The Pioneer Valley is composed of Amherst, Northampton and South Hadley running north to south. These towns share ownership of the "Five College Consortium" (linked academically, economically and culturally) Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Amherst College, Hampshire College and the University of Massachusetts.
Amherst has a population of around 34,000 residents, and is home to the prestigious Amherst College, as well as the University of Massachusetts. It has the slowed, bookish feel of a university town, populated by young professionals and students. The Amherst History Museum offers a glimpse into the region's past, and poetry lovers can visit the Emily Dickinson Museum, which served as the birthplace and home to the reclusive poet.
South Hadley is the smallest town in the Pioneer Valley region, but is notable for housing Mount Holyoke College, and the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. The museum features Asian, Egyptian and Mediterranean art, and also nearby is the Joseph Allen Skinner Museum, which was originally a Congregational church.
South Hadley is slightly north of two state parks, Holyoke Range, and Joseph Allen Skinner State Park. Both offer outdoor activities like hiking and biking, and Holyoke Range State Park is nearly 3,000 acres with heights reaching 1,000 feet in certain points.
Northampton, population 29,000, is packed with restaurants, theaters, art galleries, and activities. It is home to Smith College, and reserves a liberal, artsy vibe. Sometimes considered the lesbian capital of the Northeast, Northampton has a progressive atmosphere and an active nightlife. It was voted one of the best small towns to raise a family in America, and the shops, cafes, museums and diverse population add to the unique flavor of this town.
The Smith College Museum of Art is the most notable tourist attraction in Northampton, and houses works by Georgia O'Keeffe, Claude Monet, and has an extensive collection of famous reproduction prints.
The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority makes getting from these three towns easy for visitors and residents. The valley is located in Central Massachusetts and is bordered by Springfield to the south.