Kathy asked me to do a couple of articles on the topics of being frugal and green while having fun in the various places that I've lived and we'll all expect her to repay the favor. As you may have noticed, I'm a graduate of Smith College and after spending 4 years in the Northampton area (including summers!), hopefully I'll be able to offer some tips that visitors or even residents will find useful. This post is for the Money Life Network's "Frugal Things To Do In..." series.
Well, as a college student I guess I should start with the things that college students do best: eat and party. If you've been to one of the Pioneer Valley towns, you probably noticed that almost 50% of the retail area is populated by restaurants. So many different options and so many of them are budget-friendly! There is an amazing selection: two tacos at La Veracruzana, $3.95; a huge falafel sandwich at Amanouz, $5, an amazing lunch at Taipei and Tokyo complete with soup or egg roll, rice, and entree, only $5. Add to that, the amazing number of street fairs, sampling opportunities, and special events in town and at Smith College open to the public and you will have an amazing time at my home away from home. My best food freebie: the Hotel Northampton on your birthday! Your entree is completely free--any entree. There are a couple of amazing vegetarian choices, like the ravioli, yum, and also so many other non-veggie choices. Fillet mignon on your birthday? Free! The only downside is that the staff doesn't typically sing "Happy Birthday", but according to my experience with a little encouragement it can be done!
Partying is also something that Northampton does better than most small cities. Clubs and music venues like Bishops and Divas feature amazing local music for free or a small cover charge ($5 for 21+). This little area tends to attract a lot of big names from the music industry and the Iron Horse music hall is definitely the place to find all of them and get tickets for as little as $15 each! Try to time your trip to take advantage. Also, plug for Smith again, you can find so many musical events on one of the 5 College campuses. This spring Smith brought Fiest to campus and tickets were sold for $10 to the public. Also, Jason Lavasseur is performing Sept. 28th in a free concert at the campus center (he's a really amazing indie-rock type musician/singer).
Besides these youth-oriented activities, there are so many other options! So much shopping, little boutiques, consignment stores, and so much more. Favorite stores of mine are Urban Exchange (consignment store for designer clothes), any store in Thorne's marketplace, and of course, Deals and Steals. Deals and Steals is a super amazing discount organic food store where I have found terrific deals on chai concentrate, gourmet chocolates, etc. and they always have out some samples that you can snack on as you shop! When I go back to the Valley in Auguest that will be one of my first stops. To get around the Valley, I recommend the PVTA--takes you anywhere you could want to go and only costs $1/ride! Sometimes so much easier than driving and a much needed break from walking.
Ok, since I didn't hit on nearly half of the great things to do in the Valley let's consider this Part One. Tune in for Part Two where I'll fill you in on more frugal activities and family fun!
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