The Best of Vassar
By Ellen Butler
Unigo Campus Rep at Vassar College
Place to get free WiFi: Everywhere on campus! Since 2005, all of Vassar has been graced with glorious, free WiFi. All you need is your username and password to access it, and you’re good to go. I have personally never had an issue with trying to get a wireless signal on this campus (barring any maintenance they may do on the server, of course), though a few people in the dark depths of the Music Library have sometimes complained that it can get spotty. “The fact that you can get free WiFi pretty much anywhere, anytime, on campus, makes life a lot easier. And it makes studying outside an option,” said Tiffanie Young, a freshman on campus. And many of the students would agree with this last statement: when the weather turns warm, scores of students sit outside and do work on their computers.
Place to get coffee: Oh man. I’m going to have to call this one a tie between the Crafted Kup and Babycakes. I’m sure many of my peers will say it should be Babycakes hands down, but I’m a huge fan of the Crafted Kup. In conjunction with the above “Best,” the Crafted Kup has free wireless (unlike Babycakes, which has no wireless to speak of), which makes it a great place to go if you’re sick of being on campus but need to get some work done.“ The small shop is adorable, with a loft decorated with couches, tables, and a small fireplace. It is an affordable and relaxing place to get coffee and do work. And the people that own the shop are so friendly!” said Katie Dow, a junior. They’re also very into recycling and composting and all that beautiful green stuff that Vassar kids are into. As Nick Schmidt, a senior on campus, put it, “Babycakes has it going on when it comes to sweet treats, but for the proper brew the Kup is where it’s at.” Word.
Place to take a nap between classes: This one has to go to the library. One of my first memories of freshman year was taking a tour of the library and having a librarian say to us, “Now, some librarians think that libraries are for studying and nothing else. But I completely disagree. I think that if you want to come in here and take a nap on our couches, then that’s exactly what you should do. That’s practically what these couches are for!” Since that moment, I’ve seen countless students asleep on chairs or couches, curled up in exhausted little balls. Claire Walsh, a senior who admits to having fallen asleep in the library on occasion, said, “You know, when you’re reading really dense theory on one of the couches, sometimes you just close your eyes and wake up a couple of hours later.” What’s great is that it’s so commonplace that no one even takes note.
Restaurant to take your parents when they’re visiting: Again, this one is tough, but I think Babycakes is the staple. Nicole Wood, a freshman, put it perfectly by saying that the “perfect place to take the elders for a quick bite is Babycakes, an upscale bakery on Collegeview Avenue with a menu featuring homemade soups, salads, and decadent desserts. A favorite of students and must for visitors.” At the very least, you have to bring your parents here for brunch on the weekends, because Babycakes makes the meanest breakfast foods, ranging from brioche French toast to tofu Tex-Mex wraps. Mm. They’re vegetarian/vegan friendly, and make their own adorable pastries on site. Just last fall they reopened after undergoing major renovations that literally quadrupled its original size, so the painful wait that used to take place on weekend mornings is no longer an issue. However, as Nicole said and as many students would echo, “Bring money.” Tiffanie said that “you might look back at the end of the month and wonder where all your extra spending money went, and then you remember you went to Babycakes, and it was well worth it.” But if it’s dinner you’re interested in, then the Artist’s Palette, Busy Bee Café, and the Culinary Institute of America (only about 15 minutes away) are also must-visits.
Ethnic food: Okay, I’ll just take a moment here to say that, while Poughkeepsie may leave some things to be desired, good food is not one of them—particularly ethnic food. On the two blocks just off campus, for instance, there is a Greek place, a Middle Eastern place, a Chinese place, a Mexican place, a Vietnamese place, a Thai place, two sushi/Japanese restaurants, at least two pizza places, and some bistro-like restaurants. But for me, the best ethnic food is at Zorona’s, which is the Middle Eastern restaurant just off campus. As a vegetarian, I practically covet their falafel plate. Their baba ghannouj and hummus are both delicious, and what’s even better is that the prices are fair and the carry out is fast.
Bar: The Dubliner, which Nick considers “the only off-campus bar that is not sketchy.” To be honest, there aren’t many bars near campus to go for a drink. However, The Dubliner Irish Pub is a fantastic place to go to get a good beer and watch your favorite club team play on the big screens. They have different events on many nights, including karaoke, traditional Irish music, and DJs, but the times I’ve gone there it’s been perfectly easy just to sit at the bar and chill with your friends. What’s also nice about it is the fact that it’s not just Vassar kids who go there; it’s much more of a mixture of the community and students, which I always appreciate.
Place on campus to get some sun: The Quad. As a senior living in apartments on the edge of campus, I have to say I miss the quad terribly. When winter is finally over and the first warm day arrives, the quad is suddenly filled with smiling, relieved students playing catch, doing homework, or laying out in the sun. “If it’s sunny outside, I like to bring a blanket or simply spread out on the grass to do work, chat, or what people go by,” says Tiffanie. “It makes me feel like I live in a park.”
Under 21 night-spot: The Mug!! Officially known as “Matthew’s Mug,” this is the nightclub on campus, tucked away in the basement of Main Building. If you’re a Vassar student with a valid ID, you can and do go to the Mug. This is often the place where people end their nights out: they’ll start at parties around campus, then everyone will head to the Mug around midnight or thereafter to dance ‘til they can’t dance no more. On the weeknights, there are different themes many nights: Monday is Trivia Night, Tuesday is Jazz Night, Wednesday is 80s/90s Night, etc. Friday and Saturday nights are often sponsored by a particular organization on campus, and they’ll play different types of music depending on which group it is. The Mug does have some unfortunate associations with being creepy/gross (it can get wicked hot down there), but I would say overall, people have a very special place in their hearts for it. As Teddy Weiss, a senior, put it, “The Mug: it’s shady but everyone knows your name.” You know, like Cheers, but a little bit seedier.
Spot on campus for a photo op: Sunset Lake. This lake is on the southern edge of campus, behind the academic quad, and it is absolutely gorgeous. A friend of mine who graduated recently told me that Sunset Lake is what locked down her decision to come to Vassar. At every moment of every season, this lake is beautiful: in the fall the trees surrounding it turn rich yellows and reds while ducks and geese swim around; in the winter when the snow falls, the lake looks incredibly placid; in the spring the field of crabapple trees on the eastern edge of the lake all bloom, their reflections doubling the imagery; in the summer, everything looks green and peaceful. Katie thinks it’s also a great place for one to refocus: “Sunset Lake is a beautiful, peaceful place to rest and re-center yourself. There is never too much activity over there, so it is a wonderful place for photo op, but also just to relax and separate yourself from the center of campus.”
Place to study: The library. Our library is all kinds of beautiful: stained glass, Gothic architecture, tapestries—to call it a marvel is to be selling it short. “The library is one of the most picturesque places to study ever conceived. Tons of books, stained glass, what more could you want?” said Nick. But beyond its beauty, the library is downright functional. Tons of nooks and crannies to get lost in, either purposely or not; different types of chairs, tables, desks, layouts that make it nearly impossible for you not to be able to find a place conducive to your studying style; lots of printers and computers to use (including laptops available for checkout); even a coffee shop, Matthew’s Bean. Every wing of the library has its own personality, and students will tell you that if you’re going to do serious studying you should go either to the Reading Room or to Special Collections, but if you’re going just to get some minor work done, you’ll be fine staying in the main wings off the entrance. Either way, there’s a place for you to go.