Tell me about South Hadley Massachusetts in summertime

My son is going to do the CTY program at Mount Holyoke this summer, for three weeks in June-July. Planning how to get him there and back is an expensive logistical nightmare for many reasons I’ll skip, except to point out that we live in Indonesia. Sending him alone is not an option; the trip is way too complicated for an 11 year old to do by himself.

One plan would be for me to drop him off and then hang out for three weeks until it was time to bring him home. (I’m very lucky that my job can be done telecommuting.) The idea would not be to play hover-mom - I would not even see him - but rather to save on airfare, since I’d only have to make one Jakarta-Massachusetts round trip instead of two.

This only works if I can stay in the area fairly cheaply and survive without a car. Since the five college area presumably has a lot of college students, I’m wondering if this could be doable.

Any thoughts on spending 3 weeks as cheaply as possible in the area? Also, would I go crazy with boredom or could I entertain myself? Could I possibly do some hiking or something of that sort?

I don’t know enough about South Hadley to say, but if you’re not going to see your son for the duration anyway, why not consider spending at least a week or two of that time in Boston? Plenty to do, much of it quite cheaply, no need for a car. In fact, from Boston you can get all the way to Providence RI, and parts of New Hampshire without a car. Day trips unlimited! And there are Dopers here who would be happy to entertain you. :slight_smile:

This sounds like a good suggestion, and you can do pretty well in Boston without a car. But the cost of accommodations may be an issue - in the Boston area they are rarely described as cheap. Perhaps the OP knows someone with whom she could stay?

If you like long-distance hiking, you’re in luck. The Robert Frost Trail passes nearby, and that connects to the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, which connets to the Metacomet Trail in Connecticut, which connects to the Mattabesett Trail. Even if you’re only going to do a few day hikes, I’d recommend buying an up-to-date copy of the Massachusetts Trail Guide by the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club).

As for transportation, there’s a Peter Pan bus stop at Holyoke (6 miles south). The bus to Boston South Station is $28 each way and takes 2.5 to 3 hours. Amtrak trains stop at Springfield (13 miles south). It costs a little more to Boston ($31) but doesn’t take quite as long. From the same bus terminal in Boston (catercorner to the train station), you can take a Concord Coach bus to almost anywhere in Maine or New Hampshire. They have stops at Pinkham Notch ($33 each way) and Franconia ($35) right at some of the better White Mountain trailheads.

According to Mapquest, in South Hadley you’d be around 2 hours from both Boston and the New Hampshire border, which is something for people making suggestions to keep in mind.
All I know about the area is that it’s close to Six Flags and the basketball hall of fame.

This might be overthinking, but what is summer like in Indonesia? Do you hike there? In New England in June-July it’s going to be humid (more so in July than June. In July and August the humidity rarely drops below 60%) but between the 70s and 90s F. I probably wouldn’t hike in July, but June might be doable.

Unless you’re planning to spend the day walking around Boston window shopping, it’s not really all that cheap when it comes to entertaining yourself. It’s not a place full of free museums or anything, like you might find around DC. However, there’s a program called Citypass that lets you visit six Boston attractions for $45/person total, which is a steep discount. You can find info about it here.

Mapquest is pulling your leg about NH. The closest point is around 45 miles from South Hadley, and can easily be reached in an hour.

Not much to do, but it’s a really gorgeous part of the world. When I was there, the PVTA did not run in the summer, but now it does.

With the buses running, you could do it without a car. You could probably scare up a rental or sublet of some sort. It’s wonderfully green, hot and humid during the summer, but nothing like the tropics. Northampton has a nice downtown with lots of shops and suchlike and is not far from South Hadley. Can you tell I miss the Happy Valley?

Congrats on the CTY program for the kid. That looks awesome. Wish my folks had sent me to stuff like that.

Good thinking. I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me; I lived in the Boston area both as a student and a working person for 10 years in the 1980s and early 90s, so I know it’s a great place. It’s well worth a trip back, I’m sure.

I’ll put the word out if I head to any territories where Dopers might be. And I promise, I’d even dress properly if I arranged to meet anyone. :slight_smile:

Not to worry - we’re practically on top of the equator here, and there is no summer or winter, just rainy season and dry season. It’s always between about 82-92 degrees and even dry season is very humid by temperate climate standards. We don’t hike much here because of lack of opportunity, but it is funny you should ask, as in a couple of weeks we are going to hike along the south coast of Java. We’ve done it before, and it is definitely tougher in the heat, but we’re acclimated.

Heh-heh. I lived in southern NH when I was a kid, and 30 years ago was a counselor at a camp in the Berkshires, so luckily I do have some minimal understanding of the geography involved.

Soul Brother Number Two, and bibliophage, that’s very useful information about the PVTA, bus, and hiking routes, thanks.

Oh, and thanks in advance if anyone else posts any advice – if I don’t respond it is just because I don’t want to thread-bump rather than because I’m not reading and appreciating.

I can’t do a text link from my phone, but you might enjoy hikingin the Quabbin Reservoir area. The valley and five towns were evacuated and flooded in the 1930s to provide Boston’s water resource. The structures had been for the most part dismantled, but much of what had been the town of Dana is still in the forested watershed and hikeable. The town common is there, with curbs, sidewalks, and stone foundations of every house. There are cellarholes. One has an old safe in it that was too heavy to haul up. It’s all a bit eerie and sad, but certainly an interesting feature of the area.

The children’s book illustration museum is in South Hadley, of course - may or may not be your thing. Are you into knitting? If so, WEBS is right in Northampton ( - it’s a yarn store the size of a K-Mart.

