Amherst has deep roots with famous poet Emily Dickinson. Her great great grandfather, Nathaniel Dickinson, was one of the first Europeans to visit Amherst in 1665. Today, guests can visit the Dickinson homes, several other local museums, and indulge in fantastic New England food. The city includes the Five Colleges of Amherst, which encourage education and culture appreciation, and whose campuses are all worth visiting. Massachusetts is cold in the winter with a temperate climate in the spring and summer, so plan your activities accordingly.
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1.Beneski Museum of Natural History
The Amherst College Museum of Natural History is called the Beneski Museum of Natural History and is located on the Amherst College campus. This museum is made up of three floors that encompass over 1,700 specimens currently on display. You’ll be awed by the life-size fossilized skeletons of Mammoths and dinosaurs. If you dare to look through the impressive collection of dinosaur footprints, you may be surprised at the size of some of their feet. Dinosaurs and bones are not all that are found – discover Beneski’s massive geology and meteorite collections as well. You’ll also find evidence of man’s earliest ancestors.
11 Barrett Hill Drive, Amherst, MA 01002, Phone: 413-542-2165
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2.Emily Dickinson Museum
© Emily Dickinson Museum
Famous poet Emily Dickinson was born and raised in Amherst. Here, visitors can go to the Emily Dickinson Museum, which is made up of two homes: Dickinson’s home and her brother’s home (next door). Emily’s home is referred to as the Homestead, while her brother’s home is referred to as The Evergreens. You’ll be treated to a huge art gallery that the Dickinsons collected over their lifetimes. This original artwork can be found in the Evergreen’s Parlor. Along with the artwork, visitors will get to see original items the homeowners owned, including the small writing desk in Emily’s room and toys that belonged to her nephew.
280 Main Street, Amherst, MA 01002, Phone: 413-542-8161
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Visitors to Amherst often like to check out Puffers Pond, the largest body of water in the area. At Puffers Pond, you’ll find plenty of outdoor activities to wile away a lazy day, such as fishing, picnicking, bird watching, canoeing, or hiking. No motorized boats are allowed in the pond. With a maximum depth of 20 feet, this pond is great for swimming in the shallower areas. However, no lifeguard is present, so swim cautiously. When at Puffers Pond, consider taking a peek at Puffers Dam, which helps to maintain the water flow to and from the nearby streams.
Amherst, MA 01002
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4.Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
© Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Eric Carle, the author of the famous book The Hungry Caterpillar, and his wife, Barbara, decided to open a picture book museum after seeing many on a visit to Japan. In 2002, this museum opened and has since gained over 11,000 objects. No matter when you choose to visit, there will likely be a program or event happening for you to get involved. Send your little ones to the book-inspired dance classes or therapy dog read-along, while you try your own hand at creative writing or make some of your own art. The Carle, as it is called by locals, offers more than just exhibits – it provides artistic getaways.
125 W Bay Road, Amherst, MA 01002, Phone: 413-559-6300
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© Amherst College
Why might a college be a great place to visit on a vacation? Amherst College offers so much more than just college education in the area (but that is more than enough). For students at Amherst College, they can delve into studies on Black studies, computer science, anthropology, architecture, neuroscience, and much more. As mentioned before, Amherst College also houses several museums of note, such as the Beneski Museum, the Bassett Planetarium, and the Mead Art Museum. You’ll also be able to tour the Emily Dickinson house, the Eli Marsh Gallery, and the Russian Center Art Gallery, featuring Russian art and culture, all on one campus.
Amherst, MA 01002, Phone: 413-542-2000
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6.Yiddish Book Center
© Yiddish Book Center
The mission of the Yiddish Book Center is to encourage the growth and conservation of Jewish culture and education. More than a library, the Yiddish Book Center is a hands-on museum, where visitors are encouraged to pick up the books and read. You’ll look at the art, hear oral history, and learn all about Yiddish literature. Extensive programs, including learning how to translate, graduate fellowships, and taking part in the Pakn Treger, the Yiddish, English-language magazine, are available to those interested. The Center also hosts several events, like Yidstock or Yiddish festivals, throughout the year.
