The brick downtown of Noho, as it’s called, is an urban oasis for hipsters lost in the country. Goth kids roam the streets with brightly painted hair, while students from the all-women’s Smith College pore over books in the many bars and cafés lining Main Street. The town has a progressive and active lesbian community that adds to the diverse culture of the area.
The 150-acre campus of Smith College (413/584-2700, www.smith.edu ) is a particularly beautiful place for a stroll, incorporating botanical gardens with over 10,000 plants. Many of them are grown in the Lyman Conservatory (College Lane, behind Admissions Office, 413/585-2740, 8:30 a.m.–4 p.m. daily, free), the campus’s star attraction. The glass-covered hothouses of the conservatory showcase plants from all over the world, from Asian bamboo to African coffee.
Ultracool cocktail lounge Tunnel Bar (125A Pleasant St., 413/586-5366, www.unionstationrestaurant.com ) is literally located in a 100-foot-long tunnel that once connected the train station to nearby streets.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Ye Ol’ Watering Hole (287 Pleasant St., 413/585-0990, www.yeolwateringhole.com ) boasts a “beer can museum” of hundreds of rusting cans hanging over grungy pool tables.
Music lovers have an embarrassment of options. The Iron Horse Music Hall (20 Center St., 413/586-8686, $8–55) has two levels of tables arranged around a stage. Acts run to national indie rock and folk performers.
More formal is the Calvin Theater (19 King St., 413/586-8686, $21–85), a restored grand movie theater that books big names in jazz and folk such as Bela Fleck and Joan Baez.
Local rock bands take the stage at the intimate Pearl Street Nightclub (10 Pearl St., 413/586-8686, $8–35). For all three venues, check out the website for the Iron Horse Entertainment Group (www.iheg.com ).
Each Memorial Day and Columbus Day weekends, the country’s top artisans and craftspeople descend on Northampton  for the Paradise City Arts Festival (Three-County Fairgrounds, Route 9 and Old Ferry Rd., 800/511-9725, www.paradisecityarts.com , 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat.–Sun., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon., $12 adults, $10 seniors, $8 students, free children under 12) to hawk and gawk over Shaker furniture, art nouveau pottery, and funky glass jewelry.
Northampton is heaven to thrift store fans. The proprietor of Sasha’s Psychedelic Clothing and Ethnic Bling (Mill River Marketplace, 375 South St./Rte. 10, www.gypsyheartboutique.com , Sun. 8 a.m.–3 p.m. or by appointment), Sasha Berman, describes her clothes as “funky-sexy-psychedelic,” meaning paisley dresses and burlesque bikini tops.
Would-be punks make the pilgrimage to Sid Vintage (18 Crafts Ave., 413/582-9880, www.sid-vintage.com , noon–6 p.m. Mon.–Thu.; noon–7 p.m. Fri.; 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Sat.; noon–5 p.m. Sun.) sells a bewildering assortment of counterculture T-shirts.
Befitting its urban ambience, Northampton has a wide range of food options. Brightly painted Mexican art fills the walls at La Veracruzana (31 Main St., 413/586-7181, www.laveracruzana.com , 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat.; noon–8 p.m. Sun., $4–18), a taqueria that offers authentic south Mexican dishes and Berkshire Brewing Company beers on tap.
Vegetarians fill the tables at The Haymarket Cafe (185 Main St., 413/586-9969, www.haymarketcafe.com , 7 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Mon.–Thu.; 7 a.m.–11 p.m. Fri.–Sat.; 8 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Sun., $5–7), which serves pan-fried tofu sandwiches and cheap rice dishes in an ambience best described as the Italian Renaissance on an acid trip.
On Smith’s parents weekend, its near-impossible to score a table at Spoleto (50 Main St., 413/586-6313, www.spoletorestaurants.com/spoleto_northampton.html , 5 p.m.–9:30 p.m. Mon.–Thu.; 5 p.m.–11 p.m. Fri.–Sat.; 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Sun., $15–26), an upscale Italian restaurant with regional dishes spiced with the surprising tastes of ginger, cardamom, and even jalapeños.
Speaking of spicy, the raw fish creations at Osaka (7 Old South St., 413/587-9548, www.osakanorthampton.con , 5 p.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat.; 5 p.m.–9 p.m. Sun., $12–22) are the perfect foils for the house-made wasabi-lined sauces.