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Northampton Gay Bars Guide - Northampton Lesbian Nightlife Guide

Plus Gay-Friendly Restaurants and Bars in Springfield, MA and the Pioneer Valley

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An alphabetical list of the best bars and nightclubs, plus a few gay-popular restaurants and cafés, in Northampton and the Pioneer Valley for gay travelers. This scenic college town in west-central Massachusetts has long cultivated a strong following with LGBT folks, both as a place to live and visit. The town of about 30,000 is an arts and cultural powerhouse, as well as a bastion of progressive politics. Also included here are a few spots elsewhere in the Pioneer Valley, from Springfield up through Amherst to Greenfield.

Northampton Gay Bar Guide - continued on Page 2

1. Bishop's Lounge - mixed bar

photo by Andrew Collins
In warm weather, this often-packed, mixed gay/straight bar drawing a young, loudly talkative crowd is the place to party in Northampton, thanks to its spacious balcony overlooking bustling Strong Avenue and Pearl Street. True, Bishop's Lounge (41 Strong Ave., 413-586-8900) can be a bit of a scene, but it's reliably fun for people-watching, chatting, dancing (to DJs and, sometimes, live bands), and all-around merriment. Every couple of months, Bishop's hosts an ostensibly gay party called King, but pretty much any evening you'll see a number of gay guys and lesbians here.

2. Bistro Les Gras - restaurant

photo by Andrew Collins
Exceptionally well-crafted classic French fare, with a big emphasis on local ingredients from smaller farms, is served at wonderfully romantic Bistro Las Gras (25 West St., 413-320-4666), a warmly furnished restaurant that's just steps from Smith campus, right beside the popular East Heaven hot tubs and spa - hey, why not finish a leisurely afternoon of soaking or spa treatments with dinner here? This terrific choice for a date presents such tantalizing fare as gnocchi Parisienne with dandelion greens, smoked bacon, and Dijon; and classic pot au feu and roast chicken. There's also an outstanding croque monsieur.

3. Brass Buckle (in Greenfield) - restaurant

A cool, welcoming cafe (open for breakfast all day and lunch till mid-afternoon), the Brass Buckle (204 Main St., 413-475-3268) is in the upper Pioneer Valley, about 25-minute drive north up I-91 from Northampton, in the quite charming town of Greenfield, which is home to some gay-popular inns, including the gay-owned Brandt House and - in nearby Montague - the lesbian-owned Grapevine Inn. The Brass Buckle, which is run by young rockers Jd Hairston and Anika Balaconis, has an inviting vibe, its yellow walls hung with interesting artwork. Excellent coffee is served, along with delicious baked goods, egg-cheese breakfast biscuits, pear-blue-cheese sandwiches, chili-mango salads, and other healthy treats. If you're staying in this part of the valley, this is a great place to kick off your day.

4. Club Xstatic (in Springfield) - gay bar

A bit less than a half-hour drive south of Northampton via I-91, Springfield used to have a bit more of a gay nightlife scene, but this hardscrabble city of about 150,000 - although it does have a sizable gay population - is less of a clubbing hub these days. There is, however, Club Xstatic (240 Chestnut St., 413-736-2618), which draws a predominantly male and quite cruise-y bunch with its shows featuring nude male dancers. In fact, it's the only gay club in the state where guys take it all off. The club is popular with guys throughout the Pioneer Valley, from Amherst-area college students to men down in Hartford, just a 30-minute drive south. Fun events like drag shows some Sundays, JELL-O wrestling, and black-light dance parties keep things interesting, too.

5. The Dirty Truth - mixed bar/restaurant

photo by Andrew Collins
Northampton's own little hipster central, the Dirty Truth (29 Main St., 413-585-5999) is in the heart of downtown's nightlife scene and earns kudos for damn good gastro-pub fare and a list of consistently interesting - if spendy - craft beers on tap, culled from around the country (some of these brews are hard to come by). There's a long bar on one side, and high tables well-suited to group socializing on the other. Like many mainstream bars in town, the Dirty Truth is heavily frequented by members of the gay community, as is its sudsy sister in nearby Amherst, Moan & Dove.

6. Diva's Nightclub - gay bar

Diva's Northampton
photo by Andrew Collins
Northampton's largest and most famous gay nightclub, this second-floor space in an industrial part of town just a five-minute drive or 15-minute walk south of downtown is far more inviting on the inside than its exterior (pictured here) might suggest. There's a good-size dance floor, ample lounge space, and a good-size patio. As the main alternative club serving one of the nation's most popular places to live among lesbians, Diva's (492 Pleasant St., 413-586-8161) always draws a substantial number of women, including plenty of students from nearby colleges. The club has an 18-and-over policy on these evenings as well as on Wednesday and Friday; on Saturdays, Diva's is 21-and-up.

7. East Heaven Hot Tubs and Paradise Spa - mixed baths/spa

photo by Andrew Collins
No, you won't find drinks or food at East Heaven (33 West St., 413-587-0000), but this serene, quirky, and undeniably groovy spot with private indoor and outdoor hot tubs as well as a spa specializing in Japanese, Tibetan, and Thai body work is a fantastic nightlife option. The soothing tubs are open til midnight on weekdays and 1 am on weekends, and there's a clothing-optional women's tub time on Saturdays from 11 am until 4:45 pm. On cool nights in fall and even into winter, soaking in the outdoor tubs, under the stars, is a pretty magical experience. This is, of course, a facility created in the Japanese bathhouse tradition, not a place for cruising - the tubs are private, though can be booked by small groups, so you can go in nude or in a suit; that's up to you and the friends you're sharing the tub with. The staff here is friendly and can answer any questions you have, and they keep the entire facility absolutely spotless.

8. FitzWilly's - mixed bar

photo by Andrew Collins
Lesbian comic Kate Clinton once named the long-running downtown Northampton pub FitzWilly's (23 Main St., 413-584-8666) one of her favorite gay bars. While it's not an LGBT establishment per se, this affordable, cozy, and convivial tavern has been a favorite among local lesbians and gays since it opened in the mid-'70s. For its fans, FitzWilly's represents a happy alternative to the many self-consciously hip or rowdy places nearby - it's a solid bet for down-home pub food (there's a long menu, with everything burgers to burritos) and reasonably priced drinks.

9. The Green Bean - restaurant

Northampton has no shortage of first-rate cafés. The Green Bean (241 Main St., 413-584-2326) is one of the most healthy-minded of the bunch, serving plenty of veggie options. It's open for breakfast and lunch, and is known for grilled tempeh over vegan corn pancakes, huevos rancheros, and veggie as well as meaty versions of BLTs and burgers.

10. Haymarket Cafe - restaurant/coffeehouse

photo by Andrew Collins
Gay-popular Haymarket Cafe (185 Main St., 413-586-9969) feels a bit like Northampton's own little living room. The storefront space, with an additional seating area downstairs, draws students, academics, artists, and other creative and bookish spirits with its art-filled confines, free Wi-Fi, and delicious food, espresso drinks, teas, and such. The baked goods, including all manner of fattening cakes and brownies, score especially high marks. At breakfast, there are tofu vegan scrambles, bourbon-soaked French toast with creme fraiche and maple syrup, and first-rate house-made oatmeal. At lunch go for the roasted-beet-and-goat-cheese salad, the hummus and avocado dip, or the spicy coconut curry stew with sauteed veggies. The Haymarket is open till 10 or 11 at night, making it a popular hangout early in the evening, too, as well as an affordable dinner option.

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