Things to Do in Amherst, MA

Top Destinations Nov 9, 2023

Nestled in the heart of New England, Amherst, Massachusetts, is a town where cultural richness and academic excellence intersect with the serene beauty of nature. This picturesque town, renowned for its prestigious universities and historical significance, offers a diverse array of experiences, blending intellectual vibrancy with the tranquility of its landscapes.

The cultural pulse of Amherst is most evident in its streets, lined with landmarks that narrate stories of literary and artistic brilliance. The Emily Dickinson Museum is a sanctuary for literature enthusiasts, preserving the legacy of one of America's most celebrated poets. Nearby, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art captivates visitors with its vivid illustrations, celebrating the art of storytelling. The National Yiddish Book Center stands as a beacon of Jewish heritage, offering a window into a rich cultural tapestry.

Education and innovation are the cornerstones of Amherst's identity. The town is home to Amherst College, a symbol of academic prestige with its historic buildings and rich intellectual tradition. Hampshire College breaks away from conventional academia with its unique educational approach, fostering a spirit of innovation. Meanwhile, UMass Amherst, the largest campus in the state, buzzes with research, sports, and diverse activities.

Amherst College
Source: Amherst

Art and nature coalesce beautifully in Amherst. The Mead Art Museum and the Amherst College Museum of Natural History offer intriguing insights into the worlds of art and science. For nature enthusiasts, the Mount Holyoke Range State Park and the Hitchcock Center provide avenues to explore and connect with the local environment.

The Mead Art Museum
Source: Arthive

Amherst also offers havens for relaxation and introspection. The Inn on Boltwood's lounge is a perfect spot for a quiet retreat, while the Wilder Observatory opens up a celestial spectacle for star gazers.

In exploring things to do in Amherst, MA, one discovers that Amherst is more than a destination; it's an experience, a harmonious blend of culture, education, nature, and relaxation that epitomizes the charm of New England.

Explore Cultural and Educational Hubs

In the heart of New England lies Amherst, Massachusetts, a town that seamlessly weaves together the threads of culture and education. A stroll through its streets is a journey through a world of intellectual pursuit and cultural richness. The Emily Dickinson Museum, for instance, stands as a beacon of literary history, preserving the legacy of one of America's most enigmatic poets. This homestead, where Dickinson penned her profound verses, now invites visitors to delve into the life and works of this literary icon.

The Emily Dickinson Museum
Source: Daily Hampshire Gazette

Equally enriching is the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. This unique museum celebrates the art of storytelling through vibrant illustrations that have charmed generations. Here, visitors can explore the world of picture books, an art form that, while often associated with children, holds a universal appeal. The museum not only showcases the works of Eric Carle, famous for "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," but also features a rotating exhibit of other illustrators, offering a kaleidoscope of visual storytelling.

Not far from these artistic havens, the National Yiddish Book Center stands as a testament to the preservation of Jewish culture. With its mission to rescue Yiddish books and celebrate the culture they embody, the center is more than just a library. It's a cultural hub where visitors can engage with a range of events – from film screenings and concerts to lectures and exhibits – each weaving a narrative of Jewish heritage and its impact on the world.

National Yiddish Book Center
Source: CBS News

Amherst's educational landscape is equally compelling. Amherst College, with its historic buildings and lush green campus, is not just an institution of higher learning; it's a symbol of academic excellence and a testament to the town's rich intellectual history. Similarly, Hampshire College breaks the traditional academic mold with its unorthodox curriculum and progressive politics, embodying the spirit of innovation that characterizes Amherst. UMass Amherst, the largest campus in the state, is a microcosm of diversity and activity, where education, research, and sports thrive.

The convergence of culture and education in Amherst creates an environment that is intellectually stimulating and culturally enriching. It's a town where the past and present merge, where learning is an adventure, and where every street corner, every museum, and every campus tells a story.

Culinary Delights at Johnny's Tavern

Johnny's Tavern, a gem in the heart of Amherst, MA, epitomizes the town's vibrant culinary scene. This beloved eatery offers more than just a meal; it's an experience that intertwines local flavors with a warm, welcoming atmosphere. As you step into Johnny's, you're greeted by an ambiance that combines rustic charm with modern comfort, setting the stage for a memorable dining experience.

Johnny's Tavern
Source: Johnny's Tavern

At the heart of Johnny's Tavern is a menu that showcases the best of New England cuisine, with a focus on locally sourced ingredients. The dishes here are a reflection of the region's rich agricultural heritage, infused with contemporary culinary techniques. From succulent seafood dishes that pay homage to the nearby Atlantic waters to hearty, farm-fresh salads, each plate is a testament to the skill and creativity of the kitchen.

