“Wow, this is totally amazing,” we said, gazing in wonder at the kaleidoscope of color in the valley below us, as Route 2 zigzagged toward North Adams. “I wouldn’t know,” our friend in the driver’s seat replied, “I’m kind of busy right now, keeping the car on the road.”
Yep, best not to be distracted as you navigate those crazy hairpin turns into the Berkshires. If you’re lucky enough to be in the passenger’s seat, you will totally understand why busloads of tourists come from all over the world to admire this russet-drenched landscape. Now, we were among them, happily playing tourist. Fall foliage and fudge — yes, even in the tony enclaves of the Berkshires.
Although several top venues, such as Tanglewood, Jacob’s Pillow, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival, have taken their final curtain calls for the season, there’s still plenty to do in the hilly hinterlands of Western Massachusetts. And without all those tempting tickets to buy, it can be a bargain. Our strategy: Combine some mountain hiking with museum-hopping, bike-riding, kayak-paddling, outlet-shopping, and fun dining. Pick a retro cheap sleep, add a passel of pretty leaves, and you’ve got yourself a wallet-friendly weekend.
The Berkshires may be most famous for its castle-like digs and luxury spas, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend big bucks for lodging. In upscale Great Barrington, we found the Briarcliff Motel, circa 1960, reimagined as a contemporary bed-and-breakfast by new owners Clare and Richard Proctor. Minimalist-cool, with such mid-century touches as a blue sink basin and vintage Philco fridge, it will set you back just $135 per night (double occupancy) on weekends. That includes breakfast, featuring Richard’s nutty homemade granola and Clare’s muffins and scones. www.thebriarcliffmotel.com
To the north, the Berkshire Hills Motel in Williamstown is a great deal; weekend rates are $99, while midweek (Sun-Thu) rates are $89, double occupancy. Set on a brook, it’s comfy and homey, if not terribly chic, with a sunny breakfast room.
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