Amherst & the Pioneer Valley
The Amherst area offers diverse cultural activities, excellent restaurants, and amazing natural surroundings.
Arts and Culture
Home to the Five Colleges - Amherst College, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, and the University of Massachusetts — the area is full of educated folks. 42% have graduate degrees — nearly the highest percentage in America. Neighboring Northampton was named Number One Best Small Arts Town in America in 2005, and was recently ranked in the Top 100 Best Places to Live by CNN and Money Magazine.
A recent New York Times article profiling local book stores and literary events called the Pioneer Valley "arguably the most author-saturated, book-cherishing, literature-celebrating place in the nation".
The presence of a large university and four major colleges means there is a wealth of cultural activities of every stripe: art, music, theater, and fascinating speakers. Museums10 is a consortium of the art museums of the Five Colleges, along with the National Yiddish Book Center, the Emily Dickinson Museum, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and Historic Deerfield, among others.
The valley supports the presence of three art cinemas (two in Northampton, and the newly renovated Amherst Cinema) as well as the annual Northampton Independent Film Festival. There is also an active music scene, centered around the many venues of the Iron Horse entertainment group, in addition to local music festivals.
The Great Outdoors
The beautiful natural surroundings of the Pioneer Valley invite outdoor activities all year round. Wonderful hiking and camping is available locally, and in the nearby Berkshire mountain range. Quiet scenic roads with rolling hills make the area excellent for biking. Autumn in the Northeast is legendary — visitors from all over the country visit the area to witness the changing colors of the leaves. The Pioneer Valley has historically been an agricultural region, and many small farms still exist, with well-established organic and community-supported agriculture. In winter, excellent skiing is just a short distance away.
Food and Drink
The diverse population of students results in an unusually strong restaurant scene. Thai, African, serious Chinese (the owners of Amherst Chinese run an organic Chinese vegetable farm, the source of their numerous vegetable dishes), the best ice cream known to man (including a shop run by Steve Herrell, the guy who invented the gourmet ice cream biz, as well as mixins), French, Indian, Korean, Mexican, Argentinean, Moroccan, plus a ridiculous (the New York Times says "unsustainable") number of sushi restaurants.
Banner image courtesy of Wikipedia.