By Kelly Bevan McIlquham
After a long winter season this year, hints of summer and warmer temperatures are on the Berkshires’ horizon, and with that, many of the cultural venues that have lain dormant for the winter are beginning to spring to life once again. Whether families revel in music and theater or are more partial to touring historical sites and trails, they can find it all right here — and that is a rare find
“The Berkshires are a great place for families to visit because there are so many one-of-a-kind experiences all ages can share together — from walking in the steps of Shakers at Hancock Shaker Village, to exploring the intersections of art and science at the Berkshire Museum, to the many performing arts options inside and out.” said Megan Whilden, the City of Pittsfield’s director of cultural development. “In our modern world of computer and TV screens everywhere, the opportunity to spend time together in the culturally vibrant Berkshires is invaluable.”
Some upcoming family performances this summer include Seussical at The Colonial; Hairspray, Jr. at Barrington Stage’s Youth Theater; Peter Pan with Starlight Stage in Williamstown; the kid-friendly Servants of Two Masters at Shakespeare & Company’s outdoor Rose Footprint Theatre and Romeo and Juliet at the Company’s satellite location, the Dell at The Mount.“I’m especially partial to outdoor performances where kids can move around if they get restless, and where everyone can soak up the natural beauty of our area,” Whilden said.
World famous venues such as Tanglewood and The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home in Lenox and Jacob’s Pillow in Becket all offer a variety of opportunities for families to take in a local performance in the midst of the beautiful Berkshire landscapes and surroundings. One of our family’s favorite summer activities is picnicking at the Pillow’s Inside/Out outdoor theater while enjoying a short dance performance from a variety of talented dancers experimenting with a variety of dance styles — and it’s free.
Becket mom, Jill Svirida, is no stranger to the myriad cultural offerings in the region. Last summer she toted her now almost-12-month-old Henry to anything they could make time for.
Great Barrington, Lenox, Pittsfield and North Adams, and they open their doors free of charge so that families may browse. Also Pittsfield’s monthly First Fridays ArtsWalk kicks into high gear during the spring and summer months, as does North Adam’s Downstreet Art Festival, while arts fairs abound. Let’s not forget about the free weekly music concerts that crop up in most area communities come summer, and the historical homes and sites that throw open their doors and windows once warmer temperatures arrive. Locations such as the Ashley House and WEB DuBois Center remind of us our African American neighbors’ struggles and triumphs right here in Berkshire County. While outdoor trails such as those throughout Natural Bridge State Park and surrounding Mount Greylock in North Adams or State Parks in the region reveal some of the region’s most precious natural gems, and almost always end up revealing a story of our past in some way or another.
One of my favorite moments as a parent was watching my then 12-year-old daughter marvel at the sights and sounds during a visit to Chesterwood in Stockbridge (the former summer home of Lincoln Memorial sculptor Daniel Chester French), and then relaying her favorite part of the tour to her grandparents at dinner that same evening.
There are so many opportunities to culturally enrich your children in the Berkshires — world-class museums, concert halls, historical venues — that your biggest decision will be, which one to visit first. My suggestion? Plan on spending a few days here … and returning again in the very near future. You’ll need several trips to take it all in. After all, I’ve lived here for most of my life and still haven’t seen it all. If you don’t believe me, maybe Jill Svirida can convince you:
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.