Berkshire County in western Massachusetts draws travelers from around the world with its many varied attractions:
- The Appalachian Trail and many other great hiking options;
- Tanglewood, the summer home of the renowned Boston Symphony Orchestra;
- The world-famous summer dance festival at Jacobs Pillow in Becket on Jacobs Ladder Road, with its outdoor Inside/Out outdoor stage for performances by students and fledgling dance companies;
- Shakespeare & Company in Lenox;
- Williamstown Theatre Festival;
- Chester Theatre Company in Chester;
- The Norman Rockwell Museum in Lenox;
- Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMOCA) in North Adams (see below): A Drawing Retrospective, 105 wall drawings installed on three floors of a 27,000-square-foot mill building specially renovated for this show. The work will be on view for an unprecedented 25-year period. Chosen by Time magazine as the best exhibition of the year in 2008 and praised by the L.A. Times as “America’s Sistine Chapel,” this is a must-see, must see-again show.
- The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in a magnificent renovated building surrounded by nature in Williamstown;
- The intimate Williams College Museum of Art;
- Several other fine theaters, including Barrington Stage in Pittsfield;
- The charming towns of Great Barrington, Lenox, and Williamstown as well as charming villages that dot the landscape;
- Ski Butternut and Otis Ridge, affordable family ski areas;
- Kripalu in Stockbridge, an outstanding place for Yoga aficionados.
For further exploration, check out Gina Hyams’ self-published book about the great tradition of picnics—humble to extravagant—on the lawn at Tanglewood, The Tanglewood Picnic: Music and Outdoor Feasts in the Berkshires, published by her own company, Muddy Puppy Media, and selling like hotcakes.
A magnificent concert with Conductor Charles Dutoit and pianist Menahem Pressler, born in 1923 in Magdeburg, Germany, who fled the Nazis and emigrated to Israel in 1939. He was a founding member and pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio. It was heartening to see this gifted musician in his tenth decade playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 with conviction, dexterity, and feeling. Dutoit then conducted a stirring, impassioned Stabat Mater by Gioachini Rossini, with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and four amazing soloists: Simona Šaturová, soprano, Marianna Pizzolato, mezzo-soprano, Pavol Breslik, tenor (filling in for the original tenor who had a throat infection), Riccardo Zanellato, bass, with James Burton, guest chorus conductor. The singers came from all over the world: Bratislava, Sicily, Slovakia, and Italy, reflecting the power of music to cross boundaries and unite people. Monsieur Dutoit was born in Switzerland. The impressive chorus provided texture and force to this outstanding performance.
Mark Morris Dance Group @ Jacob’s Pillow
Rubiner’s Cheesemongers in Great Barrington has rare, special cheeses (some at Upper East Side of Manhattan prices), a small restaurant with yummy food, and Blue Marble Ice Cream from Brooklyn purveyor Jennie Dundas, who with her partner runs Blue Marble Dreams in Rwanda and Haiti. The landmark Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge continues to attract tourists from around the world, and the Fitzpatrick family contributes generously to the economy of the Berkshires. There are great places, including Nejaime’s Wine Cellars in Lenox, to buy picnic fare and wine. There are many luxurious hotels, with Blantyre in Lenox part of the Relais & Châteaux Group, Wheatleigh, and Cranwell, as well as Canyon Ranch for those seeking an outstanding spa experience. Several stunning historic houses dot the landscape, including The Mount, Edith Wharton’s house in Lenox, Naumkeag, Chesterwood, and the Herman Melville House. There are many restaurant options from casual to chic to elegant, including Baba Louie in Great Barrington and Pittsfield for scrumptious pizza and salads, Bistro Zinc in Lenox, sister restaurants Alta and Church Street Cafe in Lenox run by the cordial Aurelian Telle, Nudel in Lenox,* Chez Nous, Salmon Run, and Bombay in Lee, Bizen in Great Barrington for superb sushi and sashimi (frequented by many Boston Symphony Orchestra players), and Rouge in West Stockbridge. Hops & Vines in Williamstown is a rustic gem with delicious food and a wide array of beers. Mary’s Carrot Cake opposite Barrington Stage in Pittsfield is a must for homemade carrot cake lovers (she has added homemade sour cream coffee cake); Mary provides free coffee with her confections. Jacob’s Pillow added two excellent dining options during summer 2016 run by local restaurateurs: No. 6 Depot Café) (HQ West Stockbridge) for casual fare and Haven at the Pillow (HQ Lenox) in the charming tent for more formal dining.
