread place. There's at least four good spots for vegetarian food, awesome Argentine steak and local ice cream.

All this Northampton stuff is walkable and largely on Main St. if you park in one of the municipal lots. I recommend the ones slightly further back from downtown. They're about three blocks off and *fifteen* cents an hour. Cheeeeeaaap.
posted by clango at 2:13 PM on January 9, 2009

oh! This may be dumb, but I've *always* wanted to go to Magic Wings. It's basically a big hothouse full of butterflies.

posted by clango at 2:15 PM on January 9, 2009

come visit the montague bookmill... very beautiful.... not too far from deerfield
posted by geos at 2:25 PM on January 9, 2009

Seconding everything that Clango says.

To add some details (all in Northampton):

Vegetarian = Haymarket, Paul & Elizabeth's, Bella

Awesome Argentinian Steak = Caminito

Local Ice Cream = Herrell's
posted by TurkishGolds at 2:40 PM on January 9, 2009

Best answer: Definitely Northampton.

Pizza Paradiso on Crafts (I think) is our go-to. Fundining.com has all the restaurants owned by this guy--worst URL choice ever, so I remember it so--best URL ever??? But he owns several of the restaurants mentioned here and you can check out menus if you want. I think they aren't easily found on Google, which I guess is the downside of that URL.

Anyway, interesting pizzas and pastas, nice atmosphere, good wine, not atrociously expensive. Then Bishops Lounge or Tunnel bar for drinks, over on (I think) Pearl Street--but anyone can direct you. Everything safe and walkable. Bishops and Tunnel Bar are upscale in atmosphere but I wouldn't say in price or clientele. You'll feel like you did something special. If you smoke, Bishops has an outdoor balcony where you can smoke. Tunnel Bar has leather chairs like the kind you'd imagine Thurston Howell sitting in and drinks to match, but it's fun, not snooty. It's an old train tunnel, so it's kind of neat to sit in it and be surrounded by the cool stones and candlelight and so on.

(BTW, Deerfield's about fifteen, twenty minutes up 91 from Northampton, so it's pretty uncomplicated.)

(Also, I bet Magic Wings would be fun for a daytime thing in the winter, as someone mentions above.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:20 PM on January 9, 2009

If you don't go to the bookmill, you will not have spent your time wisely.
posted by OmieWise at 3:38 PM on January 9, 2009

Best answer: There are already a lot of good suggestions here.

If you want to go on a short hike, you can go up to the Summit House in the Holyoke Range. I don't know what the snow looks like right now, so use your judgment.

Since you'll be in Deerfield for your interview, Deerfield Village might be fun to see. It is a small village of houses built mainly in the 1700s. There is also a small museum.

A favorite bakery in Northampton is the Normand Bakery (link to yelp reviews, bakery is website-less) which has really great bread and croissants.

If you do get over to the Smith College campus, in addition to the art museum, I might suggest checking out their greenhouse. It is impressive and can provide a good antidote to the cold of winter.

Good luck on your interview.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:45 PM on January 9, 2009

Best answer: If you don't go to the bookmill, you will not have spent your time wisely.

If what you want in a bookstore is a quaint converted mill with a place to eat, this may be true. If what you want in a bookstore is books, the Bookmill is very far from a must-visit, especially since it's out of the way (note the motto: "...a place you can't find"). Amherst Books, for instance, is better, and it's just down the road from the Emily Dickinson House. (Note: the Bookmill used to be considerably better before it changed hands.)
posted by languagehat at 5:05 PM on January 9, 2009

Response by poster: Wow.......thanks for all the suggestions. I might have to extend my stay so I can fit it all in.

So which of the restaurants is the type of place where I won't feel weird sitting by myself, or where I can just grab something and eat while walking down the street? Bueno Y Sano, maybe?

I'm going to take the advice of the majority and focus on Amherst/Northampton. I'll probably have the most time Wednesday, so maybe I'll save that for Northampton. The conservatory and gardens at Smith's College sound like exactly the thing I'd be into.

I'm gonna print the thread out and bring it along.....I'll be sure to mark favorites when I get back...Thanks all!
posted by pilibeen at 6:37 PM on January 9, 2009

Do you eat meat? Go to Bub's Barbecue! (WARNING, SITE MAKES NOISE)

Cider Donuts at Atkins!

Check out the Book Mill! Oh, I guess that was mentioned...

Take a hike!

I love the Valley.

Bueno Y Sano is great for quick cheap eats, but frankly, not anything that so special that you should have a meal there if your time is tight, IMHO (and this is coming from someone who went there all the time, I love that place). Although I guess you'd be completely fine not feeling weird eating alone there, relative to some other fancy-pants place.

Umm...what kind of food do you like?

Oh, I also like the Thai place in Northampton just before the train underpass a lot, I forget what it's called.
posted by dubitable at 9:57 PM on January 9, 2009

Best answer: Eating by yourself?

Haymarket, la Veracruzana, Local Burger, Bueno y Sano, Pinocchio's, Sam's Pizza, Green Bean and the little cafe inside Thorne's are all super casual places you could comfortably eat alone.

If you're up LATE, the only dependably 24-hour diner is the Fillin' Station in Whately. It's a small truck stop off 91 not far from the Yankee Candle exits. It's... a diner. But it's beautiful, dependable and friendly.

Whately Diner / Fillin' Station

Fri/Sat late night eats are Sam's Pizza and (I think) Local Burger in Northampton. IIRC, 3am on weekends. Probably 10pm other nights.


Another FYI- there is good 3G coverage in the Noho downtown area. Haymarket has pretty good open wifi. So does Northampton Coffee, kind of on the opposite end of downtown. (the quieter end)

If you're in need of business services/copies/prints/emergency resum├ęs, Amherst has Collective Copies and Northampton has the amazing Paradise Copies. I'm not aware of any Kinkos in the area.

If you're looking for travel essentials on the cheap Acme Surplus in Thorne's is a really nice dollar-ish type store. Tools, stationery, some clothing, all super cheap. Cornucopia is a health food store, also in Thorne's. Excellent vegetarian, local food and stellar supplement selection.

WEBS Yarn store (yarn.com) is also in Northampton if you or a friend is really into knitting. They have a ridiculous selection, including handmade yarns.
posted by clango at 9:22 PM on January 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

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