Queer Girl City Guide: Amherst and Northampton, MA

(Ed. note: Originally two city guides, these were combined because Amherst and Northampton are so close in geographical location and in spirit. Some sections are divided into Amherst and NoHo, and some are applicable to both.)

Amherst

I nervously moved to the sleepy town of Amherst*, Massachusetts almost six semesters ago, not sure what to expect. I was somehow under the impression that the town was literally in the middle of nowhere with absolutely nothing to do and that I’d be bored all the time. I wasn’t out to anyone (even myself), and even though my dad’s side of the family all went to school here I somehow had no clue about Amherst’s hippie-liberal vibe.

Now, I really love this tiny little town. Having lived in the liberal bubble of Massachusetts my whole life, I’ve found Amherst even more queer-friendly than other parts of the state (except Northampton and Provincetown). I’ll be sad when I have to leave for grad school.

*protip: The H is silent. Enunciate it and I will shove a sharp object into your eye.

Northampton

Hello queermos! Emily and Mareika here. We really like Northampton and you should too. Northampton is known as the lesbian capital of the world (we have no reference for this) because it is basically a lesbian commune on a larger scale (this may or may not be true).

In all seriousness, though, the city is extremely queer-friendly. Actually, we always do a double-take when we see straight couples holding hands because there’s that many queers. If you like butches with babies, or gay dads with four kids, or quirky people of every kind, you will like Northampton, aka Noho. A lot of people you will meet in Noho are in undergraduate or graduate school. They are probably very smart and they probably listen to NPR (station 88.5).

Overall, Northampton is queertastic. There’s a lot of gay families, and people of all ages. It’s very economically diverse, but not so much racially. Even though it’s the lesbian capital, there’s still a ton of gay boys, and they have their own event/info site too…no, not grindr. There’s an extremely large trans community, both trans men AND women. There’s no tension or exclusion among the G, L, B, and T communities. Cohabitation is happy and peaceful! Even the non-queer people (which must be like 40% of the population) have shared interests in things like veganism and organic things and local and feminism. It’s way cheaper to live here than in bigger cities, and it’s cheaper to go for a bigger house/apartment. One- or two-bedroom ones are kind of expensive because the landlords want to over-charge Smith students. There’s lots of apartments with good access to Main Street AND there’s a bike trail that goes just about everywhere. And lastly, just in case you were worried about your rights, Massachusetts was the first state to pass marriage equality, and there’s also a bunch of gender expression and identity laws — Northampton and Amherst even have nondiscrimination statutes that cover public accommodations.

 

Lesbian Bars

 

Amherst

Unfortunately, Amherst isn’t really big enough to sustain a dedicated lesbian bar. Go to Northampton instead. (No, seriously. Go to Northampton. It’s connected to Amherst by a bus which is only $1.25/free if you’re a student, and I promise you there will be lots of ladies). It does have some not-particularly gay bars though, which I will list here! (Stay away from the Monkey Bar at all costs.)

Moan & Dove (460 W St.)
This bar is known for its large beer selection. They also have barrels of peanuts at the door, so, you know. Yelp describes their ambience as “hipster” and “casual”, which is possibly all I ever wanted in a bar? It’s not downtown so it’s kind of secluded, but it’s still on a bus route.

Amherst Brewing Company (10 University Dr.)
This is a pretty casual place if you just want to kick back and relax with some friends. They moved last fall from their space on East Pleasant St. to a larger space over on University Drive. I haven’t actually been to their new location yet so I don’t really know how much I can recommend this but I’ve enjoyed going here in the past. Also, if you go to UMass, you will end up taking somebody here for their first legal drink on their 21st birthday.

Lit (41 Boltwood Walk)
Amherst’s classiest. It’s a restaurant until 10 and after that they move the tables away and it turns into a club. They have a waterfall under the dance floor. A WATERFALL.

 

Northampton

So, almost everywhere you go is welcoming and probably has at least two other queers inside.

Tunnel Bar: (125A Pleasant Street.) Tunnel Bar is a secret-ish place without a sign, which is why they don’t even have a website. It’s across the street from the Pearl Street Nightclub. It’s super sweet because it’s underground and in an old train tunnel. Sometimes it’s hard to get

a drink while dodging all the breeders, but there is usually lots of seating, whether it’s upstairs or downstairs. Upstairs is a good/private date space. Relaxed/dark atmo, tunnel-y.

WWII Club/The Deuce: (50 Conz St.) Home of Bon Appetit Burlesque, monthly queer burlesque. Also has trivia, karaoke, open mic. Always pretty gay.

Also check out:

Ye Olde Watering Hole: (287 Pleasant St.) Hidden dive-y gem. Also, a beer can museum!
The Dirty Truth: (29 Main St.) Lots of beers ‘n’ queers.
Hugo’s: (285 Pleasant St.) Also dive-y and fun.
Northampton Brewery: 11 Brewster Court.

 For concert venues:

The Calvin: 19 King Street.
Pearl Street Nightclub: 10 Pearl Street.
The Iron Horse: 20 Center Street.

All of these venues frequently host some of our fave gay ladies, including T&S, Ani, Dar Williams, Alice P…I mean Uh Huh Her, and Melissa Ferrick.

 

 

Food/Cafes/Coffee Shops

 

Amherst

Rao’s Coffee

Rao’s (17 Kellogg Avenue)
This is my favorite coffee shop of all time. It’s nice and cozy. They play good music but not loud enough to actually distract you from getting your work done. I even come for reasons other than the baristas. Bring cash though, because they add a surcharge on debit/credit card purchases. All of their bathrooms are gender neutral.

