Amherst is a town in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. Amherst is home to about 35,000 residents as well as the campuses of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, and Hampshire College. A usually pleasant mix of students, academics, and retirees makes it a quintessential New England college town.
Amherst is at the center of a vibrant academic consortium comprising UMass, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and two more colleges in neighboring towns: Smith College in Northampton and Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley. Because of this the area is frequently referred to as the "Five College Area."
When to Visit
The most popular time to visit Amherst is during autumn, because of the spectacular fall foliage display throughout the area. This usually peaks in mid-October. Views of the foliage can be seen from the surrounding mountains, the hiking trails, and throughout the college campuses. During this time tourists also come to take part in agricultural activities such as apple picking, farmer's markets, and hay rides. The town is usually bustling with college students during the season, making the town congested and sometimes crowded. Although, the students add to the youthful atmosphere of the town and make it lively and energetic.
Route 9 is the main road in and out of town, and it can get pretty busy when the colleges are in session. Extended construction has just been completed on the art deco Route 9 Calvin Coolidge Bridge over the Connecticut River between Northampton and Hadley, markedly easing the congestion as one approaches Amherst.
Route 116 is the picturesque central artery through Amherst. UMass, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the main shopping district are all situated along 116.
I-91 is the main north-south artery through the Pioneer Valley area, providing access to Route 9 for drivers approaching from Northern New England or Connecticut and New York City.
Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA), Phone: +1 413-586-5806 or toll free: 877-779-PVTA, . Operates a good bus system that can take you between the UMass campus, Northampton, and South Hadley. Inter-campus PVTA routes are free for Five College students, enabling PVTA the claim to fame of operating the second-largest free-fare public transit system in the world (second only to the entire nation of the Netherlands).
Emily Dickinson Museum The Homestead & The Evergreens, 280 Main Street, Phone: +1 413-542-8161, . March-mid December, hours vary by season. Two tours are offered. $8-$3.
Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Phone: +1 413-542-2335, .
Pratt Museum of Natural History, Amherst College, Phone: Phone: +1 413-542-2165, .
Fine Arts Center, Univ. of Mass., Phone: +1 413-545-2511, .
Amherst History Museum at the Strong House, 67 Amity Street, Phone: +1 413-256-0678, . A 1750 era house and 18th century gardens is the Historical Society's backdrop for the telling of local history by guided tour. Adults $4, Seniors, students and children $3, under 6 free.
National Yiddish Book Center, 1021 West Street (Route 116), Phone: +1 413-256-4900, . World's only museum devoted exclusively to Yiddish literature and culture. Theater, gardens, exhibits, gallery and English-language bookstore. Year round, M-F, 10AM-3:30PM; Su 11AM-4PM. Free.
Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 1025 West Bay Road, Phone: +1 413-658-1100, . Collections of picture book art from around the world. Hours Tu-F, 10AM-4PM; Sa 10AM-5PM; Su 12PM-5PM. Adults $7, Children $5.
Amherst College Enjoy a walk around one of the most stunning (and highest-ranked) colleges in New England.
University of Massachusetts The flagship of the University of Massachusetts system, by far the largest academic institution in the region, and the only university in the area offering graduate programs.
Hampshire College Is the youngest liberal arts college in Amherst.
Because of the large population of college students, there are frequent concerts, and other activities that cater to the college crowd.
Amherst Cinema, 28 Amity St., Phone: +1 413-253-2547, . Amherst's only non-profit movie theater. Recently opened and very modern with small but very nice theaters playing primarily independent films. Tickets range from $6.50 to $8.50, offering discount prices for students and members.
Fine Arts Center, 145 Fine Arts Center, Phone: +1 413-545-0481, . Located on the UMass campus, this center offers a variety of arts and education programs year round with excellent prices. Make sure to check out their calendar of events when you're in the area. If you're a student at one of the Five Colleges, don't miss your chance to attend a great performance for as low as $7-$15.
Mullins Center, 200 Commonwealth Ave., Phone: +1 413-545-3001, . The Mullins Center is home to UMass Athletics as well as the latest rock and pop bands who frequently make this center a stop on their nationwide tours. There is also a public skating rink as a fun alternative. Just make sure to check their schedule as the rink hours are pretty irregular.
The Norwottuck Rail Trail, . Scenic ten mile paved trail passing through the towns of Amherst, Hadley, and Northampton. Great for biking, jogging, roller blading, or just walking along. There are many places to get on and it's a great way to spend the day with your family, friends, or even on your own, with rest places and picnic tables along the way. There is also an extension now that you can get on in Northampton, pick up your bike and go over the railroad tracks, that takes you to Look Park in Florence.
Amherst centre has a variety of boutique and book stores.
A.J. Hastings, 45 South Pleasant Street, ☎ 413.253.2840, . A family owned and operated business that has been providing office and school supplies, newspapers and magazines to the local community and nearby collegiate market since 1914. Open daily.
Amherst Books, 8 Main Street, ☎ 413.256.1547, . A locally owned, independent bookshop, selling new & used books. Michelin Guide 'Pick'; Boston Magazine 'Best'.
