Western Massachusetts: Where to Enjoy the Summer

Music on the streets in June 2015, downtown Easthampton, Mass. Max Hartshorne photos.
Music on the streets in June 2015, downtown Easthampton, Mass. Max Hartshorne photos.

Western Massachusett’s Best Towns for Summer Fun

By Max Hartshorne, GoNOMAD Editor

A busker on Northampton's Main Street, where more than 90 restaurants and many music clubs attract thousands of visitors.A busker on Northampton’s Main Street, where more than 90 restaurants and many music clubs attract thousands of visitors.Massachusetts is so full of fantastic places it’s hard to nail down just a few. But we have selected four of Western Massachusetts’s most wonderful places to visit this summer.

As the publishers of the GoNOMAD Travel website, based in South Deerfield MA, we get to visit lots and lots of great destinations around the world, but we’re always happy to return to our Pioneer Valley, which we think is the best place to live on Earth.

Downtown Northampton

Few small cities in the state can rival the number of restaurants, art galleries and especially, live music venues that can be found in Northampton. That’s why on any weeknight, you’ll find the small crescent-shaped Main Street full of visitors from Connecticut and from every small town around, enjoying a stroll by the shops and drinking in cafes, and enjoying live music in many venues, small and large.

There used to be a food festival called The Taste of Northampton—but there were so many restaurants participating that it outgrew the small parking lot behind Main Street where it was held, and the festival stopped in the late ‘90s. Today, you can find more than 90 restaurants serving every kind of cuisine—and live music at half a dozen venues, from the world famous Iron Horse Music Hall, to the two-level Hinge bar, to jazz in at the Clarion Hotel, or the coziness of the 50-seat Parlor Room. Read more about Northampton.

Amherst

Across the Connecticut River is another wonderful place for summer fun. What’s interesting is how the residents of this town, Amherst, so rarely travel over the Coolidge Bridge, and vice versa. Amherst is famous for its large town common, where groups hold various fairs and festivals throughout the year.

Unlike Northampton, Amherst still holds an annual Taste of Amherst every June, where bands play and the restaurants set up pop-up tents to share small bites and large plates of their various specialties. Music and a speed-eating contest liven up the mix.

Amherst is also famous for Emily Dickinson, the reclusive poet who lived in a house that’s been restored near the town center. Visitors flock to see the room where wrote her famous poetry, and next door is the restored home of her brother Austin. Japanese visitors especially find the Dickinson homestead a must visit, and if you like her poetry, you too should check it out, on Main Street.

Tanglewood in Lenox

At Tanglewood, some women wear dresses and hats and everyone brings a fancy picnic to enjoy on the lawn while the BSO plays in the Shed.
At Tanglewood, some women wear dresses and hats and everyone brings a fancy picnic to enjoy on the lawn while the BSO plays in the Shed.

In Lenox during the summer, the music flows up from Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony. There might be no better place in the world to enjoy a picnic and listen to some of the world’s best musicians than on a summer evening or a sultry Sunday afternoon at this gorgeous outdoor venue.

You can bring an elegant picnic (don’t forget the candles and wine!) or you can buy everything you need right at Tanglewood. This is some of the loveliest grass you’ve ever sat on, and the sweeping views of the Berkshire foothills are magnificent.

Grab a spot on the lawn, put down your blankets, and as soon as the bell rings, the place becomes as quiet at as a tomb—nobody talks when the crystal clear notes begin to waft out of the Shed, the seating area where you can get closer to the musicians. But for $12 you can sit out on the lawn and enjoy the music, instead of paying up to $110 for the seats in the shed. www.bso.org

Up and Coming Easthampton

Easthampton is the country cousin of sophisticated Northampton. But by now it’s all grown up, and there is a rocking fun scene over in this burg, with its own Cottage Street music scene, and now, a new boardwalk that runs around a pond in the downtown. Luthier’s Coop is a guitar store where live music is served, and there are are many breweries in town too.  Soon Luthiers will be even better as they are taking over the shop next door for a new seating area.

One of them, Abandoned Building Brewing, is located right on the bike path that connects Easthampton with Northampton. Check out Mount Tom for homemade ice cream and for some great food, try Galaxy or Coco, two great local restaurants.

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Max Hartshorne
Max Hartshorne has been the editor and publisher of GoNOMAD Travel in South Deerfield Mass since 2002. He worked for newspapers and other sales positions for 23 years until he finally got what he wanted, and became the editor at GoNOMAD. He travels regularly, enjoys publishing new writers, and watching his grandchildren grow up.
Max Hartshorne

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