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Western Massachusetts is so full of fantastic destinations that it’s hard to pick just a few.
But we’ve managed to narrow our list down to four locations, all of which are wonderful spots 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 places around the world.
We’re always happy to return to our Pioneer Valley, though, which we think is the best place to live on Earth.
In the heart of the Pioneer Valley by Kindra Clineff
Few small cities in the state can rival the number of restaurants, art galleries and (especially) live music venues in Northampton.
That’s why, on any weeknight, you’ll find the small, crescent-shaped Main Street full of visitors from Connecticut and every surrounding small town, enjoying the shops, the cafes, and live music in many settings, small and large.
Music on Main Street in Northampton
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, and the festival stopped in the late ‘90s.
Today, you can find more than 90 restaurants serving every kind of cuisine—plus live music at half a dozen venues, from the world-famous Iron Horse Music Hall to the two-level Hinge bar to jazz at the Clarion Hotel.
The Academy of Music is one more excellent place to see a show in Northampton
Across the Connecticut River is another great destination for summer fun. What’s interesting is how the residents of this town, Amherst, so rarely travel over the Coolidge Bridge, and vice versa.
Jones Public Library in Amherst, MA by Lynne Graves
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 restaurants set up tents to share their specialties in small bites and large plates. 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.
Dining Room in the Emily Dickinson Museum
Visitors flock to see the room where wrote her famous poetry, and next door is the restored home of her brother Austin. Japanese visitors in particular often 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
During summertime in Lenox, the music floats up from Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony. I’m not sure there’s a better place in the world to enjoy a picnic while listening to some of the world’s best musicians on a summer evening or sultry Sunday afternoon than this gorgeous outdoor venue.
A little cello music at Tanglewood
You can bring an elegant picnic (don’t forget the candles and wine!) or you can buy everything you need on site. This is some of the loveliest grass you’ve ever sat on, and the sweeping views of the Berkshire foothills are magnificent.
Tanglewood in twilight
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 located closer to the musicians.
For $12, you can also sit out on the lawn and enjoy the music, rather than paying up to $110 for the seats in the shed.
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 in this burg, thanks to its own Cottage Street music presence, and now, a new boardwalk that runs around a pond in the downtown.
Cottage Street Festival in Easthampton, MA
Luthier’s Co-Op is a guitar store where live music is served, and there are plenty of breweries in town, too. One of them, Abandoned Building Brewing, is located right on the bike path that connects Easthampton with Northampton.
Max Hartshorne is an Editor at GoNomad.com, a South Deerfield-based travel website. You can follow them on Twitter @GoNOMAD.
Photo at the top by Tim Grafft.