Western Massachusetts, locally known as “Western Mass” includes two primary areas – the Berkshires and the Connecticut River Valley.
The Berkshires are the quiet part of the state and its most bucolic. It’s the summer home for the Boston Symphony Hall at Tanglewood in Lenox, where you can spread a picnic blanket and listen to Bach amongst the gentle hills. Or rock on the porch of the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, hosting guests since 1773.
While in Stockbridge, you can learn about Norman Rockwell, that recorder of the simple life, at the Norman Rockwell Museum. And who could resist The Guthrie Center in Great Barrington, the original Trinity Church where Alice and Ray lived, made famous by Guthrie’s legendary song Alice’s Restaurant. The Center, founded by Guthrie, is a place of interfaith worship and Thursday Hootenannys. You can also stop by the original location of Alice’s Restaurant in nearby Stockbridge, originally called the Back Door and most recently Theresa’s Stockbridge Cafe.
The Berkshires are filled with art and culture, with numerous museums, galleries and performing arts centers. Housed on a restored 19th century factory campus, MASS MoCA in North Adams is the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the country. The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown has a remarkable collection of French Impressionists, American artists and much more. The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield mixes art, history and natural science for a gratifying experience.
At the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, a living history museum you can learn about life as a Shaker. On take a literary tour, and visit The Mount in Lenox, Edith Wharton’s house where she wrote The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome, and Herman Melville’s home Arrowhead in Pittsfield, where he wrote Moby Dick.
Further out in nature, hike the numerous trails in the area – favorites include Mount Greylock and Monument Mountain – or enjoy one of the many parks and lakes that dot the hills. Ski Jiminy Peak or enjoy its amazing warmer weather adventure park, or opt for one of the other several ski mountains in the area. Indulge in the wineries, breweries and great restaurants. Stroll the picturesque towns. Drive along the Mohawk Trail.
That’s the Berkshires, and it’s no wonder that points further east can get lost. But they shouldn’t. Because you’ve got historic Deerfield with its beautifully preserved colonial homes, the Connecticut River Valley, known as the Breadbasket of New England, with its farms and vineyards. There are numerous opportunities for hiking and paddling. And several colleges in the area, along with museums and historic sites.
In Springfield, you have a plethora of museums, including the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Dr Seuss Museum and the Springfield Science Museum. Enjoy the second largest symphony orchestra in Massachusetts at the stunning Greek Revival Symphony Hall. Get your heart pumping at Six Flags New England. And be sure to come for the Big E, the giant state fair running for over 100 years, which includes Storrowton Village, a living history museum with 18th- and 19th-century buildings that were relocated from Massachusetts and New Hampshire towns, and the Avenue of the States, with full-size models of the New England’s six state houses.
Who said all the fun was on the coast or the Berkshires?