Massachusetts Dopers, Please Tell Your New Neighbor-to-Be About Springfield

Yep, come July/August, the vat of nutritive fluid is heading to Springfield, Massachusetts!

So make with the info! What do I need to know? Where should we start looking for a house? Where should I go for my comics and games? If I were to be looking to get a Master’s in math, what college would you advise trying for?

Basically tell me what you know about Springfield (it’s the same name as the town on The Simpsons! Did you know that?) and environs. We wouldn’t be living in Boston (though we’d visit) but Northampton and even Hartford aren’t out of the question.

Gimme the scoop, the skinny, the Straight Dope, if you will. I might even come to one of them fabled Dopefests!



Basically the answer to all your questions is probably Northampton. Springfield itself is not one of the shining lights of Massachusetts. It’s somewhat economically depressed and is too far west to attract the attention of the state legislators. It does have some reasonably nice, if boring, suburbs, none of which I know anything about. The economic blight extends up north as far as Holyoke. Once you get to the Northampton area, you have the Five Colleges giving somewhat of a boost to the region, both economically and in terms of culture.

For comics and games, there’s the Space Crime Continium on Rt 5 in Noho. There’s also the Holyoke Mall which is enormous and probably has one or more comic stores.
For a Master’s in math, I’d look at UMass. Despite constant budget cuts, UMass has some strong programs, particularly in the sciences. (There are a few colleges closer to Springfield – Westfield State? – but I don’t know anything about their programs.)

Once you get far enough north, the Connecticut river valley is really quite attractive with lots of hills, State parks and hiking trails.

It seems like we are gravitating more towards Northampton. We’ve a friend there already, for one thing, and it does seem somewhat nicer from what we can tell.

Yeah. As Finagle said, Springfield is rather depressed. It’s also rather depressing. It’s the largest city (I thnk it’s a city. Could be a town.) in that end of the state, but that’s not saying much. Not much in the way of culture, unless you count the Basketball Hall of Fame and some ties to the small firearms industry. Oh, and there’s a Six Flags.

I’d also second Finagle’s recommendation of UMass. There are plenty of other schools out there, but UMass has a science focus, which the others don’t (for the most part). I also second his recommendation of Northampton (NoHo). It’s the coolest, hippest town in Mass., west of Cambridge. Even moreso than Amherst, IMHO. It’s also at least as liberal, though, so if that’s a problem for you, you may not like it.

But, it’s surrounded by farm land and factory towns struggling to survive, so there are plenty of conservatives in the area, as well. And, if you’re into hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, that kind of thing, it’s a nice area to be in.

NoHo is also a bit of a drive from Springfield, if you’re going to be working IN Springfield. Maybe half an hour or forty-five minutes? It’s been a while since I drove it. I think Hartford is about the same distance, give or take, but I have no idea what the attraction of Hartford is. Been there, couldn’t find anything to do, couldn’t even find a cool t-shirt. Much like Springfield. :wink:

Welcome to Mass.!

I don’t live near Springfield but my in-laws do, and I’ve gotten to know the area pretty well. In fact, I may be moving that way too, if I get laid off.

I can tell you something about one of the boring suburbs of Springfield…Longmeadow is just outside the city and has a reputation for having the best schools in the area. Very pretty, boring suburb. East Longmeadow (different town) isn’t bad either, but I get the feeling the Longmeadownians look down on the East Longmeadownians. BTW, I don’t know where you are coming from, but Mass. can have very different towns/municipalities very close to each other. There is a very strong tradition of each town maintaining and paying for its own police, fire, schools, sewers, etc. There is almost no regional coordination, so you can have a very nice (expensive) town just down the road from an utter hell-hole.

Springfield itself is a fairly typical post-industrial Northeastern small city. It is located just off the Massachusetts Turnpike and is therefore convenient to Boston, Albany, NYC, and Hartford. Springfield declined quite a bit from the 1950s to at least the mid 80s when I understand the city lost a lot of manufacturing jobs. Since then it has been holding steady if not improving slightly. There is a great set of little museums all right next to each other…a ticket to one buys you admission to all. There are a couple of imposing old buildings in the city center. The Connecticut River Valley is indeed beautiful, and housing prices are generally lower than what I am used to in the Boston area. It is also convenient to Vermont if you like to ski, and Canada isn’t too far either.

