Berkshire Getaway

25
Jun 2014

Even symphonies can have a summer home, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra finds their 20th summer season about to begin in bucolic Lenox, Massachusetts.  Come along for a Berkshire Getaway; you’ll find there is something for everyone in this charming western part of our state. I’ll jump at the chance to have a few days with my best girl!

road trip berkshires MA

Approximately two and 1/2 hours from Boston, we arrived in what is known as the Southern Berkshires. {you  can visit to the Northern Berkshires here}  Our first stop was the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. It was a picture perfect day and the gardens were really decked out in some of what must be their finest couture.

peony berkshire botanical gardenOne of the oldest gardens in the US, they are open to the public from May to mid-October.  The many different collections allow for leisurely strolling and emphasize plants and flowers that are native to the Berkshires. It was a perfect place to stretch our legs after the drive and enjoy the clear refreshing mountain air of the area. Classes and workshops are offered year round and educational programs are available to schools in the surrounding area.

berkshire botanic gardenThe Riverbend Cafe is a homey spot with an eclectic mix of decor along with outdoor picnic tables.  Menu items are healthy, no non-sense and delicious for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a bit of a hippie vibe.  Serving up smoothies, a favorite vegan BLT and  sandwich and salad options, it was a perfect place to get some lunch. There are plenty of restaurants to have a more leisurely meal, but we had a lot of ground to cover!

riverbend cafe great barringtonThe Berkshires probably have more former business people who have taken up the cause of small, artisan food than anywhere else in the state.  Like so many others we ran into, Ira Grable left his former life to take over the making of Berkshire Blue Cheese. 

cheese plate fruit cheese berkshire blueI featured the blue cheese on Meatless Monday, and have been enjoying it many different ways at home (above). Visits to the facility are by appointment.

asia antiques barony great barring tonYou can’t miss the antique shopping at Asia Barong, rumored to be the largest Asian store in America. Overflowing with sculptures, gates, foo dogs and artifacts, it’s a playground in the heart of the Berkshires for anyone who needs an Asian fix.

berkshires-old-inn-on-the-green-new-marlborough - 01This area of the state is filled with history;  the centerpiece of the historic village of New Marlborough is The Old Inn on the Green.  Built in 1760 as a stagecoach relay, the award winning Inn, filled with  Americana, takes you back in time while enjoying all the necessary modern conveniences.  Co-owners Peter Platt and his lovely wife Meredith will have you eating farm to table goodness while staying in cozy and comfortable antique filled rooms.  It’s the perfect combination of all the best New England has to offer.

Berkshires-getaway

allium great barring ton maAllium Restaurant and Bar, in nearby Great Barrington, is another supporter of local farmers and artisan producers.  The perfect Sol Flower deviled egg and pot of pickled vegetables were a great start to our seasonal meal celebrating the local agricultural bounty. My daughter and I shared plates of beet salad, roasted hen of the woods mushrooms, mint and pea pesto on house made pasta and strawberry rhubarb shortcake.

DSC_0201Hiking is found all over the Berkshires and the Appalachian Trail runs right through the area.

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We chose to hike Monument Mountain the next morning which took about 45 minutes to get to the top.  We were rewarded with a waterfall and vistas of 3 states (New York, Vermont and MA) when we reached the top, and were more than a little surprised to receive a phone call on the summit.  It was the only place we had decent service while there.

norman rockwell museum studio stockbridgeAfter a hearty breakfast, we headed to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.  Housing the world’s largest collection of Rockwell art, it is set in a gorgeous hillside where it’s easy to see how he was inspired by the area.  His studio (above) is nearby and for me, was a highlight.  Preserved as Rockwell left the space, it allows the visitor a glimpse into the life and work of this iconic artist. The museum is dedicated to showcasing the artist’s contribution to society and popular culture.  His much loved paintings and illustrations, often commenting on social culture, make it one of the most visited museums in the country.

shopping-great-barringtonIf shopping is on your to-do list, the area is filled with galleries, home decor and craft  shops and small clothing boutiques.  One of my favorite areas for perusing was Main Street and the surrounds in Great Barrington.  You can wander the small area while enjoying artwork and sculpture, local crafts and the work of small fashion designers creative collections.