Amherst Music House & Guitar Workshop, 233 North Pleasant Street, ☎ 413.549.1728.
Amherst Wines & Spirits, 233 North Pleasant Street, ☎ 413.549.0900, . Staff is knowledgeable and unstuffy; a service-oriented business with competitive pricing and high quality selection. Free wine tastings every Saturday, 2 - 5 PM.
Atkins Farms, 1150 West Street, ☎ 413.253.9528, . Apple Orchard and Country Food Market near the Holyoke Mountain Range, where the Atkins Family has been growing apples for over 100 years.
Food for Thought Books Collective, 106 North Pleasant Street, ☎ 413.253.5432, . Owned and operated by its workers, Food for Thought specializes in the following areas: Progressive, Multicultural & Radical Politics, Queer Studies, Women's Studies, multicultural & progressive childrens' books.
Henion Bakery, 174 North Pleasant Street, ☎ 413.253.4909, . Since 1993 David W. Henion and Barbara Kline have been offering a wide variety of fresh scratch-baked goods. Cafe space for on-premises consumption.
Newbury Comics, Main Street
Tabella Restaurant, 28 Amity Street, ☎ 413.253.0220, . Cosmopolitan gourmet small plates menu emphasizing farm-fresh organic ingredients. Big wine list & cocktails. Located in the Amherst Cinema complex. Menu changes frequently.
There is an interesting selection of locations for eating out in Amherst, from the traditional college-town fare (pizza, wings, subs) that one would expect from a town with 3 colleges, to some unique and interesting local restaurants. Many are situated in the downtown area, around the intersections of North Pleasant Street (Route 116) and Main Street.
Antonio's, 31 North Pleasant St., Phone: +1 413-253-0808. Open daily until 1:00 am, weekends until 2:00 am. An Amherst icon serving pizza by the slice. Their cheese pizza is OK but people really come here for their specialty slices such as their chicken blue cheese (white pizza topped with buffalo chicken and blue cheese), quesadilla (chicken, cheese, and pico de gallo topped with tortilla chips), and steak burrito (steak, rice, and beans). Many vegetarian slices too. $3.00 a slice.
Bueno y Sano, Boltwood Walk, Phone: +1 413-253-4000. Giant burritos made from fresh ingredients. Tacos and quesadillas are also on the menu, but the burrito will run you about $6 and you won't be hungry afterwards.
The Hangar, 55 University Dr., Phone: +1 413-549-9461, . Open daily 11:30 am until 1:00 am. This place makes chicken wings as an art form. You can get boneless or traditional wings in aptly named sizes such as "747" or "DC-10". Their buffalo sauce has five levels of intensity but their other flavors, such as honey barbecue and teriyaki, are great too. There are an insane number of beers on tap, and you can get delivery too (wings, not beer). Their delivery business is named Wings (549-9464). $5-$10.
Pho Noodle Soup, 41 Boltwood Walk, Phone: +1 413-253-0007. Right behind Antonio's next to Thai Corner. Offers Vietnamese and Korean dishes consisting of rice noodle soups, appetizers, salads and noodle dishes. Great for lunch or something warm to eat on a rainy day. The owner is very friendly and your meal will probably run you about $7-$10.
River Shark Cafe, 17 Montague Rd., +1 413-259-4259. Unique breakfast place and cafe. For breakfast try their stuffed french toast (corn flake encrusted, fruit filled french toast)
Amherst Brewing Company, 24-36 North Pleasant St., Phone: +1 413-253-4400, . Open daily 11:30 am until 1:00 am, dinner stops at 10:00 pm. American and pub fare. Great appetizers, try the fried pickles. ABC brews and serves a full selection of their own beers including seasonal brews and standards like the North Pleasant Pale Ale. $10-$20.
Amherst Chinese Food, 62 Main St., Phone: +1 413-253-7835. Cognoscenti come for the blackboard vegetable dishes grown on Mr. Chang's farm, stir-fried with your choice of pork, chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu. Wonderful dumplings and noodles and other Northern Chinese specialties.
The Black Sheep Deli, 79 Main St., Phone: +1 413-253-3442, . It has a decidedly vegetarian feel, but this local deli can make you a mean meat sandwich if that's what you're after. All the bread is baked in their own bakery and all the sandwiches are delicious. There are also take-out dinners and The Black Sheep runs a full catering business as well. Serves a wide selection of fair-trade coffees, espresso drinks, and teas. $5-$10.
Fresh Side, 39 South Pleasant St., Phone +1 413-256-0296. Asian food and tea restaurant. Their tea rolls are very tasty and filling. They have a small variety of fine tasting teas. The atmosphere is very chill. They have two rooms of seating, with additional seating outdoors and on mats in front of the window. $10-$15.
Lone Wolf, 63 Main St., Phone: +1 413-256-4643. Great place to eat breakfast.
Loose Goose Cafe, 1 East Pleasant St., . A great selection of enormous sandwiches named after Jazz legends, soups and salads, as well as cookies, squares, drinks and coffee.