Among the things associated with Springfield: It is where basketball was invented, and the Basketball Hall of Fame is now probably its biggest attraction. Dr. Seuss lived there, and some of his stories apparently have some slight basis in Springfield, apparently there is a Mulberry St. there, for instance. Milton Bradley of game and toy fame had a house there, I am told. Several gun manufacturers did or still do have facilities there. Indian motorcyles used to be made there, and I think the Stanley brothers of Stanley Steamer fame lived there. Oh, and the wife and I got married in South Hadley, North of Springfield.

I’m afraid I can’t help you with the school question. If I do end up living out there, I may have to get a job in a lab at one of the bigger schools. There is little biotech in the area, unfortunately for me.

Maybe I’ll run into you sometime at one of the museums!

I used to live in Amherst about 10 years ago. I have very fond memories of two restaurants–both insanely popular, so I bet they are still there.

Sylvester’s is in Northampton. It is a great breakfast place loosely based on a former inhabitant, Sylvester Graham, famous for graham crackers, IIRC, and daily swimming in the cold nearby rivers. Have some banana bread french toast and think of me. :slight_smile:

The second place is a pizza place in Amherst. I can’t remember the name, but I am sure if you ask anyone in town, they can direct you. It is right downtown and serves the best pizza by the slice I have ever had, and I have had a lot of pizza in my time.

If you want to eat in Amherst, the ONLY option is Judy’s. Absolutely, without a doubt, no question, the most unbelievably good hamburgers in the entire world are served at Judy’s in downtown Amherst.

My second tip would be that by moving to Springfield/Northampton/wherever, you’re not going to be living in Massachusetts, and that’s a fact of life you’ll have to get used to. When people ask where you’re from, you’ll say “Western Mass.” You won’t get much representation in the state government, because, to Massachusetts residents, you’re not really FROM here. And, with the recent debacle that was the Acting Governorship of Jane Swift, it’s unlikely that another westerner will get a shot for a while at that office.

The cultural divide between the two parts of the state REALLY is that deep. I don’t think that you can really grasp how much of a completely seperate political and social entity Western Mass is without having actually lived in the state. It’s bizarre, and not necessarily good or bad, but it just IS.

I don’t know what kind of commute you’re used to, but the drive between Northampton and Springfield during rush hours can be a bear. Especially in winter.
I have a relative that lived for years in Northampton, and moved to Springfield about eight years ago. I love visiting Northamton: it’s a funky little town, very liberal as has been said. A very good independent bookstore

Well, I didn’t mean to hit Submit yet… wonder how that happened?
The point I was going to make is that Northampton gives the vibe of a great place to visit, but maybe not the kind of place you want to live. But obviously many people do. Visit it and I think you’ll get what I’m saying.
I think it’s also slightly more expensive than other parts of Western Mass. But compared to Boston or New York…

There are nice parts of Springfield itself. Forest Park (on the south side) and the surrounding neighborhood are very nice. Longmeadow and East Longmeadow I’m also familiar with - Longmeadow’s the upscale suburb. Very nice if you can afford it. As previously mentioned, East Longmeadow is less fancy but also pleasant.

One cultural reccommendation - If you are in to art museums, check out the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. An absolutely wonderful museum that I neglected to visit for far too long.

Thanks for the tips. As far as the whole Western Mass/Eastern Mass thing goes, I currently live in the huge part of Illinois that isn’t Chicago, so I’m used to that kind of foolishness.

We odn’t have kids and aren’t planning on having any, so elementary and high schools are no big deal. Liberal is just peachy with us. We’re neither into rural living nor big city living, so it sounds like the area is a nice compromise - close enough that we can get to big places without too much problem, but far enough away from them that we don’t have to live in them.

