Amherst (Massachusetts)

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.

Get in

By car

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.

Please look out for drunk drivers during the nights after college students are finishing their parties!

By bus

By air

The two airports you'll want to look at are nearby Bradley Airport BDL in Windsor Locks, Connecticut (One hour by car) and Logan Airport BOS in Boston (Two hours or more away depending on traffic).

By train




Because of the large population of college students, there are frequent concerts, and other activities that cater to the college crowd.


Amherst centre has a variety of boutique and book stores.


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.





There are a variety of take-out restaurants that specialize in college-town fare.





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.

By far the cheapest and best way to see and stay in Amherst, though, is by couch surfing. Being a college town, there are a lot of very receptive, very low-key locals (read: students living off campus) who would love to host friendly travelers. Of course, staying with a total stranger can be daunting, even unsafe, so make sure to contact your host prior to arrival, have a backup plan, and use resources like which allow users to review and rate couch surfers and hosts.

Go next

Routes through Amherst

Northampton Hadley  W  E  Brookfields Worcester
Adams Deerfield  N  S  South Hadley Springfield

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, December 17, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.