The Berkshires aren’t a place to come for a cookie cutter vacation experience. We are rich with unique natural environs, and many, many, unique, local businesses. Specialty shops abound – one of these, is Barrington Coffee Company, an artisan coffee roaster that calls Lee, MA, home.
Over the past 25 years, and with the rise of Starbucks as a national phenomenon, Americans have become much more aware of the world of coffee, not just the grounds to be found in an airtight can. Just as Starbucks rose to become an international phenomenon, smaller, local roasters have emerged as connoisseurs and educators, keepers of the artisan coffee flame.
Barrington Coffee Company, are indeed, bean connoisseurs. Since 1993 they have been roasting internationally-sourced beans to perfection. They hold cuppings at their roastery in Lee, MA (they also have a café in Boston) and you can purchase product to take home in the roastery store. Essentially, it’s a culinary souvenir that you can share with friends and family back home.
The Berkshire Blend is a great one to start with – in their words, it is:
“Bold and luxurious, this coffee combines the dense body that is found in the finest Indonesian coffees with the up front liveliness of coffees from the Americas. It yields a uniquely complex cup with hints of fruit and a sweet chocolatey smooth finish.”
When the descriptions start to sound like the fruits of a wine-tasting, you know you’ve met real coffee people. Indeed, coffee tasting is a similar type of experience. A treat for those who are already coffee lovers, but surprising and fun as well, for those new to the discovery of fresh, artisan roasted coffee.
Savor the flavors of the Berkshires!
Photo via the Berkshire Coffee Company website.
Berkshire Museum’s Festival of Trees may be an annual event, but it’s never exactly the same. This year’s theme is “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” Trees are decorated by local businesses and organizations and come together at the Berkshire Museum to create a magical forest of beautiful trees to celebrate the season. This year’s fest runs from November 23 to January 2, with a glittering, festive holiday party on November 22 – a beautiful kickoff to the holiday season in the Berkshires.
The Museum celebrates its 110th anniversary this year: 110 years of collective experiences, interactive exhibits, creativity, art, history and natural science. It is not specifically an art museum, or a natural history museum, but rather an intentional mix of the two – from its inception. Zenus Crane, the third-generation of the Crane & Company paper company, cultivated the museum’s first collections, beginning in 1903. Collected pieces are diverse, and range from Egyptian mummies, to modern American artists. Recent acquisitions include many pieces by artists with special connections to the Berkshires.
The Museum is also home to the Little Cinema, a cozy, independent film theater that showcases the latest in independent cinema from all over the world.
It is these collections, and this mission that the Festival of Trees supports. Tickets to the party and the festival, are available online at the event website. It’s not too early to be thinking about the nearing holiday seasons – the events you don’t want to miss – and the rooms you may want to book in advance, to assure you of their availability.
Nobody does Fall like New England does Fall. Fall is a time of year to celebrate so many things: The harvest. The end of summer. The coming of winter. It’s also time to pull out favorite scarves and sweaters, and woolly socks.
Visiting the Berkshires at this time of year – you get to experience the things that Fall brings. Carve locally grown pumpkins. Get lost in a corn maze. Pick an apple and eat it straight from the tree. Browse arts and crafts at fall festivals. Picnic in the crisp Fall air.
Many area farms welcome you to share in the Fall experience:
Ioka Valley Farm offers corn mazes, hayrides, pumpkin racing and more, until October 27. For the uninitiated, corn mazes are exactly what they sound like – corn fields are honed into mazes higher than the human head, and your task is to find your way back out again. And pumpkin racing – where you decorate a pumpkin, put it in a race car, and race it around the pumpkin racing track, of course.
Pick your own temptation, straight from the tree – at Richmond’s Bartlett Orchards. Apple-picking is in the air, and there’s no fresher apple than the one you picked yourself. New England boasts a wide variety of apple types, and Barlett Orchards features a robust collection: McIntosh, Cortland, Gala, Macoun, Empire, Liberty, Mutsu, Red Delicious, Ida Red, Jonagold. The most current information available about activities, events and available fruit varieties at the orchard can be found at their Facebook page. Also: CIDER DONUTS. Do not miss the cider donuts.
