There’s more to Massachusetts than Boston. Get to know the “other side of Massachusetts” with this list of fun things to do in Western MA.
**A big thank you to Visit Hampshire County for arranging fun itineraries during both of our visits! Although they provided free entrance to attractions and paid for some of our meals, as always, all opinions are our own.**
Fun Things To Do In Western MA
We’ll admit that we didn’t know much about the other side of Massachusetts. Before our first visit to the area with our friend Brianne of A Traveling Life, we started researching Hampshire County and we realized there is quiet a bit to do!
Boston is known for its hustle and bustle, but Western Massachusetts offers fun attractions while still having small town charm. We enjoyed our time in Western MA so much that we’ve since returned and enjoyed even more in the area.
So if you’re looking for day trips in Massachusetts outside of the big city, we recommend driving through Hampshire County. Below we’ve listed out our favorite cities and attractions.
Things To Do In Northampton MA
This city is known for its history, culture, and cute shopping area, so there are plenty of things to do in Northampton. We especially loved the Smith College Museum of Art. It is widely recognized as one of the leading academic museums in the country.
With an expanding collection, the museum’s mission is to cultivate inquiry and reflection by connecting people to art, ideas and each other. During our second visit to the art museum (it’s so good that we wanted to visit again), they had a great new exhibit called Black Refractions which highlighted the works of various artists of African descent from the Studio Museum in Harlem.
And interestingly enough, something visitors should definitely not miss at the museum are the public bathrooms on the lower level directly adjacent to the exhibition gallery. Even they have been beautifully designed as functional art.
Another part of Smith College that we recommend you visit is the Lyman Plant House and Conservatory. It’s main greenhouses date back to 1895, and they house 3,000 species of plants. Entrance to the conservatory is free although they suggest a $2 donation.
One of the best things to do in Western MA is to walk along Northampton’s Main Street. The shops there have fun merchandise and the storefronts are cute. We even saw some murals as we explored the area.
If you’re wondering where to eat in Northampton, we have a few recommendations. The first is The Dirty Truth. This fun beer hall has some really delicious food options.
During our visit we had a Mezze Plate for an appetizer, which had hummus, roasted red pepper, marinated artichoke, olives, pickles, and crackers. For our main meal we had the Mac & Cheese which was made with cavatappi pasta and had a cheddar-brie sauce mixed with some panko bread crumbs. We also added bacon to it because… why not? For dessert we had Beer Doughnuts. All of the food was great and our waitress was awesome too; she took the time to explain specials and checked on us often.
Another fun place to eat in Northampton is Filos Greek Taverna. The decor inside is fun and you feel like you’ve been transported to Greece! We really liked the Traditional Gyro Meat Wrap we ordered that came with sliced gyro meat, red onion, tomato, fried potato, tzatziki, and chopped parsley, rolled up in a hot pita.
A third restaurant option in Northampton that we recommend is Bueno Y Sano. This Mexican restaurant has some of the biggest burritos we’ve ever seen! We ordered chips and guac to start, and then had a Beef Chili Burrito and two Black Been Tacos. We don’t know how we managed to walk out of there, because we were so stuffed!
Things To Do In Florence MA
One of the most fun things to do in Western MA is in the village of Florence. Artifact Cider Project is doing something revolutionary with their tasty ciders! Using only local fruit from within 100 miles, they are truly mapping their own way as a cidery.
We hadn’t really tried too many ciders before, but after visiting Artifact’s taproom and having a flight, we have a whole new appreciation for the tasty beverage. When you visit, ask for John. He really knows his stuff and took the time to explain how their ciders are made and offered great recommendations based on the types of drinks we usually have.
A great place to eat in Florence is the Miss Florence Diner. Open since 1941 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, this unique restaurant is inside a train diner! Complete with counter and stools and even mini jukeboxes at each table, you truly feel like you’re eating at an old school diner.
