In the shadow of the 1,202-foot Mount Tom, Easthampton is a progressive and creative community surrounded by famous college towns like Northampton, Amherst, and Hadley.
From the 19th century until not long after World War II Easthampton was a center for the textiles industry, leaving the town with a unique townscape embroidered with historic mill complexes.
These giant brick buildings now contain artist collectives, studios, restaurants, craft breweries, live music venues, indoor parks, entertainment amenities, and much more.
Meanwhile the ponds that once drove these mills set the scene for charming urban parks, with promenades, boat rentals, and spaces for open-air entertainment in the summer.
1. Mount Tom State Reservation
Impossible to ignore on the east side of town is the tallest traprock peak in the Metacomet Ridge. Rising to 1,202 feet, Mount Tom is part of a 100-mile chain of peaks that runs from the north end of Franklin County down to Long Island Sound in the south.
Like all of the summits on the ridge, Mount Tom is crossed by the 110-mile Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, which will give you astonishing views stretching out for miles from the mountain’s western cliff face.
This trail is just one in a labyrinth of trails crossing the mountain, leading places of awe-inspiring natural beauty like Goat Peak.
The lookout tower here has a complete panorama of the Connecticut River Valley, and is a prime vantage point for watching migrating raptors in early fall.
2. Nashawannuck Pond
A uniting feature of downtown Easthampton is this serpentine pond, built in the mid-19th century to power the town’s mills, and fed by Broad Brook, White Brook, and Wilton Brook.
Nashawannuck Pond is one portion of an ever-present system of water bodies in the center of Easthampton, and feeding Lower Mill Pond where there’s another row of mills along Pleasant Street.
On the north shore, at the West End of Cottage Street, there’s a charming boardwalk, completed in the 2010s, and equipped with docks and benches.
Based nearby is Valley Paddler, renting out kayaks, canoes and pedal boats in the summer months.
On the south shore is the fabulous Nonotuck Park, loaded with amenities, from a water spray park to children’s playgrounds, four pavilions, 20+ picnic sites, fishing areas, an outdoor pool, and sports amenities for soccer, baseball/softball, tennis, basketball, bocce, and sand volleyball.
3. Millpond.Live Festival
Every summer, Millside Park on Lower Mill Pond is the venue for a grassroots festival series, produced by a local creative agency and made possible by a team of dedicated volunteers and local sponsors.
These culturally diverse free events, featuring performers from around the world, are designed to attract people to the town, but also appeal to all members of the Easthampton community.
There’s great music, local food and drink, and a host of other innovative and immersive art experiences.
A few performers from the time we wrote this article were Reyna Tropical, Judith Hill, Freelance, Beau Sasser, Misty Blues, and Puuluup.
Since 1997, the five-story Stanley Home Products factory building along Pleasant Street has had a new purpose, as a diverse hub for entrepreneurs, artists, designers, craftspeople, nonprofits and community-based organizations.
You can come to Eastworks for live entertainment, exhibitions, dining, shopping, classes, workshops, and open studios.
One spot that draws the crowds is Riff’s Joint, a casual counter-service restaurant serving American comfort food with an ethical philosophy.
This means humanely raised, antibiotic and hormone-free meats, while everything on the menu is homemade or sourced locally.
The West End meanwhile is Eastworks’ community event room and performance space, over 2,100 square feet, and with a wine and beer license.
5. Manhan Rail Trail
Opened in 2003, this six-mile trail crosses Easthampton’s downtown area on an abandoned railbed, active until the mid-1980s as part of the Pioneer Valley Railroad.
The Manhan Rail Trail is intended to be one component in a continuous, 104-mile path, known as the Mass Central Rail Trail, extending from Northampton to Boston.
For now, this is an excellent way to get around the center of Easthampton, passing close to Main Street, Nashawannuck Pond, and the revitalized mill complexes along Cottage Street and Pleasant Street.
The trail forks at the eastern end of Pleasant Street, with a northern branch that connects with Northampton’s own trail system.
6. CitySpace (Old Town Hall)
The old commercial core of Easthampton is along a few blocks of Main Street, from Northampton Street in the north to Center Street in the south.
This district has been the town’s civic and commercial hub since it was incorporated in 1785, and has a few buildings that testify to Easthampton’s prosperity in the 19th century.
None more so than the Old Town Hall, built in a theatrical Renaissance Revival Style in 1869 and accompanied by a 133-foot campanile.
Since 2006, the first floor landmark has been occupied by the nonprofit, CitySpace, raising funds for the restoration of the building while staging exciting live performances here in the Blue Room.
7. Nashawannuck Mills Historic District and Cottage Street Cultural District
Overlooking the north shore of Nashawannuck Pond is a giant complex of interconnected mill buildings, constructed between the mid-1840s and 1870.
These were built for the Williston Elastic Suspender Company, later renamed the Nashawannuck Manufacturing Company, producing elastic fabrics for suspenders and webbing, and making rubber parts for shoes.
The elastics business finally powered down in 1970, and now the complex has a spectrum of occupants, from light industry to a martial arts school, and an artists’ cooperative.
Go east and you’ll find yourself in the bustling Cottage Street Cultural District, with a long line of independent restaurants, bars, performance and shops, all with Mount Tom on the eastern horizon.
