Northampton, Massachusetts – Main Street

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It’s not hard to see why Northampton has won more than 25 awards, including best small city in America, top 10 town for craft lovers, walking and bicycle-friendly community, green community, and best downtown shopping district. Jenny Lind, a renowned 19th century singer, called this city the “Paradise of America” — and the nickname “The Paradise City” has stuck with this small city, tucked in a river valley 100 miles west of Boston.

Stroll along Main Street and it’s easy to see why. Northampton has a rich history, an artsy college-town vibe, cool shops and boutiques, an incredibly array of excellent restaurants, and a roster of annual events and activities that help build its strong sense of community.

Northampton’s past is, in many ways, still present. The Main Street spot where 18th century Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards had his meetinghouse is now home to a church that accepts all comers. Former slave turned abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth came to town in 1843 to join the Northampton Association for Education and Industry, a utopian, abolitionist community where anti-slavery statesman Frederick Douglass was a supporter and frequent guest speaker.

In 1910, a local lawyer named Calvin Coolidge became Northampton’s mayor, 13 years before he became the 30th U.S. president. The Calvin Theatre, opened in 1924 while Coolidge was in the White House, still operates at the corner of Main and Pleasant. Head up Main and onto West Street and you’ll reach the Forbes Library, home of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum.

At the head of Main Street is the Academy of Music, the nation’s oldest city-owned theatre. A right turn onto Elm Street leads to Smith College, founded in 1871, whose alumnae include U.S. first ladies, Pulitzer Prize-winning writers, and many other notable and accomplished women. Smith’s campus features landscaped gardens, Paradise Pond, a conservatory and the Museum of Art. Not far from Smith are the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech, where Alexander Graham Bell once taught.

Throughout the year, Main Street plays welcoming host to an array of downtown events that include First Night Northampton, LGBTQ Parade and Pride Day in May, and a number of public arts and music events. Past a railroad overpass, Main becomes Bridge Street and leads to Three County Fairgrounds, site of the country’s oldest continuously running agricultural fair.

You’ll want to explore Northampton for yourself — and A Visitors’ Guide to Paradise offers not one, but six self-guided walking tours of this multi-faceted community.

Downtown Lights photo taken by Sam Masinter, all other photos taken by Lynn Graves
Photos courtesy of Downtown Northampton Association

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Boston, Massachusetts – Tremont Street

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Tremont Street begins in the shadow of Boston’s Government Center, which includes City Hall and the John F. Kennedy Federal Building. From here it’s a short walk across City Hall Plaza and Congress Street to reach Faneuil Hall Marketplace. This popular attraction, also known as Quincy Market, has a marketplace and gathering hall that date to 1742. From here, it’s not far to Boston’s Old State House, which, like Faneuil Hall, was the site of many dramatic events in the lead-up to the American Revolution.

Heading down Tremont Street, pedestrians can make several stops along the Freedom Trail, including the King’s Chapel Burying Ground, which is the resting place of Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower. A little farther down is the Granary Burying Ground, which contains the grave sites of many notable Revolution-era patriots, including Paul Revere,  Samuel Adams and John Hancock.

Tremont Street then forms the eastern edge of Boston Common, the oldest city park in the United States. Here you can look up to see Beacon Hill and the gold dome of the current State House, which dates to 1798. Boston Common is home to the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, a famed relief sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens that  commemorates the Civil War heroism of the U.S. Army’s first all-black regiment and its commander, Robert Gould Shaw. Bordering Tremont Street and the Common are the Boston Public Garden, Emerson College and the Boston Theater District.

Heading toward the city’s South End, Tremont Street passes near the Boston Center for the Arts and the Boston Children’s Theatre along with several community libraries, parks and gardens. In the South End, Tremont turns into a restaurant row at the heart of a diverse neighborhood that has fine restaurants, bars, art galleries and boutiques.

Tremont Street continues on to Mission Hill, a neighborhood known for single-family homes, plentiful restaurants, shopping and racial diversity. More than half of “The Hill’s” residents walk, bike, or take public transit to work. It is close to the Longwood Medical and Academic Area, which contains 21 health care, research, and education institutions. Tremont Street comes to an end at Brigham Circle, just past Kevin W. Fitzgerald Park, a popular community recreation and gathering spot where you can sit back on a bench, relax and enjoy dramatic views of the Boston skyline.

Parklet photo courtesy of Richard Rouse – Mission Hill Gazette

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