By Kelly Bevan Mcllquham
When my kids were younger, we used to embark on the occasional “Surprise Sunday” road trip. We didn’t have to go far and it didn’t have to be expensive. Sometimes we would stop at a local lake for a picnic or catch a movie. Once we went in search of a local field of sunflowers and ended up finding that, as well as a sheep farm where the kids stopped, pet some sheep and climbed on a few hay bales.
Have a day to spare this winter? Why not plan your own family Surprise Sunday (or Saturday, or Monday, etc.) road trip to the Berkshires?
Here a few ideas for a day trips to the area:
North Berkshire County —There is plenty to occupy the kids up North in the Berkshires including museums, sledding, skiing, snowshoeing and, of course, some super good family eats. Start your North County adventure with breakfast at Bob’s Country Kitchen in Lanesborough, where family members can fill their bellies with a classic New England breakfast — omelets and egg sandwiches, country special, pancakes and waffles loaded with maple syrup and more. Heading north on Route 7 families can make their way to Jiminy Peak for a morning of skiing or stop at Sheep Hill in Williamstown for sledding and snowshoeing (must bring your own) or experience one of several family programs scheduled throughout the winter, such as one of the venue’s animal tracking programs where families can explore the lower slopes on the property and look for signs of rabbits, fox and deer, among other wildlife. The cost of many of these programs is only a suggested donation of $5 per person and $10 per family. After a cool weather morning, it’s time to warm-up — and fill those grumbling stomachs once again. The ‘6 House Pub on Route 7 has a little something for everyone (and a kids menu) at a reasonable price with a cozy atmosphere to boot. Or for something a little lighter (and healthier) you might want to stop in to Wild Oats Market in town before heading to one of the local museums such as The Clark, MASS MoCA or The William College Museum of Art, all of which boast a fun-filled Kidspace gallery for kids of all ages. Before you head home, families can grab dinner at Gramercy Bistro at MASS MoCA (appetizers. $7-$10; entrees, $22-27) or opt to order a quick bite or dinner to go at the Freight Yard Pub in North Adams (appetizers, $8 and up; dinners, $17 and under). Then hope the full day of family fun tired the kids out for your ride home.
Central Berkshire County — If you’re heading to the Pittsfield area, the best bang for your buck on any given day is to point your car in the direction of North Street. Along a one- to two-mile stretch in Pittsfield’s Upstreet Cultural District families can find anything from coffee shops to sushi bars, museums to theaters, art galleries to skating rinks. A great place to start your day and grab a light breakfast in a comfortable, laid-back atmosphere is at The Marketplace Café where you can get anything from espresso and Sunday brunch, to smoothies and natural PB and J sandwiches on whole wheat challah. Or stop by another favorite, Dottie’s Coffee Lounge, where the coffee and breakfast offerings are just as yummy and the couches and chairs inviting. From there families can wander the various storefronts making stops along the way for some family art-making at Beads, Bisque and Beyond and a little browsing or buying at Persnickety Toys, before heading to nearby South Street to explore the galleries at the Berkshire Museum. For those who thought ahead and packed a lunch to eat in the cafeteria, chill at the museum a little longer and you will probably be around for one of its many scheduled family programs or theater performances. But if you’d rather eat out, look no further than Baba Louie’s for organic pizza and salads to die for on Depot Street or Shiro’s for the sushi lovers in your family. You’ll probably have time after lunch to stroll some of the local art galleries (one of our local favorites to visit with kids is the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts), and maybe spend some time skating at the indoor rink at the Pittsfield Boys Club on Melville Street (just make sure you check in advance for public skate times). If you’re lucky, you can capitalize on one of the year-round theater opportunities at The Colonial Theatre or Barrington Stage Company before grabbing a quick or not-so-quick dinner (may I recommended Flavours, Spice Dragon, Hot Harry’s or Mad Jacks BBQ), before heading home. Want to add an extra day then venture into Lenox and enjoy a winter hike in Kennedy Park followed by a tasty treat at Haven, Spoon or Patisserie Lenox — there’s sure to be something yummy for the whole family. Then end the day by doing some local shopping or taking in a show at Shakespeare & Company.
South Berkshire County — If heading to South County, I recommend starting in Lee with brunch at the Morgan House, and then make your way to the Museum of Animagic on Main Street to explore the free animation museum and partake in one of the inexpensive animation workshops. But make sure you call ahead in advance, because you can only get in with a pre-set appointment. After your visit you can head to historic Main Street Stockbridge for lunch at the Red Lion Inn or a small café or pub in the area and stroll the shops. The Norman Rockwell Museum (Route 183, Stockbridge) is only a short drive away and there you can experience a little “classic New England” and family art-making. You could get lost here and if you do, that’s OK. But if you’re kids only make it through a couple of hours before they’re itching to do something else, bribe them with a visit to Main Street Great Barrington next. Close-by families can see what’s happening at The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, take the Historic Great Barrington Walking Tour (yes, there’s an app for that) or catch a family flick at the Triplex Cinema. Before heading home, there are a number of restaurants to dine at (there’s a Baba Louie’s here, too), but may we suggest getting something delicious at the organic Berkshire Co-op Market to go, to prevent a potential meltdown of either a parent or child on the way home.
Kelly was born and raised in the Berkshires and is now living and raising her three children, Max, McKenna and Shea, with her husband Mark in Hinsdale. She is the founder of Berkshire Family Focus, the one-stop online source for family activities, events, information and more in Berkshire County.