Amherst Coffee (28 Amity St.)
This place is smaller than Rao’s, but in addition to coffee they also serve wine, beer, whiskey, and cocktails! They’re also open until midnight. Last time I was here there was a guy playing guitar in the middle of the shop.

Cushman Market and Cafe (491 Pine St #A)
Up in North Amherst, most students don’t know about this place because it’s not really on a bus route. It’s in an old railroad mail depot and makes delicious sandwiches of both the vegetarian and carnivorious variety. Giant collages and chalkboards everywhere, free jazz music on Saturday mornings, and a convenience-store type place in front make it a cool place to hang out for awhile.

LimeRed Teahouse (50 Main St.)
This is where you go for bubble tea if you don’t drink coffee.

Other Popular Coffee Shops/Cafes (I have not personally checked all of these out out)

The Black Sheep (79 Main St)
The Loose Goose Cafe (1 East Pleasant St.)
Mango Mango (61 Main St.)
For the brand-loyal, Dunkin’ Donuts are located at 175 University Drive and 312 College St, while Starbucks is at 71 North Pleasant St.

Late Night Eats (aka you’re drunk and starving):

Antonio’s Pizza

 

Wings over Amherst (55 University Drive)
These were the reason it took me so long to become a vegetarian, which should be good enough of an endorsement for you. Also, they deliver and I swear they usually show up literally 5 minutes after placing your order. Open until 2:30am on the weekends.

Antonio’s Pizza (31 North Pleasant St.)
Antonio’s is always packed because it’s near the downtown bars. They’re known for their crazy pizza combinations (I went there last night and the choices involved pasta on pizza or quesadilla pizza). If you just want the basics, cheese pizza is $1 between midnight and 2am on Friday nights.

Rt. 9 Diner (458 Russel St. in Hadley)
Located on the Amherst-Hadley town line. Personally I find their food so-so unless it’s between midnight and 4am, because greasy diner food is the best thing ever at those hours.

 

Northampton

It would be impossible to list all of the restaurants that are delicious here, we left out some great ones that you can list in the comments if you like! You can find pretty much all kinds of ethnic food in Noho.

Haymarket Cafe: (185 Main St.) All-vegetarian, delicious food downstairs and coffee shop upstairs. There will almost always be gays and Smithies in the Haymarket! And cheap — the half sandwiches are pretty big, and delicious, so, you save dollah billz.

Woodstar Cafe: (60 Masonic St.) Woodstar has delish gluten-free (as well as gluten-filled) treats. They have the best bagels. And pretty amazing iced coffee. It’s cash-only though!

The Roost: (1 Market St.) The Roost is Mareika’s favorite place in Northampton, and it always has lots of people doing work/studying. Really good food and coffee — the breakfast sandwiches and grilled cheeses are ridiculous. There are queers with good fashion here, good people-watching.

The Foundry: (24 Main St.) This is a new place that just opened in March, owned by a Smith alumna. We walked in and we thought it was The Planet. Like, lesbians! Errywhere! Cute ones! It also serves alcohol at night.

Shelburne Falls: (124 King St.) Cheaper coffee than most of the other shops, but no sitting area to do homework/work.

Bread Euphoria: (206 Main Street, Haydenville, MA 01039) This place hired Mareika, so you should become a fan/patron. Also, REALLY good bread! And breakfast sandwiches, yum. It’s a little farther away than the other locales, but not so far you can’t bike.

Bueno y Sano: (134 Main St.)  There’s lotsa Mexi food in Noho, but Bueno is really good and really cheap. The two most important things.

Viva Fresh Pasta: (249 Main St.) Viva makes their own pasta/sauce. SO good.

Zen: (41 Main St.) We vote this the best Japanese food in Northampton. Recommendations: spicy salmon roll and Kirin beer.

Local Burger: (16 Main St.) Even though Emily doesn’t eat meat, she still thinks Local Burger is the best burger place — veggie or meaty. There’s also milkshakes and all the fries.

The Green Bean: (241 Main St.) There’s a few breakfast/brunch places in Noho, but the Green Bean is THE BEST. It’s super veg friendly — you can sub tofu/tempeh for everything.

Sweeties: (68 Main St.) A great candy shop with kosher and vegan options.

Gay Coffee was brought in to the world by two Smith alums, and is now roasted in Williamsburg. It’s not a place you can get coffee, but a cool local brand. Their coffee is whole bean, fair trade, organic, etc.etc.etc. and has really funny/gay packaging. Like, “Second Date: Pack the Kitties”. You can order it online, or pick it up at Pride & Joy.

 

College Life

 

Amherst is a quintessential college town due to the presence of THREE colleges within a few miles of each other. All three colleges are part of the Five College Consortium, which means if you attend one you can register for classes at any of them. (The other two colleges are nearby and are Smith and Mt. Holyoke. This means QUEER GIRLS QUEER GIRLS EVERYWHERE).

All five colleges have queer things happening all the time. Just in the last month I’ve seen Andrea Gibson at Smith and Rachel Maddow at Mt. Holyoke, and got to talk to both of these amazing human beings afterward.

Amherst College

Amherst is one of the US’s best liberal arts colleges, so you’ll obviously be getting a top-notch education if you can get into school here. Queer things include the Gay Amherst Parties (monthly queer dances open to Five College students) and a resource center and Pride Alliance, as well as a group called “Pride and Color”. Here’s a list of gender-neutral restrooms on campus!

Hampshire College

Hampshire has a very different educational philosophy than most other colleges, and I hear that Hampshire students love it. Instead of grades they get evaluations and everybody is required to do a huge project before graduating; all majors are self-designed. Hampshire’s former president Ralph Hexter was also openly gay, which is pretty cool.