Emily Dickenson’s house is right in Amherst.

Shoot, this is hard. I could tell you where to find the best vet clinic or burrito or coffee (NO, not Dunkin) but Fascinating Sights? To someone who’s been living in Indonesia? Not so much!

There is a free bus service btw University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Amherst College, Smith College (Northampton) Hampshire College (Hampshire) and Mt Holyoke (South Hadley). It appears to run in the summer, but check this website and the routes you might need…

If you want to telecommute for free, I expect that most of the college libraries will be open and will have open wireless for you. Amherst College, for example, has open wireless, but unless you have a student, faculty, or alumni account, you get port restriction… however if you bring a Cat5 cable, you will be all set. You should check with Mt Holyoke and see what their library summer hours are and what kind of internet they would provide to a guest.

Just poking around Mt Holyoke website…

Looks like 8:30-5pm Summer Hrs M-Fri at Mt Holyoke main library

And wireless available…

A guest account is not needed for wireless access in our hotspots in the Library, Blanchard, or Kendade. You may get a temporary wireless registration without any computer account by clicking on the IP-request link at the login screen of Webmail/Webshell.

There is lots of hiking nearby. On Rt 116 (which runs between S. Hadley and Amherst) is the Mt. Holyoke Range State Park

I think the PVTA bus goes on Rt 116 and should be able to drop you off nearby.

There are lots of bike trails (if you rent/borrow a bike), including the Norwottock Rail Trail (a former railroad line) which connects S. Amherst, Amherst and Northampton:

Amherst College has an excellent natural history museum. The Pioneer Valley is particularly rich in fossilized footprints (dino tracks) and they have a top-notch collection.

There is one small park along the Connecticut River where you can see (and walk on) dino prints out “in the wild,” but it’s not easy to reach without a car.

Hampshire College (Rt. 116, S. Amherst) is home to the Eric Carle museum of picture book art, as well as the National Yiddish Book Museum (something you’re not likely to find in Indonesia!)

Smith College (Northampton) has a very nice greenhouse, and an excellent art museum, particularly strong on early 20th century art. Northampton is a classic New England college town w/ lots of coffee shops, bookstores, art galleries, etc.

As far as travel goes, it might be easier for you to fly into Bradley Airport, which even though its listed as Hartford, is actually very close to the Mass border and at most 10 miles from where you will be.

I can’t really claim to be an expert on the area, as I live about 45 minutes away, but having driven through the area enough times, it has some great scenery.

As far as things to do, you are sort of in the jumping-off place to the Berkshires, which is a great place for all manner of summer recreation. This is a link to the area’s tourist website. A couple years ago I went rafting on the Deerfield River, which was a great experience. Do you have any particular interests? I might be able to steer you a little better if I knew what you were looking for.

Area resident without a car chiming in…

PVTA does run during the summer, but for the most part the buses that serve the Five College system do not. This includes the 38, which is the bus that runs down Route 116 between Mount Holyoke and UMass Amherst, and the 39, which runs between Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges. (If you look here you’ll notice that the Five College buses will suspend service between May 15-September 7, 2009.)

The B43 runs down Route 9 between Amherst and Northampton. This bus always runs, but during the summer it is NOT free to students, and is NEVER ever free to non-Five College students/faculty/staff. Each ride is $1.25.

There are a couple of PVTA routes that serve South Hadley. I’ve never been on them but I think they’re intended for working people and town residents and I doubt they’re free. Also, they only run on weekdays.

Peter Pan Bus Lines stops in South Hadley only once or twice a day or so.

In short, being in South Hadley without a car is no fun. CTY might have shuttles for its students, but you will be SOL. If you plan to stay near Mount Holyoke without a car, I would recommend Northampton or Amherst; it’s much easier to get around these towns without a car and they have a lot of cultural and artistic things to do. (South Hadley, not so much.) An occasional taxi from Amherst or Northampton to Mount Holyoke shouldn’t break the bank.

Western Massachusetts is great for hiking, but unfortunately many of the best places to hike are only reachable by car, and some places that are transit-accessible during the school year become inaccessible during the summer. (E.g., during the school year you would be able to take public transit to the Holyoke Range, but in the summer no buses run down Route 116). Expect to rely on carpools or taxis, spend a good deal of time on buses to get to places that do have bus service, or walk some distance to reach trailheads. Guess how I know this.

Amtrak service from the Pioneer Valley to the rest of Massachusetts sucks. It’s not really Amtrak’s fault, but still, Amtrak trains are often late (especially along the Lake Shore Limited route). This is why Peter Pan Bus Lines pretty much has a monopoly on intercity travel in the region, especially to points east (as in Boston) and west. Amtrak from Springfield to New York City is good, and Amtrak to Vermont might be okay, but if you want to get to Boston in a timely fashion, the bus is the way to go.

I don’t mean to sound too down on the area—there are many good things about the Pioneer Valley, mentioned in the posts above—but I just want to make sure that the OP is realistic about the feasibility of getting around without a car. This isn’t metro-Boston. I can elaborate if people want.

I think renting a car might well be worth it, for at least part of the time: there’s no public transit to most of the area attractions. Maybe a week of no car, holed up and working, then take a bus to Boston for a few days, then come back and rent a car for the rest of the time (dropping it off at the airport when you leave, so you can be relaxed about getting there in time for your flight).

And, especially if you don’t have a car, don’t plan on staying in South Hadley itself, which is suburban to rural. If you’re without a car, see if you can find somewhere close to downtown Northhampton, just across the river from Hadley. Plenty of places to walk to in Northhampton, including coffee shops that probably have wifi available.