A love for music unites most Berkshires vacationers, but even the biggest BSO groupies can’t spend all their time sprawled on the green lawns of Tanglewood. Each Berkshires town has its own character — and appeal. Consider these alternatives.
Located at the southern end of the Route 7 axis that connects the Berkshires towns, Great Barrington owns the hippest vibe in the hills. Think of it as Brooklyn in the Berkshires, with an overlay of the peace-and-love ’60s.
STAY: Make your base north of town at the Briarcliff Motel (506 Stockbridge Road, 413-528-3000, thebriar
cliffmotel.com, $165-$195), where new owners from London have reinvented a ’60s motel as a 21st-century getaway. Rooms are Nordic spare, but there is a lounge for sipping wine and eating takeout while keeping track of the sleeping kids with a wireless baby monitor.
DO: The trailhead for climbing Monument Mountain is right across the street from the Briarcliff. Two hours is plenty of time to ascend, enjoy the view, and descend. The town’s boutiques could tie up the rest of the day. Cyril & Dayne Optique (280 Main St., 413-528-6630, www.cyrilanddayne
.com) carries many uncommon, ultra-stylish European eyewear designers, including Booth Bruce of England. Actress Karen Allen pursues her second act with stunning knitwear designs at Karen Allen Fiber Arts (8 Railroad St., 413-528-8555, www.karenallen-fiber
arts.com). Draws at the Emporium Antique Center (319 Main St., 413-528-1660) include art glass, cameos, sterling jewelry, and Victorian furniture.
EAT: For lunch, it’s hard to beat a grilled cheese sandwich from Rubi’s Coffee and Sandwiches (264 Main St., rear, 413-528-0488, sandwiches $5.50-$10), the annex to Rubiner’s Cheesemongers Grocers. Plan dinner at Allium Restaurant + Bar (42-44 Railroad St., 413-528-2118, allium
berkshires.com, dinner entrees $13-$28), where chef Daniel Hardy buys local and cooks international. Expect a strong shot of New American (braised pork belly, local beef burger) with hints of Asia (pork bolgoki, a chicken banh mi sandwich).
PLAY: You won’t want for entertainment. Check out troubadour concerts at the Guthrie Center at the Old Trinity Church (2 Van Deusenville Road, 413-528-1955, www.guthriecenter.org, $15-$60) or acoustic sets at the tie-dye revival Gypsy Joynt Cafe (293 Main St., 413-644-881, www.gypsyjoynt
cafe.net, no cover). Programming at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center (14 Castle St., 413-528-0100, www
.mahaiwe.org, $7-$150) ranges from cabaret to comedy to modern dance.
STOCKBRIDGE Sometimes it’s hard to tell which came first: Stockbridge or Norman Rockwell’s vision of it. The downtown is disarmingly charming, with its modest shops and its big old country inn.
STAY: Anyone who has ever seen the front porch of the Red Lion Inn (30 Main St., 413-298-5545, www.redlion
inn.com, most doubles $170-$300) aspires to rock away the day there. The quirkiest rooms are in the venerable inn, the most modern in other buildings on the same property.
DO: The Berkshires have always been a magnet for success, and Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) was one of the most successful sculptors of his generation. His summer home, Chesterwood (4 Williamsville Road, 413-298-3579, chesterwood.org, adults $16, ages 13-17 $8), includes the artist’s studio and models of several of his best-known works, including the seated Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall. There is also a display of contemporary outdoor sculpture on the grounds. Rockwell’s last studio was relocated to the grounds of the Norman Rockwell Museum (9 Route 183, 413-298-4100, www.nrm.org, adults $16, seniors $14.50, college students $10, ages 6-18 $5). Exhibits show Rockwell as social commentator and pop culture mythmaker as well as ace illustrator.
EAT: For casual dining at the Red Lion Inn, try the underground pub dubbed the Lion’s Den (30 Main St., 413-298-1654, www.redlioninn.com, $10-$15), where the fare is strong on charcuterie and most of the products come from nearby farms. For a complete change of pace only 5 miles away, Rouge Restaurant (3 Center St., West Stockbridge, 413-232-4111, www
.rougerestaurant.com, entrees $24-
$30) features the cooking of chef William Merelle, who grew up in the Pyrenees region on the French-Spanish border. Merelle also draws extensively from the Berkshires countryside for meat, dairy, and produce to make dishes with French panache (quail with prune and bacon) and Spanish soul (calamari in squid ink).
PLAY: The Lion’s Den has free live entertainment nightly. Berkshire Theatre Group offers a whole range of productions at the Main Stage and the Unicorn Theatre (6 East St., 413-298-5576, www.berkshiretheatre
group.org, $35-$60) in Stockbridge as well as at the Colonial Theatre (111 South St., 413-997-4444, $30-$60) in Pittsfield.