1021 West Street, Amherst, MA 01002, Phone: 413-256-4900
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7.Mead Art Museum
As mentioned, the Mead Art Museum is located on the Amherst College campus. On your visit to the Mead Art Museum, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see some incredible art, both old and modern. Here, you’ll find Japanese prints, Tibetan scroll paintings, sculptures and art from other countries, and traveling exhibits. Whether you want to see modern representations or classic techniques, or you want to see artists’ processes for creating art, you’ll be busy marveling at the beauty that surrounds you as you walk through the displays. Be sure to check out some of the fantastic American art from artists like Winslow Homer and Thomas Cole.
41 Quadrangle Drive, Amherst, MA 01002, Phone: 413-542-2335
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8.Mount Holyoke Range State Park
When you’re ready to take in some fresh air, consider hiking at the Mount Holyoke Range State Park. There are over 30 miles of trails across the park, and you’ll be delighted to run across wildlife, fresh streams, and thickets. Though this mountainous trail is limited with only restrooms and a visitor’s center, there are plenty of things to do in the park, including limited hunting, snowmobiling, and picnicking. If you’re into more extreme sports, horseback riding and mountain biking are also possible. This area is really great for photography, as the scenic views are some of the best.
1500 West Street, Amherst, MA 01002, Phone: 413-253-2883
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9.Amherst Public Library
© Amherst Public Library
The Amherst Public Library is called the Jones Library of Amherst. It is made up of three locations and was originally founded in 1919. Free programs can be found throughout the seasons, such as free language learning for children and Hot Summer Saturday movies. Along with tons of books to choose from, Jones Library also features free digital magazines and free online classes. On top of the excellent programs and offerings at the library, the community library urges its members to get involved through the community. For instance, members can seek free or discounted passes to many local museums.
43 Amity Street, Amherst, MA 01002, Phone: 413-259-3090
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Hiking in Massachusetts mountains is like boating on the coast, it’s a must! The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, referred to as the M&M Trail, is 114 miles long. The highest point on the trail is Mount Monadnock, which reaches 3,165 feet high. The trail is marked throughout, often indicating where alternate routes must be taken because of weather or changing conditions. The trail is maintained with the help of volunteers and is considered to be easy hiking in most areas. Of course, mountainous areas, like Mount Monadnock, is more challenging for novice hikers. Most wildlife is scarce on the trail, though you may spot skunks, raccoons, black bears, and dogs.
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© Hampshire College/Benson
As one of the five in the Five Colleges of Amherst, Hampshire College spans approximately 800 acres. Though offering several 50 different majors, including queer studies, psychoanalytic studies, and game design, it is the campus as a whole that is unique to the area. Along with a yurt that houses the student radio system, Hampshire College is one of the first to focus on becoming entirely self-sustainable by living off of fossil fuels. Huge steps have been taken to prevent greenhouse emissions, such as letting many areas go back to seed, turning parking lots into meadows, and installing solar panels to reduce electricity costs by millions.
893 West Street, Amherst, MA 01002, Phone: 413-549-4600
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12.UMass Fine Arts Center
© UMass Fine Arts Center
When you’re ready for some entertainment, check out the University of Massachusetts’ Fine Arts Center for shows and events. You’ll find student-led shows, festivals, dances, and performances, as well as special guests, within the Fine Arts Center. When craving music, the Concert Hall is where you’ll find your bands, orchestras, and jazz ensembles. Here, you’ll find a movie screen, orchestra pit, and prime sound system. The Bowker Auditorium houses larger events and performances. Three art galleries make up the remainder of the Fine Arts Center: University Museum of Contemporary Art, Augusta Savage Gallery, and Hampden Gallery.
