Those bewitching Berkshires beckon visitors all year long, but now is when the landscape turns golden, the sunlight apricot-rose, and the vibe soft and mellow. Nights have a pleasing coolness, the fall’s harvest floods markets, and the region’s art, culture, and music scene still hums, even though the Tanglewood season has ended.
But for those who need more persuading to head to the Berkshires right now, here are six compelling reasons.
■ RAMBLEWILD FOREST ADVENTURE PARK has opened
Channel your inner Tarzan (or Jane) by swinging, climbing, and zip-lining your way through this 900-acre, woodland, aerial playscape, open this summer in Lanesborough. Part of the Feronia Forests, a national enterprise that acquires and sustainably manages natural forests through educational programs, renewable energy projects such as wind turbines, and forest products including maple syrup and fresh sap called Vertical Water, Ramblewild Forest Adventure Park offers year-round thrills for kids (who must be at least 7) and adults. The wood, steel cable, and rope tree-to-tree canopy consists of eight self-guided courses, ranging from gentle (yellow) to advanced (double black diamond). After strapping on your helmet and harness, you’re guided through a mini training course. Then you’re good to go. Each ticket entitles the owner to 3 hours of activity; courses take approximately 30 minutes each. Wear rugged, comfortable clothes, and dress for appropriate weather. Children 7-10 ($57), 11-14 ($63), 15 and older ($69).Fri 1 p.m.-dusk, Sat, Sun, holidays 9 a.m.-dusk. 110 Brodie Mountain Road, Lanesborough, www.ramblewild.com
■ MORE BREWERIES, WINERIES, AND DISTILLERIES to explore
With a rich history of small-scale farms and handcrafted foods, it’s no surprise the Berkshires has become fertile territory for microbreweries, hard-cider makers, and small-batch spirit producers. Several newcomers worth exploring, either onsite or in the mug, include Big Elm Brewing , open just over a year ago. Every Saturday afternoon from noon to 4, you can enjoy free tours and tastes of Big Elm IPA; the Belgian-style 413 Farmhouse Ale; Gerry Dog Stout made with oatmeal and barley oats; and various seasonal offerings. Big Elm Brewing, 65 Silver St., Sheffield, 413-229-2348, www.bigelmbrewery.com
At Headwater Cider Co. orchard-owner Peter Mitchell recently began making hard cider from pressed apples, sugar, and yeast. His New England Dry is made from Cortland, Empire, and McIntosh apples, while the Ashton Blend uses Ashton Bitter, Ellis Bitter, and Honeycrisp apples. Find the ciders in area liquor and wine stores. Headwater Cider Co., 112 Forget Road, Hawley, 413-695-6099, www.headwatercider.com
■ REFRESHED PLACES to stay
When Norman Rockwell first came to Stockbridge, he favored the kelly green Summer Room at what is now 1862 Seasons on Main , so named by its new owners, Peter and Sharon Gelbwaks, to honor the inn’s founding date during the Civil War. With five romantic rooms complete with Frette linens, private bathrooms, and a bountiful hot breakfast, this National Register of Historic Places inn lies steps from shops, restaurants, and the Laurel Hill Walking Trails. Rates $189-$395, depending on the time of year. 47 Main St., Stockbridge, 855-223- 1862, www.seasonsonmain.com
In the heart of Lenox, the Kemble Inn has nearly finished renovating its 13 rooms and suites, upping the luxury factor with punchy colors, hip furnishings, and modern technology. What hasn’t changed about this 125-year-old Gilded Age mansion are the sweeping mountain views, which you can savor from your room or a cozy perch on the covered back veranda. Enjoy a postprandial drink in the clubby piano room and a full hot breakfast in what was once the inn’s original kitchen. 2 Kemble St., Lenox, 800-353-4113, www.kembleinn.com
■ A FUNKY NEW BEAN-TO-CUP ART CAFE to visit
In July, Argentina-born Flavio Lichtenthal and his wife, Lisa Landry, opened No. Six Depot , a cafe, restaurant, store, and art gallery located in a former train station. Lichtenthal, who has a farming and culinary background, sources the organically-grown coffee beans from around the world and then roasts them himself to create the various coffee and espresso drinks offered alongside homemade pastries, egg dishes, and lunch hits like slow-roasted pork panini with truffle and lemon-caper aioli. A micro-shop sells locally grown or made products ranging from Berkshire Wildflower Honey to pottery by ceramicist Ben Evans. The gallery (and event space) regularly hosts art openings, readings, film screenings, and dance and musical performances from local and international artists. Check the website for dates and times. 6 Depot St., West Stockbridge, 413-232-0205, www.sixdepot.com
■ NAUMKEAG’S RESTORATION to behold
In 1958 Mabel Choate, daughter of 19th-century New York lawyer Joseph Choate, who had built Naumkeag in 1887 as his summer country estate in Stockbridge, bequeathed the stunning 44-room Gilded Age estate and Fletcher Steele designed gardens to The Trustees of Reservations. Over time, the gardens began to show their age, leading to their current multiphase,$3 million restoration. So far, the Afternoon Garden, Peony Terraces, and South Lawn have been renewed, along with Rhonde Point, Linden Walk and the famous Blue Steps, with their thin, white handrails. A new Oak Café at Naumkeag sells a small selection of sandwiches, salads, and snacks catered by the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 24-Oct. 15; house and garden tour, adults $15, under 13 free. 5 Prospect Hill Road, Stockbridge, 413-298-8138, www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/berkshires/naumkeag.html
■ NEW WAYS TO DISCOVER LOCAL
FOOD PURVEYORS and farms
For those eager to discover the edible side of the Berkshires, two organizations now make it a whole lot easier. Berkshire Grown , founded to support the region’s farmers and promote their products, has created a 2014 Berkshire Grown Buyers Guide filled with detailed listings of local farms and food producers who sell cheeses, fruits, flowers, maple syrup, meats, milk, poultry, plants, and produce. www.berkshiregrown.org
From Berkshire Farm & Table , whose aim is to position the Berkshires as a vibrant culinary destination, comes a series of Taste Trails. In addition to the Cheese Trail, there is a Charcuterie Trail, and new Beer & Cider Trail, with each map highlighting a dozen or so spots where you can taste the specific product at its source or in a restaurant. The Cheese Trail, for example, lists dairy farms, like Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown, along with Lenox’s Nudel restaurant, which makes its own ricotta from High Lawn Farm milk in Lee. www.berkshirefarmandtable.org
Victoria Abbott Riccardi can be reached at email@example.com.