15 Best Things to Do in Amherst, MA

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

Visit the historic house of Emily Dickinson called the Emily Dickinson Museum

Emily Dickinson Museum
Tomwsulcer, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

This House Museum consists of two houses, which are the Evergreens and the Dickinson homestead that 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 discovered after her death, were found and is also the birthplace of Emily. 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 public. The house is also an architectural beauty, styled in the federal style. It also has Greek elements in its architecture. The evergreens is, on the other hand, 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

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

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 is also another recreational activity pursued 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 like 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, which is informally very important in the historical point of view, which is the Prospect House, an extremely old hotel, which was 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 and tall trees. With 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 cute 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 art. 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. It is also a great teaching tool to teach and engage students with visual arts for teachers and librarians.
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 a definite recommendation if you are visiting with kids since they'll have extreme fun looking at all the beautiful and cute artworks which are showcased here in the form of books.

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. Fish for a variety of local species that swim in these waters or you can even enjoy bird watching specially looking at the species of birds that reside near 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 since at its deepest areas, it’s risky. Lifeguards are not commissioned, so make sure that you wear the 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 for you 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 pieces of contemporary art, located in the University of Massachusetts campus since 1975, the art forms collected here have been showcased in a very beautiful manner. Some of the show pieces 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 the towns of Sunderland and Leverett, mount Toby is a 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 and an abundance on the mountains. Another extremely beautiful sight is to gaze at the waterfalls located on the mountain, including the Gunn Brook falls and roaring falls.

They are extremely scenic with a picturesque beauty looking like they jumped out straight from a postcard. 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.

Marvel looking at the fossils 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 by gone 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 that are exhibited here. It includes mammoths, and other species that are said to have lived in the ice ages. The world's largest collection of dinosaur tracks are also exhibited here, alongside as many as 1700 specimens.

Donations include show pieces donated by extremely famous collectors like Edward Hitchcock, Frederick Loomis, and Charles Shepard. There is also an exhibit which showcases how the horses evolved through the ages in North America. Other geological specimens include minerals, invertebrates, trace fossils, and other anthropological material.

Art connoisseurs rush to 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.

Gasp in wonder after visiting the Nash dinosaur tracks

If you loved the Beneski Natural History Museum, then you should definitely give it a try to the Nash dinosaur tracks, which is a wonderful Natural History Museum, focusing on dinosaurs and the bygone ages. Actual tracks followed by the dinosaurs can be found in the quarry here. If you're especially visiting with kids, you're going to love this place. It is a quirky and modern take as well as an informative one. The fee is nominal and worth every penny.

Calm your soul by visiting the New England peace Pagoda

A pagoda is a symbol of peace and hope and the 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 from Indian traditions and culture. At the time of construction, it served to bring people together from all walks of life, to help in assistance in building 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 are 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 the Shay's rebellion, used to hide in these caves after their defeat.

Book lovers should 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 coffee at Works cafe

Founded in 1988 today, the works cafe has branches in as many as eight places all around New England. The coffee tastes great, and is loved by visitors and locals alike. The food is also extremely delectable. Moreover, the works cafe advocates use of 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.