8. Park Hill Orchard
Out in the countryside, within a couple of miles of Easthampton’s center, there’s a fruit farm that doubles as an outdoor art gallery.
Park Hill Orchard grows almost 100 varieties of fruit, counting various types of blueberries, raspberries, plums, pluots, blackberries, peaches, cherries, pears and apples.
There are close to 48 apple varieties alone, with pick-your-own available from late summer. All of this produce and more is sold at the rustic farmstand, open until Thanksgiving and loved for its apple cider donuts and apple cider slushies.
In addition, Park Hill Orchard is an art destination, staging juried biennial installations, interspersed with an annual invitational exhibition, normally showcasing two artists. This work can be enjoyed on a half-mile trail, weaving through the orchards and fruit gardens.
9. New City Brewery
One tenant in that line of turn-of-the-century textile mills on Pleasant Street is the New City Brewery, crafting ales and lagers since 2013.
The brewery moved into this atmospheric space in 2015, and has a dozen brews on tap. A flagship, and something hard to find anywhere else, is a pre-Prohibition style hard Ginger Beer. This is also fantastic as a mimosa, with grapefruit juice or fresh squeezed orange juice.
In a roster of IPAs, Lagers and malty ales, there’s also the New City Mule, which is great with Quiver Hibiscus Tea in an Hibiscus Mule. New City also has a kitchen, with a choice of hearty bar fare, including vegetarian and vegan options.
10. Luthier’s Co-op & Backstage Bar
This unique and treasured local business treasures itself as “the World’s First Full-Service Guitar Bar.”
During the day Luthier’s Co-op is a musical instrument store, specializing in stringed instruments, buying, selling and repairing used and vintage guitars, basses, ukuleles, banjos, mandolins, and amps.
Then when night falls this place turns into a hopping entertainment venue, with multiple acts on a given evening, as well as open mics, spoken word and stand-up comedy.
The Backstage Bar mixes signature cocktails, pours freshly grounded and brewed coffee, and has a host of local beers and ciders on tap.
11. Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary
In the very north of Easthampton, this 734-acre Mass Audubon refuge is on the Connecticut River’s ecologically diverse floodplain, encompassing forest, wetlands, marsh, meadows, and grasslands.
In the four-mile network of trails at Arcadia there’s an excellent, rope-guided All Persons Trail, which has interpretation, in tactile, large-print and braille formats.
An extensive boardwalk and an observation tower allow you to survey the sanctuary’s delicate habitats, and there’s a nature play area where children can leap over the stump jump and build fairy homes.
The floodplain’s loamy soils nurture dozens of wildflower species, bringing color to the meadows in spring and summer, with a native flower garden at the trailhead of the main loop from the visitor center.
12. Fort Hill Brewery
Opened in 2014, this craft brewery was founded by a graduate of Chicago’s Siebel Institute, which has educated brewers all over the world since 1872.
The general manager and head brewer, Eric Berzins, conducted a long search for the ideal location for his brewery, before settling on Easthampton, because of its water.
Fort Hill Brewery uses traditional German brewing techniques, and adheres to historic purity laws (limiting brewers to four ingredients), requiring exceptional water quality.
There’s a tasting room with an outdoor patio at this special location at the foot of Mount Tom by the Manhan River. A few of the headline brews are Red Prince (Marzen), Lager Not a Fighter (Festbier), Hera Pils, Bill the Butcher (Imperial Stout), Fresh Pick (IPA), Doppelbock and Lager Beer.
There’s live music up to four nights a week (Thu-Sun), and local food trucks for arepas, charcuterie platters, Italian American street food, and more.
13. Prodigy Minigolf & Gameroom
On the ground floor of the Eastworks Mill, you might be surprised to discover an indoor mini golf course and game room, open to people aged 13 and up.
The 18-hole course has a design inspired by video games, and touts itself as one of the most challenging and rewarding courses around.
Also here are almost 60 different video game consoles, from the 1970s to the 90s, with a couple of newer consoles thrown in. Added to that are table games, from pool to air hockey, and 200+ board games, for a night of fierce competition with friends.
14. Chicoine Family Farm
In the pastoral western corner of Easthampton there’s a farm worked by the Chicoine family since 1933.
On what was originally a dairy farm, William Chicoine began raising cows for beef in the 1970s, long before terms like farm-to-table and grass-fed meat were in fashion.
The herd of around 70 cows is fed only grass, receiving no steroids, growth hormones or antibiotics, and the impact on quality is unmistakable.
The store at Chicoine Family Farm is open on Sunday, also selling organic chickens and pork, raised on this property.
15. Dinosaur Footprints Reservation
This corner of the Pioneer Valley has a special place in the history of paleontology, as the home of the first dinosaur tracks ever to be scientifically described.
In the early Jurassic period, around 200 million years ago, what is now the Connecticut River Valley was a subtropical region of lakes and swamps.
Here, bipedal dinosaurs up to 20 feet in length left tracks that were preserved in the mudflats, which eventually became sandstone.
Discovered in 1802, these prints were initially believed to be made by ravens escaped from Noak’s Ark, before the scientific community understood their significance later in the century.
The 20 or so tracks, made by smaller herbivores and larger meat-eaters, can be studied at an 8-acre Trustees of Reservations property in neighboring Holyoke.