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!
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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, 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.
Other Northampton accommodations include:
- The Fairfield Inn Northampton/Amherst: A solid option
- Sugar Maple Trailside Inn: A well-reviewed B&B
- These condo and home rentals: Nice and affordable, especially for groups
- This LLAMA FARM?! (We almost stayed here, and I’m so intrigued!)
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!
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!