By Nancy Macy
While the picturesque beauty of the Berkshires makes this region a year-round vacation spot, the summer months are high season for outdoor fun and the performing arts. Add farm-to-table restaurants, unique shopping and antiques, art museums, historic sites, and kid-friendly activities to the possibilities and you’re in for an exciting and memorable getaway!
World-Class Venues, Internationally Acclaimed Artists
Among the Berkshires’ best-known summer attractions are its film, theater, dance, and music festivals. This year’s festival season kicks off June 1-4 with the Berkshire International Film Festival. This year BIFF will feature independent films, documentaries, and shorts screened at the Triplex and Mahaiwe theaters in Great Barrington and the Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield.; plus opening night cocktail parties, filmmaker Q&As, and a special tribute to actor Christopher Plummer. With the beautiful Berkshires as a backdrop, this boutique festival is a film-buff favorite.
Also beginning in June are a season’s worth of star-studded performances at Williamstown Theater Festival (Jane Kaczmarek in The Roommate opens June 27th), Berkshire Theatre Group (Arsenic and Old Lace, The Music Man, and Million Dollar Quartet), Shakespeare & Company (celebrating their 40th season with A Midsummer Night’s Dream staged outdoors at The Mount and Tina Packer directing Cymbeline), Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (celebrating its 85th season), and Barrington Stage (with a newly renovated St. Germain Stage).
There are even more performances scheduled at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In addition to returning Tanglewood favorites such as Yo Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, and James Taylor, several programs this season feature music director Andris Nelsons conducting, including the festival’s first-ever performance of the complete works of Das Rheingold. Be sure to also check out their popular artist series which extends their season all the way into September. With a variety of entertainment choices throughout the season, these venues truly offer something special for every audience.
For art lovers, the possibilities are vast. Choose from the MASS MoCA in North Adams (a new gallery space opening this summer nearly doubles their footprint), Chesterwood and the Norman Rockwell Museum (with a special exhibition entitled Inventing America: Rockwell and Warhol) in Stockbridge, and the Williams College Museum and The Clark in Williamstown. In addition to special exhibitions, such as Picasso: Encounters at The Clark, these museums showcase world-renowned permanent collections and offer engaging talks, concerts, and special events throughout the summer. Also of interest are independent galleries featuring work by acclaimed local and international artists in a range of mediums from photography and sculpture to ceramics and glasswork. Most are located in our walkable downtowns, where you can also find enjoyable shopping and dining experiences around every corner.
Historic Sites and Gilded Age Estates
If you’re a history or literary buff, the Berkshires have several places of note. Tours of Hancock Shaker Village (be sure to take the time to dine in their newly revamped cafe, Seeds), the Susan B. Anthony Homestead, and the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail reveal the diverse cultural influences of this area. A visit to Arrowhead, where Herman Melville wrote Moby-Dick or to The Mount, where Edith Wharton penned Ethan Frome, will provide a glimpse into the Berkshire environs that inspired these literary greats.
Come and experience the panoramic views from the terrace of one of the Berkshires’ Gilded Age estates, the elaborate country homes built by wealthy industrialists in the late nineteenth century. Public tours and live music events at such notable historic landmarks as Naumkeag and Ventfort Hall invite you to experience a bygone era and have some modern-day fun in the process. With wander-worthy grounds and lush gardens in full bloom, summer is an especially wonderful time for a visit. Be sure to also stop by the Bidwell House Museum, an authentic colonial home in Monterey. Bring a picnic to enjoy at one of their picnic tables while you take in the sights of their gardens, forested trails, and historic stone walls.
Come Play Outside
The allure of the Berkshires’ mountain setting draws nature lovers seeking everything from peaceful contemplation to adrenaline-filled adventure. From the Vermont border in the north to the Connecticut state line in the south, the region is rich in natural resources that offer the perfect playground. If you’re looking for heart-pumping activities, plan a visit to one of the area’s adventure parks. Berkshire East’s Thunderbolt Mountain Coaster (longest in North America), Mountain Adventure Park at Jiminy Peak, and Ramblewild have aerial tree-to-tree obstacle courses and they all offer unforgettably thrilling experiences.
On the quieter side, the properties of the Trustees of Reservations, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, and the Mt. Greylock Reservation (highest peak in MA) provide access to wildlife viewing and some of the most scenic vistas in the country. With sunny, bluebird skies during the day and star-filled evenings, Mother Nature shines her magic on the Berkshires.
Within a few hours’ drive of both New York City and Boston, the Berkshires are the perfect destination for your summer escape. Discover more Berkshire destinations and events to help you get started planning your own adventure. Come and enjoy an unforgettable summer vacation in the Berkshires!
Nancy Macy is a freelance writer and editor based in the Berkshires.