Queer things include a Queer Community Alliance Center, a Center for Feminisms, a yearly conference on sexuality and gender, and queer studies program.

UMass Amherst (Disclaimer: I go here)

With 20,000+ students, its by far the biggest school around. I could type for hours on minute details of UMass but I’ll spare all of you (message me if you have questions, though).

UMass added “gender identity and expression” to its nondiscrimination policy a few years ago.

UMass Stonewall Center

The Stonewall Center is the resource center. They do things like ally training (RAs can go through this to get a cool rainbow sticker to put on their door) and free STD testing. Their website has a wealth of information on topics ranging from gender-neutral bathrooms on campus and in town to LGBT-friendly religious groups in the area. Sign up for their weekly newsletter or check them out on Facebook if you want a summary of everything queer going on in the Pioneer Valley.

The Pride Alliance is active but doesn’t have a website. It’s more undergrad-focused and social than the Stonewall Center. Housing has special floors for queers and their allies.

Things that are not specifically queer but relevant to your queer life include the Everywoman’s Center, Earthfoods (a student-run vegetarian co-op that I may or may not spend large portions of my paycheck at) and People’s Market (student-run business with the slogan “Food for People, Not for Profit”, sells things like vegan bagels and organic coffee).

 

Support for LGBT Families

 

Amherst

There are no specifically queer groups, but most of the family-oriented things are LGBT friendly. For example, UMass’s Office of Family Resources just hosted a panel on LGBT parenting and provided free childcare during it. The Amherst Family Center is also queer-friendly. This list of accepting religious institutions in the area is probably also helpful. (There are also numerous groups in Northampton, including PFLAG if you don’t mind driving). As far as women’s resources, there’s Tapestry Health (27 Pray St), which is like Planned Parenthood, but local (and they don’t do abortions, you’ll have to go to nearby Springfield or Enfield for that). They have a rainbow on their website. Costs are determined on a sliding scale.

 

Northampton

Mareika’s mom’s colleague lives in Northampton and she says that 40% of families in the Northampton public schools have lesbian parents. Although this is extremely unsupported by fact/science/statistics, we think that it shows how not-alone gay parents are in the city. LGBT families are not really a minority and they have plenty of say/acceptance in the community. For further evidence of Noho as Gay Utopia, the PTOs of the four Northampton public elementary schools fundraised for and supported Transperformance in 2011. There’s a bunch of support groups, if that’s your style, as well.

 

Pride

Amherst

Sorry, everyone. Amherst doesn’t have Pride. Northampton does though! (I will repeat my point that Noho is REALLY CLOSE).

 

Northampton

Noho Pride is much bigger than you would expect for such a small city. Last year, Kate Clinton was one of the parade marshals, and Calpernia Addams and God-Des and She (you know…that song, “Lick It”? For all y’all who think you don’t know it, remember in the L Word when Shane is gonna marry Carmen, and at the bachelor party there’s that song? That.) performed.

New England’s Trans Pride Parade also happens in Northampton!

Other queer events in NoHo include:

Rainbow Riverfest: Rainbow Riverfest is like Pride and Lilith Fair had a tiny gaybie. This year, Melissa Ferrick and Bitch are headlining. Check it out, September 22nd.

The Miss Trans New England Pageant is an awesome thing and is held in Northampton.

 

Art Groups and Galleries

Northampton

Northampton Arts Council: Plans theater events, public art, etc. 240 Main Street Room 5, Memorial Hall.

R. Michaelson Gallery: This is the fancy art gallery in town. 132 Main Street.

A.P.E. Ltd. Gallery: This place has some cool work. It is much more contemporary than other galleries in the area. Installation and sculpture are often shown. 126 Main Street.

 

Social Activist Groups

 

The LGBT Coalition of Western Mass pretty much does all the things. No big deal, but Emily works there. She says: We were voted Valley Advocate’s NUMBER ONE BEST ACTIVIST ORGANIZATION for 2012. Ahem. Anyway. We do work with LGBTQ youth, parents of said youth, old lesbians, baby dykes, trans folks, and everyone in between of all races / ethnicities / abilities / etc. There’s workshops of all kinds, films/forums about every subject – including trans parents and youth athletes, social events, dances, and the RAINBOW RIVERFEST, which is the best/we will talk about a lil further down.

 

Queer Newspaper

 

The Rainbow Times: Emily works here too and has lots of good feelings and thinks everyone should read this one-of-a-kind publication, that gives back to LGBTQ organizations that it works with. TRT was started by two lesbians, is printed/based out of Noho, serves all of New England, and has an entire segment in Spanish, working to directly serve underrepresented communities. TRT also has done/does do, lots of additional special projects, like the Official Boston Pride guide. Not only is everything featured on their website, but on every social media network imaginable. It’s the best. Basically it should just be your number one source for everything gay.

 

Places to Avoid

 

Honestly, I’ve never felt physically unsafe in this town and I sometimes do dumb things like walk back to my house alone in the dark after consuming alcoholic beverages (don’t tell my mom!). I would avoid PDA in the Southwest Residential Area at UMass and in the vicinity of the downtown bars on Thursday-Saturday nights, due to the large drunken contingent of bros that I don’t trust to not verbally sexually harass you.

 

LGBT or Feminist Bookstores/Other Shopping

 

Amherst

Food for Thought Books (106 North Pleasant St., Tumblr, Facebook)
Not specifically queer or feminist, but it is not-for-profit, a worker’s collective, radical and progressive so it’s essentially queer/feminist. They host local authors all the time and often have hardcover books on sale in the $5-10 range. Occasionally they cosponsor open mic nights with UMass’s Stonewall Center as well.

