So you’re in the Valley going to college and you haven’t found your fav spots yet. You haven’t found a mechanic or a hairdresser you trust. Some of you are new to the area, some of you are new to being out on your own, and some of you are both. That’s a hard boat to sail, Valley college-goer, so here’s a lifesaver.


The Digs. Furnishing your new place takes a streak of creativity, but also some thrifty thinking. Sure, you can run to the nearest Target for cheap pillowcases, lightbulbs, and a heavy-duty coffee grinder. But you can also punch up your pad by adding some small modern item from Fly By Night in Northampton or KW Home in Easthampton. Alternatively, consider a charming antique or two from The Trading Post in Amherst, or a piece of art from Kestrel in Northampton for that crafty home-and-garden touch.

Haircuts. If you’re thinking of trying out a new hairstyle, or even if you just need a reliable trim, consider Bucci in Northampton and Amherst, where haircuts start at $12. The Chopping Block in Amherst is another good spot. They also offer student discounts. If you want an old-fashioned barbershop experience, check out the fairly priced Angelo’s in Northampton, The Friendly Barber Shop in West Springfield, or Razor’s Edge in Easthampton.

Into thrifting? Roz’s Place in Northampton has the glam-funk niche market cornered. For more mainstream secondhand items, Savers in Springfield is a warehouse of options. New2You Family Boutique in Sunderland provides clean and reliable consignment clothing, as do Cinderelli’s in South Hadley and Urban Exchange in Northampton. The Valley also has several Salvation Army and Goodwill locations to explore, should you want to dive into some truly unruly racks. Just don’t sing that Macklemore song.

Bookworms rejoice. Finding a good read in the Valley is easier than ever. Stop into World Eye Books in Greenfield or downtown Northampton mainstays like Broadside Books and Booklink Booksellers. Check out the event calendar at Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley. Or go the used-book route and dig through the shelves at Red Brick Books in Springfield (they also have new books), Raven Used Books in Northampton, Grey Matter Books in Hadley, Federal Street Books in Greenfield, or the day trip-worthy Montague Bookmill, which is proud to sell you “books you don’t need in a place you can’t find.”

Auto shops. Keeping your car running is no picnic, especially through New England’s crazy changes in seasons. Although friendly local auto service shops abound, we especially like Ernie’s Garage in Northampton and Full Tilt Auto Body in Easthampton. But the best way to find good car repair will always be word-of-mouth, so ask your friends for their preferred fix-it spots.

Work out. If getting limber through on-campus activities isn’t working for you, consider the Valley’s array of yoga and Pilates studios. Karoun Yoga in West Springfield, Yoga Center Amherst and Vega Yoga in Holyoke cater to visitors of all ages and abilities, as does Yoga Sanctuary in Northampton. If you’re looking to sweat, Bikram Yoga Northampton will deliver. And for pilates, check out The Pilates Studio in Hadley and Renew Pilates in Easthampton.

Bank. If you already have your banking needs met, great, but be sure to check whether your bank has any branches in the Valley (some national banks, like Capital One, are nowhere to be found). If you decide to open up a local account, the UMassFive College Federal Credit Union provides solid service with branches in Hadley, Northampton, Amherst, and Springfield. For great customer service, we recommend Florence Bank and Easthampton Savings Bank, which are consistently ranked among the best in the area.

Stay healthy. On-campus services make maintaining your sexual health fairly easy, but be aware that Planned Parenthood runs the Western Massachusetts Health Center in Springfield. Additionally, the locally-grown nonprofit Tapestry Health provides the community with reproductive health exams, screenings, and consultations in multiple locations, including Greenfield, Holyoke, Northampton, and Springfield.

Craving caffeine? Aren’t we all. The Valley has a reputation for good coffee roasting and comfy cafes to boot. At the top of our list are Woodstar Cafe in Northampton and Amherst/Greenfield/Northampton Coffee, but it’s hard to go wrong when the joint you settle on is serving beans roasted by Northampton-based Indigo Coffee, Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters, or Esselon Cafe in Hadley.

The great outdoors. Everyone needs a happy place. Find that personal outdoor quiet spot where you can take a deep breath and unwind, whether it’s the Botanic Garden at Smith College, the Brickyard Conservation Area in Amherst, the Canalside Rail Trail in Turners Falls, Stanley Park in Westfield, or even just an overlooked corner of the Amherst Commons. When in doubt, take a walk, and set a few places where you know you can get away during stressful times.


Beer bars. Like good beer? Like options when you’re ordering good beer? The Dirty Truth in Northampton has 40 craft beers on tap and a lot of them are local. But for sheer volume it’s hard to beat Kaptain Jimmy’s Restaurant & Distillery in Agawam, which features 60 taps built into the boat-shaped bar’s three masts. Because sometimes you want a quadruple Belgian in the middle of the summer, these two are must-visits for craft beer lovers of all types and stripes.

