The pressure to make every summer weekend special is over, hooray. You know what that means: No more checking the weather app every hour to see if Mother Nature will finally deliver a beach day, or madly filling the car with boogie boards and Cape Cod chips at the first sign of sunshine, or feeling guilty if you “waste” a day staying home and catching up on “Succession” instead of getting out there and enjoying Every. Single. Second. If FOMO were a season, it would be summer.
To all the lobster rolls uneaten, sunscreen unopened, and beach walks un-hiked, we wave goodbye. Even if it’s 85 degrees outside, we’ve moved on to fall. Fall fun is a bonus, and because it isn’t required, it’s so much easier to relax and enjoy when it happens.
For the ultimate mix of fun and beauty, one New England town draws us back, again and again: Lenox. One of 30 small towns and two cities in the Berkshires, this former Gilded Age summer escape has morphed into a cultural destination that has basically everything you need for a grown-up getaway: art, museums, nature, food, shopping, spas.
We visited on a recent sparkly September weekend, and sure enough, Lenox was as lovely as ever. It happened to be Fall Art Walk Weekend, meaning 50 artisans (and some hot dog carts) were clustered around Main Street selling their wares. We saw some great stuff — sculpture, photography, handmade clothing, raffia bags, even cheeseboards made from melted wine bottles. For hands-on arts-themed activities, plan your visit for Artweek Berkshires (https://berkshires.org/artweek-berkshires/) Oct. 14-22 this year.
Galleries and other artsy addresses
Anytime, it’s worth popping into local galleries. Sohn Fine Art (www.sohnfineart.com) is a favorite; it was all we could do to walk away without photographer Ormond Gigli’s “Girls in the Windows” (1960, $44,000) tucked under an arm. The Wit Gallery (an acronym for Wonders in Time), devoted to contemporary art, is another favorite; how fun it would be to fill a home with their pieces — and a garden with the colorful kinetic sculptures of Drew Klotz, displayed at the gallery’s entrance. Sister shop Concepts of Art – Lenox Judaica, (www.conceptsofart.com), a specialist in Judaica, is just down the street. More handmade treasures — in glass, wood, metal, you-name-it — await at An American Craftsman (www.anamericancraftsman.com) on Walker Street.
For women’s clothing-as-art, the Purple Plume (www.thepurpleplume.com) on Church Street is a go-to for those not afraid of color. And you just know that an upscale town has a good resale shop — in Lenox, the Catwalk Boutique (www.catwalkboutique.org) benefits the Berkshire Humane Society. Local designer Annie Selke (www.annieselke.com) also has a shop in town, stocked with home décor, rugs, and bedding from her brands Pine Cone Hill and Dash & Albert.
What’s even better than a great bookstore? A bookstore with a tucked-away wine bar. That’s the story at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar (www.bookstoreinlenox.com); where the motto is “Drink Responsibly … Read Recklessly.” You can sip Chardonnay or sake at 10 a.m. if you like, but most people wait. They offer some evening hours and author readings.
Eat, drink, walk back to your inn
Feeling peckish? In town, the Olde Heritage Tavern (www.theheritagetavern.com) is always hopping (except on Monday when it’s closed). This is a good, casual joint where you can get Reuben sandwiches, meat loaf, and other pub food done right. And there’s outdoor dining, likely to be a consideration as COVID cases surge this fall. We visited a new brew pub, Antimony Brewery & Kitchen (www.antimonybrewing.com) in the Lenox Country Shops complex, and are happy to report they offer a good, meaty smash burger — made of ground bison, elk, lamb, or veg if you wish — and a really tasty BBQ Brisket pizza, made with dough from Berkshire Mountain Bakery. We weren’t drinking, but heard good comments about their IPAs. Skip dessert: renowned chocolatier Chocolate Springs (www.chocolatesprings.com) is right across the parking lot.
We keep meaning to try other places for dinner, but always head back to Brava (www.bravalenox.com). Is it the Wine Spectator-honored wine list, well-curated selection of tapas, or irresistible arugula salad with almonds, dried apricots, and Manchego cheese? All of the above, plus friendly servers and a no-reservations policy — great for those of us who are lousy at planning ahead.
If you’re a spa fan, you don’t need us to tell you that Lenox is home to two of the best biggies, Canyon Ranch Berkshires (www.canyonranch.com) and Miraval Berkshires (www.miravalresorts.com). We weren’t feeling especially splurge-y this time around, so we opted for an in-town Victorian B&B, The Constance (www.theconstancelenox.com; from $186). The 24-room inn, one of three totally refurbished Lenox properties owned by the Lenox Collection, is located just a block from downtown. Modern meets vintage at this place — you can unwind by a fireplace in the parlor, or stream, say, “The Afterparty” on Apple TV in your guest room if you wish. The self-service continental breakfast makes it easy to grab a bagel and go. And we love an inn with a cookie jar.
Museums + ghost stories
We came, we shopped, we ate … what else? Museums, of course. Lenox has an intriguing line-up, including author Edith Wharton’s stately historic house and gardens, The Mount (adults, $20; www.edithwharton.org). For a seasonal twist, add some spine-tingling tales to your visit to The Mount and book a ghost tour ($30). You can also book a ghost tour at Ventfort Hall Mansion & Gilded Age Museum (adults, $18; ghost tour, $30; www.gildedage.org), one of the approximately 75 “cottages” built in Lenox in the late 19th century. This remarkably renovated Jacobean Revival-style mansion was built in 1893 for Sarah Morgan, the sister of financier J.P. Morgan. Ghost tours at Ventfort Hall are led by Robert Oakes, author of “Ghosts of the Berkshires” and a new book for young readers, “The Ghostly Tales of the Berkshires.”
One of the joys of visiting in autumn is seeing the undulating Berkshire Hills provide a golden backdrop to beautiful towns like Lenox. The entire region is laced with hiking trails and enchanting places to walk, including the Commonwealth’s crowning peak, Mount Greylock, but Lenox has its own sweet spot, Mass Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary (non-members, $5; www.massaudubon.org). We’ve wandered the 7-mile trail system, set within 1,300 acres, in every season, and always feel blessed by Mom Nature. (You saved a couple of bonbons from Chocolate Springs for this excursion, yes?)
There you have it, our curated round-up of Lenox fall favorites. It is by no means complete; the best thing about an autumn trip is rambling around and seeing where that takes you — whether it’s a shop, museum, gallery, or hiking trailhead. Think ramble, rest, repeat. There’s no rush to fit everything in — this isn’t summer, after all!
Visit https://berkshires.org for more information.