The Berkshires MAG

By Elizabeth G., Pittsfield, MA

     The Berkshires of Massachusetts are an expanse of cultural and historical resources. There is always something new and exciting to explore, whether you are a newcomer, a regular visitor, or a resident who has yet to experience the full grandeur of your home.

The area's many wonders come in a great and wonderful diversity. Tanglewood, one of the nation's finest music centers, is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Music lovers flock each year to Lenox to hear the works of Tanglewood's composers and musicians.

There are also many centers for dancing and drama. Jacob's Pillow, in Becket, is renowned for its diverse and moving performances, and wonderfully choreographed dances. In addition, Shakespeare and Company, as well as several other theater groups, put on many superb plays at both indoor and outdoor theaters.

There are also several magnificent art museums in the Berkshires. The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown offers a wide variety of French impressionists and American and old master paintings by legendary artists. If you are looking for something more contemporary, North Adams is home to Mass MOCA. Its very modern art requires a certain taste. One aspect of the museum you can't miss are the upside-down trees outside the entrance.

The Berkshires can also claim Stockbridge artist Norman Rockwell, who spent part of his career here. The Norman Rockwell Museum has the largest collection of his original works. Also in Stockbridge is the home of Daniel Chester French, the sculptor who created the Lincoln Monument. And speaking of the homes of famous people, Arrowhead in Pittsfield was the home of Herman Melville and where he wrote Moby-Dick. The Museum of the Gilded Age allows for a peek into the lives of the those who built illustrious mansions. Far less regal is Hancock Shaker Village, a restored community of 21 buildings, including a round stone barn.

If more outdoor activity is what you want, the Berkshires are great. Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts, offers spectacular views of five states. Also, 93 miles of the Appalachian Trail wind their way through the Berkshires, offering great hiking and wonderful views. In Lenox, the Pleasant Valley Bird Sanctuary offers seven miles of hiking rails and 1,500 acres of natural beauty. A canoe ride down the Housatonic River through forests and fields will open your eyes to the natural wonders of the area.

Next time you're planning a vacation, remember the Berkshires and its many cultural and historical resources. These ideas are just the beginning. Dig deeper and you may find yourself overwhelmed with possibilities. c

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