farm to table prairie whaleFarm to table  was going strong in this area of the state long before it became a popular buzz word around the country.  Another of the restaurants receiving rave reviews in Great Barrington is Prairie Whale.  The cozy spot is filled with handmade touches from the owner, Mark Firth, who has recycled and designed most of the interior into a destination that can only be called rustic chic. While the location is a change from his former home in Brooklyn, Firth has brought his same formula to this neighborhood eatery: fresh, good for you and sustainable.balderdash winery-pittsfield-maYou might be a bit surprised when you arrive at Balderdash Cellars, not exactly what you were expecting.  But once inside, Christian and Donna Hanson will entertain and guide you through the selection of small batch wines they have been producing now for 3 years.  Their focus is on making ultra-premium wines grown from world class grapes from California vineyards.  To visit is an enjoyable trip though stories about the names of their wines-Joyride, Truth Serum and Invincible, to name a few, while tasting chardonnay, riesling and pinot noire that I would be more than happy to buy on a regular basis.  What started as a hobby has grown into something much more, and the couple can now say Balderdash to those naysayers who helped them name their business when they started!

betty-pizza-lenox-maOur last stop was Betty’s in Lenox.  The rain was coming down in buckets and we were glad we had been able to do so much in the sunshine.  Decorated in casual surfer shack elegance, the decor is fun viewing while waiting for the pizza, sandwich, burrito or quesadillas you’ve ordered.  The wholesome ingredients were calories well spent!

While it may seem like we covered a lot of territory, all of the towns mentioned are within 15-20 minutes of each other and the scenery along the way makes time pass quickly.  The Berkshires are a perfect getaway destination for a weekend with girlfriends, kids or that special someone.  Let the Summer Season Begin!

The 411

STAY- The Old Inn on the Green = New Marlborough

EAT- Riverbend Cafe + Prairie Whale  + Allium = Great Barrington. The Old Inn on the Green = New Marlborough.           Betty’s = Lenox

DOBerkshire Blue Cheese  + Asia Barong + Monument Mountain = Great Barrington   Shopping on Main Street in Great Barrington and Church St. in Lenox   Berkshire Botanical Garden + Norman Rockwell Museum = Stockbridge Balderdash Cellars = Pittsfield

I highly advise making reservations for dinner and calling ahead to make sure destinations are open.  Off season there is plenty to keep you busy, but hours vary widely.

 

 

 

  1. What a lovely trip to do with your daughter Alison. Wow everything you did & ate looks so good. Especially that big sandwich, yum, that’s what I call a sandwich. Also love the sound of the strawberry shortcake you had for dessert. It’s my goal to do a roadtrip like this one day around some parts of the States. Thanks for showing us The Berkshires.

    • alison says:

      Catherine, I hope when you come back I’ll have better luck with a rendezvous! It would be my pleasure to give you all the tips I have for travel in the US. My daughter is a great traveling companion, I’m so glad we get to spend time together.

  2. A sumptuous looking trip indeed, and all the more so because of the amount of people and places you’ve encountered who are producing such amazing, natural ingredients.

    The food and views look amazing, plus I like the surprising variety, when it comes to arts and crafts in the area.

  3. Sounds like you packed everythig in! You can’t usually go wrong with some beautiful gardens and a café – such a relaxing way to spend the day. 🙂

    Love the setting also of the Norman Rockwell Museum – looks so lush and green.

  4. It all looks wonderful! I particularly love the sound of the garden and the Asian shop. And yes please to a burrito at Betty’s! This is part of the US I’ve always wanted to visit (even more so now). Really hope I make it there one day.

  5. Balderdash Cellars looks like a really great experience. We are always on the look out for a wine tasting experience and as this is a ‘family’ run affair, it is probably far superior to the chain options that are available.

    The picture of the Norman Rockwell Museum is also very appealing, it’s always interesting to explore somewhere new but for me that wine experience is a big seller!!

  6. I just returned from a trip with my daughter and I understand that smile on your photos. There’s a bond that needs to be enjoyed as often as can be fit in.

    • alison says:

      You’ve got that right Neva. She’s the perfect traveling companion and it’s so wonderful to get to spend one on one time with her!