What sets Johnny's apart is its commitment to quality and community. The restaurant sources its ingredients from local farms and producers, ensuring that each dish not only tastes fresh but also supports the local economy. This farm-to-table approach is evident in the vibrant flavors and textures that grace your plate. The tavern's atmosphere is equally inviting. The interior, with its warm wood tones and soft lighting, creates a cozy and intimate setting. It's a place where friends gather, families celebrate, and couples enjoy quiet dinners. The friendly staff adds to the welcoming vibe, ensuring that every guest feels at home.

Nature Trails and Scenic Beauty at Mount Holyoke Range State Park

Mount Holyoke Range State Park, a natural treasure in Amherst, MA, offers a serene escape into the heart of New England's landscape. This sprawling park, with its rich tapestry of forests, streams, and rugged hills, beckons nature enthusiasts and casual explorers alike. It represents an unspoiled slice of Massachusetts' wilderness, providing a peaceful contrast to the intellectual vibrancy of Amherst.

The park's network of trails is its most enticing feature. Ranging from easy walks to challenging hikes, these paths weave through the diverse terrain, offering stunning views and a chance to encounter local wildlife. The trails lead to various points of interest within the park, including tranquil ponds, historic sites, and, most notably, the summits along the range. The vistas from these high points are breathtaking, offering panoramic views of the Pioneer Valley.

Mount Holyoke Range State Park
Source: Peak Visor

One of the highlights of Mount Holyoke Range State Park is the range itself, a series of interconnected peaks that provide a unique geological and ecological experience. The range's ridgeline trail, a favorite among hikers, spans several miles and crosses multiple peaks, offering varied perspectives of the surrounding landscape. Each peak presents its own unique view, from sweeping valley vistas to up-close encounters with the park's flora and fauna.

Beyond hiking, the park is a haven for a variety of outdoor activities. Birdwatchers find the park especially appealing, with its diverse bird population. During the warmer months, the park's meadows and wetlands teem with life, showcasing the region's biodiversity. In the winter, the park transforms into a playground for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, offering a different way to enjoy its beauty.

Cozy Retreats: The Lounge at Inn on Boltwood

The Inn on Boltwood, nestled in the picturesque town of Amherst, MA, is more than just a hotel; it's a piece of the town's history and a symbol of its elegant charm. Within this iconic establishment lies a hidden gem – the lounge. This space, characterized by its warm and inviting atmosphere, offers a tranquil retreat for both locals and visitors.

The lounge's interior is a blend of classic and contemporary design, featuring comfortable seating, soft lighting, and subtle décor that create a cozy and sophisticated ambiance. It's a place where time slows down, allowing guests to unwind, read a book, or engage in quiet conversation.

What makes the lounge at the Inn on Boltwood special is its ability to provide a peaceful escape while still being in the heart of Amherst. Whether it's a cold winter evening by the fireplace or a lazy summer afternoon with the windows open to a gentle breeze, the lounge adapts to every season, offering a year-round sanctuary.

The Inn on Boltwood
Source: The Inn on Boltwood

The lounge is also a testament to the Inn's commitment to hospitality. The staff's attention to detail and dedication to guest comfort make every visit a memorable experience. From the selection of beverages to the arrangement of seating, every aspect of the lounge is thoughtfully curated to ensure a relaxing environment.

Star-Gazing at Wilder Observatory

The Wilder Observatory in Amherst, MA, is an astronomical wonder, a portal to the cosmos nestled within the academic landscape of the town. This observatory, with its storied history and impressive telescope, offers a unique opportunity for star-gazers and astronomy enthusiasts to explore the mysteries of the night sky.

The observatory is home to a world-class refractor telescope, allowing visitors to gaze upon celestial bodies with clarity and precision. On clear Saturday nights from April to October, the observatory comes alive as the telescope's lens points towards the moon, planets, and distant galaxies, revealing the splendor of the universe.

Wilder Observatory
Source: Amherst College

What makes star-gazing at Wilder Observatory a special experience is the blend of scientific exploration and serene beauty. The observatory, surrounded by the quiet of the night, provides an ideal setting for contemplation and awe. It's a place where the vastness of the universe becomes tangible, inspiring a sense of wonder and curiosity.

The Wilder Observatory is not just about viewing the stars; it's an educational journey. The knowledgeable staff and astronomers offer insights and stories about the celestial objects being observed, enhancing the experience with their expertise.

Independent Films and Classics at Amherst Cinema

Amherst Cinema stands as a cultural beacon in Amherst, MA, celebrating the art of filmmaking. This independent cinema is more than just a movie theater; it's a community hub where film enthusiasts gather to experience a diverse range of cinematic works, from cutting-edge independent films to timeless classics.

