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The best things to do in the Berkshires

More than a century ago, The Berkshires were known as a warm weather haven for elite, wealthy Bostonians and New Yorkers who just “had to get away.” The rolling hills of the most western county of Massachusetts were peppered with summer cottages so huge they’d stop you in your tracks.

Now, no longer a mysterious hideout for the super rich, the Berkshires are waiting to be rediscovered. Although still home to sprawling estates and spas, today there are plenty of things to do in the Berkshires for all budgets.

A popular haunt for nature lovers, The Berkshires offer anything and everything outdoorsy, from hiking, biking and fishing to white water rafting and kayaking. There are numerous trails (including part of the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail), large tracts of wilderness and expansive parks. Get a bird’s eye view from Massachusetts’ highest peak (3,491 feet) at Mount Greylock.

Whether you’re climbing rocks or skipping them across a pond, Mount Washington State Forest is a natural paradise. Hike the South Taconic Trail to the 2,250 ft. summit of Alander Mountain for amazing views. Adjacent is Bash Bish Falls, Massachusetts’ tallest waterfall where the cascading water plummets 60 feet below.

Want to add a little zip to your trip? Take to the trees over mountainsides and streams with a canopy zip tour of the eastern slopes of the Berkshires. Touted as one of America’s Top 10 Zip lines by USA TodayBerkshire East Canopy Tours offers experiences ranging from family-friendly to heart stopping.

Blending outdoor lushness with an artistic hand, the Berkshires’ historical gardens are well worth seeing. From Italian shade plants to fanciful French blooms, The Mount at Edith Wharton’s House earned the description “a delicate French chateau reflected in a Massachusetts pond” from novelist Henry James. There’s also Naumkeag House and Gardens, a Gilded Age mansion with 10 acres of gardens (including the famous art deco ‘Blue Steps’) designed by Fletcher Steele.

Once you’re done appreciating Mother Nature’s brushstroke, enjoy the region’s cultural attractions at more than 60 museums, theatre, dance and music venues. It’s no wonder famous names like Hollywood siren Gwyneth Paltrow, singer-songwriter James Taylor, American illustrator Norman Rockwell and authors Hawthorne, Melville and Thoreau all spent time here with their craft.

There’s no better place to spread out a picnic blanket, feast on gourmet goodies and listen to live music than The Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox – the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The Colonial Theatre is a Gilded Age architectural landmark brought back to life as a performing arts centre. With its first production (the operetta Robin Hood) opening to a sold out crowd in 1903, today you’ll find plenty of performances that are equally entertaining.

You can also see live music, art, dance, and film, at the renowned Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts (MASS MoCA), one of America’s largest contemporary art museums set in a sprawling 19th century mill complex of bridges, viaducts, elevated walkways and red brick facades.


Written by Cheryl Fenton

Image credits:

The Berkshires © iStock: DenisTangneyJnr

Berkshires - The Mount © David Dashiell