13 ways to escape the semester in Western Mass

PHOTO COURTESY OF MASSLIVE.COM  Chantelle Leswell ‘20J offers suggestions for Smithies who need to take a break from their academic work.


Chantelle Leswell ‘20J offers suggestions for Smithies who need to take a break from their academic work.

Chantelle Leswell ’20J | Opinions Staff Writer

We’re about to enter the twelfth week of the semester, which means that Thanksgiving break is so close we can smell the pumpkin pie. It also means we’ve been in the throes of midterms for a while now, so I thought I’d share my favorite places to disappear to both on and off campus when things get a little overwhelming.

  1. The Botanical Garden

    The plant house is an underused hidden gem on campus. I was guilty of forgetting about its existence for a long time too until one of their famous flower shoes reminded me. The annual Chrysanthemum Show is happening now through Nov. 18; it is a perfect way to take a sweet-smelling breather from late-fall stress! In the spring, we have an equally beautiful Bulb Show, which has been breathtaking every year I’ve seen it. Even when there isn’t a flower show happening, spending time among the diverse array of succulents or taking a mini vacation in the tropical Palm House (or “Jungle Room”) is a surefire way to assuage some of your work-related anxiety.

  2. Museum of Art

    Smith’s art museum carries a legacy almost as grand as the school itself. This is largely owed to the collection it boasts. From Charles Degas to Taddeo di Bartolo to Diego Rivera, the collection is as rich as it is diverse. The museum also has feature installations centered on creating dialogue, which is a great way to stay stimulated while taking a break from your studies. The museum is quiet, which almost forces you to leave your stress at the door.

  3. Mendenhall Center

    The theater building is a labyrinth of rich colors, and I never fail to get lost in it every time I go in. It’s vibrant and always has something exciting going on while still being a soothing and comforting spot away from my studies. Whether you only come to find a place to hide for a bit (and trust me there are plenty!), come to see one of the great productions or spend everyday in here as a theater or dance major, you’ll feel like you’ve been whisked away to somewhere mysterious and extravagant. My workmate, Bri, who’s a dancer prepping for this week’s Fall Faculty Dance Concert, tells me that Theatre 14 is her favorite space on campus because it feels “less Smith and more Broadway.”

  4. Student Lounge in Clark Hall

    This is an exception in this list of my personal favorite places to destress because I’ve actually never been there myself. The lounge has been recommended to me so many times that I felt like I had to feature it! If you go all the way upstairs in Clark Hall, this little lounge provides a cozy non-work space where you can focus solely on giving yourself some respite.

  5. Forbes Library

    For anyone who loves libraries, Forbes definitely makes a great place to visit to get away from Smith. Even if you don’t want to be reminded of work, I still recommend it — take a look at their Children’s Classics collection in the brightly painted basement, color a picture or have a look in their mini art gallery. It’s also a fantastic way to feel more connected to the wider Northampton community.

  6. Dobra Tea

    Tea break anyone? I discovered this place in my first semester at Smith and have been in awe of it ever since. Its décor and atmosphere incorporate a blend of South and East Asian cultures, pulled together by an expansive menu of teas largely from these areas of the world, creating a very relaxing mood. I haven’t found anything quite like it in the area, and their drinks and desserts are all fabulous.  

  7. La Fiorentina

    This is a pastry shop hidden on Armory St. which is a small court behind Thornes Marketplace. La Fiorentina has lots of decadent pastries to choose from. I learned about this space from a professor who took us there for the last day of class, and it’s a dangerously tasty place to be when work needs to take a backseat.

  8. Art Walk

    Northampton Art Walk takes place on the second Friday of every month and makes for a great night out. It is hosted by various art spaces and galleries in Northampton and works to promote creative art and community. There is always excellent visual and performing art, and there are usually some alcoholic drinks available if you’re 21 or older.

  9. Eastworks

    This is an old mill building in Easthampton that’s been converted into a fantastic hub for artists, small businesses and people seeking a sweet day out. It houses Riff’s Joint, Puzzled Escape Games and Mill 180 Park, along with many other attractions. Check it out if you’re interested in indoor parks with a bar, an escape room and burgers and milkshakes worth ignoring schoolwork for!

  10. Eric Carle Museum/Dr. Seuss Museum

    Did you know that Dr. Seuss was born in Springfield? Or that Eric Carle made his life right here in Northampton? The legacy of both authors are showcased in their respective museums; Seuss’s is located in Springfield while Carle’s is in Amherst, right by Hampshire College. Both museums are colorful and stimulating if you’re looking for a fun excuse to get off campus and be transported back to your childhood for the day.

  11. Dakin Humane Society

    If you’re an animal lover, then why not check out one of the many shelters in the area for some pet therapy? Dakin is a personal favorite of mine, and it has locations in Leverett and Springfield. In Dakin you can hang out with the many animals for adoption in their sanctuary-like temporary home — it’s like Pet-A-Pet Day gone wild. The hardest part is leaving all your new furry friends behind!

  12. Montague Book Mill

    The Book Mill, which is overlooked by Mt. Sugarloaf, has been a place of great comfort to me from very early on in my Smith career, and though I don’t make it out there very often, it holds a special place in my heart. They are a rustic restaurant and bookstore with a brook running through the property and views for days! I love doing work here, but it’s also great for a bite to eat or to curl up in a comfy chair with a non-school book. I recommend the maple hot chocolate for cold and dark wintry nights!

  13. Yankee Candle Village

    Last, but certainly not least, is South Deerfield’s main attraction. The Yankee Candle Village is not just a candle emporium but a day out that — at least for me — never gets boring. It’s where Christmas never ends, and it snows every four minutes. I think it’s supposed to be aimed at children, but it’s literally my favorite place to go when I’m bored, sad or stressed. I truly believe there’s something there for everyone — check it out the next time you want to get off campus!