20 Best Things to Do in Amherst, MA

20 Best Things to Do in Amherst, MA
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A beautiful town located near the Connecticut River Valley is what describes Amherst best.

The highest populated municipality of Hampshire County is thus a metro town and a hub for students interested in art.

It has a warm summer and humid climate throughout the year, making it very hospitable to tourists and travelers.

It is also called an educational hub since it houses three main universities from the famous Five Colleges.

Interested in what this place has to offer?

Here are the 20 best things to do in Amherst, MA:

Learn About Jewish Culture at Yiddish Book Center

Outside View of Yiddish Book Center
John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another place involving books in our list, the Yiddish Book Center's primary objective, is promoting Jewish culture and academic expansion and conservation.

The Yiddish Book Center is more of a museum than a library, and you may pick up and read the books while they are there.

Outside View of Yiddish Book Center
John Phelan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It features art, oral history, and Yiddish literature.

Those interested can take advantage of a wide range of activities, including translation training, graduate fellowships, and participation in the Yiddish-language journal Pakn Treger.

Throughout the year, the Center also sponsors other events such as Yidstock or Yiddish festivals.

Visit the Emily Dickinson Museum

Emily Dickinson Museum
Tomwsulcer, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

This House Museum consists of two houses, the Evergreens and Dickinson homestead, which are important landmarks for the Dickinson family.

Fans of the famous poet Emily Dickinson, whose writings rocked the world and still continue to all over, would love to visit this place.

The Dickinson homestead is where the infamous beautiful poems were discovered after her death and is also Emily's birthplace.

Outside View of Emily Dickinson Museum
Daderot., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Evergreens was built by Edward Dickinson, her honored father for her brother Austin.

It is a National Historic Landmark, and guided tours are available for the public.

The house is also an architectural beauty, styled in the federal style.

It also has Greek elements in its architecture.

A Sign in Emily Dickinson Museum
Tomwsulcer, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Evergreens, on the other hand, is an Italianate structure and has various testaments of the Dickinson family, including furniture and decor.

The museum also gives theme tours, and the interiors can only be seen by having a guided tour.

Literary events are also hosted here from time to time, such as poetry readings and other parties.

Enjoy Horseback Riding at the Mount Holyoke Range State Park

In the Holyoke range, this wonderful state-run park and recreation space is located in the eastern half of the Pioneer Valley.

It is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and recreation and is one of the very beautiful public properties, where you can enjoy a variety of activities like hiking and horseback riding.

Another specialty is cross country skiing, which can be enjoyed here.

Restricted hunting is another sport that is allowed, alongside some typical picnicking.

Two famous trails that people can visit here include the Robert Frost trail and the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail.

The views are breathtaking from the top as you go hiking, so make sure that you click some wonderful pictures for Instagram.

Bicycling on the Norwottuck Rail Trail

Norwottuck-Rail-Trail
I, Denimadept, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What can be more fun than cycling along an 11 mile long trail paved from Northampton in Massachusetts to Belcher town and also passing Amherst.

A branch of the great Mass Central Rail Trail, this trail allows cycling as well as walking.

Since its opening in 1992, rollerblading has also been another recreational activity played by people.

A large beaver pond is located near the eastern side of the trail, where you can have fun doing some bird watching and spotting various species, such as woodpeckers, great blue heron, and ducks.

Hiking at the J. A. Skinner State Park

J A Skinner State Park
John Phelan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another state-owned, public recreational area is the famous Joseph Allen Skinner State Park.

Located in the South Hadley region of the Connecticut River Valley, it surrounds the Mount Holyoke of the Mount Holyoke range.

A famous historical landmark is also located here known as the Prospect House, an old hotel built in 1851.

This park is also managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and recreation, which manages the Mount Holyoke, a state park as well.

The hotel was originally built by Joseph Alan Skinner, and was later donated by him after it got damaged badly during the Great hurricane.

A public park was then built on this land and as an honor, it was given his name.

It is very scenic, with lush green lawns, tall trees, and an overall of 64 kilometers of trails, including an 11 mile stretch of the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail.

This park is filled with recreational activities.

Friendly concerts are also organized, where local or famous bands perform from time to time at the summit house.

Pack some cola and sandwiches and you're set for a fun lunch date with your family.

