|Berkshire Hills, Massachusetts Guide|
|The Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts were a favorite resort for wealthy families, artists and musicians in the 19th and early 20th centuries—and they still are today.|
About 130 miles (209 km; 2-2/3 hours) west of Boston, and 160 miles (258 km; 3-3/4 hours) north of New York City, Berkshire County is synonymous with summer art and culture, and gracious, even sumptuous living because of its recent history. Musical concerts, performances of theater and dance, and fine arts museums are all thronged in the summer.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, wealthy vacationers built huge, sumptuous "summer cottages" on spacious grounds, many of which are now hotels, resorts or inns, or summer performance sites.
The Tanglewood Music Festival of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, held on a sprawling 19th-century estate in Lenox MA, is the best-known summer event, but there are dozens of mansions and cultural offerings.
Hills & Mountains
The countryside is gorgeous: long, low forested mountains separated by fertile valleys watered by the Green, Hoosic, and Housatonic rivers, with a sprinkling of lakes and ponds. It's graced with many state forests, parks and ponds.
Mount Greylock (3591 feet/1095 meters), the highest peak in Massachusetts, is just outside North Adams at the northern end of Berkshire County, which includes all of the westernmost part of the state framed by the borders of Vermont, New York and Connecticut.
Most Berkshire towns are historic, graceful and beautiful. Those with a 19th-century industrial past have public buildings testifying to their earlier prosperity.
From north to south, here are the culture-filled towns of Berkshire County, Massachusetts:
Pittsfield, the only real city in the Berkshires, got rich on 19th-century industry, but now with industry gone, it's becoming a city of culture. It's the major transportation point, with an Amtrak train station, and bus station. On its outskirts, Hancock Shaker Village pays tribute to the Shakers, a religious sect known for plain living, high thinking, beautiful design and workmanship of everyday objects, and an aversion to sex. More...
An old Berkshire village dedicated to crafts and shops. More...
Gateway to the Berkshires, Lee is where most visitors leave the Massachusetts Turnpike, follow smaller roads, and explore the county. The Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, based in neighboring Becket, draws visitors to Lee as well. More...
Largest town of the southern Berkshires (population 7,500), it thrives on antique shops, restaurants and musical events. More...
The Berkshires' abundance of cultural festivals and activities— especially the Tanglewood Music Festival in Lenox— fill all accommodations on Friday and Saturday nights, at high prices. If you can plan to stay overnight on other nights, the task of finding a hotel will be much easier...and cheaper. More...
—by Tom Brosnahan