Enjoy the holiday scene in downtown Amherst

Downtown Amherst is the holiday place to be! The stars are up and the Merry Maple has been lit for another season. Trees at Kendrick and Sweetser parks also brighten the night.

With tubas decorated, the University of Massachusetts marching band rocked the North Common as they practiced for the Tournament of Roses Parade.

This is the time of year that everyone’s thoughts turn to holiday cheer and a variety of festivities that bring old and young together in spirit. We have that here.

With the Amherst BID annual window decorating contest, the downtown businesses are spreading the joy and creativity. With local church choirs and student musicians, we will fill the sidewalks with music. It is a wonderful time of year to be in the center of Amherst.

And there’s shopping! Every child has started their wish list and families and friends are trying to figure out the best gift for one another from practical to whimsical. You’ll be able to find that perfect gift in downtown Amherst.

What are you looking for? Maybe a bicycle or a book or a fabulous toy? Or maybe it’s a unique piece of furniture or jewelry? Could it be a gorgeous scarf or colorful shoes? Or artwork from a gallery or hand-made crafts? These and many other wonderful and wacky items can be found this holiday season in the nooks and crannies of downtown Amherst. Many are easily noticeable on Main and North Pleasant streets but others are tucked away in alleys or on the second floor. Come explore downtown Amherst and find them all.

While you’re looking for that perfect gift, remember to check in with all your favorite store and restaurant owners. They are all geared up for the season and ready to assist. You will probably work up an appetite or need to get a little respite from the cold. Many establishments have a great selection of warm winter beverages for all ages and a variety of meals and sweet treats. To make this all a little easier, the BID requested additional free parking on Saturdays so that you can easily get in and out of town.

A century ago, as today, the main streets of downtown were lined with all kinds of shops and businesses. You could purchase utilitarian items such as carpets, paper products and groceries as well as unique and fun gifts. You still can.

The Town Common and parks were places to gather and enjoy the scenery. They still are. The character and feel of downtown Amherst remains energetic and vibrant but with modern additions that make it even better.

Before or after your shopping or dining, take in a movie at the Amherst Cinema. Or stop by the Dickinson Homestead to help it celebrate Emily’s 187th birthday. They will have cake!

Or stroll through one of the many art galleries or take the kids to the Jones Library children’s room. There is always something for everyone and we welcome you all. It is a festive and fun time in downtown and the more the merrier!

So, come on down to downtown Amherst to do your shopping and enjoy the holiday scene. Wander under the glow of the Merry Maple again, join the caroling, have a bite to eat or just people watch.

And if you end up with some stories or fun photos of your adventures (or tired children) please share them with us on the BID Facebook page. Or please visit us at the Visitor Information Center.

We look forward to seeing folks filling their shopping bags and enjoying all that downtown Amherst has to offer. Happy holidays from the BID!

Sarah la Cour, of Amherst, is executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District.