Explore the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art With Your Kids

The Eric Carle Museum of picture book art
John Phelan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This adorable and wonderful museum is especially a hit among children dedicated to the art of picture books, with a special focus on children's books.

And as a proud member of Museums10, it is located just adjacent to the Hampshire College of Amherst.

The first full scale Museum of the United States, which focuses on book art, was made by Eric Carle and his wife, who were the author and illustrator of many books, dedicated to children and picture arts.

Sign of Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art With Your Kids
Emma'sPhotos / Shutterstock.com

The exhibition of the books and the museum's artifacts is done in a very fun and friendly way, including three rotating galleries.

The west gallery is solely dedicated to the works of Eric Carle, while the other two galleries hosts books from various picture book artists.

Various events and annual award shows are also hosted by the museum each year that honors authors who have contributed immensely to the art of picture books.

It's definitely a recommendation if you are visiting with kids; they'll have fun looking at all the beautiful and cute artworks showcased here.

Inside View of Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art With Your Kids
John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fishing at Puffers Pond

The largest water body in the Amherst area offers visitors a great opportunity for spending lazy days fishing and picnicking on its banks.

You can fish for a variety of local species that swim in these waters or you can even enjoy watching the species of birds that reside near the waters.

Canoeing is another option that you can try out.

But remember that motorized boats are not allowed on the waters.

Swimming is also allowed in the shallower areas.

Lifeguards are not commissioned, so make sure that you wear proper protective gear while swimming.

The trails nearby are also very beautiful for hiking.

The Puffers dam is also very important and also an architectural beauty.

The Puffers dam located nearby is also very important from a water conservation point of view alongside being an architectural marvel to look at.

Gaze at Some Beautiful Art at the University Museum of Contemporary Art

University Museum of Contemporary art, Amherst
John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The UMCA is an extremely important and popular University Museum.

For those interested in looking at some beautiful contemporary art pieces, located in the University of Massachusetts campus since 1975, the art forms collected are showcased beautifully.

Some of the showpieces also date back to as much as 1962, alongside various other Art pieces from the 20th century, with a total of almost 2600 pieces of galactic display Collection.

This museum is surely a proud member of the museum's10.

Visit the Magnificent Mount Toby

The highest summit of the wooded hills of Sunderland and Leverett, Mount Toby, is magnificent beauty and a prime spot for tourists to visit.

It has a huge biodiversity and you can look at various plant species and animal species here.

The ferns and orchids are particularly beautiful.

Another extremely beautiful sight is the waterfalls located on the mountain, such as the Gunn Brook falls and Roaring Falls.

They are extremely scenic with picturesque beauty.

But during winters they're usually frozen. And during extreme summers, the flow is quite less.

So if you want to enjoy the beauty of the waterfalls to the fullest, try visiting during the spring when they are flowing in full glamour.

For those interested in the outdoor activities, you can opt for hiking or trail walking, horseback riding, fishing, cross-country skiing, and even mountain biking.

During winters ice skating and snowshoeing are other great recreational activities.

Revisit History at the Beneski Museum of Natural History

Beneski Museum of Natural History
Richard Haddad, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fossils are actual proof of the life that has bygone and of the pre civilized eras.

They're extremely beautiful and intricate pieces that need to be preserved well, and this museum has done a great job at it.

One of the major exhibits that you should look at are the mammals from the ice age exhibited here.

It includes mammoths and other species that are said to have lived in the ice ages.

Inside view of Beneski Museum of Natural History
ChancyRendezvous, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The world's largest collection of dinosaur tracks are also exhibited here, alongside 1700 specimens.

There are showpieces donated by extremely famous collectors like Edward Hitchcock, Frederick Loomis, and Charles Shepard.

There is also an exhibit that showcases how the horses evolved through the ages in North America.

Other geological specimens include minerals, invertebrates, trace fossils, and other anthropological material.

Have Fun at the Mead Art Museum

Mead art museum
John Phelan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another member of the museums10 is this free public museum that showcases Fine Arts through the ages.

Since its inception in 1949, it has become very famous for its eccentric and beautiful collection.

It is named after the famous architect William Rutherford Mead and also dedicated to his wife, who left her entire estate for the Amherst College.

Some of the art collections include ceramic paintings, Tibetan paintings, and ancient Assyrian carvings and West African sculptures.