Cricket Creek Farm actually offers something a little different from the typical Fall farm offerings – but fruit and cheese make a delicious pairing. This grass-based dairy farm features rich meats and cheeses in their farm store, both products produced on-site and some from other local farms, too. They stock their shop with the traveling shopper in mind – they sell insulated totes to keep your treats fresh on the road.
When you bring your delicious discoveries back to Hampton Terrace, make yourself at home in the common areas of the inn as you savor the flavors of the Berkshires – our home is your home.
Moo! Photo from the Cricket Creek Farm website...
October 29, 2013, Pecha Kucha returns to the Berkshires. Pecha Kucha – it’s an odd name for a phenomenon that has spanned the globe to over 700 cities.
Originally conceived by a partnership of architects in Tokyo “because architects talk too much”, Pecha Kucha is essentially a presentation format. Presenters at a Pecha Kucha night get to share 20 images, for 20 seconds each, in order to transmit an idea or project to an audience. Though sprouted in the world of architecture, Pecha Kucha’s ability to generate crackling community connections made the format appealing beyond the world of the built environment. Anyone willing to adhere to the form can participate.
The Berkshire Museum hosts this upcoming Berkshires installment. This is the eighth installment of Pecha Kucha Pittsfield – “The Halloween Edition”. Because of the proximity of Halloween, anyone in a costume gets free admission (regular admission is $5). Wandering Star Craft Brewery is the official purveyor of refreshments for this event.
For best results, bring a friend, and book your rooms now if you haven’t already. Whether you attend as a spectator or a participant, the evening should bring surprises, humor, and good cheer.
Photo via PechaKucha.org
New England, and the greater Northeast are home to come of the most famous tales of hauntings. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, for one – and what about the story of Lizzie Borden (and the spirits said to haunt her house to this day). Then there’s Salem, MA – home to the tragic witch hunts centuries ago. Well the Berkshires are ripe with their own tales of hauntings. Many of the allegedly haunted sites offers tours from time to time.
One property said to be haunted is our near neighbor – and currently hosting “Ghost Tours” is The Mount, former home of gilded-age writer, Edith Wharton. Accounts of paranormal activity include lights turning themselves on and off, laughter and footsteps heard and more. Friday nights are the night to tour and learn more. Tours are offered at 5:45pm and 7:00pm each Friday from now until October 25th. Reservations are required, and can be made through The Mount’s website. Adult tickets are $22 and tickets for ages 12 to 18 are $18 – but the tour is not recommended for children below those ages.
If this is your kind of fun, you may also want to check out this list from iBerkshires.com, of five allegedly haunted places in the Berkshires.
13 Nights At Jiminy is a different type of ghost tour – a spooky, slightly manufactured fright experience at the Jiminy Peak ski area. This event includes not only a spooky tour, but night-time ziplining, a giant swing that launches you into the night sky, and an open tavern for the beverage-inclined. Quite a combination.
The 13 Nights tour has its roots in the history of Hancock, MA, the modern day home of the Jiminy ski area. It begins with the belief of 18th century settlers, that a mysterious disease was seeping to the surface of the Jericho Valley floor they were attempting to farm. This belief drove them to raze and rebuild homes, abandon livestock to die, and out of this strange situation, spooky lore arose. You can read more about this history at the 13 Nights At Jiminy website.
13 Nights runs from September 28, mostly on Fridays and Saturdays. October 13 is the one Sunday on the calendar, and the week of Halloween (of course) they run the tours on October 29, 30, and 31. Hours are 6:30pm to 10:30pm. Reservations are highly recommended. Tickets are available online or by calling the resort.
After your spooky adventures, we provide your oasis of calm. Contact us now to make your Fall reservations!
*Photo courtesy of The Mount's website.
Housatonic Heritage Walks are precisely what they sound like: A wonderful way to explore the outdoors AND the history along the winding Housatonic River. The walks are a partnership of the many heritage organizations of the Upper Housatonic River Valley, the National Park Service and the Berkshires Visitors Bureau.
The great thing about a tour like this is that you are guaranteed to discover something interesting – and you are also sure to learn about something that you never would have even known to look for or ask about as a tourist. These walks are curated by experts on the history and the landscape of the area – you’re in good hands.
The next and final weekend of Housatonic Heritage Walks is coming up on October 5and 6, 2013. The weekend includes not just one walk option, but MANY. And there are a variety of types of walks. There are short walks; there are long walks. There are walks that take you through towns. There are walks that let you soak in nature. Walks can include kayaking, birding, and exploration of old ruins. See? Are you excited yet? If not, maybe you just need to know that there are 21 walks to choose from throughout the weekend…!