Cocktails. Sometimes you’re craving a great cocktail, and when you are, The Green Room in Northampton is a great place to visit. This speakeasy-style bar crafts each cocktail with care, precision, and ingenuity. There’s a drink on their list for everyone. Hint: Go somewhere else for dinner and come here to have a drink for dessert. Yummmm. And if you haven’t yet discovered how fantastic egg-whites are in drinks, this is the spot to experiment. The Tunnel Bar in Northampton and The Federal in Agawam are also excellent.

Cheap drinks. The best places for cheap bevies are: Polish American Club in Amherst, The Ale House in Springfield, World War II Club in Northampton, The Brass Cat in Easthampton. Need we say more?

Just dance. Best places to boogie include Monkey Bar and Lit in Amherst; Divas and The Basement in Northampton. (See day-by-day dance guide on Page 5 for extended details.)

Karaoke. World War II Club in Northampton, Mingles in West Springfield, and The Platinum Pony in Easthampton are great places for karaoke. Make it, fake it, but please don’t break it (my achey breaky heart, that is).

Live music. There are the Iron Horse Music Hall, Hinge, One Bar & Grill, Lumberyard, Pearl Street, Bishop’s Lounge, Waterfront Tavern, and the list goes on. You’re in a great spot for live music. Heck, you probably will discover there’s many an Amherst basement in which to catch some brilliant live acts. (Found a great place to see live music? Let us know about it at

Fairs, festivals, and fun: There’s so many festivals and fun things going on in the Valley you can really plan your year around them. The biggest and best among them include The Big E, North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival, Asparagus Festival, and Green River Festival. The Big E is coming up — Sept. 18-Oct. 4 — so don’t miss it. This annual fair attracts millions of people every year with its great food from all over New England — deep-fried butter, anyone? — beer, rides, games, and big-name musical acts. Plus, it has a petting zoo.

Sports bars. Now that you live in Massachusetts, you can catch all the games featuring the nation’s best teams: The Pats, Sox, Celtics, and Bruins. You can watch them bring more glory to New England in the area’s many awesome sports bars. Some of our favorites are Rafters in Amherst; The Hangar Pub and Grill, with locations in Westfield and Amherst; Platform in Northampton; and Christopher’s Sports Tavern in Springfield. A favorite Amherst pastime is hopping between Rafters and the Hangar to drunkenly debate who has the better wings.

Best 18-plus. Not 21, yet? Flywheel in Easthampton has frequent events that are 18-plus. Flywheel is a nonprofit artist space where you can catch tons of local underground bands and check out the collective’s zine library.

Go home. Get out, but also make sure you get home safely. Take a bus, take a cab, designate a driver, but don’t drive drunk. Amherst might be the nation’s capitol when it comes to administering field sobriety tests — chances are you’ll get pulled over, and it’s just not worth it. So if you’ve been drinking, find alternative means of transportation. Check PVTA schedules. After hours, in the Five College area you can call Cosmic Cab (413) 230-6119, Celebrity Cab Company (413) 253-7330, or GoGreen Cab Co. (413) 586-0707. In Springfield Yellow Cab (413) 534-3333 is reliable, and in Westfield there’s City Cab (413) 568-6177.


Pizza. Antonio’s, Mimmo’s, Pinocchio’s, Primo’s. Are you sensing a pattern? As young professionals, we understand that pizza is the stuff of life — well, that and Maruchan Ramen Noodles. These four pizza joints — with Antonio’s in Amherst, Easthampton and Belchertown; Mimmo’s and Pinocchio’s in Northampton; and Primo’s in Springfield — roll out quality slices. That’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner at a bargain.

Delivery. Delivery. Is. Key. Whether you’re crunching for finals or have had one too many beers, it’s good to know you’ve got some delivery options. Some of our favs are Wings Over Amherst, Pioneer Valley Pizza, Bruno’s, all in Amherst, and Pizza Amore in Northampton. In Northampton and the Springfield area there’s also Delivery Express, a service that picks up meals from non-delivery restaurants for you, but you’ll have to wait a while and your food may have cooled down significantly by the time it gets to you. Life’s a trade-off.

Late night eats. Crap! It’s after midnight and you forgot to eat! It happens to the best of us. Just thank your stars you live in a college town and not anywhere in the Berkshires, where Cumberland Farms is your best and only late night option. Stop in at Antonio’s in Amherst, Local Burger, Sam’s, or The Sierra Grille in Northampton.

Brunch. Good hungover eatin’ that never tasted so good: The Lone Wolf in Amherst; Esselon in Hadley; Jake’s and Sylvester’s, both of Northampton; Chef Wayne’s Big Mamou in Springfield; and The Delaney House in Holyoke.

Bubble tea. Yup, we have that here. Teahouse LimeRed, with locations in Northampton and Amherst, is all about the boba. Even if you don’t like bubble tea, this place has the best smoothies around — order it “no boba” if you’re anti-bubble, but if you give them a chance, they’ll grow on you. You’ll see.

