The town is the home of the nation's first successful navigable canal as well as the oldest continuing institution of higher education for women.
The candlemaking of Yankee Candle Company founder Mike Kittredge originated in South Hadley in 1969.
The Civil War Monument in the center of the Commons was given to South Hadley by William H. Gaylord in the 1900s.
Although no Interstate Highways cross South Hadley's borders, U.S. Route 202, and Massachusetts Highways 33, 47, and 116 provide primary routes of transportation. Interstate 91 can be accessed in Holyoke while Interstate 90 is accessible through Chicopee. Bradley International Airport, serving the greater Hartford-Springfield area, is located 17 miles to the south. The closest Amtrak station is in Springfield.
The Village Commons, a center for dining, shopping, and leisure, is located at the juncture of Massachusetts Routes 116 and 47, in the area commonly called South Hadley Center. Additional commercial centers are located on Massachusetts Routes 116 and 33. South Hadley is also the home of Mount Holyoke College, the oldest continuously operating institution of higher education for women, founded in 1837.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 18.4 square miles (47.6 km²), of which, 17.7 square miles (45.9 km²) of it is land and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km²) of it (3.70%) is water.
There were 6,586 households out of which 26.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.6% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.1% were non-families. 30.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.93.
In the town the population was spread out with 19.6% under the age of 18, 14.9% from 18 to 24, 25.6% from 25 to 44, 22.4% from 45 to 64, and 17.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 72.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 65.8 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $46,678, and the median income for a family was $58,693. Males had a median income of $42,256 versus $31,219 for females. The per capita income for the town was $22,732. About 4.1% of families and 5.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.8% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.
South Hadley High School is known for its highly competitive boys athletic teams for a smaller-sized town. It is home of the 2004 state champion lacrosse team that won Division II with the smallest high school enrollment of all 81 teams. It also won the 2005 Division IA Super Bowl in football.
The South Hadley High School Marching Band has won the state and or New England USSBA Championship each year. In 2005 they placed second nationally and won Best Percussion. In 2006 they won the United States Marine Corps Esprit De corps award, second place in USSBA, and Best Percussion. In 2007 they won the Esprit De corps award for the second year in a row, best percussion for the third year in a row, Massachusetss USSBA championship, New England Championship, and seventh place in the Northeast championship.
Berkshire Hills Music Academy (BHMA), founded in 1999 and opened in 2001, is a private post-secondary residential school providing young adults, with learning or developmental disabilities, the opportunity to live in a collegiate setting and acquire independent living skills while developing their musical potential. BHMA emphasizes students' aptitudes and abilities rather than their deficits. The school is located on 40 acres at the former Joseph Skinner estate.