Once an industrial epicenter of Massachusetts, the small town of North Adams is now known for two things: Mount Greylock, the highest mountain Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (better known as MASS MoCA.) Tucked away in the Berkshire Mountains, this weekend escape is equidistant from NYC and Boston, about 175 miles or a three hour drive.
Since the museum’s opening in 1999, the presence of MASS MoCA has transformed the town into a cultural hub. Boutique shopping, galleries, hotels and restaurants have sprouted up around the museum. The 13-acre campus houses more than 250,000 square feet of gallery space, making it the largest contemporary art museum in the United States. Inside, the art lives in a massive complex of brick factory buildings that once churned out textiles and machine parts. The combination of perfectly weathered brick, high ceilings and massive windows create an etherial space in and of itself; but wait til you see the art! MASS MoCA exhibits art by both well-known and emerging artists, focusing on large-scale, immersive installations that would be impossible to realize in conventional museums. The addition of several immersive experiences, such as James Turrell’s “Into the Light” large-scale light/sensory deprivation installations, or Laurie Anderson’s virtual reality dreamscape “The Chalk Room,” make this museum a bucket-list-worthy destination.
Especially with its recent expansion, the museum is so large that it takes some serious gusto to do in one day. So in its infinite wisdom, MASS MoCA announced a new policy, offering patrons a second day to explore—free of charge. Beginning June 2018, museum tickets are good for two consecutive days, allowing museum-goers can explore at their own pace. Of course, this will require an overnight in the area, and there’s no better place to stay than The Porches Inn, just steps from the museum.
Describing itself as “granny chic,” boutique gem The Porches Inn is across the street from MASS MoCA. And much like its neighbor, the buildings were an integral part of North Adams’ previous life as an industrial town. Once home to generations of mill worker families, the row of beautifully detailed 19th Century Victorian row homes now house 40+ hotel rooms. Inside, the crayon-box paint hues and mid-century modern decor are the anchors of Porches’ aesthetic. In the same cheeky spirit, room service is delivered retro lunch boxes. Outside, a heated pool, hot tub, sauna and nightly bonfires make it the perfect spot to soak in the outdoors. Its location makes Porches the perfect home base for exploring the staples of North Adams: its incredible museum, and its beautiful mountains.
What to Do & Where to Eat in North Adams, MA
Thanks to MASS MoCA, North Adams has had a bit of a cultural revival. Boutique shopping, galleries and cafes will keep those more privy to the indoors happy. Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate North Adams’ proximity to great hiking–it’s situated right next to the northern-most entrance of Mount Greylock State Park. Explorers will love dipping into other Berkshire towns like Great Barrington and Williamstown.
- Small-town hop: to Williamstown, a fifteen drive from North Adams. A college town, it’s not only home to Williams College, but also The Clark Art Institute; the two actually share a campus. While in town, pet some alpacas at Sweet Brook Alpaca Farm, pick up some cheese or meat at honor-system Cricket Creek farmstand, and eat at Mezze Bistro & Bar. Also worth exploring is the town of Great Barrington, about an hour away. With amazing downtown shopping, plus the Dreamaway Lodge and Prarie Whale, it’s well worth the trip.
- Grab a drink: at MASS MoCA’s on-site brewery, Bright Ideas Brewing. During nice weather, the outdoor seating at Freight Yard Pub is a great spot for a drink or casual meal. At night, Mohawk Tavern is a lively spot to hang out for a beer, possibly see a band and shoot pool.
- Eat like a king: begin your morning with a fireside breakfast at Porches Inn, included with the room. For lunch, MASS MoCA has two on-site options, including the aforementioned brewery that serves pizza, as well as a cafe. At 5, their on-site French restaurant Grammercy Bistro opens up for dinner. In town, check out North Adams’ unexpected delicacy, chili dogs, at Jack’s Hot Dog Stand; lunch or dinner should be had at the gastropub Public Eat + Drink.
- Antique shopping: browse 10,000 square feet of antiques, furniture, and records at the maze-like Berkshires Emporium & Antiques.
- Hike Massachusetts’ highest peak: It’s actually not as daunting as it sounds. And with 70+ miles of trails in Mount Greylock State Park, so there’s several options, ranging in difficulty. Check out AllTrails.com for the full list. For a less time/effort commitment hike, check out the Cascades Trail, right in town. The short trail leads to one of the northern Berkshires’ best waterfalls.