Baba Louie’s, with delicious pizza, pasta, and salads, has locations in Great Barrington, Pittsfield, and Hudson, New York. Run by Jean Yves and Yulia Bougouin, Patisserie Lenox with its array of authentic, mouth-watering French pastries has a lovely original location in Lenox and a newer location in Great Barrington (serving wine & beer); it opened in Hudson, New York, in June 2015 where at least initially the café will be open 7 days a week, 9am-6pm Monday-Thursday, and Sunday; and 9am-9pm on Friday and Saturday. and may be adjusted depending on customer patterns; Fratelli’s Restaurant and Pizza in Otis is a terrific casual restaurant with tasty food. Across the border, in Chatham, New York, is the charming and delightful Blue Plate, with a terrific menu.
For a truly elegant meal, with indoor and outdoor options in good weather, The Old Inn on the Green in New Marlborough, run by the talented chef Peter Platt and his wife, is unsurpassable. There is also comfortable lodging available at the inn. This talented couple also runs the less upscale, casual, inviting eatery nearby, the Southfield Country Store.
The Berkshires are a haven for foodies of all tastes and passions:
- Peace Haven Project, Becket, run by Josh Schwartzbach and Adrienne Metcalfe, a small, sustainable farm with marvelous vegetables and homemade quiche (must order ahead)
- Roadside Store & Café, Monterey, run by nearby Gould Farm, with the most delicious breakfast for the non-calorie conscious breakfast lover
- Berkshire Organics, Pittsfield, wide range of fruit and vegetables
- Katy’s, Otis, old-fashioned general store with an expert butcher; tenderloin lovers can get top-grade tenderloin trimmed and ready to grill at a remarkably affordable price
- Berkshire Mountain Bakery, with its original location in Housatonic and new location in Pittsfield, offers delicious artisanal bread, featured in Saveur Magazine
- The Old Creamery Cooperative, Cummington, a splendid grocer with organic options and scrumptious homemade food, including grilled paninis
- Darryl’s The Other Brother in Otis has superb fish, and prepare to order
- An enticing supermarket, Guido’s, has locations in Great Barrington and Pittsfield, with an excellent butcher and fishmonger
- Recently the fine but more conventional supermarket, The Big Y, has added a much-needed store in Lee, which augments its longstanding Great Barrington location.
For Chocolate Lovers Only:
- Don’t miss Chocolate Springs Café, Lenox, created by Joshua Needleman, chocolatier par excellence, a graduate of Culinary Institute of America who has been fascinated with chocolate all of his life. Josh’s charming, rich chocolates and homemade gelato are designed to tantalize his many loyal patrons. He is also philanthropic, and donates his chocolates to Jacobs Pillow for their various events.
During the summer months, there are several farmers’ markets:
- Adams Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market
- Berkshire Area Farmers’ Market
- Great Barrington Farmers’ Market
- Lee Farmers’ Market
- Lenox Farmers’ Market
- North Adams Farmers’ Market
- Otis Farmers’ Market
- Pittsfield (Downtown) Farmers Market
- Sheffield Farmers’ Market
- West Stockbridge Farmers’ Market
- Williamstown Farmers Market
There are great places for crafts fans and collectors, including:
- Hoadley Gallery, Lenox, run by Stephanie and Tom Hoadley in a pretty house, with a wide range of an ever-changing array of pottery (including Tom’s exquisite pieces), glass, jewelry ranging from simple, contemporary pieces to exquisite creations with precious stones, small pieces of furniture, and paintings
- Hilltown Potters, which features a tour during the summer, and includes the studios of several talented potters, all with different styles, hilltown6.com: Mark Shapiro, Hiroshi Nakayama, Constance Talbot, Eric Smith, Maya Machin, Christy Knox, Robbie Heidinger, Michael McCarthy, and Sam Taylor. We are devotées of Mark Shapiro’s exquisite wood-fired pots with their beautiful glazes, mostly in earthtones but often accented with turquoise and other colors.
- The Store@Jacobs Pillow, with appealing memorabilia and the splendid, affordable En Pointe jewelry collection by contemporary designer Erika Hope, www.erikahope.com. The Store should stock more of its wearable items in Extra Large to accommodate its shoppers.
- The Berkshire Crafts Fair is in its 43nd year and exhibits at Monument High School, generally on a weekend in August, http://berkshirecraftsfair.org. The fair showcases the work of nearly one hundred artists, carefully selected by jury for the quality and variety of their offerings. They display a wide array of products and prices in each category of craft, from contemporary and traditional jewelry, to furniture, ceramics, textiles, glassware, and more. It is a treat to meander through this show, visiting familiar and new artists and artisans.