Montague Bookmill (440 Greenfield Rd.)
A ~20 minute drive from Amherst, their slogan is “books you don’t need in a place you can’t find”. (Sidenote: The first time I went here I used a GPS and was dismayed to find out that it is actually quite easy to find, albeit literally in the middle of nowhere.) This former mill is the largest used book store I’ve ever been in. What I’m trying to say is going here is like going to heaven.

 

Northampton

River Valley Market: (330 North King St.) Everything for all of the eating preferences, whether you are a locavore, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-phobic, or only eat mangos. It’s really hard to get hired here.

Sid Vintage: (279 Main St.) Sid Vintage has been Mareika’s favorite since high school. They basically take all of the cool things from lamer thrift stores and condense it into one little beautiful shop, where there are multicolored suede boots from the 80’s, alongside Members Only jackets, alongside fancy tie clips. And the owners are really well-dressed, kickass queers.

Faces: (175 Main St #2.) So Mareika’s girlfriend’s ex-girlfriend saw Tegan and Sara shopping here once. That was the gayest sentence ever. If you need more reasons to go than that, it has cheap but trendy clothes, and hilarious T-shirts like this one. We have heard it described as a cheaper Urban Outfitters. You will probably have crushes on the salespeople.

Oh My: (122 Main St.) GO HERE. Best feminist sex shop, ever. Even though it’s small, they have all the fancy sex toys that you’ve read about. Also the women who work there are big ‘mos, really open and supportive, so you don’t have to be embarrassed asking about pack n play/vibrators/ALL THE HARNESSES.

Raven Used Books: (4 Old South St.) Great, tiny, warm and musty. Used books galore! Mareika likes the art book section.

Thornes Marketplace: (150 Main St.) Thornes has a weird green awning, but is magical inside.

25 Central: Really fancy, femme-y clothes. They carry Free People dresses, which are amazing to look at even if you can’t afford them.

Herrells: ICE CREAM

Pride & Joy: Emily worked here. They have baby/puppy shirts that say “I love my mommies” and all the best bumper stickers.

Cornucopia: Tiny natural food market.

Booklink Booksellers: An indepedent bookstore.

 

Salons/Tattoos

 

Amherst

Unfortunately, my hair is not quite short enough to be considered alternative lifestyle. However, if I were to do that, I would not trust any of the stylists in town and would instead go to Northampton.

 

Northampton

Hair:

Bucci: (145 Main St.) This is like a gay version of Cost Cutters, and gets the job done for cheap.

Glamourama: 7 Old South St.

Salon 241: 241 Main St.

Tattoos:

Lucky’s: 37 Main St.

Haven: 108 Main St. 

 

Cost of Living

 

I think apartments here are pretty cheap, but my frame of reference is the Boston area is so this probably pretty skewed. A one-bedroom apartment will set you back $800-1000/month, a two-bedroom $1300ish, and a three-bedroom $1700ish. However, BEWARE if you’re thinking of living with tons of roommates. There’s a lot of tension between the townies and the students so Amherst enacted a bylaw a couple years ago that prevents more than four unrelated people from living together to cut back on large parties or some nonsense like that. That isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of landlords who rent out entire houses to students who will particularly care if there’s a fifth person living in the house.

Big Y is the cheapest supermarket. There’s a weekly farmer’s market year round that I occasionally find a little expensive but hey, local vegetables!

Public transportation is close-to-free. A lot of the buses are operated by UMass and don’t even have fare boxes. I think technically you are supposed to buy tickets for them online but I promise you they will never check. (Note: the B43, which goes to Northampton, does have a fare box and costs $1.25).

 

Queer Friendliness

 

This is confusing sometimes. On one hand, half of the residents are Massachusetts college students who will return to suburbia after college and stay there the rest of their life, and on the other hand, there is an incredibly vibrant liberal political community working to bring awareness of issues disadvantaged groups face. However, this is Massachusetts so pretty much everyone doesn’t really care who you’re fucking. I’ve had exactly zero problems in this town since coming out and don’t have any firsthand accounts of people who have. Every once in awhile you’ll hear about isolated incidents but they are definitely not the norm (and I suspect that they are not perpetuated by locals).

Also though, Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage! This is great! It also means if you’re married filing your taxes is moderately confusing because the federal government doesn’t think you’re married but the state says you are!

Gay adoption: Legal in Massachusetts! Second-parent adoption is also legal.
Employment: Discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation has been banned for quite some time and gender identity was added to the books last fall.
Housing: Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity banned in the wholes state.
Hate crimes: MA includes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.

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131 Comments

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      Hmmm probably like an hour and a half drive? I currently lack a car, so my estimation skills are lacking. Doable for a day trip, though.

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      Even though the best case scenario is between 1.5 and 2 hours depending on which way you go, give it about 2.5 because once you get off the highway, it’s two lane roads.

      Most people would suggest the Pike to get there as quickly as possible but if you have the time, take Route 2. If you really have the time, take Route 9 and you will get an excellent feel for the state.

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        If by an “excellent feel for the state”, you mean “three hours of stop-and-go traffic as you drive by strip malls and hit a lot of traffic lights”, then yes, you will get an excellent feel for the state:-P

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    Mareika your name is spelled wrong (JUST KIDDING LET’S BE LESBROS, I’VE ONLY EVER MET ONE OTHER PERSON WITH MY NAME IN REAL LIFE).

    Anyway this sounds kind of like queer heaven. I would love to at least visit someday.

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    I’ve had a very different experience with Amherst Center. I’m a Hampshire student and I mostly have come to avoid Amherst Center, especially at night. Don’t get me wrong, I gave Amherst a chance and even lived in the center this past summer, but after a bunch of “isolated incidents” I’ve figured out that it’s not really my scene there.

