Art exhibitions, great food, historical museums, craft galleries, outdoor pursuits, and pristine scenery are only some of the attractions available to residents and visitors alike
Massachusetts College Towns: Not Just For Students
BOSTON – Massachusetts has a well-earned reputation as a national and international center of education. Fewer people are aware that in addition to top-tier colleges and universities located in Boston, the Commonwealth boasts some of the best college towns in America.
Cambridge, Amherst and Northampton, Worcester, New Bedford, Salem, and North Adams and Williamstown, offer some of the best culture and activities anywhere in country. Spread throughout the state, these towns serve as hubs not just for their student populations but also for travelers who want to experience the Bay State.
Art exhibitions, great food, historical museums, craft galleries, outdoor pursuits, and pristine scenery are only some of the attractions available to residents and visitors alike. Beyond the daytime adventures, these areas also feature an active, diverse nightlife.
For more information on Massachusetts college towns, visit massvacation.com/college and to get a more in-depth look at some of the towns and what they offer, check out the “MassFinds” blog at massvacation.com.
Cambridge is one of the best-known college towns in the country. This town, which sits on the Charles River and is only a few minutes from the heart of Boston, features Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, two of the premier education and research institutions in the entire world. Despite the tall shadows cast by these two schools, Cambridge’s identity is about much more than just university life, due in large part to the town’s vibrant culture.
Harvard Square, named for the school that populates its center, is a hub for all activities. The Square has more than ninety restaurants, including Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, a nationally acclaimed joint that pampers meat lovers and vegetarians alike. Visitors will also appreciate the shopping scene, as more than 75 stores and boutiques cover a range of interests, including music, clothing, crafts, books, and jewelry. Finding a place to stay is no trouble, with more than 15 lodgings located in Harvard Square.
Cambridge has much to offer outside of Harvard Square as well. Visitors can tour Cambridge and the Charles River, enjoying the sights of one of America’s oldest cities. History buffs will take to Cambridge’s various Revolutionary War monuments and tributes, including the Longfellow House, which once served as George Washington’s headquarters. Cambridge also boasts several theaters, which show movies, live productions, and art galleries, showcasing work from artists around the world.
For more information on Cambridge, check out cambridge-usa.org.
Amherst and Northampton
For those less inclined towards a big-city feel, Amherst and Northampton are the perfect destinations. Situated only nine miles apart in Western Massachusetts, these two towns host the Five Colleges: Hampshire, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Amherst, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. These colleges are some of the finest liberal arts schools in the country, drawing in students from around the U.S.
Conservation areas dot the surroundings, making Amherst and Northampton a great destination for outdoor types. Hiking, swimming, biking, and river paddling are some of the area’s most attractive outdoor activities, while strawberry picking is the most delicious. A transit service run by UMass provides transportation between the schools and their surrounding communities, making travel quick and painless.
Amherst and Northampton’s appeal is not limited to scenery. Downtown Amherst offers a lively cultural scene, with bookstores, cafes, pubs, all varieties of live music, and ten museums within easy reach. UMass Amherst also hosts Broadway shows and dance troupes. Dozens of restaurants entice visitors with a range of Chinese, Mexican, African, and Thai cuisine. amherstma.gov and northamptonma.gov
Sitting at the crossroads of New England’s major cities, Worcester has much to offer students and passersby. Clark University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, College of the Holy Cross, Assumption College, Becker College and Worcester State University all make their home in this central Massachusetts town, giving the community a distinct college feel. As is the case with Cambridge, Amherst, and Northampton, though, there is more to Worcester than its colleges.
The DCU Center houses many of Worcester’s various attractions, serving as a home to concerts, road shows, and the American Hockey League’s Worcester Sharks. The Worcester Art Museum, which draws visitors from all over New England, has a collection of more than 35,000 art pieces that span more than 5,000 years of human history. Higgins Armory boasts one the largest and oldest armor collections in America, including jousting outfits.
For shoppers and foodies, Shrewsbury Street and Canal District are the places to be. More than 350 restaurants populate these two areas, making them a haven for meal seekers. Shrewsbury Street also features various shops, giving visitors the chance to peruse clothes, crafts, and jewelry. Worcester hosts Broadway shows at Hanover Theatre and has great places for hiking, biking, and rowing. These attractions, combined with Worcester’s location in the heart of New England, make this town in Central Massachusetts a must-see. worcestermass.org
Home to the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and its nearly 10,000 students, New Bedford has more of a college town atmosphere than many of its surrounding communities.
Some of New Bedford’s coolest events come in the series of shows that take place at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, where residents and visitors enjoy concerts, plays, and musicals. Dweezil Zappa, son of the legendary artist and composer Frank Zappa, leads an annual concert at Zeiterion titled “Zappa Plays Zappa” that features renditions of his father’s music. Other shows during the summer include the musical Hairspray and an Al Green concert.
Architecture enthusiasts will love the Rotch-Jones-Duff House, a restored Greek revival mansion with beautiful gardens that take up an entire block. And, museums on whaling and glass provide other excellent ways to spend a day. Boutique shops cater to the area’s shoppers, who can also find lovely cafes and walking tours of the city. New Bedford’s culture and attractions make it a great spot for people of any age. downtownnb.org
Salem, which is located less than twenty miles north of Boston, hosts Salem State University, which is well known for its programs in nursing and counts more than 10,000 students. In addition to university life, Salem State students have the benefit of living in a town that draws residents from all around the Bay State to experience the town’s history and charm.
Salem gained much of its fame from the notorious witch trials that took place during the late 17th century. Today, visitors can relive the trials through observing reenactments, films, walking tours, and museums. Salem also has a rich maritime history, one that is commemorated through various activities. Visitors can tour ships, sail on schooners, and walk around museums filled with treasures and artifacts.
The Peabody Essex Museum offers history of a different sort, featuring work by Ansel Adams and other artists. Salem also hosts a series of festivals throughout the summer. These festivals celebrate maritime history, the 4th of July, jazz music, and other subjects. Places to shop and eat, which are easy to find throughout Salem, are two more elements that make this northern Massachusetts town a great place to be. salem.org
North Adams and Williamstown
Situated in the Berkshire mountains, these two towns offer scenes of breathtaking beauty. North Adams is home to the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, which offers a variety of academic pursuits, while Williamstown houses Williams College, one of the best liberal arts schools in America. Although these two towns are best known for their education centers, it is the other attractions that make North Adams and Williamstown truly special.
North Adams and Williamstown are made for outdoorsy types. Hiking and running trails abound in the Berkshires, which are famous for their gorgeous autumns. Summers in the Berkshires are just as enjoyable, though, as mild air and lush green hills provide a perfect pastoral backdrop to any outdoor excursion.
North Adams and Williamstown also boast a range of indoors attractions. The Williams College Museum of Art and the Clark Art Institute feature art from around the world. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams is one of the largest centers for contemporary visual and performing arts in the country. Quaint shops and restaurants provide service to passersby who need a bite or a drink. The North Adams and Williamstown area is an ideal destination for any travelers who appreciate nature, fine arts, and tasty cuisine. northadams-ma.gov and williamstownchamber.com
The Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism (MOTT) is the state agency dedicated to promoting Massachusetts as a leisure-travel destination. An integral part of the state’s economy, tourism generates more than $915 million in state and local taxes and $14.4 billion in travel related expenditures and supports 121,500 in-state jobs.
The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism’s “Ask a Local” iPhone application, now available on iTunes is an on-the-move guide provides travel information, “local” tips, and deals from Massachusetts’ hotels, attractions, restaurants, and shopping destinations. www.massvacation.com