David and I are people who like nature but are not outdoorsy. We’re never going to be rough and tumble, white water rafting, cliff-dangling, grabbing fish from a stream with our bare hands (that’s a thing, right?) kind of people. But we like being outside in beautiful rural surroundings. This is why the Berkshires are perfect for us. It has beautiful mountains, rolling hills with grazing cattle, and idyllic farmhouses along every winding road. But it’s no backwater. There’s good food and drink and style. It lets us indulge in “I love fall!” basicness without actually being too basic.
For a long time the one thing missing in the Berkshires was an actually cool place to stay. That changed last July with the opening of Tourists, a former motel turned dog-friendly boutique hotel with impeccable style and endless charm. The rooms are minimal and thoughtfully designed, the pool is heated to 85°, and the suspension bridge extending over the adjacent Hoosic River is made for Instagram. It’s a 6 minute drive to MASS MoCA or The Clark Institute if art is your thing. But what’s more interesting is that it seems part of a wave of change in North Adams, a sleepy town at the north end of the Berkshires which until now was ignored by New Yorkers in favor of places further south.
Just down the road is Greylock Works, a former cotton-spinning mill that’s slated to become a campus for artisanal food production, a boutique hotel, and an event space. Drive a little farther and you’ll pass Norad Mills, another factory from the 1860s, now set up to house 35 businesses ranging from yarnmakers to a wine and mead-making business. Yes, it’s all very twee and cute and Brooklyn.
Of course the biggest draw is how beautiful it is. We were a little early for fall colors (thanks climate change!) but it was stunning nonetheless. Ayan, Levi, and I found ourselves hiking along the trails of The Clark Institute (skip the museum and just walk around) and Field Farm…not the hard ones, of course, but there are trails for more advanced hikers if you’re into that.
When it comes to the food…be warned: there are a lot of spots that feel like the coolest place in whatever boring suburban town you grew up. You know, the place you went to with your friends in high school that sucked but got you out of the house and was open late-ish (midnight) so you could eat nachos after getting stoned? Yeah. Thankfully there are some gems: the Prairie Whale was opened by some NYC expats and has great roast chicken and fried chicken. And despite the fact that it looks like your grandmother’s favorite restaurant, Mezze had delicious, locally sourced, seasonal Berkshires food and good service.
The Berkshires are about 2.5-3 hours from NYC by car, so take a Friday or Monday off and make it a long weekend. You’ll get good fall instagrams for days.