    My partner and I have been yelled at out of a car window for holding hands. Someone explicitly gay bashed me outside of CVS this past summer. I’ve also had trouble inside of Antonio’s with other customers using slurs. I’m glad that the author of this article has never personally had problems with being out in Amherst Center. However I don’t think it’s fair to say that the experiences I have had are isolated. I have several other friends who can recount similar stories to my own, especially when they’ve been waiting for buses, or have been in the center at night. I’d refrain from framing any place as a queer utopia because queer people are still oppressed everywhere no matter how liberal the place is.

    My strategy? Don’t be alone at night in Amherst Center. Travel in a fabulous queer pack that will have your back if trouble arises. I also avoid going inside of Antonio’s at all costs even though the pizza is delicious. I’ve never had this kind of trouble in Northampton, though I’m sure others probably have.

    That being said I like queer life in the valley and have definitely been able to build my own community and chosen family here.

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      I’m really surprised to hear this. I grew up in Amherst and I’ve never once been harassed anywhere in town. I’m really sorry you’ve had those experiences :( I would not write off Antonio’s in the process though– they have a pretty high staff turnover.

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      Yeah, I only wrote about my (fortunately good) experience but shit definitely happens in Amherst when everyone’s drunk and something needs to be done about it. I blame my school.

      Also I didn’t put this in the article because I wasn’t sure how to fit it in but Amherst also has some strange race things going on simply due to the fact that a lot of people don’t interact with people who aren’t white or Asian. So there’s that to be aware of too.

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      my partner and i have definitely been harassed in amherst center on a night deemed for heavy drinking (i.e. tuesday,thursday,friday,saturday). a lot of our queer friends have also been yelled at and had things thrown at them. it’s a bit ridiculous. the valley can be great in so many ways, but a lot of the br0ski’s that populate amherst during the school year can make it a really unsafe space.

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    Guys, Rachel Maddow likes Raven Used Books. This should be enough of a recommendation for you.

    (also hi people I don’t know who wrote the other half of this! You’ve reminded me that the Green Bean exists and now I want to ignore my finals and go get brunch there)

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    I can’t even really read this because, guys THIS IS WHERE I GREW UP. Amherst is my actual, technical hometown.

    Also everyone who is there/in Noho needs to proceed directly to Fresh Side (it’s a restaurant) do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

    Also, for hair in Amherst, Carrie at Sei Bella Salon does a good job.

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      MINE TOO (oh hey Lizz…)

      The farmers market in Amherst on Saturdays and the Tuesday market in Noho are the cutest if you like local produce and cute babies.

      And yes. Freshside. Amanouz for Moroccan.

      So many feelings.

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        Me too! (Hi Liz(z)s!)

        I grew up in Amherst (ARHS class of ’97) and my mom now lives in NoHo. I moved to Amherst in high school after a really awful experience in Longmeadow for middle school. It was the best feeling to finally be in a place where people got me. I have friends from high school who I know I’ll be close to my whole live. Kids were super supportive in high school – I was on the gay-straight alliance from 11th-12th grade, went to prom with a girl, etc, and no one ever said a thing to me.

        The comment above about downtown I think is mostly the bros (we called them the “white hat posse”) from UMass who come in drunk and stupid from elsewhere. I’d say most (all?) townies are so different than that. But yes, do beware of them, especially on weekend nights after the bars close.

        I wrote this a few months ago about all the cool people from Amherst/Northampton: http://www.00ff00.com/2011/11/06/amherst/

        I come home every summer for a few weeks – we should all meet up for a coffee and bagel at Woodstar.

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        Oh we totes were all at camp!

        Do you guys sort of feel upset that anyone anywhere would be allowed to talk about Amherst without your consent? Because that’s how I feel.

        Btw I recognize how self involved that is.

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    I went to a lesbian wedding at the Montague Bookmill last year and it was as wonderful and gorgeous as could possibly be!

    Also I had a really yummy vegan breakfast at The Green Bean last I was in Northampton and I would like it again in this every moment. Need to visit again soon!

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    Yay, lovely review of an awesome place! Other good things:

    1. DIVA’S NIGHTCLUB. SERIOUSLY PEOPLE. (ok sometimes it’s sketchy and/or boring but it’s the only club around AND it’s gay AND drag wars!)

    2. Food: Pizzeria Paradiso, Thai Garden, La Veracruzana, Esselon Cafe in Hadley, and margaritas from Mama Iguanas

    3. Smith College Museum of Art

    God I miss Massachusetts.

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    Under the Lesbian bars section: DIVAS nightclub. It’s awesome.

    Also… Smith College was left out of the ‘college life section’ [I go there] It’s really queer friendly!

    All the restaurants in Noho are soooooo good. Especially Viva.

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    As a Hampshire student (who works in one of the named bars, awesome!!), I have one small correction; we actually have a new president, the former president who is openly gay is now at U.C. Davis.

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    does anyone currently go or has gone in the past to Hampshire and would talk to me about it? Because looking at it, especially the queer studies page, and i need to know if it is actually as fucking amazing as it looks.

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      I graduated from Hampshire College a couple of years ago. I wouldn’t say there is a “Queer Studies” core concentration, but there are lots of queer folks who work queer things into class. I honestly never took any sort of canonical “queer theory” class, but I think I learned a lot more about intersectional queerness that way.

      I’m glad that I went to Hampshire, but there are a lot of seriously concerning struggles that I had, and I know a lot of other queer friends had being there. If you want to talk about it, feel free to write to me.