LENOX Before Martha Stewart, there was Edith Wharton, the future novelist who coauthored “The Decoration of Houses” in 1897. She put her theories into practice by building The Mount in 1901-02, setting the bar for an American country retreat. Lenox remains a bastion of refined taste.
STAY: The Garden Gables Inn (135 Main St., 413-637-0193 or 888-243-0193, www.gardengablesinn.com, $261-$544) is a posh hideaway in plain sight. Set back from the road on 5 acres, the inn has 18 rooms, most in the 1780 main house. Suites are especially luxurious. (For both fireplace and porch, ask for Suite 14 or 15.) Don’t miss a tipple of cream or fino in the sherry room.
DO: See how
Wharton redefined an aristocratic style by visiting the newly restored house and gardens of The Mount (2 Plunkett St., 413-551-5111, www.edithwharton.org, adults $16, students $13, grounds $10). If you’re in an equestrian frame of mind, book a trail ride at Undermountain Farm and Riding Stable (400 Undermountain Road, 413-637-3365, www.under
mountainfarm.com, $60). Otherwise, drive slightly west to Furnace Brook Winery at Hilltop Orchards (508 Canaan Road, Richmond, 413-698-3301, www.furnacebrookwinery.com, first taste free, five additional tastes $5) for a tasting of fine wines made from purchased grapes and excellent French and American ciders made from Hilltop Orchards’ own apples.
EAT: Lenox adores the pleasures of the table. Modestly calling itself an American pasta bar, Nudel Restaurant (37 Church St., 413-551-7183, www .nudelrestaurant.com, entrees $25) is a paean to Berkshires agriculture, where seasonally inspired food follows the harvest. The wine list is strong at Firefly (71 Church St., 413-637-2700, www.fireflylenox.com, menu for two with wine $64, entrees $22-$28), where Laura Shack offers bargain fixed-price menus as well as a la carte New American bistro dishes.
PLAY: You are probably going to Tanglewood (297 West St., 413-637-1666, www.bso.org, free-$117), but make time for the Bard and contemporary plays at Shakespeare & Company (70 Kemble St., 413-637-3353, www .shakespeare.org, $20-$65). This summer features “King Lear” and “The Tempest.” Hilltop Orchards (see previous, $10) also offers monthly full-moon hikes.
MOUNT GREYLOCK ENVIRONS Herman Melville knew high and mighty, so he dedicated “Pierre” to the mountain he addressed as “Greylock’s Most Excellent Majesty.” The highest peak in Massachusetts dominates the northern Berkshires, having worked its siren song on such luminaries as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and now even you.
STAY: Explore the northern Berkshires from a rustic base atop Mount Greylock at Bascom Lodge (413-743-1591, www.bascomlodge.net, bunks $35 per person, private room $125, family room $150), the restored 1930s stone and timber lodge at the summit. There is no TV, but linens — and Wi-Fi — are included.
DO: Follow trail maps to explore the ridges of Greylock. Otherwise, drive down Notch Road to North Adams to see the Sol LeWitt installation at Mass MoCA (1040 Mass MoCA Way, 413-662-2111, www.massmoca.org, adults $15, students $10, ages 6-16 $5), then over to Williamstown to the Clark Art Institute (225 South St., 413-458-2303, www.clarkart.edu, adults $15, under age 18 and students free, free to all
Oct. 11-May 31). As the Clark renovates, some of the collection is displayed in striking salon style. The property also has gentle hiking trails through the woods. Two lead to the new hillside Stone Hill Center, a striking modern building with galleries and views of the Taconic Range.
EAT: Fixed-price dinners with ethnic themes are served at Bascom Lodge (reservation required, $28-$32), but off mountain you can choose between two terrific farm-to-table bistros. Alexander Smith, chef-owner of Gramercy Bistro (87 Marshall St., North Adams, 413-663-5300, www.gramercybistro.com, entrees $20-$27), serves classic and contemporary bistro fare (coq au vin, sweetbreads with preserved lemon) in a stylish room at Mass MoCA. Longtime Williamstown standby Mezze
Bistro + Bar (777 Cold Spring Road, 413-458-0123, entrees $13-$45, www.mezzerestaurant.com) moved into countryside digs in 2010. Chef Joji Sumi harvests greens and mushrooms from the property. If fiddlehead ferns are available, try roasted local mutton with fiddleheads and fava beans.
PLAY: Talks, comedy, music, and other entertainment are offered at Bascom Lodge on select nights — or you could engage in a rousing round of Scrabble. The Berkshires are supposed to be a getaway, after all.