Northampton is a funky little college town in west central Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley that is a shopper's nirvana. Much like Woodstock, New York, though a tad less psychedelic, Northampton is home to dozens of galleries, boutiques, and gift shops, all within an easily walkable expanse centered along Main Street.
Northampton is the perfect destination for New England travelers looking to spend an afternoon drifting in and out of clever shops discovering the work and wares of New England artisans and entrepreneurs. Here are nine picks for the neatest Northampton shops. Don't miss these, and enjoy hunting for favorite shops of your own, too.
175 Main Street, Northampton, MA
A Northampton brochure once referred to Faces as "the nicest tourist trap you'll ever find," and you can get trapped for at least 45 minutes in the greeting card department alone. You'll be hard-pressed to find a larger, more bizarre selection of gifts ever, anywhere. Need proof? Check out the animal hats in the photo above. Don't miss the wall of hilarious T-shirts, the shoe department, and the cool toys.
One King Street, Northampton, MA
You can't miss the imposing Art Deco building that houses this favorite Northampton jeweler. Once inside Silverscape Designs, you'll be mesmerized by the selection of designer jewelry. Silverscape Designs represents the work of more than 300 jewelry and craft artisans. Whatever your jewelry tastes, you're bound to fall in love with at least one item here. And if you're not terribly discriminating, leave your credit cards in the car! You can even create a truly custom ring, necklace or another piece of jewelry of your own design.
Smith College Museum of Art Store
Elm Street at Bedford Terrace, Northampton, MA
The Smith College Museum of Art is not only a fine small art museum that you should visit while you're in Northampton (check their schedule of special exhibitions online), it's a great place to shop. The SCMA Store's unique offerings include art-inspired toys, ceramics, scarves, jewelry, books, prints and more. Votive holders composed of glass lantern slides retired from the college's art department library are particularly striking. Don't have time to devote to gazing at art? You can still pop into the museum for a quick visit to the store, or browse and order from a selection of items online at any time.
A Child's Garden
204 Main Street, Northampton, MA
In an age of lead paint scares and cheap, disposable Happy Meal toys, A Child's Garden bucks the trend by enthralling kids--and parents--with finely crafted, eco-friendly gear and toys built to last. From reusable snackTaxi bags made in Massachusetts to rolling wooden vehicles handcrafted in Maine, the shop emphasizes products made locally from natural materials.
Proprietor Kate Glynn has a passion for finding superlative children's products and believes that her shop is more than a retail outlet: It's a community resource, where mothers can share and learn about breastfeeding, cloth diapering, babywearing, and other childcare topics.
Hungry Ghost Bread
62 State Street, Northampton, MA
The flag outside Northampton's Hungry Ghost Bread boldly proclaims, "Yes," which means not only that the store is open but that the bread is ready. Step inside and the aroma of fresh-baked bread is overpowering. It's easy to understand why the organic artisan sourdough bread baked here sometimes sell as fast as they come out of the oven!
Check Hungry Ghost's bread schedule to see which bread varieties they're baking on the day of your visit to Northampton, and call ahead to reserve your loaves if you want to be sure to avoid disappointment.
179 Main Street, Northampton, MA
Pinch Gallery is an exceptionally lovely shop. Pinch's vibrant yet uncluttered layout allows shoppers to easily browse the fun mix of handcrafted products displayed. The gallery's lively array of items includes not only pottery but wall art, textiles and other intriguing items for decorating your home. Each represented artist's work is optimally showcased, and visitors can't help feeling inspired by the creativity and energy behind each item.
Put Pinch on your must-visit list if you're shopping for a one-of-a-kind wedding gift, a signature piece for your home or a "just because" surprise gift for that person who is difficult to please.
The Artisan Gallery
162 Main Street, Northampton, MA
Have you ever wanted passionately to find the perfect gift for someone, only to realize with dismay that you'd probably never find a smirking chimpanzee pillow? The Artisan Gallery comes to the rescue when you simply must locate an over-the-top, grin-inducing gift that shouts: "I went to the ends of the Earth to find this!"
Luckily, you only have to go to Main Street in Northampton--not the planet's boundaries--to discover an amazing line-up of creative and thoughtful gifts. This wonderful Northampton shop specializes in "eccentricities," including locally created items like Easthampton, Massachusetts, artist Mark Brown's inventive mixed-media clocks.
Jackson & Connor
150 Main Street, Thornes Market, Second Floor, Northampton, MA
Most men don't relish shopping for clothing. That's probably because they don't have a shop like Northampton's Jackson & Connor in their neighborhood. This contemporary menswear emporium oozes a rare combination of manly sophistication and laidback luxury. Whether his work uniform is a blazer and tie or khakis and a sweater, the apparel at Jackson & Connor will elevate his look... and his confidence.
The cool, mancave-like dressing room adds to the experience of shopping for the right ensemble, from socks to fedoras.
88 Main Street, Northampton, MA