Jan 142017
 
Behold, the castle of Northampton, Massachusetts!

Behold, the castle of Northampton, Massachusetts!

Fun weekend getaways within two hours from Boston have become my new passion, since having two kids under 4 years old makes a simple trip out the front door of our house seem like a complex rocket expedition. How thrilled am I, therefore, to finally discover Northampton and its surrounding goodies in Hampshire County, Massachusetts!

Even the mannequins are colorful and happy here!

Even the mannequins are colorful and happy in Northampton.

What makes Northampton — just a two hour drive from Boston — such an ideal spot for a weekend getaway, particularly with kids? First and foremost, it is walkable. Within steps of your hotel (click for details on where we stayed), you can explore dozens and dozens of eateries, museums, shops, all interlaced with charming steeple-and-mountain vistas like the one below. Can you feel the relaxation flowing in already? That expansive feeling of escape is the mark of a great getaway.

Mountains in the distance, steeples up close.

Mountains in the distance, steeples up close.

Want to save money? Spend a whole morning just strolling the streets and ogling the window displays! The disco-ball feathers pictured below were my absolute favorite. Can I get a pile of those to decorate my classroom? I feel this would greatly enhance the learning environment for my 7th grade students. (Either that, or entrance kids so deeply that they spend the whole class hypnotized by a single disco feather.)

Shiny, sparkly, feather window decorations!

Shiny, sparkly, feather window decorations!

Wandering pretty Northampton might make you dangerously hungry, and thus a jaunt into Sylvester’s Restaurant is advisable to maintain your health. Sylvester’s has repeatedly won “Best Breakfast and Brunch in Western Massachusetts,” and on our trip, we soon discovered why.

Quite a welcoming restaurant, eh?

Quite a welcoming restaurant, eh?

My “Community Gardens Benedict” sang a culinary opera with fresh broccoli, caramelized onion, spinach, tomato, poached eggs, AND kale on house-made whole wheat toast. Burp! We also split the California Benedict (I know — Sylvester’s has famous waffles, but we were just in a Benedict-y mood) and savored each morsel of the fluffy goat cheese. It’s important to add that the staff of the restaurant were so kind and friendly, despite our two children being in destruction mode, that this restaurant will always hold a warm place in my heart.

Mmm... "Community Gardens Benedict!"

Mmm… “Community Gardens Benedict!”

For you food history buffs out there, the building that houses Sylvester’s is particularly important: It was the home of the inventor of the Graham Cracker, Sylvester Graham! Since we arrived near Christmas, the restaurant was sporting a jaunty Graham Cracker gingerbread house replica of the edifice.

A Graham Cracker gingerbread house to honor the cracker's creator!

A Graham Cracker gingerbread house to honor the cracker’s creator!

Belly full? Bop down the street towards some culture: the Smith College Museum of Art. “Ah, yes,” you might be saying, “I forgot that Smith College is in Northampton!” Indeed it is, and the college is part of the reason the town is so vibrant, creative, smart, and yummy.

Even the municipal buildings are charming. This is the Hampshire County Courthouse.

Even the municipal buildings are charming. This is the Hampshire County Courthouse.

Back to Smith’s art museum. Founded in the 1870s at the same time as the college, the SCMA has a surprisingly impressive and alluring collection, including Monet, Picasso, and an array of artists from across geography and time. Here are some of my favorites.

An amazing see-through sculpture by Sopheap Pich: Seated Buddha.

A stunning see-through sculpture by Sopheap Pich: Seated Buddha, 2011.

Love the arches in "View of a Palace Courtyard" by Lorenzo Bellotto, 1765.

Love the arches in “View of a Palace Courtyard” by Lorenzo Bellotto, 1765.

A burst of color in "Damascus Gate" by Frank Stella, 1936.

A burst of color in “Damascus Gate” by Frank Stella, 1936.

The museum has lovely light and an airy layout.

The museum has lovely light and an airy layout.

The actual toilets in the museum bathroom are decorated art!

The actual toilets in the museum bathroom are decorated art!

Such a happy statue.

Such a happy statue, echoed by the painting in back.

Even the art museum's gift shop is pretty, including this telephone wire vase.

The art museum’s gift shop is colorful, including this telephone wire vase.

What’s so cool about Northampton, though, is that even outside of the museum, the whole town is art! Just look at this happy rainbow bench on a sidewalk near the center of town:

A rainbow bench.

This rainbow bench exemplifies Northampton’s spirit.

Speaking of rainbows, Northampton’s delightful rainbow crosswalk is not to be missed, and neither is nearby Thornes Marketplace, which boasts a bevy of shops, eateries, and wellness studios. The shops are also a short walk to the Northampton Brewery which was a sweet and spacious place to scarf down our next meal. Yes, they serve lots of food, not just beverages!

This rainbow crosswalk is so jolly!

This rainbow crosswalk is so jolly!