The cinema's selection of films reflects a commitment to quality and diversity. Here, one can immerse in the narratives of different cultures, eras, and genres. The experience is enhanced by the cinema's intimate setting, providing an ideal atmosphere for appreciating the magic of the silver screen.

Amherst Cinema
Source: Amherst Cinema

What sets Amherst Cinema apart is its role in fostering a community of film lovers. Regular screenings, special events, and discussions create a vibrant space where ideas and perspectives are shared. It's a place where cinema is not just entertainment but a medium for connection and dialogue.

Spirits and Conversations at Amherst Coffee + Bar

Amherst Coffee + Bar is a popular gathering spot in Amherst, MA, known for its exceptional coffee, artisanal spirits, and inviting atmosphere. It's a place that seamlessly transitions from a daytime café to an evening bar, offering a setting perfect for both casual meetings and intimate conversations.

During the day, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the air, attracting students, professionals, and visitors. The coffee served here is sourced from high-quality beans, ensuring a rich and robust flavor. In the evening, the space transforms into a sophisticated bar, where patrons can enjoy a selection of fine wines, craft beers, and expertly mixed cocktails.

Source: Amherst Restaurants

The charm of Amherst Coffee + Bar lies in its ability to foster a sense of community. It's a space where people come together, share stories, and create connections, all within the backdrop of a warm and welcoming environment. This establishment is not just about serving great coffee or drinks; it's about creating experiences and memories.

A Night at The Archives Speakeasy

The Archives Speakeasy in Amherst, MA, stands as a hidden jewel in the town's nightlife, offering an experience that transcends the typical bar scene. Hidden behind an unassuming façade, this speakeasy captivates with its aura of mystery and nostalgia. As guests step through its doors, they find themselves enveloped in an ambiance that harks back to the Prohibition era – dim lighting, vintage furnishings, and the soft hum of jazz set the stage for an evening of timeless elegance.

The allure of The Archives lies in its meticulous attention to detail. The décor, with its antique accents and subdued lighting, evokes a sense of secretive luxury. It's an atmosphere that encourages hushed conversations and intimate gatherings, making it a perfect retreat for those seeking a respite from the bustling world outside.

The Archives
Source: Daily Hampshire Gazette

At the heart of The Archives experience is its cocktail menu, a testament to the art of mixology. Each drink is a blend of tradition and innovation, crafted with precision and care. The bartenders, masters of their craft, use premium spirits, fresh ingredients, and a flair for creativity to concoct beverages that are both visually stunning and tantalizingly flavorful. From classic cocktails that pay homage to the speakeasy tradition to contemporary creations that push the boundaries of mixology, the menu caters to a diverse palate.

Experiencing Live Performances at the Mullins Center

The Mullins Center in Amherst, MA, is a hub of entertainment and culture, playing host to a variety of live performances that range from concerts to theatrical productions. This versatile venue, located on the campus of UMass Amherst, is a focal point for arts and entertainment in the region.

Known for its impressive acoustics and spacious interiors, the Mullins Center provides an ideal setting for an array of events. Audiences here have enjoyed performances by renowned musicians, bands, and theatrical groups, each bringing a unique flavor to the cultural tapestry of Amherst. The center's schedule is constantly evolving, offering something for everyone, whether it's a classical music concert, a rock show, or a family-friendly performance.

The Mullins Center
Source: Stadium Journey

Attending an event at the Mullins Center is not just about the show; it's an experience that includes the energy and excitement of the crowd. The venue's layout allows for both intimate performances and large-scale productions, ensuring that every event is memorable. With state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, each performance is enhanced to provide the best possible experience for the audience.

Exploring the Amherst College Museum of Natural History

The Amherst College Museum of Natural History offers a fascinating journey through the wonders of the natural world. Located within the picturesque Amherst College campus, this museum is a treasure trove of geological and biological specimens that showcase the diversity and history of life on Earth.

Visitors to the museum are greeted by an array of exhibits, ranging from ancient dinosaur fossils to detailed mineral collections. Each exhibit is thoughtfully curated, not only to educate but also to inspire awe and curiosity. The museum's interactive displays and informative panels make it an engaging experience for all ages.

Amherst College Museum of Natural History
Source: Amherst College

One of the highlights of the museum is its collection of dinosaur fossils, which includes a rare and impressive assemblage of prehistoric remains. These ancient relics provide a glimpse into a world millions of years old, sparking the imagination and inviting exploration into the past.

