Located in western Massachusetts and Connecticut, the Berkshires is a mountainous region that was formed more than 500 million years ago when the North American and African tectonic plates collided, creating the Appalachian range. Erosion during the millions of years since that seismic event has worn the Berkshires down to their present contours: gentle hills featuring elevations up to about 3,500 feet.
The Berkshires are famed for their wilderness areas and hiking trails, both of which can call to mind the natural landscape encountered by the earliest European settlers to the United States. In addition to boasting a portion of the Appalachian Trail, the Berkshires are where tourists can see the whimsically-named Bash Bish Falls; the tallest waterfall in the state of Massachusetts. Other interesting features of the area are the historical summer camps that dot the hillsides, proving that the Berkshires have been attracting tourists for well over a century.
Art attractions in the Berkshires
Outstanding natural wonders, however, are far from the only reason to range far and wide across this region. The Berkshires are also renowned for their connection with the arts. It is in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, that tourists can explore the Norman Rockwell Museum, which houses the largest collection in the world of the artist’s classic paintings depicting scenes of everyday Americana. Art lovers also flock to the Berkshires to visit the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the Clark Art Institute, where works by Degas, Renoir, and John Singer Sargent are displayed as part of an impressive collection that spans five centuries of ornamental and practical art.
A love of music and theatre
The Berkshires also serve as the home base of the Boston Symphony Orchestra during the summer months, but the region’s love of the performing arts extends far beyond its classical forms. Tourists who rent a car to travel to North Adams can enjoy three full weeks of contemporary music at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, while those who travel to Williamstown, Lenox, or Pittsfield can attend one of the many theatre festivals that descend on the Berkshires every summer.
Some of the most interesting facts about the Berkshires revolve around the lives of famous Americans who made their home there. The 19th-century women’s rights activist Susan B Anthony lived in Adams, while Herman Melville wrote his most famous novel, Moby Dick, at his home in Arrowhead. Edith Wharton, author of great American novels such as Ethan Frome, lived in Lenox. All three of these historic homes can be visited for a fascinating look back into the American past.
Tips for visiting the Berkshires
Experienced travelers know that dining on fresh, locally produced food is one of the best ways to get to know a region. This is especially true in the Berkshires, where the longstanding residents have a deep commitment to “farm to table” eating. Specialties well worth seeking out include, fresh cheese produced from the milk of local goats, and spirits such as vodka, rum, and gin from the region’s distilleries.
Beautiful at any time of year but with four distinct seasons, the Berkshires are an area that tourists can visit time and again without ever exhausting the region’s almost limitless possibilities.