Take a Fun Day Trip This Fall
These four easy getaways remind us why we love to hit the road in autumn.
Where visual art meets the great outdoors.
By Casey Nilsson
Bundle up and hit the road with eyes wide open: You’re in for a steady stream of aesthetic pleasure. The Berkshires, in western Massachusetts, offer some of the best leaf peeping in the region, with mountains aflame as far as the eye can see. But there’s more than Mother Nature at work in the artistic southern foothills.
Our tour begins at Exit 1 off Route 90 — the very last off ramp before New York. Here, in charming West Stockbridge, start the day with fresh-roasted coffee from Six Depot Roastery. If you make it in time for a late breakfast, the house made Spanish tortilla, with potatoes, egg and peppers, is a filling snack. Peek in the back room for a gallery of work by local and international artists. The space also hosts performances and dance parties. Yes, dance parties. sixdepot.com
Walk your to-go cup over to Hotchkiss Mobiles, where you’ll find colorful, contemporary lumen mobiles crafted by Joel Hotchkiss. The artist’s mobiles are found in museum gift shops across the country, including the Guggenheim, but his West Stockbridge studio is where the real magic happens. artmobiles.com
A few paces down the road is Turn Park Art Space, an under-the-radar sculpture park where architecture, art and nature come to a stunning head. During our last visit, we paced gleefully around its fourteen acres — a former quarry with stunning mountain views — in search of sculptures by Nikolai Silis, Nazar Bilyk and Gene Montez Flores. Some are sited in obvious spots around the park, while others are tucked by the riverbed or up on hills, affording the viewer a degree of intimacy with the art. For families with kids, the stone amphitheater is an excellent place to make pretend. turnpark.com
If you can handle more coffee, walk over to the Shaker Dam Coffeehouse owned by National Geographic photographer, John Stanmeyer. His broad range of work hangs on the walls and in flat files around the shop. The best part? You’ll get the story behind each shot from Stanmeyer himself; he slings coffee on the regular.
Next, drive into neighboring Stockbridge, a backdrop for many of Norman Rockwell’s iconic American paintings. First, stroll down Main Street and see the world through Rockwell’s eyes. Pop into the Williams and Sons Country Store, complete with penny candy and Berkshires ephemera, if you need some 1950s inspiration. Then, head to the Norman Rockwell Museum to see the artist’s take on the town at Christmastime. Other works include his famous series, Four Freedoms, and memorable covers from Life and the Saturday Evening Post. nrm.org
Also in Stockbridge is Chesterwood, the country estate and studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French, who is best known for his Abraham Lincoln sculpture at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. In addition to French’s own art, the grounds feature rotating sculpture exhibitions. Through Columbus Day, the property hosts “Out of Site,” a rambling outdoor exhibition with works by fourteen contemporary artists. chesterwood.org
Nearby Lenox also boasts a glut of great art. The Wit Gallery and Hoadley Gallery, both on Church Street, display work by regional makers. The Wit’s well-appointed showrooms provide a thoughtful perspective on how to place a sculpture or painting in your own home. Hoadley is also a nice source for home goods and accessories. Head here with a gift recipient in mind and walk away with a stunning Nicolas Bernard vessel or a pair of artsy, yet classic, statement earrings. thewitgallery.com; hoadleygallery.com
Pop into Lenox’s take on happy hour at the Bookstore and Get Lit wine bar, where you can peruse art books, literature, non-fiction and kids’ books while sipping on a selection of white and red wines. You spill on it, you buy it. bookstoreinlenox.com
Before surrendering to the call of the Ocean State, take a rambling detour east through the mountains for dinner at the Dream Away Lodge in Becket. Aside from some playful nude photographs in the restroom, Dream Away offers little in the way of visual art. But the ambience is as artsy as it gets. Antique furniture, mish-mashed tablecloths and hip servers make this place a true treasure in the trees. Seasonal, local dishes shine here, and options are available for gluten-intolerant and vegan eaters. Before you go, warm your hands by the outdoor fire pit. We know from experience: It’s a good place to plan your next Berkshires trip. thedreamawaylodge.com
Nuts and Bolts
Drive time: Two hours to West Stockbridge
Miles: 250 round trip
How to get there: Take 146 N to 90 W
Best season to go: All year for visual art; summer for music, dance and theater festivals
If you stay over: 1862 Seasons on Main
Nightly wine and cheese, ice cream socials, decadent breakfasts and, oh yes, luxurious rooms with claw-foot soaking tubs: This bed and breakfast brings a big dose of luxury to Main Street in Stockbridge. The inn, which has a lovely porch for evening drinks, is within walking distance of great restaurants and Norman Rockwell-esque town views. 47 Main St., Stockbridge, Mass., 413-298-5419, seasonsonmain.com.
Don’t miss: Seven Arts Gift Shop
This two-level nostalgia emporium packs in pop culture posters, vintage Saturday Evening Post covers and other creative finds, plus a diverse stock of vinyl, LPs and funky clothing. 7 Arts Ln., Stockbridge, Mass., 413-298-5101.
Worth a detour: Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art
A recent expansion makes this mammoth of a museum worth a full daytrip. Long-term exhibitors include Robert Rauschenberg, Anselm Kiefer, Spencer Finch and Sol LeWitt. The outdoor sculpture garden with work by Franz West is both provocative and whimsical. 1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass., 413-662-2111, massmoca.org.
Closer to home: Green Animals Topiary Garden
Topiaries are a form of art — a high-maintenance one, at that. The oldest topiary garden in the United States, Green Animals features more than eighty living sculptures of animals, birds and ornamental designs. Open through October 9. 380 Cory’s Ln., Portsmouth, newportmansions.org.