Photo by © Lynne Graves Photography
In the western part of Massachusetts, where rural and cosmopolitan coexist, lies the dreamy and sophisticated Hampshire County. City living meets homesteading in this charming slice of New England, where you can sip a cosmo, dine on creative cuisine, and pick your own organic peaches. In a couple of days, you can explore world-class museums, rocking music scenes, bustling downtowns, and hike to the peak of a mountain. With so much to do and see, Hampshire County has everything you could want from a getaway.
There’s no one perfect time to visit! Whether sun or snow, Hampshire County has a host of family-friendly experiences for any and every time of year. Take in the snowy sights while cozying up with a mug of coffee or a spiked cider at any one of the area’s many eclectic cafés. Or, hit the snow—you can cross-country ski or snowshoe over our rail trails, sled down hills, or drive north for fresh powder and downhill skiing.
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, what better way to say ‘I Love You’ than with romance and relaxation? Hampshire County is the perfect location for a romantic rendezvous that is sure to melt any heart, complete with fireside dining, fine wine, and handmade chocolate. Date night calls for a mouth-watering farm-to-table meal from one of Hampshire County’s restaurants, some of which have been around for decades, and food tours that source their ingredients locally from nearly 250 farms. Follow up the meal with a stroll through one of the area’s vineyards, or settle in for a craft beer.
For a dreamy outdoor experience, enjoy cross-country skiing at Cherry Hill Golf Course, followed by a relaxing evening in the snug warmth of Inn on Boltwood—the perfect apres-ski destination, made even better with 30Boltwood’s farm fresh fare and craft cocktails.
5 Winter Bucket List Ideas:
- Book a horse-drawn sleigh ride
- Soak in outdoor hot tubs during a snowy night
- Visit winter festivals like Easthampton Winterfest
- Shop local stores and studios for unique handmade goods
- Café hop for fresh, fair-trade coffee and scones
Escape to the City
The cities of Hampshire County boast vibrant, intellectual hubs full of things to do, see, and learn.
Home to five colleges (UMass Amherst – the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, Amherst
College, Hampshire College, Smith College, Mt. Holyoke College), Hampshire County is a must-visit destination for those planning their post-secondary education or considering graduate school.
Take in the youthful and lively downtown core of Amherst by stopping by the independent movie theater, bookstores set against the backdrop of historical architecture and blooming flower gardens, and diverse restaurants, cafés, art galleries, and more. It’s a cultural college town that should be on any student’s (or professor’s!) wish-list.
For those past schooling, the city side of Hampshire County is also home to hedonistic pleasures reminiscent of youth. Late-night pizza, ramen, fancy cocktails, and music await in the hidden gems of Northampton, known for being exceptionally LGBTQ-friendly and welcoming. Let the rainbows be your guide—painted crosswalks in rainbow colors and tourist attractions with rainbow cues signal Northampton’s boutique shops and 100+ locally-owned restaurants and food and beverage establishments.
Over in trendy Easthampton, farmer’s markets brim with local bounty year-round, and there are always new coffee shops, art galleries, bookstores, and local markets to explore.
Art lovers will be inspired by the many museums, theaters, and galleries, like the Academy of Music Theater and Bombyx Center for the Arts in Northampton, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, and the Smith College Museum of Art. Amherst College is home to the Beneski Museum of Natural History and the Mead Art Museum, both of which boast must-see collections for art and history lovers alike.
Spring is Around the Corner
Spring in Hampshire County is filled with natural wonders. Whether taking in the sights of nature in bloom or expanding your understanding of the world around you, the turn of the season boasts exciting adventures around every corner.
As the valleys bloom, bringing warm days and cool nights, make the most of the warmer weather with an outdoor adventure. Experience the wonders of nature at the Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge and the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, both of which offer an extraordinary variety of wildlife, up-close and personal.
Spring is the perfect time to take a hike or bike ride through one of Hampshire County’s family-friendly, paved and unpaved trails, mountains, and state parks, like Mount Tom, Skinner State Park, the Holyoke Range, or the rail trails. For those who prefer a slower-paced trail, the David Ruggles Center reopens for the season on May 8th, and is the perfect blend of exercise and learning. Walk the African-American history trail in Florence and see Sojourner Truth’s house, abolitionist sites, and the site of the 19th-century utopian community in Florence.
Reward yourself with a relaxing picnic—spring calls for fresh-picked asparagus, or “Hadley Grass,” as locals call it. As May turns to June, the hops ripen in time for Western Mass Beer Week, a must-visit for beer-lovers.
Got a sweet tooth? Head to the North Hadley Market & Sugar Shack to watch and learn how they make their delicious syrups. Taste tests are encouraged, especially on a stack of pancakes!
5 Spring Bucket List Ideas:
- Smother pancakes with maple syrup at a sugar shack
- Kickstart Spring at the Smith and Mount Holyoke Spring Bulb shows
- Bike across the rail trails
- Taste Hadley Grass—asparagus!
- Visit the newly renovated Emily Dickinson Museum
Hampshire County in Western Massachusetts is just one of those pockets on the planet where you can be yourself – any side, any shade, any shape. Come see for yourself.