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      Queer Studies at Hampshire at this ver moment is… complicated. It will exist, rest assured, especially because we just passed the Five College Queer Studies certificate. Are there any professors currently who teach queer studies as the specialty? No. They are looking to add a permanent position. If you want a really good peak at the awesome queer community at Hampshire, you should check out the student organizing that is happening around this at thequeerdoesnotendhere.tumblr.com

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    I live here and the main thing I would say is that if you are a lesbian, just fucking move here.

    The only problem I have with the article is that it makes it sound like the population is smaller than it is. The population of Hampshire County is 160,000. Amherst is about 40,000 and Northampton 30,000. Obviously not big city numbers but definitely not tiny.

    Yes, very occasionally you will get yelled at from a car window by teenagers or Amherst College students. But that is because teenagers and Amherst College students are fucking morons.

    There are tons of local farms and local food and the farmers markets can be a little expensive, but if you have a car you will drive by lots of little cheap farms stands.

    Big Y is the cheapest supermarket because they employ teenagers at minimum wage and a lot of stuff is lower quality. Shop at Stop & Shop where the employees are union members.

    Great music, great food, great outdoor activities. Seriously, what are you waiting for?

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    “There’s no tension or exclusion among the G, L, B, and T communities.”…you have got to be kidding me. After living in the valley for four years, I have experienced/witnessed dyke-hate from genderqueers & trans folk, transphobia from gay, lesbian, and bi folk, and femme-phobia from lesbian and transmasculine folk. Not to mention incidents of classism from wealthy queers and racism from white queers. While there is certainly a strong queer presence in the valley, its not fair to completely wash over infighting in our communities nor is it okay to completely sell the valley as a 100% safe haven. I’ve experienced two incidents of gay-bashing twice in my time there in addition to various trans-phobic incidents and living in a culture of femme & dyke hate from a very masculine-dominated queer female scene.

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      I think we should have had a disclaimer, and I apologize that we (Emily and I) didn’t, that all of our claims are based on only our personal experiences. Saying that there is no tension or exclusion is only true in my very narrow personal experience with a select few gay, straight, bisexual, queer, transmasculine, and trans people in the region. R, I completely understand that this is not your experience and I’m glad you said so.

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    I grew up in Amherst and love the area/make any excuse to come home and bask in the wonderful queerness and beauty that is the happy valley. I’m surprised no one mentioned where to get brunch besides the Green Bean (cause I know you queers love your brunch)! Go to the Lone Wolf in Amherst, it is the best and they have awesome vegan and vegetarian food.

    This guide was pretty student-centric so if you’re not a student, I just want to say that there are so many other great things about the area that I couldn’t even begin to list!

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      also there is Dirty Brunch-brunch at the Dirty Truth (weekends only). There are veggie options but they also make a “brunch burger”, which is a bigass hamburger with a hole in the middle, and a poached egg in the hole, and the entire shebang is covered in hollandaise sauce. I am overcome with emotion just thinking about it.

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        Yes yes yes and the brunch tacos (which weren’t on the menu, last time I checked, but they served them to us anyway) are delicious and the cheapest brunch option. And the Dirty Truth’s fries are just…om nom nom.

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      ARHS Class ’06. You?

      Also one time my friend got half an egg shell in their poached eggs at lone wolf. Remember the good old days when it was Nick’s?

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    i just want to say that there are queer girls who go to amherst college and we are nice. and that there are indeed amherst students who are assholes but there are other people who care about feminism and social activism. also i’m going to endorse rao’s as having the best fucking hot chocolate in the world.

    also amherst has its first openly gay lady president now, holla at biddy martin!

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    I work at The Foundry! Though, now I want to say I work at The Planet. I never thought The Foundry looked like The Planet, but now I see what you’re saying. The Foundry is Northampton’s newest coffee shop, owned by my former room mate. We don’t serve alcohol yet BUT hopefully we’ll be serving beer and wine in the evenings soon.
    Another fabulous and very queer thing around here is Pioneer Valley Roller Derby: http://www.pioneervalleyrollerderby.com/aboutus/pvrdteams/
    I <3 Quabbin Missile Crisis!
    I echo what everyone has said about the Montague Mill-it's my favorite used bookstore, it's absolutely beautiful and I always find treasures there. And the sandwiches are wonderful.

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    Yes, Noho is great!
    The Dirty Truth was my absolute favorite bar once I turned 21 and could finally experience it. The first time I went I looked at the selection and thought, “wow, that’s a lot of beer; I guess I’ll have to come here all the time so I can try all of them.” And then the next time it was a totally different selection! They have like 30 beers on tap and it’s not even the same 30 beers each time! Maybe it’s just that I now live in a place where no one drinks interesting beer, but since I left Northampton The Dirty Truth has been elevated in my mind to the Platonic Ideal of a beer bar.
    Also, Northampton Coffee has the best coffee in all of Noho, though it’s a bit of a walk from Smith campus (which makes it a good place to go if you’re a Smithie and tired of seeing the same people over and over).
    And is that tiny little one room bread bakery on State St. still there? I can’t remember what it’s called. They have the BEST BREAD.

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          *sigh* The Hungry Ghost brings me to a happy place.

          Also, just a quick note. Amherst doesn’t have Pride and Color anymore; the founders graduated last year, and no one took over. And as senior at Amherst, I have to say that if a positive LGBT experience is important to you, you might be better off at any of the other four schools. My school is not the most tolerant of, ah, diverse groups. My friends and I usually go to Noho on the weekends to get our kicks because, as Kelly said, it’s pretty dern close.

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            yeah, as an Amherst-ian I’m really frustrated about that too. “tolerance” maybe, but not acceptance.

