By Jason Lyon
For many visitors, summer is when the Berkshires comes alive with its annual flowering of world-class music, art, dance, and theater. For others, Berkshire summers are the time to break out the hiking maps, put air in the bicycle tires, or load the kayak on top of the car and head to the hills for epic adventures on the Appalachian Trail, Ashuwillticook Rail Trail bike path, or the Deerfield River.
And then there are those who not only take the Berkshire Visitors Bureau motto to heart – Nature, Culture, Harmony – they make it their goal to live out all three ideals to their fullest extent! Combine the Berkshires’ outdoor attractions and cultural experience with the camaraderie of group travel, and you have a recipe for absolute travel magic.
But where to begin? With the Berkshires’ North-South orientation, simply chose a point of entry and then weave your way along the compass heading through a series or artistic and natural adventures, all provided by Berkshire Visitors Bureau members.
In the Northern Berkshires, groups can literally soar through the trees at Deerfield Valley Canopy Tours or Berkshire East Canopy Tours, both located on the magnificent Mohawk Trail, one of New England’s most scenic drives. Groups can also hit the river with thrilling waterwater rafting tours at Zoar Outdoor or Crabapple Whitewater. Then drive west through the Mohawk Trail’s wooded valley and up-and-over over the mountain to drop into North Adams and Williamstown – a quintessential new England mill town and a quaint college village tucked within the hills. There your artistic and creative adventure begins, with visits to MASS MoCA (the largest contemporary art museum in the U.S.) and the world-renowned Clark Art Institute. That evening, fill your nights with great theater at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, or make the short and scenic drive to the central Berkshires to attend shows at the Barrington Stage Company, the Colonial Theatre, or Shakespeare & Company.
In the Central Berkshires, no outdoor adventure is complete without a visit to Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, with its Aerial and Mountain Adventure parks, featuring rope courses and alpine slides across this magnificent mountain. As their website says: “Here at Jiminy Peak we welcome groups with open arms.” Or head south to Great Barrington to browse the shops and restaurants (rated the #1 small town in America in 2012 by Smithsonian Magazine!), and then drive a few miles west to arrive at Catamount Adventure Park, a 10-acre aerial forest challenge park consisting of over 170 platforms installed in the trees, connected by various configurations of cable, wood, rope and zip lines to form bridges.
After your morning of exercise, change into some equally comfortable clothes (because culture is casual here in the Berkshires!), and launch your afternoon or evening expedition into some of the Berkshires most legendary artistic experiences. See thrilling dance at Jacob’s Pillow, the country’s longest-running dance festival. Spend an afternoon at the Norman Rockwell Museum and tour his studio in beautiful Stockbridge. Visit the Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio, a true modern art gem just down the hill from lovely Lenox. And experience the exquisite beauty of the Berkshire Botanical Gardens.
And then I can’t wait to welcome your groups to Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops – the Berkshires’ largest attraction. See the BSO on Friday or Saturday nights, or Sunday afternoons. Catch Jason Alexander, Josh Groban, or John Williams with the Boston Pops. Or see Yo-Yo Ma in-recital at intimate Seiji Ozawa Hall.
As you sit on Tanglewood’s glorious grounds with some of the world’s greatest music cascading over the hills, perhaps the Berkshire Visitors Bureau’s motto will come back into your mind, and you will realize you have just experienced a fantastic concurrence of Nature and Culture… all in perfect Harmony.
See you this summer!
Jason Lyon is the Director of Tanglewood Tourism & the Associate Director of Group Sales at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, and Tanglewood.