This page is the hub for our advice about travel to Amherst, for conferences, classes, or events. For specific advice on preparing for WSWG Conferences, see our General Information page. The notes below tend to assume Conference visitors, but with a few mental adjustments should be usable by others as well.
Before Setting Out
Advise family and colleagues that they can reach you during the Conference in one of two ways. If the Conference is in session, call [University] Conference Services at (413) 545-2591 and ask to have the person paged, or to have a short message delivered to the meeting room. Otherwise, for those staying at the Campus Center Hotel, call the Hotel desk at (413) 549-6000 and ask to be connected (the phone system allows "voice mail"), or ask to have a message left at the Reception Desk.
It is well to be provided against rain and (in season) snow. Most sessions and most meals are in the Campus Center, and parking is in the Center's underground garage, all fully protected. But for other excursions, a waterproof scarf and penlight, stowed in purse or pocket, may come in handy. A folding umbrella may not be out of the question. Your cell phone will probably work (the campus is just on the edge of the range of the relay towers along Highway I-91, about ten miles away).
For those coming by car there are some additional advance precautions; see the Car Travel page.
You may obtain advance weather information for Amherst or any other city from Weather Underground (air travelers should type in Windsor Locks CT, which is the nearest town to Bradley International Airport).
Most passengers coming from another country will go through US customs either at an intervening stop (Chicago, New York, etc) or at their Canadian city of departure (Toronto, Montréal). Canadian passengers will need proof of identity, for which a passport is the normal expected form. Noncitizens of Canada, or citizens of other countries, may need a visa as well as a passport; application for visas must be made several months in advance. Check with your local US consulate or visa office, for this and other relevant regulations.
Our travel advice for Conferences held at the University of Massachusetts has two parts, one to get you to the Campus Center hotel, and the other (the rest of the page) to get you to your hotel room, and to pass on various tips which may help make your stay more pleasant.
The campus, the town of Amherst, and even the relevant parts of the city of Springfield, are reasonably safe and unproblematic, especially during daylight. After dark, use normal extra circumspection.
Chose from this list of instructions, depending on how you will be coming. The instructions are very detailed. This is to fill a cultural vacuum. The Massachusetts attitude toward those needing directions (including highway or building signs) is, "If you weren't born here, forget it." Print out and bring with you the instructions that apply to you, plus any included maps and diagrams. You may be glad you did.
Depending on your travel mode, you will arrive at different parts of the Campus Center building, and your first task is to get to the check-in desk on Level 3.
From Level 2 of the parking garage, to which the Coming By Car instructions will have directed you, go to the short tunnel labeled Concourse Entrance. This takes you to Level 2 of the Campus Center itself. If you arrive after 2 AM, the connecting tunnel will be locked at the far end for security reasons, but a sign will direct you up and around to the front (north) entrance (on Level 3), which is open 24 hours a day. That entrance is directly opposite the registration desk. At all other times, the Concourse Entrance tunnel is open. If you find yourself just inside it, and need help with your luggage, there is a courtesy phone on the wall by which you can request it. Otherwise, go the end of the tonnel and through the door. Bear left past the vending machines and various food carts. You will see the University Bookstore ahead of you. Turn right, and the elevators are a few steps down the main concourse, again on your right. (Make a mental note that further down that same concourse, on your right, is the Blue Wall, where breakfast is available from 7:30 on both days of the Conference). Once in an elevator, press the button for Level 3, the lobby and check-in desk.
If you are coming by airport limousine, you will be dropped at the front (north) entrance, which is already at Level 3. If you are walking from the bus stop, or have reached the bus stop after a two-mile walk from the train station, you will proceed northward on the main thoroughfare, and pass the Library tower (on your right), and then the Student Union (also on your right; the Parking Garage is on your left). Then you will go down a ramp to an entrance on the west face of the Campus Center building, at Level 2. Once inside, the University Bookstore will be on your left. Turn right and continue down the concourse. The elevators are a little bit ahead, on your right. Take any elevator to Level 3 (Hotel Lobby).
Everybody is now at the hotel desk on Level 3. Mention to the desk clerk that you are with the Warring States Working Group. There should be a reservation in your name (or that of your roommate in our double-occupancy situation). The hotel should know that the Project is paying your hotel bill, unless you have arranged previously to do so yourself, for later reimbursement by your home institution. You will be asked to leave a credit card number to cover any extra expenses (for example, local phone calls are 50 cents). Ask to see your messages; there should be a weekend parking pass for each driver, and possibly copies of last-minute predistributed papers to help you pass the evening profitably.
The parking pass is to be used each time you exit the garage after arriving, but kept in your possession (for use next time) until you leave the Conference, at which time it should be surrendered to the parking attendant. All parking charges for the weekend will be billed direct to the Project. Cars are needed for transportation to Friday dinner and the Saturday Chinese banquet.
Guest rooms are on Levels 5 and 6, and the Conference room is on Level 8 or 9 (check the current Conference Program). All vertical travel within the Campus Center is by elevator. Never attempt to use the fire stairs, even in a fire emergency, to go from one level to the next. The doors do not open from the stairwell back onto the corridors, and you will spend the rest of your life trapped amid a lot of concrete. WSWG may dedicate a moment of silence to your memory at its next meeting, but will that really be sufficient? Should you find yourself stuck on an upper floor when the desk staff turn off the elevator service to that level, call the desk from the house phone near the elevators and ask to have service restored.