Panda East, 103 North Pleasant St., Phone: +1 413-256-8923. Open Monday through Thursday 11:30 am until 10:00 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:00 am until 11:00 pm, Sunday 12:00 pm until 10:00 pm. A wide selection of Chinese and Japanese food including a full sushi bar and all the tropical cocktails you could want. $10-$20. Stick with more Americanized (fried) fare, avoid wonton soup.
Arigato Sushi, 11 North Pleasant Street, Phone: +1 413-253-1070. The best place to get sushi in Amherst. The food is well prepared and the service is excellent. The atmosphere fits the restaurant very well. Their widescreen television is great for watching the Red Sox game. Try their avocado salad.
Chez Albert, 27 South Pleasant Street, Phone: +1 413-253-3811, . An intimate French bistro with a simple but high quality menu, based around local organic ingredients.
Judie's, 51 North Pleasant St., Phone: +1 413-253-3491, . Open Sunday through Thursday 11:30 am until 10:00 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am until 11:00 pm, closed Mondays. A good place for lunch or dinner, located in the center of town. Judie's is famous for their popovers, you can even have your sandwich served in a popover. Great soups, salads and dressings, and very interesting entrees. $15-$25.
La Piazza, 30 Boltwood Walk, Phone: +1 413-253-5444, . Featuring Classic Italian inspired with new recipes. The menu is small but has a variety of rich, well made Italian dishes. They also have a good wine selection and well made bread. $15-$25.
There are a variety of take-out restaurants that specialize in college-town fare.
Athena's Pizza, 65 University Dr Ste 1, +1 413-549-9900.
Bruno's Pizza, 363 Main St., +1 413-256-0222.
DP Dough, 96 North Pleasant St., +1 413-256-1616.
Pinocchio's, 57 N Pleasant St., +1 413-256-4110.
Pioneer Vally Pizza, 20 Belchertown Rd., +1 413-253-1011. Pizza, calzones, and subs somewhat cheap. Adjoined by Michael's Billiards.
The Sub, 33 E Pleasant St., +1 413-549-5160.
Wings, 55 University Dr., +1 413-549-9464.
Amherst Brewing Company, 24-36 North Pleasant St., Phone: +1 413-253-4400, . Daily 11:30AM until 1AM. It's in here as a restaurant and a bar because it's both. The ABC brews and serves a full selection of their own beers. It's not the cheapest place to drink but there are more expensive. A beer or a cocktail will run you $3-$4. There is live music on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, with karaoke some Thursdays.
Moan and Dove, 460 West St. (Route 116), Phone: +1 413-256-1710, . Open until 1AM. The selection of excellent lesser-known brews is the Moan and Dove's claim to fame. Boasting a constantly rotating list of beers you've never heard of, this is a must-see on a drinking tour of Amherst.
The "college bars", North Pleasant Street. They're pretty much identical: Charlie's, McMurphy's, Delano's. Cheap pitchers or pints of your favorite light American lager. You may want to target one of these bars if you misplaced your valid ID and have to "borrow" someone else's.
The Spoke, North Pleasant St. The best dive in town. Not quite chi-chi like ABC or Moan and Dove, but not quite childish like above-mentioned "college bars." Sit down for a $1.50 draft, play some pool (free on Tuesdays), and sometimes they even make free sandwiches.
The Harp, 163 Sunderland Rd., . Irish Bar with live Irish music on friday nights, and an interesting menu. The must try menu item are the Irish nachos, although the current ones are not as good as their original recipe was.
Rao's Coffee, 17 Kellogg Av., Phone: +1 413-253-9411, . A favorite among the locals. Rao's roasts its own coffee and also offers a variety of blends of tea. Good place to sit down and hang out. Internet access available.
Amherst Coffee, 28 Amity Street, Phone: +1 413-256-8987, . Extremely high quality coffee, live Jazz on Thursdays.
Black Sheep Bakery and Cafe, Fresh bread, pasteries, sandwiches and coffee.
Loose Goose Cafe, 1 East Pleasant St., . Internet access available.
Accommodations are sometimes tough to get and are damn near impossible during high demand times like graduation, parents' weekend at the colleges, or football Saturdays. Book ahead of time if you know you're going to be in the area. Also look to Hadley or South Deerfield for some closer lodging or stay in Holyoke, or Springfield and make the 45 minute drive.
Birdsong Bed and Breakfast, 815 South East Street, Phone: 413-256-0433, . 3 rooms. Breakfast included. $95.
The Black Walnut Inn, 1184 North Pleasant Street, Phone: 413-549-5649, Fax: 413-549-5149, . 10 rooms.
The Lord Jeffery Inn, 30 Boltwood Avenue, Phone: +1 413-253-2576, Fax: +1 413-256-6152, . Forty rooms and eight suites. Dining on the premises. $79-$239.
Emily's Amherst Bed & Breakfast, 71 North Prospect St, Phone: +1 413-549-0733, . Great location, close to the center of town.
The nearby Mt Holyoke Range State Park  is a great place for hiking and fall foliage.
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