Amherst, Massachusetts likely doesn’t come to mind when you’re planning a trip to the east coast. But to be fair, I was visiting for work, not pleasure. Luckily I did have a free day to explore the area because it’s quite lovely. Today I’m sharing some photos from my trip to Amherst along with a few suggestions on what to do if you find yourself here!
Amherst was settled in 1703 and lies just 22 miles north of Springfield, Massachusetts. It was incorporated 56 years later in 1759. Amherst is home to three colleges and has a population around 37,000. Less than two hours from Boston and less than one hour from Hartford, Connecticut, this little town has a lot to offer.
Things to Do in Amherst
Emily Dickinson Museum
Emily Dickinson, one of the world’s most well-known poets, grew up in Amherst and lived in her family home until her death in 1886. Today you can tour her home; the museum is a 5 minute walk from downtown and for $15 includes entrance into her house and the Evergreens, her brother Austin’s home.
Although not many original details remain, they do have a few and you learn a lot about her life. At one point, her house was used as offices and student housing for Amherst College, crazy!
Famous for her poetry, Emily was an interesting person. Surprisingly, she had no interest in being a published poet. She shared her poetry with a few close friends but didn’t find fame until after her death. In fact, her poems were published without her permission.
The Evergreens, her brother Austin’s home, was built in 1856 as a wedding gift to him and his wife. The house is completely original inside, and still intact aside from a few bolts to support the walls. It’s really interesting to see the difference between the two homes. Both in style and their upkeep.
Mark Twain House
Another famous writer calls the north east home. Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, lived in Hartford, Connecticut. His home is available for tour, along with Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Hartford is about an hours drive from Amherst.
Clemen’s home is is a stunning example of Victorian architecture. The house was completed in 1874 and boasts three stories and modern features including flushing toilets and a telephone.
Inside you’ll see unique details, like the Tiffany designed fireplace. All of the wallpaper is hand-stenciled with silver paint. My favorite rooms include the Library and the Conservatory.
Mark Twain’s home is one of these most beautifully preserved homes I’ve ever toured. If you make it to Hartford, you have to visit!
Fun Fact: In 1863 Samuel Clemens adopted the pen name Mark Twain. It’s a riverboat term meaning “safe water”!
Amherst College and UMASS Campuses
Amherst College was partially founded by Emily Dickinson’s father. Today it’s considered a “Mini-Ivy” and comes in only second to Harvard in highest graduation rates. The campus is full of colonial architecture and lush landscaping.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is also in Amherst. If you’re a true-crime fan, you may recognize UMASS as the last living residence of Maura Murray. If you haven’t heard about Maura’s story, be sure to check out The Disappearance of Maura Murray on Amazon. There are also numerous podcasts and books dedicated to finding out what happened to Maura.
Where to Eat & Drink
I live on coffee, so it’s safe to say I scope out any local coffee shop I have the chance to visit! Amherst Coffee is a hip coffee shop in a historic building with tall ceilings and dark wood details. They serve alcohol and light bites to eat.
Paul would kill me if I didn’t include this bar. It’s a fun & cozy bar with great local beer. The Hangar/Amherst Brewing have a delicious pumpkin beer ( order it with a cinnamon sugar rim) and my favorite, the honey pilsner. We’ve some pretty embarrassingly drunk nights here but it’s a classic Amherst staple!
Johnny’s Tavern is an upscale restaurant with great pasta and a cozy ambiance. They get really busy on weekends so be sure to make reservations. They serve unique east coast beers and I highly recommend the Cacio e Pepe for dinner.
Yes, Antonio’s is an east coast chain, but they have tasty pizza slices with really interesting options. Think avocado quesadilla pizza and cheese tortellini pizza. And don’t miss the $1 cheese slices on Fridays!
As you can see, Amherst is a fun little town to spend a couple of days in! Have you been to Amherst?