If you are arriving on Saturday morning, you will need to bring your luggage direct to the Conference room, and leave it in a corner pending check-in time at 12.
No smoking is allowed except in designated hotel rooms. If you forgot to request a smoking room in advance, make a note to do so next time. Except that a total smoking ban will probably apply next time.
Barbershop, bookstore, and copying services are in the building, but they do not operate during weekends, which are low-traffic times on this campus. There is no room service in the hotel on any day of the week. Continental breakfast (complimentary) is available each morning from 7 AM on in the Hotel lobby. A wider choice is available in the Blue Wall restaurant on Level 2 (turn right after you leave the elevator back; it is at the end of the concourse on your right), nominally from 7:30 AM onward. The latter is at individual option, and is not covered by the Project. If you need a receipt, be sure to request it before the cashier begins to ring up your order. Plan to finish up and start your ascent to the Conference room on Level 9 not later than 8:45 (for a 9 AM beginning). Signs near the elevators on Level 9 will point you to the Conference room.
The view south from the top 11th Level, across the pond and including the humanities side of the campus, is worth seeing, even though the Top of the Campus bar, not to mention the associated dining room, on that level, are not currently in operation to provide snacks. One substitute is to take a coffee-break cookie with you on this excursion. If you stay in the Conference room during breaks, the view north across the science end of the campus is not bad either. Most impressive of all, if you can find the time, is the view from the 22nd floor Asian Reference Collection in the tower library building, a short walk south. (If you are coming for a Project Seminar, the 22nd floor of the Library is your destination).
First Evening and After
At present the only working restaurant in the Campus Center is the student cafeteria Blue Wall, located on Level 2 (turn to the right as you exit the elevator area). There are restaurants in Amherst, but no very dependable taxi service to the Amherst town center. The campus bus service (PVTA) does offer regular transportation to Amherst center; it leaves at regular intervals from the kiosk in from of the Fine Arts center. New arrivals on the first evening of a Conference will typically gather in the lobby on Level 3 at about 6 PM to choose up rides and destinations for dinner. Amherst offers a variety of choices, and Northampton (about half an hour away) an even wider variety.
If there are enough guaranteed first-day arrivals to make it practical for us to arrange a dinner that evening, we will do so. From the early days of WSWG, the first dinner has been designated the Duyvendak Memorial Banquet. For details, watch the announcements sent in preparation for that particular conference.
To get together with other early arriving conferees, ask at the desk for house phone numbers (the desk will not give out room numbers), and call them from the lobby. The chairs in the lobby itself are a convenient place for light Sinological conversation. Do not attempt to get to the Conference floor (Level 8 or 9) in the evening. The elevators are, or soon will be, turned off, and anyway, we do not have the use of the Conference Room until morning of the first scheduled session.
There is traditionally a 6 PM Saturday Chinese dinner, at which all conferees are our guests. Ride sharing is customary. Dinner usually ends about 8 PM. If you plan to make a night of it after dinner ends at 8, plan your carpooling accordingly.
Normal expectations are for reasonable quiet in hotels after 11 PM, but there can sometimes be a problem with noisy guests beyond that hour. If you have this problem, call the hotel desk, giving your room number and the location of the noise. They will reprove, and if necessary eject, the offending parties.
Conference activities normally take up the entire weekend. We thus make no arrangements for scenic, cultural, or book-buying tours of the area. If you are coming early or remaining beyond the Conference, or if you are accompanied by someone with time for culture, the hotel desk people can advise you about possibilities. Also ask any local residents you may know. Their information may or may not be more current.
Hotel checkout time is 11 AM on Sunday morning. The usual method is to utilize the Sunday morning coffee break (scheduled at 10:30 for just this reason) to complete this chore, and bring your luggage up to the Conference room for the final session and the concluding lunch. Leftover sandwiches or cans of soda from lunch may be taken with you as a snack during your trip back (be our guest; we get no credit on unused lunch items).
If you are being taken by Valley Transporter van to the airport, be sure to be ready in the lobby on Level 3 at the agreed time. Drivers will come to the lobby doors but will not look for you inside the building. Our prepayment includes a standard tip. The receipt should have been sent direct to us. If by mistake it is handed to you by the driver, please mail it to the Project on your return. We need it for accounting purposes.
Valley Transporter will need to know your air (or train) departure time, and they will allow as much travel time as their experience suggests. Those departing by car will find that the trip over Route 9 to the I-91 interchange is smoother than it was during years of road construction, but traffic can nevertheless sometimes be jammed to a standstill by mall traffic. The alternate route (north via Route 116 through Sunderland and thence to I-91) may thus be better. See our Car Travel page for details.
In these final moments, or at any time during your stay, call on us for such assistance as you may require. We are grateful for your contribution to the Conference, and we will do all we can to make your stay enjoyable. We hope to have the pleasure of your company on a future occasion.
14 Sept 2005 / Contact The Project / Exit to Conferences