French fries. Where to get the best french fries is a contentious subject. But we think The Dirty Truth in Northampton has some of the best spuds around. Crispy outsides, soft insides — that’s how to do it. If you like ’em different, we just may have to agree to disagree.

Groceries. Trader Joe’s was made for you, college student. There’s one in Hadley. We’re talking micro-fridge meals — pop ’em in, take ’em out. That’s college, baby.

Outdoor dining. When the weather is warm, there’s nothing like feeling the wind in your hair and eating outside with your friends. Check out these spots: Tavern on the Hill in Easthampton, Munich Haus in Chicopee, The Alvah Stone in Montague, Esselon Cafe in Hadley, and Uno Pizzeria and Grill in Springfield.

Ice cream. This summer Friendly’s Hunka Chunka PB Fudge won the Valley Advocate’s ice cream blind taste test of local creameries and we highly recommend it. And while it’s true that a pint of Ben and Jerry’s from the nearby convenience store will always do the trick, the Valley is home to some excellent ice cream shops. They include Herrell’s of Northampton, Flayvors of Cook Farm in Hadley, Mt. Tom in Easthampton, The Summer House in Southwick, and Bart’s in Amherst.

Frozen yogurt. Go-Berry, with shops in Amherst and Northampton is a staff favorite. It’s made with local dairy and it’s the best non-ice cream you can get. Tip: order it like it’s yogurt, because it is, and not ice cream. Go naturally tart with fruit. Ordering it like it’s trying to be something it’s not — I’m talking to you, Nutella with chocolate chips — will only set you up for disappointment. Berkshire Yogurt, with locations in Northampton and South Hadley, is also quite good.


Socialize. Getting in with new friends happens off-campus, too. Some of’s best local social groups host art sessions, like the studio art group Sketching Cartel and the Northampton knitting circle Stitch ’n’ Bitch, outdoors events, like New Fun Adventures and Pioneer Valley Bicycle Explorers, and casual hangouts, like Live Music and Arts Northampton, Pioneer Valley Craft Beer Appreciation and Western MA Movie Meetup. If you’re not sure where to start, the group Pioneer Valley Newbies has over 400 local members, all teamed up to get the lay of the land.

Trivia. For good nighttime fun that’s both relaxed and rowdy, there’s nothing like a few rounds of trivia. The Valley is full of good trivia nights, but we’re particularly fond of Tuesday trivia at The Harp in Amherst and Thursday trivia at Whiskerz Pub in Easthampton and at the World War II Club in Northampton (also known as “The Deuce”).

Far-off places. Get a little off the beaten path by taking a tour or paying a visit to local businesses like Black Birch Vineyard in Southampton and breweries like Berkshire Brewing Company in South Deerfield and Fort Hill Brewery in Easthampton. If museums are more your thing, don’t overlook the Emily Dickinson House and the Mead Art Museum in Amherst, the Smith College Museum of Art, the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, and the Bing Arts Center in Springfield. And of course, come Halloween, it’s pretty much your civic responsibility to join Valley Ghost Tours for a spooky night out on the town.

Nature all around. In the Valley, hiking and biking are so baked into people’s DNA that it’s nearly impossible to get through four years of school without trekking into the woods a few times. Get your gear at Valley Ski & Bike Werks or Sam’s Outdoor in Hadley, ask around for the best trails and routes, and get yourself out there. Aside from the 11-mile Norwottuck Rail Trail through Northampton, Hadley, and Amherst, consider Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation in South Deerfield, Mt. Tom State Reservation in Holyoke, and Robinson State Park in Agawam.

Eating local? Check out the Valley’s farmers markets, notably the Northampton Tuesday Market downtown next to the parking garage and the Amherst Farmers Market, which is held in the Spring Street parking lot on Saturdays. In Springfield there’s a farmers market Tuesdays in Forest Park. Or for an on-the-go grab at crops, stop by the farm stand at Atlas Farm on River Road in Deerfield, which offers local goods year-round.

Nerd on. The Valley’s a great place to get your nerd on. In addition to Meetup groups like the Dr. Who Club and Pioneer Valley Geeks and Gamers, you can stop by The Quarters in Hadley to play old arcade games and nerd trivia, or swing by Greenfield Games or Northampton’s World War II Club for tabletop nights.

Local music. Everyone has their favorite local bands, so we’ll let you curate your own playlists in peace. Just don’t neglect to give And The Kids a spin — this indie-pop trio is already on its way to great things. Same with local rock groups Winterpills, The Primate Fiasco, Speedy Ortiz, Potty Mouth, and California X.

Follow me. Snapchat and YikYak provide plenty of random laughs, but you can expand your social media circles by following fun local personalities like meterologist @ DHTheWeatherNut, cartoonist @tompappalardo, and humansofwesternmass on Instagram. And we would be remiss not to recommend you get hooked on local news. In addition to your school newspapers and the national outlets, stalk the Valley Advocate on Facebook, and follow @GazetteNET and @WWLP22news on Twitter.•