Top Ten College Towns

University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, and Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts
Amherst, Massachusetts
Fall leaves dot the campus of Amherst College (Jessica Mestre/Amherst College)

7. University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, and Hampshire College
Amherst, Massachusetts

Amherst, Massachusetts, is a picturesque town of 35,000 located in Western Massachusetts's Pioneer Valley, just under two hours from Boston. Amherst has many of the quaint characteristics of its New England counterparts: an old church dating back to America's infancy, a stately town hall, and a historic cemetery. What many other small New England towns do not have, however, is the massive crush of students two-thirds of the year. Amherst is home to UMASS Amherst, the state's most notorious party school; one of the nation's most selective colleges, Amherst College; and the free-thinking (they don't have grades) Hampshire College. As a result, the college counter-culture has mixed with New England's sense of history to create a uniquely Amherst vibe.

The town offers several shopping districts, including Phoenix Row/Cook's Block, which has the dubious honor of being destroyed by fire three different times since 1879. Like the mythical Phoenix, the area rose from the ashes and now offers a variety of shops. Students and locals alike hang out at Puffers Pond, where they can swim, fish, or hike. Atkins Farms, another popular destination, is a locally owned apple orchard and bustling farmer's market that has been in operation for more than 100 years. As the birthplace of poet Emily Dickinson, Amherst is also culturally rich. The Emily Dickinson Museum, located in the center of town, encompasses two houses—one belonged to Dickinson, the other to her brother—that are both open for guided tours. Art galleries abound in Amherst, such as Gallery A3.

While Amherst is great for both the sophisticated and the outdoorsy, as the home of "ZooMass," it also is replete with bars. The Amherst Brewing Co. is a favorite among the student population. Restaurants abound in Amherst as well, but there are a few must-try spots for any visitor. Some say Antonio's Pizza rivals the best slices New York City has to offer. Judie's, a.k.a. "home of the popover," is one of the town's most beloved spots. If it's Mexican you crave, Bueno y Sano was founded by a UMASS alum and is famous for its fresh, made-to-order burritos.

Published: 18 Mar 2010 | Last Updated: 17 Jul 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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