Amherst is the definition of college town, with just under 40,000 residents and five institutions of higher learning. But it's the natural backdrop beyond the carefully manicured quads that makes Amherst such a perfect place to raise adventurous kids, says Heather Carreiro, a teacher, writer, and mother of a toddler.
For hikers and climbers, the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire are just a short drive away, and easy access to a number of lakes and rivers make watersports a breeze. In the winter, Mount Tom offers cross-country skiing on its trails. For folks on two wheels (or tykes on three), the 11-mile paved Norwottuck Rail Trail, connects Amherst to its sister towns, Hadley and Northampton.
While you're not likely to score any deals on a house, (the average cost of a home is about $272,000), rental prices have gone down slightly this year. Keep in mind that because of the large population of students, apartment inventory turns over fast.