Friday, August 31, 2012

More Than Academia in Massachusetts College Towns

What other than ‘pahkin’ ya cah in Hahvahd yahd’ is there to do in Massachusetts? As the college-bound flock to sit in the lecture halls of Harvard and MIT, this New England state has more to offer than r-less accents, Ivy League schools and Beantown. 

Cambridge, Amherst and Northampton, Worcester, New Bedford, Salem, and North Adams and Williamstown are brimming with cultural events and attractions not just for student populations, but also for travelers who want to experience the Bay State.
Boston Harborfront

From art exhibitions in Peabody to restaurants in Gloucester to historical museums in Concord, whether it’s an ocean view or ski resort you seek, residents and visitors alike can find worthwhile entertainment, activities and diverse nightlife.

You’re hard-pressed to look upon the Charles River without seeing a crew rowing in unison from one of Cambridge’s universities. The town is only a few minutes from the heart of Boston and two of the premier education and research institutions in the entire world. However, it’s not university life – but the vibrant culture – that makes up the identity of Cambridge.

Harvard Square, named for the school that populates its center, is a hub for all activities. With 90-plus restaurants, one not to miss is Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, a nationally acclaimed joint that pampers meat lovers and vegetarians alike. Over 75 stores and independent boutiques, with wares ranging from music, clothing, books, crafts and jewelry, qualify this block as a bona-fide shopping center. Finding a place to stay is no trouble, with more than 15 lodgings located in Harvard Square.

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. Thespians can visit any of several theaters, which show movies, live productions, and art galleries, showcasing work from artists around the world. Alternately, enjoy the sights of one of America’s oldest cities along a tour of the Charles River.

Amherst and Northampton
Dormitories of University of Massachusetts
Northampton Skyline

Amherst and Northampton are liberal arts enclaves and the perfect destinations outside of the big city. Situated only nine miles apart in Western Massachusetts, these two towns are home to Hampshire, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Amherst, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, which draw students from around the U.S.

Pristine wilderness surrounds the two towns and makes Amherst and Northampton a great destination for hiking, swimming, biking, and river paddling and strawberry picking. UMass runs a transit service between the schools and their surrounding communities, making travel quick and painless.

Though the scenery draws many, Amherst and Northampton have lively downtown cultural scenes complete with bookstores, cafes, pubs, all varieties of live music, and ten museums within easy reach. Broadway shows and dance troupes are often hosted at UMass Amherst. Restaurants ranging from Thai and Chinese to Mexican and African keep visitors well-fed.

Situated in central Massachusetts, Worcester is at the crossroads of New England’s major cities and has much to offer those passing through. Clark University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, College of the Holy Cross, Assumption College, Becker College and Worcester State University all lend the community a distinct college feel.

The American Hockey League’s Worcester Sharks call the DCU Center home, and when they aren’t on the ice, the arena hosts concerts and road shows. The Worcester Art Museum boasts more than 35,000 art pieces spanning more than 5,000 years of human history. Higgins Armory has one the largest and oldest armor collections in America, including jousting outfits.

Union Station, Worcester

With more than 250 restaurants, Shrewsbury Street and Canal District are 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.

New Bedford
Home to the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and its nearly 10,000 students, New Bedford is the epitome of a college town.

Residents and visitors enjoy concert series, plays and musicals at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center. Dweezil Zappa, son of the legendary artist and composer Frank Zappa, leads “Zappa Plays Zappa,” which 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. Museums on whaling and glass provide other excellent ways to spend a day while boutique shops and lovely cafes can be found along walking tours of the city. New Bedford’s culture and attractions make it a great spot for people of any age.

About 20 miles north of Boston sits Salem State University. At 10,000 students large it’s well known for its nursing program, and students have the benefit of living in a an area that draws residents from around the Bay State to experience the town’s history and charm.
American Colonial Home, The House of the Seven Gables

Salem gained much of its fame from the notorious witch trials that took place during the late 17th century, and today that history lends itself to the most festive Halloween celebration in the country. Visitors can relive the trials through observing reenactments, films, walking tours, and museums. The Peabody Essex Museum features the work of famous American photographer Ansel Adams and other artists. Salem also hosts a series of festivals throughout the summer. These festivals celebrate maritime history, the 4th of July and jazz music.
Salem’s identity as a coastal town is commemorated through various activities and can be seen in the captains’ mansions that line the streets. Visitors can tour ships, sail on schooners, and walk around museums filled with treasures and artifacts.

North Adams and Williamstown
Situated in the Berkshires, 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. Though best known for their education centers, it is the other attractions that make North Adams and Williamstown truly special.

Autumn is best spent in North Adams and Williamstown, which are rife with hiking and running trails and offer unparalleled foliage viewing. 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.
Boy Drawing in Gallery at Clark Art Institute

North Adams and Williamstown offer a range of indoor and fine art attractions. Of particular interest are the international display at The Williams College Museum of Art and the Clark Art Institute and one of the largest American centers for contemporary visual and performing art at The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams. 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. and 

For more information on Massachusetts and its college towns please visit The Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism (MOTT) Special thanks to the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism for the photos.

contributed by Julie Callahan via FamilyTravelForum

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