|Amherst is a town in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. Amherst is home to 34,874 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. |
Five Colleges Area
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 Colleges Area."
• Emily Dickinson Homestead.
• Amherst College Enjoy a walk around one of the most stunning (and highest-ranked) colleges in New England.
Because of the large population of college students, there are frequent concerts, and other activities that cater to the college crowd.
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. Or stay in Springfield and make the 45 minute drive. Also look to Hadley for some closer lodging.
Since Amherst is a college town there is a lot of college food here like pizza, calzones, buffalo wings, and grinders.
• Judie's, 51 North Pleasant St., 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 Cucina Di Pinocchio, 30 Boltwood Walk, 256-4110. Gourmet Italian cooking. $20-$30.
• Panda East, 103 North Pleasant St., 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.
• Amherst Brewing Company, 24-36 North Pleasant St., 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., 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.
• Antonio's, 31 North Pleasant St., 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. $2.75 a slice.
• The Hangar, 55 University Dr., 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.
• The Black Sheep Deli, 79 Main St., 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.
• Bueno y Sano, Boltwood Walk. 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.
• Amherst Brewing Company, 24-36 North Pleasant St., 253-4400. Open daily 11:30 am until 1:00 am. 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), 256-1710. Open until 1:00 am. 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": They're all on North Pleasant Street and they're pretty much identical: Charlie's, McMurphy's, Barselloti'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 Pub
• 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
• Rao's Coffee, 17 Kellogg Ave, 253-9411. A favorite among the locals.
The nearby Holyoke range is a great place for hiking and fall foliage.
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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.
The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) operates a good bus system that can take you to and from 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). Peter Pan buses can take you to Springfield, Hartford, New York City, or further. Information on routes and student discounts is available from the downtown Peter Pan terminal office, 79 South Pleasant Street. (413) 256-0431.
The two airports you'll want to look at are nearby Bradley Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut (One hour by car) and Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts (Two hours or more depending on the time of day, the Red Sox, and the phase of the moon). Valley Transporter offers convenient shuttle service from Bradley Airport to Amherst and the surrounding area. (413) 253-1350.
The Amtrak station at 13 Railroad Street provides access to the Vermonter line, which runs daily between Washington, DC and St. Albans, in Northern Vermont. This route includes stops in Springfield, Hartford, New York City, and Philadelphia, among other locations. For reservations, call 1-800-872-7245.