For decades, the Berkshires in western Massachusetts has drawn authors, artists, and other aspiring creatives, thanks to its rich cultural offerings and natural beauty in the form of rugged mountains, clear-blue lakes and rivers, and lush forests.
The Berkshires comprises 31 towns and two (very small) cities, and it’s arguably one of the best and most famous New England vacation destinations. Although it’s been some time since Herman Melville penned “Moby Dick” (in Pittsfield), the Boston Symphony Orchestra first set up their summer retreat (in Lenox), and Norman Rockwell debuted his now-iconic “Home for Christmas” painting (in Stockbridge), the area has remained a hot spot for culture-driven travelers. However, that’s not to say the region hasn’t evolved. Over the past few years, the Berkshires has become a modern hangout for well-heeled travelers seeking a respite from the bustle of the big city.
While decades-old sites like Tanglewood and Mass MoCA remain popular, you’ll also find an array of new, eclectic attractions — all of which highlight the best of the Berkshires. Expect anything-but-cookie-cutter lodging options (including the not-yet-opened Life House hotel in Lenox), delectable, regionally inspired cuisine from local tastemakers, and a slew of small-owned shops that spotlight the area’s best artisans.
What’s Old Is New (Again)
2022 will bring three new(ish) hotels to the Berkshires, all of which — like the destination itself — have been completely reimagined.
Life House Hotels is slated to open its Lenox location in May 2022, and part of the design-forward property will occupy an old Days Inn. Life House Berkshires will seek inspiration from the destination’s storied past and tranquil surroundings (think: earthy palettes, in-room writing desks, bespoke furnishings, and communal gathering spots such as a library lounge, restaurant, and cocktail club).
Meanwhile, New Ashford’s Springs Inn (open as of January 2022) has been transformed into an idyllic, retro-inspired retreat. Rooms feature green headboards, tiled bathrooms, and patterned wallpapers, while the four cabins are outfitted with whimsical touches. The Summer Cabin is a favorite for its palm-patterned walls, a wood-burning fireplace, and oversized deck. The lobby bar (opening spring 2022) serves as a fun gathering spot with two-person tables and a cozy fireplace, while the outdoor bar (open seasonally) is centered around a vintage trailer and tables made from locally harvested pine. The 13,000-square-foot parking lot is now a lively front lawn lounge area, outfitted with comfy couches, communal dining, and fire pits.
As of December 2021, the Holiday Inn in North Adams — which was the area’s largest hotel — has officially been replaced by Hotel Downstreet. The 90-room boutique property, which takes pride in its unfussy accommodations and central location, is managed by Main Street Hospitality Group (the same company behind the nearby Porches Inn at MASS MoCA and The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge) and Peregrine Group.
Eclectic Eats Abound
The Berkshires hosted America’s first agricultural fair back in 1807. Fast-forward to today, and the region continues to draw visitors for its farm-to-fork cuisine. Over the past year, a handful of new restaurants have popped up around the area.
Hot Plate Brewing Co., a craft brewery and taproom, will open in summer 2022 in downtown Pittsfield. The yet-to-debut establishment is run by husband-and-wife duo Sarah Real and Mike Dell’Aquila, who first came up with the idea in their Brooklyn apartment when they began brewing on a literal hot plate (hence the name). The Back Door Blow Torch — a habanero chocolate stout — is a must-try.
If you prefer nonalcoholic sips, head to ExtraSpecialTeas in Great Barrington. The community-oriented house, which opened in January 2022, is owned and operated by Scott and Cherri Sanes, another another husband-and-wife team. ExtraSpecialTeas is housed in a charming ’20s-era Victorian building with bright pops of colors, a beautiful mural, and boho-chic interiors. The Sanes, who have a son on the autism spectrum, aim to foster a warm, welcoming, and inclusive environment by training and bonding with differently abled adults through art therapy, gardening, baking, tea blending, and more. Don’t miss the tea-infused baked goods, which pair perfectly with signature blends like Blue Skies, Sunny Vibes, and S’more Love.
Locally renowned chef Xavier Jones of Bigg Daddy’s Philly Steak House in Pittsfield (which closed in 2019) is returning to the Berkshires to open a brand-new restaurant in North Adams. The eatery, which will occupy a historic building that once housed the now-closed Firehouse Cafe, is slated to serve up Mediterranean-inspired small plates. Lastly, in Lenox, travelers of all ages can satisfy their sweet tooth with a trip to Sweet Dreams, which opened in February 2022. The new bakery, which was previously known as The Scoop, is managed by Pittsfield native Cheryl Murray, who doles out delectable sweets and candies, as well as quiches and coffee.
Spotlighting Local Makers
The Berkshires is teeming with dynamic, locally owned businesses. Summer 2021 brought two new establishments to North Adams. The Norad Toy & Candy Company — one part retail store, one part candy shop — is stocked with nostalgia-inducing toys, candies, and games to delight customers of all ages. Terra, a vintage thrift shop, is another new addition to the area. Here, shoppers can browse through a stylish selection of secondhand clothing, accessories, books, and home decor.
Meanwhile, at Soma’s Aromas in Pittsfield (which opened in October 2021), you’ll find a variety of hand-poured soy candles. Scents run the gamut from Apple Maple Bourbon to Candied Pomegranate to Whiskey. The chic, minimalist-inspired packaging is a bonus. In Great Barrington, music lovers can step back in time with a visit to Rob’s Records & Audio, which opened last year. The store carries new and vintage records, turntables, speakers, and more. Also nearby is Home Love Berkshires, which opened its doors in January 2022. The store is stocked with home goods and accessories ranging from bracelets to beach bags.