The museum also places a strong emphasis on education, offering programs and workshops that delve deeper into various aspects of natural history. These educational initiatives are designed to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the natural world, aligning with Amherst College's commitment to academic excellence.

Relaxing at Atkins Farms Country Market

Atkins Farms Country Market in Amherst, MA, is a delightful destination that combines the charm of a traditional farm market with the comforts of a modern retail experience. Known for its fresh, locally-sourced produce and friendly atmosphere, Atkins Farms is a favorite among both locals and visitors.

Atkins Farms Country Market
Source: Trip

The market offers a wide range of products, from fresh fruits and vegetables to homemade baked goods and artisanal cheeses. The emphasis on local sourcing ensures that everything available is of the highest quality and freshness. The market also features a delightful deli and a bakery, where you can enjoy a variety of delicious, freshly-prepared foods.

Discovering Art at the Mead Art Museum

The Mead Art Museum in Amherst, MA, offers an enriching exploration of the visual arts. Situated within the prestigious Amherst College, the museum boasts a diverse collection of art that spans various cultures and historical periods. Visitors to the Mead Art Museum are treated to an array of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and more, each piece telling its own unique story.

As guests wander through the museum's galleries, they encounter works from around the world, offering a global perspective on art and its many forms. The museum's commitment to education is evident in its interactive exhibits and educational programs, making art accessible and engaging for all ages.

Mead Art Museum
Source: Thomas Pindelski

Enjoying the Outdoors at Puffers Pond

Puffers Pond, nestled in the heart of Amherst, MA, is an idyllic spot that epitomizes the serene beauty of New England's natural landscapes. This charming pond, with its crystal-clear waters and lush surroundings, offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life. It's a place where nature's tranquility reigns supreme, making it a favorite among both residents and visitors.

As a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Puffers Pond provides an array of activities. The pond is perfect for swimming, its waters a refreshing respite on warm summer days. Kayaking and canoeing are also popular, with the calm waters offering a gentle journey under the open sky. The pond's surroundings are a paradise for picnickers, with ample green spaces to lay out a blanket and enjoy a meal amidst nature.

The area around Puffers Pond is crisscrossed with walking trails, inviting visitors to explore the natural beauty of the region. These trails wind through varied landscapes, from dense woodlands to open meadows, each offering a unique perspective of the pond and its environment. Bird watchers and nature lovers find these trails particularly enchanting, as they provide opportunities to spot local wildlife and enjoy the tranquil sounds of nature.

Beyond its recreational offerings, Puffers Pond is a place of community and gathering. Families come here to spend quality time together, friends meet for leisurely afternoons, and individuals seek solace in the pond's serene setting. The pond serves as a backdrop for community events and seasonal celebrations, further cementing its role as a cherished local landmark.

Puffers Pond
Source: AmherstMA


Amherst, MA, is a town that resonates with an undeniable charm, a blend of cultural richness, academic vibrancy, and natural beauty. It stands as a testament to the diversity and depth of experiences one can find in this quaint New England town. Each aspect of Amherst, from its historical landmarks to its picturesque natural settings, contributes to its unique allure.

The town is a haven for those who seek intellectual stimulation and artistic expression. Institutions like the Emily Dickinson Museum and the Mead Art Museum not only serve as cultural landmarks but also as beacons of learning and creativity, fostering a deep appreciation for history and the arts. The presence of Amherst College and the University of Massachusetts adds to the intellectual dynamism of the town, making it a nexus of ideas and innovation.

Culinary enthusiasts find delight in Amherst's diverse dining scene. Restaurants like Johnny's Tavern offer gastronomic experiences that are both locally inspired and globally influenced, showcasing the town's commitment to culinary excellence. The blend of cozy cafes, lively bars, and elegant eateries creates a culinary landscape that is as varied as it is satisfying.

Nature lovers are drawn to Amherst's scenic beauty. Places like Puffers Pond and the Mount Holyoke Range State Park provide serene escapes into nature, offering tranquil settings for relaxation and outdoor activities. These natural spaces are not just recreational spots but also integral parts of the community, hosting gatherings and serving as backdrops for life's memorable moments.

Amherst's community spirit is palpable in its streets, markets, and gathering spots. Events and festivals reflect the town's inclusive and vibrant community, inviting locals and visitors to partake in the shared experience of town life. This sense of community is a thread that weaves through every aspect of Amherst, binding its cultural, educational, and natural facets into a cohesive and inviting whole.

In conclusion, Amherst, MA, is more than a destination; it's a mosaic of experiences waiting to be discovered. Its unique blend of history, culture, nature, and community creates an enchanting environment that captivates the hearts of all who visit.