Amherst, Massachusetts

Smarty Pants

The BUZZ

What's it like to live in Amherst

**Hey guys! I've been thinking about visiting your great state someday. But for now, I'd really like to hear what locals have to say about Amherst.

Is Amherst a nice place to live for single people?

How expensive is the cost of living? (From what I understand, it's much more affordable than Boston.)

How good are the winters? And how much snow does the town average? (I really enjoy snowy places.)

How community-oriented is it? Town events? Non-chain restaurants? Is Amherst the kind of place where community thrives?**

Very single friendly, thanks in large part to the college bar scene and all the people who stick around after they graduate. It's also real close to Northampton, which is great because once you feel like you've explored Amherst, you get to unpack an entire new fun town with a similar vibe. It's like a two for one deal!

I can't speak much to the cost of living there now, but I lived on route 9 in Hadley for 3 years and it was very affordable, and a nice house to boot. For sure more affordable than Boston, but that's not saying much.

The winters get cold, like anywhere in New England. BUT, having grown up an hour east in the hills of Worcester county, and now living in the Berkshires, it's my opinion that you won't find a milder winter anywhere in Massachusetts than in the Pioneer Valley. They nicknamed it the Happy Valley for a reason…

Editing because I accidentally posted too soon. Fuck you mobile.

It's a very community minded place! I'll also echo the other person in this thread who gave the "vote blue" disclaimer. The place is DEEP blue, so a lot of the community orientation revolves around liberal politics.

Lots of good places to eat there, and in Northampton. I'll also take the opportunity to plug the fact that the Berkshires, my adopted home, and specifically my lovely little city of North Adams are only an hour and some change away. Come visit us!

TL;DR yes do it.

What do locals like about Amherst?

Is Amherst a nice place to live for single people?

Yup, I loved living in Amherst. I lived about a mile and a half from downtown after college. (And I went to UMass.)

There's a good mix of stuff to do/places to go while also having the niceness of safe walking/hiking/biking.

I'm going to put in the disclaimer that I'm generally answering these question as "Amherst area" because Amherst and route 9 in Hadley (where the mall and a lot of the shopping is) kind of just blend together.

How expensive is the cost of living? (From what I understand, it's much more affordable than Boston.)

Definitely a lot more affordable than Boston (most of western Mass is) but rent-wise, parts of Amherst proper can be more expensive than the surrounding towns. (But it's not that hard to find affordable rooms in shared houses or reasonable apartments.)

Like a lot of places, cost of living can be cheaper or more expensive depending on your choices. There's a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe's in Hadley nearby, but there's also a Target with expanded grocery and an Aldi. So someone who's looking more to save money might hit the latter for groceries, while others might go with the former. The nice thing about

How good are the winters? And how much snow does the town average? (I really enjoy snowy places.)

Winters are New Englandy. There's usually plenty of snow, though not as much as in some parts of upper VT/NY/ME. Google says an average of 39 inches per year. (Higher than the US average of 26.)

Town events?

Um. They have them.. I didn't really ever get involved in that side of stuff, tbh. I was still largely involved in college and post-college social circles when I lived there.

But I see signs sometimes for various community meetings and such. I know there are theater groups and dance groups and yoga stuff and political rallies and bands and whatnot.

One of the big things with Amherst that's a little weird is that there are kinda two Amhersts co-existing. Because UMass and Amherst college are both there, there's a LOT of difference between Permanent Amherst and College Amherst. (And, to that end, between Summer Amherst and School's-in-Session Amherst.)

My experience is largely with College Amherst, and I only lived there for a year after college, so I didn't really see the "settle down / put roots here" side. But it's there, for sure.

Amherst to me always feels a little bit transient because there are a lot of college kids coming and going, but it's also kind nice. It makes things feel like they're shifting and changing in a positive way, and Amherst feels like a more hopeful idealistic version of Northampton to me.

Non-chain restaurants?

