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Berkshires in spring: What to do, see and more

The Berkshires are known as a prime leaf-peeping spot or a place to visit in the height of summer, when Tanglewood is home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. But this area in western Massachusetts makes an ideal stop in the spring if you’re looking for a getaway that offers fine dining, culture and hiking. The Berkshires will also appeal to your literary side, as both Edith Wharton and Herman Melville’s former homes are here.

The area is refreshingly low-key and unpretentious. As one shopkeeper said, “If you hear a car beeping its horn at other drivers, it’s almost always a car with a New York plate.” So pack your L.L.Bean duck boots and favorite fleece, don’t touch the horn and get ready to explore.

What to do

For a big dose of Americana, head to
Photo Credit: Bureau Visitors Bureau

For a big dose of Americana, head to the Norman Rockwell Museum (admission $18, $17 seniors, $16 veterans, $10 students, $6 ages 6-18, free ages 5 and under; 9 Route 183, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 413-298-4100, nrm.org). The painter lived and worked in Stockbridge, and the museum displays more than 500 of his iconic Saturday Evening Post covers.

Go further in the past with Ventfort Hall (admission $18, $17 seniors and students, $7 ages 5-17, free ages 4 and younger; 104 Walker St., Lenox, Massachusetts, 413-637-3206, gildedage.org), one of the few remaining Gilded Age mansions in the Berkshires. It was once owned by financier J.P. Morgan's sister, Sarah, and "The Cider House Rules" was filmed here.

Tired of antiques? Take in the modern art
Photo Credit: Berkshire Visitors Bureau

Tired of antiques? Take in the modern art at MASS MoCA (closed Tuesdays, admission $18, $16 seniors and veterans, $12 students, $8 ages 6-16, free ages 5 and under; 1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Massachusetts, 413-662-2111, massmoca.org), one of the biggest contemporary art museums in the United States. It's spread out over 27 buildings on 13 acres and also includes concert and theater spaces. More art can be found at the Clark Art Institute (closed Mondays, admission $20, free for students and under 18; 225 South St., Williamstown, 413-458-2303, clarkart.edu), which recently underwent a $100 million renovation and has a large collection of works by Renoir, Monet and Picasso.

Need to stretch your legs? Head to the tree-to-tree obstacle course at Ramblewild (open Saturday-Sunday now through April 30 then Friday-Sunday through June 30, $48 now through June 30; 110 Brodie Mountain Road, Lanesborough, Massachusetts, 844-472-6253, ramblewild.com), hike along the Appalachian Trail, which winds through the Berkshires, or visit Monument Mountain, off Route 7 in Great Barrington, which Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne once hiked.

 

Where to eat

Fuel up with an enormous stack of pancakes
Photo Credit: Baba Louie via Facebook

Fuel up with an enormous stack of pancakes or a football-sized breakfast burrito at the casual Main Street Cafe (40 Main St, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 413-298-3060). For lunch, try to nab a table next to the wood-burning stove at the farm-to-table Prairie Whale (178 Main St., Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 413-528-5050). Order a cocktail before digging into the grass-fed cheeseburger.

If you're craving pizza but can't face the huge lines at the ever-popular Baba Louie's (286 Main St., Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 413-528-8100, babalouiespizza.com), try the quieter Betty's Pizza (26 Housatonic St., Lenox, Massachusetts, 413-637- 8171, bettyspizza.com), a surf-themed casual spot. But brave the lines for Peace, Love and Chocolate (The Mews at 36 Main St., Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 413-298-0020, peaceloveandchocolate.biz) -- a cup of the drinking chocolate is worth the wait.

Where to stay

Base yourself at the historic Red Lion Inn
Photo Credit: Red Lion Inn

Base yourself at the historic Red Lion Inn (30 Main St., Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 413-298-5545, redlioninn.com), which dates back to the 18th century and was depicted in Rockwell's "Home for Christmas." The inn still looks largely the same as it did in the 1967 painting. The newest wing is the Maple Glen, while those looking for a more historic setting should book a duplex such as the Dewey Suite. Make time to have a meal at Widow Bingham's Tavern for New England classics such as roast turkey dinner and Indian bread pudding.

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