During our visit we had a BLT Sandwich with crispy bacon, sliced tomato and fresh lettuce. We also had a Philly Steak and Cheese Sub with lean shaved steak, grilled onions, peppers and mushrooms, served on a grilled grinder roll and covered with Miss Flo’s special cheese sauce. Yum!
Another foodie recommendation is the Florence Pie Bar. This small cafe makes sweet and savory handmade pies whole and by the slice. Many people recommended we get a slice of pie from there before the end of our trip to Western MA, so we had pretty high expectations.
They did not disappoint! We had a slice of Winter Fruit Pie that had apple, pear, cranberry, and fig. The flavors were incredible!
Things To Do In Amherst MA
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Western MA with kids, or just like donuts, we recommend going to Atkins Farms. They have a lot of great food items, but what they’re best known for is their cider donuts. We thought they were fantastic!
Another thing to do in Amherst is visit the Emily Dickinson Museum which is actually in her old home. Unfortunately it was closed on the day that we visited, but we would have loved to learn more about this incredible poet.
It’s also nice to simply walk around Amherst and admire the architecture and some of the shops that they have in town. There were a lot of cute book stores and beautiful churches.
Another of the best things to do in Western MA is to visit the Yiddish Book Center. Even if you aren’t Jewish, this place is amazing with so much historic value. It all came about when one man wanted to save Yiddish books that were being thrown away by American-born Jews unable to read the language of their Yiddish-speaking parents and grandparents.
To date, the center has saved over 1.5 million Yiddish books from around the world (and they receive more daily). They are also creating digital scans of the books so they are preserved for future generations. The center is a true testament of the love someone can have for their culture.
There are also artifacts throughout the center which we found very interesting, like an old printing press. During our visit, they also had a special exhibit called “A Shtetl In The Sun” which were photographs taken by Andy Sweet of the large elderly Jewish population that resided in Miami’s South Beach during the 1970s.
Things To Do In Easthampton MA
We think one of the coolest things to do in Western MA, especially if the weather outside isn’t great, is visiting Mill 180 Park. This indoor park is truly revolutionary! They bring the outdoors in, with lovely green spaces that you can enjoy as a group or in quiet solitude.
Visitors will find hydroponically-grown plants that not only add to the aesthetics, but are also used at the cafe to create the freshest dishes. The park is in a restored mill, and they’ve used the space wonderfully with play areas for kids and also little nooks for curling up with a good book.
Another cool converted mill building in Easthampton is Eastworks. Here, you’ll find commercial businesses, offices, artists studios, and even apartment lofts. We took a stroll along the different floors and were surprised at how many different businesses we saw.
Things To Do In Williamsburg MA
If you’d like to get your creative juices flowing, visit Snow Farm in Williamsburg. This once working farm is now home to studios and living areas where anyone can learn all kinds of crafts like glass blowing, metalworking, ceramics, and welding (to name a few). This is one of the few craft programs in the country that is open to beginners.
They offer various workshops, from two to five days, and students can stay on the property and even have their meals included with their stay. The two week program that they have for teens is especially awe inspiring as it’s almost equivalent to a college semester and the teens are able to show off their works at the end of the program.
Guests that visit Snow Farm in November also get to do some great shopping! Pieces from across the region from over 200 craftspeople are sent to Snow Farm so guests can do some early holiday shopping. You can also try blowing your own glass ornament!
Where To Stay In Hampshire County MA
As you’re exploring Western Massachusetts, there are a few options for where to stay but these are the ones we recommend. If you’re staying in Northampton we suggest staying at The Hotel Northampton. It’s right in the center of town, with great amenities and two restaurants.
If you’d like to stay a bit further north in Amherst, we recommend the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Amherst-Hadley. The hotel is in a great location, with fast WiFi and complimentary breakfast. And comfy beds!
Another place to stay in Western MA that is pretty unique is the Starlight Llama Bed and Breakfast. It’s a completely off-the-grid B&B and llama farm!
Final Thoughts On Western MA
Driving through Western Massachusetts was a lot of fun and we enjoyed getting to explore some of the cities in Hampshire County. There’s definitely a lot more to Massachusetts than people think!