We currently live in a fairly small town, so we’ve gotten spoiled by ten minute commutes to work and really good public transportation. We’ll get used to longer commutes.

I understand what you’re saying but remember that even if you don’t care about the schools, the people you eventually end up selling your house or condo to might care very much. Residential real estate tends to hold its value better in places that are perceived as having good schools. People with kids are more willing to pay a premium for a house in such towns.

As others have mentioned, UMASS Amherst has some strong programs in the sciences. But just so it doesn’t go unmentioned Wocester Polytechnic has a math department that might be worth checking out.

I don’t know too much about Springfield. I used to drive out there occasionally to get pizza from Papa John’s, which used to have the most amazing pizza when I lived in Florida. Sadly, the Springfield branch wasn’t as good, and they shut down. Tragically sad…

But yeah. We should definitely organize some sort of welcome-to-our-state party :slight_smile:

Hey, I’ve been to Springfield! I always get it confused with Pittsfield, though - I’ve been to Pittsfield much more often (just yesterday, in fact). All I’ve ever done in Springfield is visit the mall.

I’m sorry this post isn’t more helpful, but if there’s a welcome party, I’d be absolutely delighted to attend.

I look at Springfield from a more northerely perspective being a resident of Southern Vermont. Many people from this area commute to Springfield, Noho, Ameherst. My own view is that it’s a nice place to visit, good restaurants, the wages are higher than Vermont, but the size of the ego’s on some Amherst/Noho residents is huge. Check out Brattleboro, Vermont for small town life with close proximity to Western Mass. and few of the hassles, and all in all an extremely progressive town, fifty miles by freeway from Springfield and 30 from Noho. Also check out the math department at Smith College.

I went to school in Amherst, worked in Springfield and now live in the Hartford area. The CT River valley is a beautiful place to live. Springfield and Hartford themselves (i.e., inside the city borders) for the most part are not. There are, however, nice affordable suburbs to both of them, and the drive from our house to Noho (which we do about 2x a month) is very nice and about an hour. So the distances involved are not great. From your comment about not wanting a city or small town, though, I’d second the Noho recommendation. Very small-town feel, with an incredible variety of activities because of the Five Colleges.

As far as masters’s in Math, well, UMass is the only one I’m aware of in the Valley.

I’m from Hartford and I go to school in Northampton so I thought I should jump in…
UMass is definitely the place to look first. Smith is great for undergrad, but there are very limited graduate oppertunities. UConn isn’t THAT far away from Springfield, if you lived in north-central Connecticut you’d be able to get to either in half an hour or so. If you’re looking for cultural stuff Northampton is the place to be. When I was in high school we’d drive up from Hartford for concerts. Be aware though that it takes half an hour to get to Springfield under ideal conditions. Anyway, welcome to the Connecticut/Pioneer Valley!!

The name of the pizza joint is Antonio’s. Snif, I miss it so…

Okay, we’ve decided it will be Northampton.

So, and this is also a bump for the weekday shift, tell me about Northampton, please!

Noho: great, laid-back very liberal, sometimes a little too PC, small city. Easy access to climbing, hiking, mtn and road biking, rock climbing, canoeing/kayaking, skiing and other outdoors activities. The Five colleges really involve the community in a lot of things, so you can, for instance, visit the climbing wall at Hampshire College, see a concert at Amherst, and go to a hockey game at Umass.

Downsides: There is a definite town/gown split in the local political scene. This is normally not much of a problem, but can show up on occasion when a “pet issue” of one side or the other comes up. The Iraq war has brought some more of this out.
Also, the housing costs are inflated by the student population. As students graduate or drop out of one of the colleges, they tend to congregate in Noho on thie way to wherever they are going to go. This makes rental housing more scarce than it normally would be in a city of its size.
Traffic can also be annoying. The area has the road infrastructure for a place with 30,000 people, with a seasonal population twice that.

Overall, I did enjoy living there, and would happily go back if events lead that way. As it is, I live close enough so that when we have the Welcome Legomancer NohoFest, I’ll definetely be there. Who’s up for planning it?