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    Some additions:

    1. Sierra Grille is one of my very favorite places in Northampton. They have a great beer list and for most of their draft beer options, you can choose between an 8 oz., 12 oz., 16 oz., or 20 oz. beer, which is great if you’re trying something new but aren’t sure you’ll like it. I don’t generally eat dinner there, because their entrees can be pricey, but it’s a great place to go with a few friends and split a bunch of appetizers/small plates. They have delicious mussels and fries. Also, do yourself a favor and get the molasses mustard as a dipping sauce…it’s heavenly.
    2. Ginger Libation on tap at The Roost. It’s made by Green River Ambrosia, a local meadery, and it’s basically alcoholic ginger beer. It’s glorious.
    3. Joe’s Pizza on Market Street is a hidden gem. Their pizza is good and really reasonably priced…on Tuesdays you can get a Little Joe (small pizza) for $4.50! And their fried calamari is awesome. I just went there for the first time yesterday and I will be going back asap.

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    I did my undergrad degree in American Studies and did study abroad at Umass Amherst in 00/01. If I could have a do-over, that is the year I was do-over. It was great, but it was a total culture shock and whilst I was out at uni at home in the UK, I really wasn’t comfortable enough in my own skin to out myself all over again at a new school.

    I so want to go do it all again, because I could see all the little queer excitements everywhere and just hid from it! So jealous of all of you!

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    I’m a grad student at UMass, originally from the Midwest. While I’ve endured occasional street harassment, the Valley feels like a haven compared to what I’m used to. I grew up hearing nearly daily slurs against LGBT people – now I encounter this maybe once a month or less.

    I’ve never felt physically threatened.

    If you want to go to out at night, just stick to Noho. The food’s better, anyway.

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    I’m a Hampshire alum, and the openly gay Ralph Hexter is no longer the president, the new guy is Jonathan Lash, this environmentalist dude. Don’t know if Lash is openly gay or not. Hexter was not the most progressive guy around and he left shortly after I graduated. There were definitely a whole pile of student:president tensions there, although if you asked me the details there’s no way I could remember that shit.

    But oh god I miss the valley so hard. I remember writing an enormous amount of my Div III in Amherst Coffee, even though it’s one of the least work-friendly coffee shops in the area (well, for most people, the activity from the bar helped me focus AND they have really good coffee, I liked it better than Rao’s) and saw a bunch of hella fun shows at the Iron Horse.

    Surprised there’s no mention of Mount Holyoke here? I mean, it’s not technically in either Amherst or Northampton, but South Hadley is boring as shit so they get around and socialize. Although Moho was a huge part of my college experience since I did my Div III there.

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    As a Mt Holyoke senior who lives off campus in Amherst center with her UMass girlfiend, I’d like to say we’ve never experienced anything that made us uncomfortable in Amherst or at UMass. But again, not to say that it never happens just because we haven’t experienced it. She has short hair, is slightly butch, and I’m not, and we are also not big on PDA, so that might have something to do with it. She gets her hair cut by Angela at Vici in Amherst, and is happy with her. I have to say I’m surprised Northampton’s Out For Reel! was left out. They play lesbian movies and the place is always packed (although usually with middle aged lesbians – my girlfriend and I like to see if we’re the youngest people there.) Reading this article has made me even more sad about graduating! I’m so jealous of everyone who is going to any of the 5 colleges next fall.

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    This is all great and thanks so much for finally writing about Amherst!

    Let me just add, as an Amherst student, that you missed something: Amherst has two gay social groups on campus 1) QWAAC – Queer Women At Amherst College and 2) QMAAC for queer men. Both clubs host parties at least once a month.

    Just thought I would add!

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    Mount Holyoke needs to be included here. The town (let’s be real~~it’s actually a hamlet) of South Hadley doesn’t have much, but the College has a huge and incredibly diverse queer population and consequently many LGBTQ+ events. We’re right next door to Amherst and Noho and Mohos get off campus all the time to hang out in both of those places.

    Where is Diva’s on this list? Please. Drag wars year-round. What could be bad?

    “There’s no tension or exclusion among the G, L, B, and T communities…” Ummmm overstatement. Each of these communities is highly represented and organized and there are certainly general queer scenes/alliances. However, that doesn’t mean there’s no tension. Coalition building is a work in progress. Northampton and Amherst (at least the town centers, which are discussed in this article) are also pretty white and class privileged. As R mentioned above, this needs to be addressed. I love the Pioneer Valley and it has made more progress than much of the country, but let’s not go around declaring this a utopia. That being said, there are incredible people and institutions here and I will be so sad to leave when I graduate.

    ~MHC 2012

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      as mareika mentioned above, we probably should have put a disclaimer that these are our own experiences. yes, coalition building is a work in progress, one that is making leaps and strides. i work for an organization that aims to bring these communities together (especially in terms of race and class), and our work is not to be ignored. there’s tension and exclusion EVERYWHERE, but at least in northampton, probably less so than many other places.

      also said above, much was edited out of our northampton part. including diva’s.

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    Great piece! This here Hampshire College alum just has a small correction to make–Ralph Hexter is no longer president; he left over a year ago, and in fact that college’s new president was just inaugurated. Hexter being openly gay was pretty much the only thing he had going for him (from a certain perspective), as there was a lot of tension and frustration between his administration and the student body.

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    For anyone interested in the post-college experience, it’s hard to overstate the lesbian presence here.

    Aside from one incident with a drunk bro outside Antonio’s late on a Saturday night, I’ve never been hassled in Amherst. I’ve only met one person – a roaring bigot – who had never met a lesbian before. Over years I’ve gotten a handful of “fucking dyke” comments walking by panhandlers in Northampton, but it’s not unusual to get hassled more on a week-long trip to any city (anyone reasonably aware would presume I’m a lesbian).