151 Presidents Drive, Amherst, MA 01003, Phone: 413-545-2511
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© Mullins Center
Since there are so many large colleges in Amherst, it’s no surprise to find that many of the best places to go are on campuses. The William D. Mullins Memorial Center is on the University of Massachusetts campus. This arena can seat nearly 9,500 spectators and more for a 360-degree concert. Along with concerts, you’ll find UMass basketball and hockey games at the Center. Other shows, like Cirque du Soleil, Walking with Dinosaurs, and Disney on Ice are held during touring seasons. Planning your trip ahead of time will guarantee seat availability.
200 Commonwealth Avenue, Amherst, MA 01003, Phone: 413-545-3040
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Once partly owned by the Dickinson family, Sweetser Park is the part of the original land that was donated to Amherst by Luke Sweetser’s family. In the 1990s, the park and Cook Fountain were restored to their original beauty. Today, visitors can enjoy the beautiful scenery while picnicking in the park. Over 50,000 daffodil bulbs were planted for the 250th anniversary and bloom dramatically each spring. Around the grounds are many fruit trees that can be admired during their blossoming seasons. Many restaurants are around the park, providing a great opportunity for a leisurely stroll through the gardens and then fantastic local cuisine.
Lessey Street, Amherst, MA 01002
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Established in 1977, Judie’s Restaurant serves unique and familiar foods that will delight any palette. One of the best sellers, the popover, is a New England staple that is worth trying no matter the current filling. In 2007, the restaurant expanded to double capacity and increase bar revenue. Today, visitors can partake in one of the delicious martini or sangria offered by the bar. When you’re ready to dive into the food, besides popovers, you’ll find delicious options from crab cakes to drunken scallops and bacon. Pies and cakes are made fresh, and dessert drinks will get your mouth watering with the sweetness. Try out the bananas foster or derby pie when you really want to indulge.
51 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA 01002, Phone: 413-253-3491
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© Osteria Vespa
At Osteria Vespa, patrons will find a locally-sourced menu that provides excellent food and drinks. The practice of Osteria Vespa is to cook nose-to-tail, not letting any part of the animal go to waste when creating dishes. All dishes use a vibrant Italian twist to entice tastebuds. Consider one of the house special cocktails to start off your meals, such as the Terra Incognito (includes egg whites and almond) or Old English Milk Punch (includes absinthe and clarified milk). When you’re ready to eat, delve into a plate of slow-roasted Porchetta or watermelon and heirloom tomato salad with rhubarb and feta.
28 Amity Street, Amherst, MA 01002, Phone: 413-230-3194
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© Works Café
Originally from Vermont, The Works Café was established in 1988. There are now eight cafes around New England. The owners of Works Café wanted to provide good food and coffee with a green initiative. Today, visitors will find reusable mugs and compostable disposable cups. They donate their time and food to local charities while encouraging employees and the community to also get involved in green living. When possible, they use sustainable products and urge guests to join the Bike to Work initiative. Though, the good works are not the only reason to check out the Works Café; check out their deliciously sourced food, like ancient grain bowls and artisan sandwiches.
48 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA 01002, Phone: 413-835-0561
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17 Best Things to Do in Amherst, MA
- Beneski Museum of Natural History, Photo: Hunta/stock.adobe.com
- Emily Dickinson Museum, Photo: Emily Dickinson Museum
- Puffers Pond, Photo: Aleksandra/stock.adobe.com
- Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Photo: Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
- Amherst College, Photo: Amherst College
- Yiddish Book Center, Photo: Yiddish Book Center
- Mead Art Museum, Photo: Seventyfour/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Holyoke Range State Park, Photo: guruXOX/stock.adobe.com
- Amherst Public Library, Photo: Amherst Public Library
- Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, Photo: pavel1964/stock.adobe.com
- Hampshire College, Photo: Hampshire College/Benson
- UMass Fine Arts Center, Photo: UMass Fine Arts Center
- Mullins Center, Photo: Mullins Center
- Sweetser Park, Photo: tonktiti/stock.adobe.com
- Judie’s Restaurant, Photo: alexpolo/stock.adobe.com
- Osteria Vespa, Photo: Osteria Vespa
- Works Cafe, Photo: Works Café
- Cover Photo: Town of Amherst, MA