Location A 75-minute drive from Albany.
Go there in September for the fall crop of exhibitions.
1. Mezze Bistro + Bar With warm wooden furniture and contemporary art on the walls, the sedate decor of chef Joji Sumi’s eatery sets the scene for no-fuss fare like our Mighty Food Farm salad – including crunchy, sweet, shaved parsnip – and bistro steak from the nearby Northeast Family Farms. Leave room for the inventive desserts, such as the maple yogurt panna cotta of Berle Farm yogurt and Ioka Valley Farm maple syrup – it involves a bacon molasses biscuit.
2. The Porches Inn A direct result of the revitalization spurred by MASS MoCA, across the way, this stylish inn (half retro collectibles, half sleek modern) turned a dilapidated row of clapboard houses into a colourful hotel with a long, inviting porch that extends from building to building. Even more inviting? The housecat and the fresh-baked cookies that greet all guests.
3. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute In the next town just west of North Adams, Williamstown, there’s another sort of artistic treasure: hoards of 19th-century French oil paintings. Among the Clarks’ 495 canvases and 8,000 objects are Renoirs, Monets, Degas and Pissarros, and our favourite, The Snake Charmer by Gérôme. They can all be ogled in the stately home the couple built to house their private collection, set on grounds that are themselves worth the trip. (Say hi to the frogs in the lily pond.)
4. Library Antiques This shop walks the line between past and present with a skilfully curated mix of Berkshire fashion – Mine checked shirts, Moore & Giles rugged leather bags – and antiques like turn-of-the-century tin toy sets and a covetable selection of bookends, including a pair of Chinese dragons that very nearly snuck into our luggage.
5. Where’d You Get That!? Pick up gifts for everyone you know under a single roof at this toy, gadget, candy and oddities store, where temporary moustache tattoos sit beside baby books (did you know babies can learn sign language before the age of one?).
Small-town America’s answer to PS1, MASS MoCA transformed an abandoned electronics factory in the post-industrial burg of North Adams into an outsize contemporary art space filled with an ever-changing selection of groundbreaking works. And by “outsize,” we mean 13 acres – a third of the downtown core. The magnitude of the exhibition spaces allows for some grandiose art pieces, including the late Sol LeWitt’s last work (three storeys of wall-to-wall in situ drawings), and great community projects: The band Wilco now runs a summer music festival there that draws thousands of visitors.
3 Ways to Refuel on the Go
Beat the lines with an early lunch at Pappa Charlie’s Deli, in Williamstown, where the foot-long dogs pop when they’re grilled and come served with Dijon on fresh-baked, eggy buns.
Stop by West’s Wine & Spirits, down the street, for friendly advice and amazing deals on wines most Canadians can’t get at home, including the Dobbes Family Estate pinot noir from Oregon, or the Souverain cabernet sauvignon from California.
Wrap up the meal with a pit stop at Lickety-Split for a caramel sundae made with a scoop – or four – of unctuous vanilla ice cream by Massachusetts’ own Steve Herrell.
Photos: Kevin Kennefick (MASS MoCA)
Here are the addresses you’ll need for a memorable weekend in and around the Northern Berkshires, Massachusetts.
Library Antiques 70 Spring St., Williamstown, 413-458-3436, libraryantiques.com
Lickety-Split 69 Spring St., Williamstown, 413-458-1818
MASS MoCA 87 Marshall St., North Adams, 413-664-4481, massmoca.org
Mezze Bistro + Bar 777 Cold Spring Rd., Williamstown, 413-458-0123, mezzerestaurant.com
Pappa Charlie’s Deli 28 Spring St., Williamstown, 413-458-5969
The Porches Inn 231 River St., North Adams, 413-664-0400, porches.com
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute 225 South St., Williamstown, 413-458-2303, clarkart.edu
West’s Wine and Spirits 52 Spring St., Williamstown, 413-458-5948
Where’d You Get That!? 100 Spring St., Williamstown, 413-458-2206, wygt.com