You can explore Herman Melville’s Berkshires by exploring the woodland behind the Moby Dick writer’s estate, Arrowhead. You can explore the little hamlet of Van Deusenville, in Great Barrington – file that one under, bet you didn’t even know you could. Learn about energy technology at Hancock Shaker Village (the Shakers were very cutting edge for their time in the areas of technology and design). Go birding at Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary. Take a gravedigger’s tour! So many possibilities. Truly an offering that will appeal to everyone in this mix.
Each tour is a different length, and they vary in physical challenges, so you will want to check the description for each tour to see if they are a good fit for you. Many of them also have folks you can contact for more information. The tours website is also a good course of information.
Never a dull moment in the Berkshires – unless of course, that’s your plan!
The Berkshires are no stranger to literary events, but this particular literary event redefines literary, and turns it into a bit of a spectator sport. The Literary Death Match, set for September 20th from 6-10pm at our near neighbor, The Mount, mixes language, liquor and humor into a cocktail of fun – fun that may not be entirely appropriate for younger audiences, but is guaranteed to entertain more mature visitors.
Literary readings and commentary will be delivered by Berkshires luminaries, and they will be joined by Literary Death Match creator, Adrian Todd Zuniga. Literary Death Match has entertained audiences in 37 cities around the world – in addition to its regular installations in New York City, San Francisco, and London.
A Literary Death Match is a competitive, performance-based presentation, by four famous or emerging writers – each writer is given no more than 7 minutes to deliver their best writing to the audience, with humor at the core. Three judges then critique the performances, no-holds-barred, and select the finalists, who will compete in what is described by Literary Death Match HQ as a finale “which trades in the show’s literary sensibility for an absurd and comical climax to determine who takes home the Literary Death Match crown”. It’s wild, irreverent, and chaotic, by design. Visit the website for a further taste of the madness.
Would Edith Wharton, the Mount’s most famous resident, approve of these unconventional literary exploits? She did write many of her novels here, at her Berkshires retreat, including The House Of Mirth. Writer of 85 short stories, she was not opposed to shorter format literary exploration. Known for her astute characterizations of upper class life in her time, often criticizing the same, she was a witty and clever writer. We can only assume that she might enjoy the cast of characters assembled upon her property, engaged in a battle of wits.
Admission is $10 for Mount members, $12 General Admission/$15 at the door, $8 for students with ID. You may purchase tickets online or at the door as they remain available.
And talk about an easy walk back to your room at Hampton Terrace. It doesn’t get easier than this!
The Mohawk Trail is an ancient highway – one humans have traveled for thousands of years, for purposes of trade and connection between communities. It is also a very old designated historic and scenic landmark, because of the beauty of the land that it travels through.
It began as a foot trail, heavily traveled by Native New Englanders. As European settlers arrived, and history rolled on, so did more types of transportation – and the trail evolved over the centuries to accommodate the transportation methods of the time, it is now accessible by automobile.
The “trail” spans from the Massachusetts/New York state line to the Connecticut River at Millers Falls, a 63-mile route. Inns, shops, attractions and more are discoverable along the way, providing exploration and necessities for visitors. The landscape itself also offers unique experiences (including spectacular views of Mt. Greylock).
If you guessed that the trail is named for one of the groups of people native to the area, you are correct. According to mohawktrail.com:
“The English and Dutch arranged a "peace" conference between the two tribes. However, a Mohawk of high tribal standing was killed and the Pocumtuck people were blamed. The furious Mohawk sent their warriors quickly over the Indian Trail and annihilated the Pocumtuck settlements. The English now had no resistance to their advancement up the Connecticut River. Moreover, the Dutch took the opportunity of the Mohawk's diverted attention to pursue their interests farther up the Hudson River. With place names, then as now, the recognition goes to the victor...’The Mohawk Trail’.”
That same website also offers several driving tours for those who wish to auto-tour the area.
Salmon Falls is one of the geographic attractions along the way of the trail. Contrary to the expectation that the name might give you, the riverbed here is mostly dry. The real highlight here is the glacial potholes. These potholes were formed thousands and thousands of years ago by the waters that roared through during the Glacial Age. Whirling water carved solid rock to create the spectacle now visible to the eye, thanks to the now-receded water.
