Free Things to Do Near Amherst, Mass.

College students in the five college area often struggle with tight budgets on top of limited free time. Whether for a date, parent’s weekend, or a solo adventure here are some free or nearly free things to do in the Amherst area.

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The Durfee Conservatory’s Tropical House is home to many exotic plant species including a banana tree (Musa species) and a chocolate tree (Theobroma cacao) which are not native to Amherst, Mass.

1. Durfee Conservatory

Location: UMass Amherst

Attraction: Open 10 to 5 on weekdays, this botanic garden features exotic plants and a tropical escape from the UMass wind tunnels.

Distance from UMass Amherst: 0 miles

2. Norwottuck Rail Trail

Location: A connection to the bike path runs right by Southwest Residential Area

Attraction: The eleven mile Norwottuck Rail Trail is a paved surface available for walkers, joggers, and bikers. Perfect for a stroll, it connects with the Manhan Rail Trail in Northampton, Mass and will bring the determined biker as far as Southampton. There’s talk of expanding the Westfield bike trail to bridge the gap which will bring the endpoint into Connecticut.

Distance from UMass Amherst: A stone’s throw

3: Emily Dickinson Museum

Location: Near Amherst College 280 Main St, Amherst, MA 01002

Attraction: The home of famed poet Emily Dickinson offers exhibitions, tours, and a bookshop.

Distance from UMass: 1 mile

4. Mead Art Museum

Location: Amherst College

Attraction: Come here to visit an impressive collection of art and artifacts.

Distance from UMass Amherst: 1 mile

5. Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Location: Adjacent to Hampshire College 125 W Bay Rd, Amherst, MA 01002

Attraction: See an enormous picture book collection and work by illustrator Eric Carle

Distance from UMass Amherst: 6.1 miles

6. Window shopping in downtown Northampton

Location: Main St, Northampton

Attraction: Take the B43 or M40 PVTA bus to downtown Northampton to window shop at Thornes Marketplace, Faces, Ten Thousand Villages, Urban Outfitters, Raven Bookstore, and a variety of other local businesses. Free parking on Sundays.

Distance from UMass Amherst: 8 miles

7. R. Michelson Galleries

Location: 132 Main St, Northampton, MA 01062

Attraction: A personal favorite, this constantly changing gallery features art from local and non-local artists. It currently houses photography by Leonard Nimoy.

Distance from UMass Amherst: 8 miles

8. Sugarloaf Mountain

Location:300 Sugarloaf Street, South Deerfield, MA 01373

Attraction: Visit the Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation and hike to the top of the butte-like mountain. The winding trails make this a beginner level stroll perfect for a quick date or afternoon stop.

Distance from UMass Amherst: 8.5 miles

Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation (Photo by Allyson Morin/Stories for Strangers)

9. Smith College Museum of Art

Location: Smith College

Attraction: With four floors of art to view, access is free with any student ID.

Distance from UMass Amherst: 9 miles

10. Smith College Botanic Garden

Location: Smith College

AttractionThis says it all.

Distance from UMass Amherst: 9 miles

Smith College Botanic Garden (Photo by Allyson Morin/Stories for Strangers)

11. Look Memorial Park

Location: 300 N Main Street, Northampton, MA 01062

Attraction: Situated on over 150 acres, the park features sports fields, picnic facilities, playgrounds, a zoo, walking paths, a train ride and pedal boating.

Distance from UMass Amherst: 10 miles

12. Montague Bookmill

Location: 440 Greenfield Rd, Montague, MA 01351

Attraction: Books you don’t need in a place you can’t find. Spend an afternoon curled up with a story.

Distance from UMass Amherst: 12 miles

13. Go see the Dinosaur Footprints

Location: Northampton Street (Route 5), Holyoke MA 1040

Attraction: Hundreds of dinosaur tracks on sandstone slabs created by small, two-legged dinosaurs.

Distance from UMass Amherst: 13 miles

14. Historic Deerfield

Location: 80 Old Main Street Deerfield, MA 1342

Attraction: A restored 18th century village which features a number of authentic colonial era structures complete with period furnishings and architecture as well as many other exhibits.

Distance from UMass Amherst: 14 miles

15. Mount Tom State Reservation

Location: 125 Reservation Rd., Holyoke MA 01040

Attraction: Cross-country ski or hike along over 20 miles of trails and visit Lake Bray, a local fishing spot.

Distance from UMass Amherst: 17 miles


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