The Japanese prints are also very authentic and beautiful to look at.

Other events that are hosted in here include exhibition openings, student tours, and art making programs.

Visit the Amherst Public Library

Jones library of Amherst
John Phelan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Amherst Public Library or the Jones library of Amherst is one of the oldest buildings of Amherst.

Originally built in 1919, it is spread over three locations and houses many genres and varieties of books.

Free programs, such as language learning and summer Saturday movies, are organized at these libraries from time to time.

You can also opt for online classes or subscribe to digital magazines for free.

The books have been collected over the ages, making a photo-centric and beautiful collection today.

Sip a Cup of Coffee at The Works Café

Founded in 1988 today, the works cafe has branches in eight places all around New England.

The coffee tastes great and is loved by visitors and locals alike.

The food is also highly delectable.

Moreover, the works cafe advocates biodegradable material and uses reusable mugs and compostable disposable cups.

The remainder of the food is also donated to local charities.

Some of the most recommended foods that you should try are the grain bowls and the sandwiches.

Wander Around Amherst College

Morgan Hall (Bassett Planetarium) at Amherst College
Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

What are some of the benefits of taking a vacation to a university?

In the neighborhood, Amherst College provides far more than simply a university education.

In addition to Black studies and computer science, students at Amherst College can pursue anthropology, architecture, neurology, and more.

Outside view of  Amherst College
Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Bassett Planetarium, the Mead Art Museum, and Beneski Museum are just a few notable museums located on the Amherst College campus.

Also, on the same site, you'll be able to see the Emily Dickinson House and the Eli Marsh Gallery of Russian art and culture, together with the Russian Center Art Gallery.

Have a Fun Family Day at Amethyst Brook Conservation Area

Besides museum-hopping and shopping, Amherst's other relaxing activity is a visit to Amethyst Brook Conservation Area, located in Amherst's town.

The location is excellent for family trips since the brook's calm waters provide a safe and pleasant playground for children, especially during the summer months when the temperature is higher.

There are additional paths for mountain bikers and hikers who are just starting.

In the winter, don your cross-country skis, take advantage of the first snowfall, and have a great time with the snow.

Are you taking your pets on vacation?

Indeed, this site is ideal for spending quality time with your canine companion!

Catch Local Performances at UMass Fine Arts Center

View of UMass Fine Arts Center
Grandview Graphics / Shutterstock.com

If you're in the mood for some culture, the University of Massachusetts Fine Arts Center hosts a variety of performances and activities.

It hosts different student-led and guest-hosted events throughout the year.

This is the place to go if you want to hear bands, jazz ensembles, orchestras.

Closer View of UMass Fine Arts Center
AlexiusHoratius, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There's a big screen, an orchestra pit, and a top-notch sound system in this area.

In case you're planning a big event, the Bowker Auditorium is the place to be.

The Fine Arts Center consists of Augusta Savage Gallery, Hampden Gallery, and the University Museum of Contemporary Art.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Calm Your Soul by Visiting the New England Peace Pagoda

A pagoda is a symbol of peace and hope, and a pagoda is also an important place for Buddhists where they come to pray.

It is extremely refreshing and calming to visit such places and spend some time with yourself.

Pagoda completed its construction in 1985 and has since served as a universal symbol of peace and enlightenment.

The designs are inspired by Indian traditions and culture.

At the time of construction, it served to bring people together from all walks of life to help build the temple.

Explore the Horse Caves

Horse cave in Mount Norwottuck
Andy Anderson, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A geological feature of the Mighty Holyoke range is the wonderful horse caves.

Though not actually Caves, they're actually ledges and a part of the wonderful geographical features seen in the Holyoke range.

They're found to the east of the summit of Mount Norwottuck, and they are great for hiking.

From a historical and cultural point of view, they hold importance since it is believed that some of the people who fought for Daniel Shay's in Shay's rebellion used to hide in these caves after their defeat.

Final Thoughts

So, are you starting to feel the want to go?

But don't be concerned, since the city of Amherst, Massachusetts, is open all year to greet you.

You may visit one of the numerous museums, go on a stroll, or relax with a bottle of wine and a picnic in one of its parks to wind down.

Check out our list of the best things to do in Amherst, Massachusetts, to get some inspiration for your trip ahead of time!