    There are upsides and downsides to the presence of the five colleges. Upsides include surprisingly liberal/progressive politics and a lot of culture for such relatively small towns. On the Amherst side of the river the downsides are mostly around the students’ general assumption that the world is their playground, from the weekend parties and public pukefests to the recent trashing of Puffers pond. It impacts people who live here more than visiting, but it’s something to be aware of if you’re unlucky enough to wander into it.

    And the woods and open space! If you like nature, this place is great and there’s a widespread community commitment to keep it from overdeveloping.

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    I live in Springfield, just 15 minutes away from the Amherst/Northampton area. Everything that Kelly says about the area is basically true . . . if you’re an upper middle class white person/college student which makes it a little hard for a working-class, non-white, queer person like myself to socialize. This creates a kind of love/hate relationship with the area. If my sister didn’t work at Mt. Holyoke, it would have been very tough to break through the “Tofu Curtain”.

    And while you’re comparing the cost of living to Boston, understand that for the surrounding Western Massachusetts area, the cost of living in these two towns are very high. You could rent an apartment one town over in Easthampton for at least 1/3 less in rent.

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      yeah, I wish Amherst was more diverse. I was going to write a section about this but ultimately decided that it wasn’t my place since I’m a white lower middle-class college student myself and so are most of my friends, so everything I would’ve written would have been second-hand knowledge and I didn’t want to perpetuate any untruths.

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        No worries. Like I said, it’s a love/hate relationship. Love the cool atmosphere and shops and restaurants and cool queer-friendly atmosphere. Hate being the token all the time or the overly earnest limosine liberalism. I’m constantly reminded of the writer, Pat Parker’s remarks around being black and queer.

        “If I could take all my parts with me when I go somewhere, and not have to say to one of them, ‘No, you stay home tonight, you won’t be welcome,’ because I’m going to an all-white party where I can be gay, but not Black. Or I’m going to a Black poetry reading, and half the poets are antihomosexual, or thousands of situations where something of what I am cannot come with me. The day all the different parts of me can come along, we would have what I would call a revolution.”

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    It is also worth it to mention that in Noho there is Diva’s gay club which has amaaaazing events on Wednesday nights. And most other nights. Just sayin :)

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    This is a terrible article. It reads like the author buzzed around on Yelp for a half hour in the middle of final exam time. Bueno y Sano is about as Mexican as McDonald’s espresso is Italian, and Rao’s is only good if you’re a masochist with a thing for Prius-driving snarling barrista ladies and shortening-laced baked goods. Judie’s and The Hungry Ghost need to be quarantined.

    And honestly, saying that Amherst is a-okay at night is good advice in the summer when all the bros and Northface hoes have traveled back to Dorchester to hibernate. Northampton is pretty much dead after nine on most weeknights but picks up on the weekends, so it’s safe in that respect if you avoid the homeless people. They’re really the only legitimately threatening part of town. And it’s worth noting that I’ve never seen anyone under the age of 40 skulk around the Tunnel Bar.

    This article feels like a pretty generic, neutered representation of what I believe is a much cooler set of towns than just tepid reheated pizza slices and expensive organic coffee. Go to La Veracruzana and State Street Deli and tell me that Bueno is better.

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    F- I’m one of the few discerning UMass students left. A dying breed, I know. And I get that they were separate articles, but honestly, you can’t edit out (or edit in) good taste.

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    WELL.

    J and friends, I’ve lived in and around Northampton for six years. I definitely did not just Google places to go. That is actually a totally ridiculous accusation. Em and I understand that you don’t like Bueno y Sano, but really, it was not necessary to insult our taste. Like really though. Rude.

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    I used to work at the Arts Council and Transperformance actually has nothing to do with being trans, though I thought so at first. It’s just a giant concert where local musicians ‘transperform’ as famous ones according to a different theme every year.

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    Hello out there!
    Does anyone know specific neighborhoods to live in? Cheapest? General vicinities to the colleges? Allows pets? Just a basic run down of the neighborhoods would be wonderful.

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    Good article and mostly true. However, even though there are a lot of GLBTQ people, I am having a hard time finding social/support groups. I am a transsexual man and I have no clue how to meet other people who are okay with transsexual men. It seems the only way to get social support is to be in college or be in to the bar scene. I don’t really drink and I never went to college. So if you know of any places for a transsexual man to meet people, let me know.

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    Hamp is now so progressive it is friendly to Gold Star Hasbians, Lesbro Husbands, and their brood of children!

    P.S. Must also check out the eats at vegan-only Evolution in Florence.

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    I have to say that this article was generally good, but it needs to tell the truth on a lot of things.
    It’s fair to say for me Northampton / Amherst area is a haven compared to Springfield which is like living in the deep south. It has a large progressive community in the style of Bea Arthur’s tv character Maude but there is still a lot of exclusion from the community. I often times get stared at when I visit the area for day trips by the very people who say they are open minded. I love hampshire county but it is fair from a utpoia! It is very progressive and tolerant but it has so much hidden ”isms” that need to be looked at closely! We are not the San Franscio of the East yet!

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    I am going to be in town for a wedding all of this week and a little of next and I was wondering if anyone knew of any local events happening this week that I could attend I was not out when I used to live in MA so I missed out on all the great lgbt scene so idk where to go when I visit

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    I’m considering going to UMass Amherst for an exchange next year so I thought I’d just see if anything comes up on here when searching for it, and this article is more than I could have hoped for! I was a bit worried about Amherst being such a small town and everything but I can really see myself living there now.

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