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Summer is upon us! This year, we’ll hopefully have a lot more freedom to explore a multitude of date night possibilities. If you’re feeling stuck on what to do, I’ve got you covered. As a college student, I know budgeting is crucial. Most of these ideas are free (or very cheap), and some of them are specific to the Pioneer Valley area, so if you aren’t in the Amherst area this summer, take advantage of them this fall!

Design and execute a “Battle of the Bands” with your partner.

This date night idea is 100% free; all you need is a pen and paper to design the ultimate competition. First, sketch a blank 32-team bracket. Then, craft a playlist of 32 songs you love to listen to together. Lastly, hit shuffle. Each pair of consecutive songs go head to head, facing the question, “If we could only keep one of these songs for the rest of our lives, which would we choose?” Some may be an easy call, but if you disagree, persuade your partner to vote for your pick. Eliminate songs round-by-round before declaring a winner! Then, perhaps make that song the anthem for you and your partner’s relationship.

Plan a picnic at Puffer’s Pond.

When I moved into my dorm freshman year, the only symptom of homesickness I experienced was an intense desire for the ocean. As a North Shore native who lives five minutes away from the beach, I underestimated how trapped I would feel in the Pioneer Valley where there’s no access to the shore. I must say, Puffer’s Pond is the closest thing you’ll get to a beach in western Massachusetts. Simply hop on the PVTA 33 route and enjoy one of Amherst’s most beautiful scenes of nature! The pond has a petite, sandy beach that is perfect for a picnic and basking in the sun.

Window shop in Northampton.

I absolutely love Northampton. It’s got a bit more going on than Amherst does, and there are SO many cute shops to pop into. If you don’t have a car, the PVTA B43 route will get you there! My personal recommendations are Shop Therapy, Pinch, Kestrel, and Cedar Chest (where you can find $4 wall posters!).

Escape to a tropical paradise only 20 minutes away!

This one is a little pricier, but totally worth it. There’s a butterfly conservatory in Deerfield called Magic Wings. Admission is $10 if you present your UCard. In addition to the several species of butterflies, there are plenty of other creatures to admire: birds, lizards, snakes, frogs, you name it. Going here with my partner made me feel like a kid again, but it also reminded me that you’re never too old to appreciate the wonders of nature.

Watch the sunset on campus.

The mountainous horizon outlining the silhouettes of DuBois and Old Chapel is a view that’s truly hard to beat. Sunsets are a sight to behold from any viewpoint on campus: the top of the hill, the shoreline of the pond, or even the top of the parking garage. If you’ve got any art supplies on hand, bring them with you; some of my favorite dates with my partner have been our “paint dates,” and the sunset is a perfect backdrop for these.

With visions of a semi-normal summer unfolding, I'm looking forward to replicating these date ideas in Amherst over the next few months. I hope you are too! Happy summer, HC UMass! <3

Grace Bertagna

U Mass Amherst '23

Grace Bertagna is a sophomore at UMass Amherst studying Spanish and Sociology. She enjoys painting, practicing yoga, cooking, and playing ice hockey.
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