A Day Trip to Northampton

I love day trips in the spring.  One of my favorites is Northampton, a 2-hour drive from Boston.  I am partial to the area since I went to school there, but even if you didn’t, the interesting mix of shops, galleries, restaurants, outdoor activities and music venues make this an ideal spot for a day trip or weekend getaway.

On a recent weekend, Husband and I started our morning at the Smith College Museum of Art.  I love this museum: it’s easy to take in most of the exhibits in about an hour.  The breadth of the collection is impressive: offering everything from John Singer Sargent to Saira Wasim.

If art museums are not your thing, the Botanical Gardens are great.  This time of year, the boathouse is also open to rent canoes and paddle around Paradise Pond.

After a short walk through campus, we headed to town to find some lunch and go shopping.  We found the Green Bean, a café that sources most of its ingredients from New England businesses and proudly touts gluten-free and vegan offerings. 

The Green Bean is a very standard Northampton café.  The walls are decorated with local art for purchase.  The seating is basic benches and wooden chairs, not super comfortable, but bearable.  The menu is simple: breakfast and lunch fare, as well as smoothies, coffees and sodas.

Our waitress was very friendly and when I asked about gluten-free options she was very knowledgeable and friendly.  She was able to point out several options on the menu without any hesitation.  Even some of their pancakes were gluten-free.  I opted for the vegan chili and a vegan johnnycake (basically a pancake made from cornmeal and water).  Husband ordered a tuna salad sandwich.

Husband liked his sandwich and said it was very flavorful.

The johnnycake was delicious.  It was served with maple syrup and butter (you can get vegan butter).  It was soft in the middle and just a little crunchy around the edges.  It was like cornbread, just less buttery. Vegan Chili and Johnny Cake

The chili was flavorful.  There was a nice mix of different beans, which gave the dish texture.  While the chili was not spicy, it had a nice balance of smoky chipotle and sweet tomatoes, topped with green onion.   I ended up adding tons of sriacha.

Overall, this was a great spot for a quick lunch in Northampton.  I would also recommend the famous Sylvester’s, which does have gluten-free bread, though their hours make it a little hard to stop in for a late lunch (they close at 2 pm).

Afterwards, we explored the shops around town.  I especially like Sid Vintage and Ode for clothing.

I highly recommend visiting Silverscape Design: even if you are do not plan to purchase any jewelry.  The store is housed in an impressive Art Deco bank building.  The owners have retained many of the original fixtures, including the vault and some stunning stained glass ceilings.

Under the bridge running through downtown is a huge antique store.  The store is fully of furniture, jewelry and junk.  It features both Leonard Baskin prints and a seriously moldy smell.

I was sad to see that my favorite thing about Northampton has begun to change, slowly, but surely.  When I lived in Northampton it was pretty much exclusively local shops. There were really no chain stores aside from Starbucks and CVS on Main Street (though some of the side streets had chain stores).  Sadly, an Urban Outfitters and Dunkin’ Donuts have started to change the character of the main drag and kind of ruins the uniqueness of the downtown.

Before you go, you may want to see if the Academy of Art is putting on any productions or unusual movies/film festivals.  The Academy is a semi-opulent old theater building that an eclectic mix of movies and plays.  I saw Nosferatu, the silent movie classic there with a live band playing the score.  It was great, I loved experiencing an old movie that had previously put me to sleep as someone in 1922 would have experienced it.  The movie went from dull to fascinating.  There is so set score, the musicians have the power to change the music and therefore the mood or experience of the movie.

On our way home, we hit up the new Wegman’s in Northborough.  Wegman’s has an incredible selection of gluten-free food, including chicken nuggets.  I can’t wait for the next location to open on Route 9 in Newton.