Home to the rurally inclined intelligentsia since Amherst College opened its doors in 1821, Amherst, Massachusetts, has nurtured some formidable American imaginations. Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, James Merrill, and David Foster Wallace all found a creative home here, and even Frank Lloyd Wright left his mark, designing a little house on Shay's Street. Today, you'll find a landscape decorously broken by white clapboard, weathered brick, a silo or two, and four other nearby institutions of higher learning -- Hampshire College, Smith, Mount Holyoke, and the University of Massachusetts -- offering small but impressive art museums, world-class theater and dance performances, and a range of lecture series, all open to the public. (Amherst College hosts Czeslaw Milosz on March 29 and Spike Lee on April 18.) Stay at the Amherst Inn, a rambling 1850 homestead directly across from the green-shuttered house on Main Street where Dickinson assembled her nearly 1,800 poems. For an impressive mix of cuisine and literature, settle into the Book Mill bookstore for an afternoon. It's got 40,000 books and arguably the best restaurant in the area -- the Blue Heron, with an adventurous Asian-fusion menu.
Details Emily Dickinson Homestead, 413-542-8161; the Amherst Inn, 413-253-5000 (rooms range from $95 to $150); the Book Mill, 413-367-9206; the Blue Heron, 413-367-0200.