Haha.. almost exclusively. Amherst is big on uniqueness. And the chains that are there are mostly like "this is technically a chain, but it only has 5 restaurants and they're all in Mass" or whatnot. With the exception of a few national chains that I always forget are there (Subway and Starbucks, maybe a couple others?) because I never go to them and no one I know in Amherst is ever like, "Let's go to Starbucks." You'd go to Amherst Coffee or Rao's.

Is Amherst the kind of place where community thrives?

Yes, depending on what kind of community. Amherst is wicked liberal, so if you're looking for conservative community.. maybe not so much. But I've heard that church communities also do fine as long as people are open and accepting, not angry hate types.

Amherst is awesome. I really liked living there, and since I'm only 15 minutes away now, I'm still out there with some regularity.

Where are you now?

What is living in Amherst like? I am applying to UMass Amherst, what is living in Amherst actually like? I'm asking you guys instead of on the subreddit because I want to know the POV of students who were probably from some place like Boston or a major city.

I grew up in Amherst, but ended up attending college about an hour away. Personally, I love Amherst and Western MA. Amherst, while a small town, has a cosmopolitan vibe to it. It’s one of the most liberal towns in Massachusetts, and the five-college consortium surrounding it allows students and residents to connect in so many different ways. There’s good restaurants and various places to visit. For example, Hadley has two shopping centers w/ Target and Walmart. Northampton has decent bars too. Another great thing about Amherst is that it’s fairly easy to get around by either bus, bike, walk, or car. The bus system is free to all students and residents, unless you are heading towards other communities where you will have to pay a fare. If you get bored, you can always head into Boston for the day too. The Peter Pan Bus has trips from Amherst to Boston and back on a daily basis (they increase the # when the school year starts, I believe). Overall, Amherst is a great community to live in and study. Take advantage of what the consortium has to offer you. And like any new community, you need to make the effort to explore too. Feel free to PM if you have any questions about Amherst or Western MA in general.

Maybe moving to Amherst-- any advice?

My wife and I went to UMass and ended up moving back out here from Eastern MA a couple of years ago and love it.

As far as the town goes, South Amherst is sleepier than North Amherst and Downtown, with lots of conservation land and access to the New England hiking trail (CT->Canada). Downtown is ever changing with a lot of great restaurants and a music scene that's starting to pick up steam. As you move closer to North Amherst you'll see quite a bit of rental properties for students and during the school year there will be nightly foot traffic as you get closer to UMass.

I will say the tax situation is annoying in Amherst where the property taxes are considerably higher than the surrounding areas, and almost twice as much as Eastern MA.

Health care options are fine but not fantastic, there are a few urgent care centers but the quality of care is hit or miss. The closest hospital is a 20-25min drive. If you need a specialist your best bet would be to drive out to Burlington or Boston, about 1hr40min away, granted Boston has some of the best hospitals in the world.

When school is in session, traffic can be a bit much in certain areas of town but overall it's not bad. There is also a good public transportation system, PVTA, in Amherst/surrounding areas.

There are plenty of community/volunteer opportunities in the area of all varieties.

Overall, it's a great little rural college town, I think the year round population is 14k and it jumps up to 45-49k when the schools are in session. Between Northampton, Hadley, and Amherst you can find most of what you need locally and if not at worst the closest big mall is about 25 minutes away. There is a big emphasis here on locally sourced goods and rightfully so with all of the great little farms in the area. A note on that, Amherst is in a right to farm county, meaning if you've ever wanted a little hobby farm, have at it.

Some quirks: The conservation/development board holds considerable sway in the area and can be a bear to work with. Amherst is deeply connected to the surrounding towns of Leverett, Shutesbury, and Pelham and does have influence in some of the on goings of those areas. Lastly, it's old school but do not be surprised if you run across bartering out here especially if you have any dealings with people closer to the land (personally I love it). OH! Also, Massachusetts allows land trespass as long as your property is not posted. Ideally if you have enough land someone would come knock on your door to hunt/trap but it's not required (as someone that hunts and traps, this tidbit shocks quite a few people).

If you have any questions feel free to reach out, always happy to help.

Pros and Cons of living in Amherst, MA