Thornes was where I got the DELICIOUS blueberry balsamic vinegar (shown below in my sweet baby’s iron grip) which is currently encouraging me eat vast quantities of salad, just to taste the condiment’s sweet notes again. In that photo, baby is also displaying goodies from Amherst’s Yiddish Book Center and the Museum of Picture Book Art, but tales of those spots are for my subsequent article. Stay tuned!

So many things to buy and do in Northampton, baby says.

So many things to buy and do in Northampton, baby says.

So, where to stay in Northampton? (Yes, it is definitely worth at least one overnight!) We enjoyed the Hotel Northampton (click to see pricing), and its location in the center of town can’t be beat. The hotel’s two restaurants were lovely, too, and we ate salmon with lavender sauce at Coolidge Park Cafe as the snow drifted magically behind the eatery’s giant glass windows.

The shape of the Menorah echoes the tree and its shadow.

The shape of the Menorah echoes the tree and its shadow.

Other Northampton accommodations include:

Peace on Earth, supplemented with a sun star!

Peace on Earth, supplemented with a sun star and disco balls.

So what about you? Have you ever been to Northampton? If not, does it appeal? If so, what would you add? There is SO much more to the town to explore, and I can’t wait to go back!

Thank you, Northampton!

Thank you, Northampton! We’ll be back soon!

We were guests for some portions of the spots featured above, but all views are my own. Affiliates in this article support this site at no cost to you. Thanks and happy travels!

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Tempted to click another article? Do it...

  22 Responses to “Northampton, MA: Ideal Weekend Getaway from Boston”

  1. I must admit that I wasn’t familiar with Northampton until now so I wanted to personally thank you for introducing it to me! 🙂

  2. It certainly appears that Northhampton has it all.

  3. Oh wow, Northampton looks gorgeous! I’ve never been anywhere in MA except Boston – I’ll definitely have to head back and see some more!

  4. Lovely article. I just had two of my hometown Boston friends visiting me in Western MA this weekend! But you need to mention MUSIC!!! Did you know that Tracy Chapman, Dar Williams and Taj Mahal all got started in Western MA? You really want to plan an evening at the legendary Iron Horse for folk music, blues or whatever is up-and-coming. At the Calvin Theatre you will see artists that demand a bigger venue because so many will turn out, and at the Academy of Music the venue itself is part of the event, a music hall from the 1800’s where Jenny Lind performed and named Northampton “The Paradise City”~~I just saw Arlo Guthrie there 2 months ago. In the summertime catch the great performers like Joan Baez or Bob Dylan at an outdoor venue in Look Park. Just as there’s food, art and clothing for every taste, the music scene is vibrant and you can even catch a live performance at the recording studio Signature Sounds if you plan it well!

  5. What a beautiful area! I can’t imagine trying to get 2 kids under 4 out the door. I have a hard enough time with myself!

  6. Oh it all looks so vibrant and colorful! I haven’t yet been to Boston, but when I do make it there, this getaway will surely be on my list!

  7. What a vibrant city and I LOVE that it is walkable. You are right that is such a big deal when you are traveling with little ones. Adding this one to our list!

  8. The whole town seems to be very cozy, arty and cheerful! A perfect weekend gateway to charge the batteries!

  9. What a cool place! My aunt lives in Amherst, and we’ve visited, but I think it’s time to go back…

  10. You’ve enjoyed a wonderful weekend getaway here! I agree that in the absence of getting away for a longer period of time, long weekend jaunts are perfect for local discoveries. The variety of artwork that’s showcased here is impressive – the art gallery toilet is pretty cool, I must say. 😉

  11. My uncle-in-law lives there, and we keep intending to go to Northampton to visit when we’re in the northeast, but it just hasn’t happened yet. This post makes me realize…our loss!

  12. What a great read! Everyone knows Boston, but not North Hampton- seems like such an eccentric place- bold, full of energy. I will have to take a trip here when I am back on the East Coast.

  13. I love all the pops of color! Really adds character to an already charming looking city!

  14. That is quite funny because I used to live near Northampton in the U.K. And it looks nothing like this, ha ha. I love it though, especially the toilets in the museum.

  15. What a beautiful place. I really like the church and how cool the streets look with all churches lined up, even with snow!

    The museum also has an interesting collection. Great stuff.

  16. What a colourful place. And I really love the Graham Cracker gingerbread house

  17. Aww, Northampton! I went to college for a year at Mount Holyoke, which is very close in South Hadley. Sadly during my entire year at college I never did ANY of this stuff! I guess I need to go back! And obviously when I do I’m going to stay at the llama farm, OMG how amazing is that?!

  18. This is so beautiful and I love the colours.
    I just can’t stop appreciating your flawless usage of the grammer.
    I love to read and learn.
    Thanks for sharing.

  19. I’ve worked at DMG Don Muller Gallery Inc. for 10 years! It’s an amazing showcase of American jewelery and crafts! You can preview the selection at dmgnoho.com but you have to see the space in person for the full effect 😉

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

(required)

(required)