You won’t want to miss the Bridge of Flowers – an abandoned trolley bridge that has been literally transformed into a flower bridge – a garden suspended across the 400 ft span where trolleys used to roll.
There are indoor attractions as well including the Clark Museum, the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum, and the Quaker Meeting House in Adams, MA.
With 63 miles of trail to explore, you could easily spend a whole trip focused on the attractions of the area – and still need to come back for many subsequent trips to take in still more. Every time you visit attractions along the trail, you are following a path that thousands before you have traveled throughout time.
Visit the Mohawk Trail website for more information about this vital piece of Massachusetts and American history. (Photo from the Mohawk Trail website Driving Tours page)
Though the season has not officially flipped, it has changed in the imagination. Welcome to Fall in the Berkshires.
MASS MoCA, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, always has a packed roster of engaging, diverse, and fresh events. This season is no exception, with the FreshGrass Festival of bluegrass and roots music, Ben Perowsky’s Moodswing Orchestra, and Talib Kweli and others, presenting, performing and creating at MASS MoCA’s North Adams headquarters.
FreshGrass is an annual event, exposing the roots of American music. FreshGrass is much more than a concert; it’s a three day, full weekend experience. The Del McCoury band, Alison Brown, Bill Evans, and dozens of others are the musical fabric of a weekend made richer with contests, workshops, kids’ activities, and food. The venue itself is a repurposed 19th-century factory, a perfect place to meld classic bluegrass with the genre’s cutting edge. The festival runs from September 20-22. It’s family-friendly and there is camping available. For more information about FreshGrass, visit the event website.
Ben Perowsky’s Moodswing Orchestra is the drummer/curator of his eclectic collection of some of NYC’s best musicians. Perowsky himself has played with greats like Bill Frisell, and John Cale. He is also known as a composer, arranger, percussionist and record producer and according to DrummerWorld.com he has played drums since the age of 3. He is known for his affiliation with cutting edge and radical musical explorers and this project is no different. His collaborators in the Moodswing Orchestra include TK Wonder, a “a singer, rapper and songwriter who has supported such acts as Nas, Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli and opened for Sting, Justice, N.E.R.D, and The Prodigy”. Additional Moodswing collaborators: Canadian saxophone player Michael Blake, and Lenny Kravitz’s keyboardist, David Baron. They take the stage at MoCA on October 5.
On October 19, the artist that Pitchfork.com calls “One of the most rounded and complete rap personas in the game” comes to North Adams. Talib Kweli is best known as the founding father of conscious rap – bringing a social consciousness to the genre. He’s been collaborating at the cutting edge of rap since 1995.
The Berkshires are so well-known for classic, enduring, and revered events like Tanglewood, but the cutting edge is just as present, and not hard to find. Mass MoCA is a consistent presenter of what’s new, and what’s next, and a great place to look for events that will intrigue you during your Berkshires visit.
Photo of Ben Perowsky, via the MASS MoCA website.
No trip to New England is complete without a visit to a “general store”. And the Monterey General Store, at this point in its history is no run-of-the-mill general store - not that there would be anything wrong with it if it was. It’s just that this general store has melded history, style and culinary heaven in one fabulous location.
It had closed a few years back, but was re-opened in 2012 by restauranteur and artist, Scott Edward Cole. Cole was the proprietor of Caffe Pomo d’Oro in West Stockbridge, before taking on the project of restoring the general store’s building, and creating a new business where a store had already existed for nearly three centuries. The building has existed, perched on the bank of the Konkapot River, in Monterey, MA, since 1780.
The Monterey General Store participates in the locavore food culture of the Berkshires, featuring “local maple syrup, honey, goat cheese, vegetables, and artisanal craft items all created by our friends and neighbors”. Their house made foods also feature many local ingredients. Take a peek at their online Gallery to inspire your palate. You’ll also want to follow their Facebook page, to take in a visual feast (the photo to the right is from their Facebook page...wow).
The store has become a destination for visitors, but more importantly it has restored a sense of home to the town’s center. Locals can grab a cup of coffee, fresh local veggies, and other basics – and visitors can stop in for home-baked pies and treats, perfect for a picnic.
Reviews are great so far – come see what you think of this rejuvenated Berkshires classic.