The sprawling hills of Western Mass aren’t just reserved for the foliage shots on your fall calendar — they’re alive with a vibrant arts and a culinary scene that’s worthy of a weekend away. We asked Jodi Joseph — communications director at MASS MoCA, the converted factory-cum-contemporary art museum in North Adams — for her picks for a perfect two-day getaway.
How to get there from the city
“Zipcar is your friend for a Berkshire jaunt, but if you want to Peter Pan to Williamstown, local call-for-cabs and Uber can get you where you need to go,” says Joseph. Should you decide to rent a car (or already own), she says zipping down Route 2 is your ideal path of transit from Boston.
Where to stay
Unsurprisingly Joseph suggests the Porches Inn at MASS MoCA, but it’s for good reason. The trendy row house-inspired boutique hotel features a 24-hour heated pool, pup-friendly accommodations and a complimentary breakfast buffet — or delivery! Plus, she adds, “You're likely to bump into an exhibiting artist or performer at the Reception desk.”
What to eat now
“The best dinner spot is the county is the Dream Away Lodge,” says Joseph. “Where else does your meal come with live music every night, a roaring fire pit, bathroom art gallery, garden labyrinth and woodland ballroom — all at the top of a mountain bordering state over 16,000 acres of forest?"
Or: “If they're full, the other best dinner spot in the county is Bascom Lodge at the top of Mt. Greylock, where the prix fixe menu changes nightly and on Wednesdays comes with an edifying talk, walk or film. Spend the night so you can wake up with one of their freshly baked blueberry muffins.”
Catching a dinnertime show at Tanglewood and need a killer sandwich to-go? “Everyone knows the best takeaway is at Guido’s Fresh Marketplace in Pittsfield and Great Barrington,” says Joseph. Come from the north? Whitney’s Farm Store in Cheshire is your go-to.
What to eat later
The Berkshires are full of innovative local makers dishing out goodies to stock your picnic basket as well as your fridge at home. Joseph recommends the award-winning cheeses from Williamstown’s Cricket Creek Farm, fermented goodies in flavors like Gochu Curry or Kimchi from Housatonic’s Hosta Hill Kraut and bags of artisanal granola from Great Barrington’s BOLA.
What to see
Packed with cultural smorgasbord to please any arts aficionado, Joseph (naturally) wants you to come to MASS MoCA, and we have to agree. She notes, “[Our] galleries are putting on a serious show with Alex Da Corte, Sarah Crowner, and Richard Nonas alongside our landmark exhibitions by Sol LeWitt and Anselm Kiefer, but also with a group show full of “wow" moments called Explode Everyday, focused on the intersection of art, science and magic.” Also, The Clark in Williamstown, she says, will be “filled with Nudes from the Prado, including 24 paintings that have never been shown in America — and might not be again!”
She adds that you’ll never ben disappointed with “anything” from Jacob’s Pillow and the Williamstown Theatre Festival, noting “I prefer the edgy fare on WTF’s small stage, the Nikkos.” The Barrington Stage and Chester Theater have hot tickets this summer for theater junkies of all ages. “But the best music show of the summer might just be Dolly Parton at Tanglewood.”
Where to spend your cash
"The culturals all have fantastically merchandised retail stores, so you want to start there," says Joseph of her fellow centers. "The gift shop at The Berkshire Botanical Garden in Housatonic is one of the most fabulous, with its distinctly Berkshire flavor. I'm also a fan of Local in Lenox, Mad Macs for gadgets and Baldwin General Store in West Stockbridge for things you haven't yet imagined you need.
Gt. Barrington Bra and Girl delights all the ladies in that downtown-shopping juggernaut, where I also always find great things as Seeds,especially jewelry,and OneMercantile. No trip to The Berkshires is complete without a stop at the Pine Cone Hill outlet store.
And don't forget to tip your local farmer: "All that said — the best 'shopping' might be at roadside, honor-system farm stands."