Exploring Amherst

We explored Amherst the other day, my kids and I. It was school vacation, and equipped with directions, a map, and gluten-free food recommendations from the internet, we set off, arriving in the town of Amherst around 11 a.m.

With its white outlined brick buildings, tree lined streets, abundance of colleges (there are five nearby), eateries, and bookstores, it’s easy to see why the town of Amherst has been voted one of the best college towns in  the U.S. more than once.

After parking in front of Amherst College’s gym, we checked in at the Robsham Memorial Center for Visitors before wandering around the private school’s 1000-acre campus. Few of the college’s 1800 students were around (where were they? At lunch? In class?), and my voice echoed outside between the buildings. The grass was green, the grounds immaculate, the buildings stately, the school quiet.

A mile up the road we found the lunch place I’d read about, The Loose Goose. We each chose a different sandwich (from hummus and avocado to turkey and bacon) on a different type of bread (French baguette, ciabatta roll, and even gluten-free sandwich bread) before exploring a few of the shops down the street.

After an ice cream at Bart’s, it was time for our 2:30 tour of UMass.

The University of Massachusetts 1,450-acre campus was bustling, and people were everywhere. Only a short distance from Amherst College and only one and a half times its acreage, UMass’s total student population is over 27,500. We joined a tour of 50 other parents and teens and explored the campus with its variety of architecture, from quaint New England brick buildings to the new 26-story library.

We learned that students at any of the five area colleges, Smith College, Mt. Holyoke College, and Hampshire College, in addition to UMass and Amherst College, can take classes at any of the other schools. Even men can take classes at the all-women schools of Mt. Holyoke and Smith.

We didn’t make it to nearby Northhampton or to any of the other campuses, but instead headed home, our first impression of Amherst, and especially UMass, a good one.

Trip Taken April 2012