Exploring the Berkshires: Mass MoCA and The Mount

Recently, I took a trip to Western Massachusetts to visit two spots I’d always been curious about: Mass MoCA and The Mount. If you’re looking for a fun, easy, road trip weekend, I highly recommend taking a ride out there. The drive alone is almost worth it: I took Route 2 nearly the entire way, and passed countless farms, tiny towns with New England charm, antique shops, flower beds, and more. It feels like such a different way of life out there, and I wished I could stay longer.

My first stop was Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA. It’s a sprawling art museum housed in a former mill building. As soon as you enter the town, the artsy vibe abounds: there are artist studios at nearly every turn, and a homey, vibrant energy.

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The museum itself is nothing short of breath-taking. The rooms are large enough to hold installations that wouldn’t otherwise fit in most museums, so they are vast; almost overwhelmingly so. In some of them, you actually feel like you’re part of the exhibit. I’ve never seen anything like it. Even if you’re someone quick to say “I’m not into art”, it’s worth going. You’ll see work you’ve never seen anywhere else—trust me! (And if nothing else, there are some seriously sweet backdrops for taking cool photos!)

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If you go with friends or family, make sure to spend some time in the grounds surrounding the museum. There’s a restaurant as well as a café and brewery, and a large courtyard in the middle of the museum where they often host live music or other events.

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Next up after Mass MoCA: The Mount, in Lenox, MA. I’d been to Lenox a few times before to go to Tanglewood, so I was surprised when I learned that the former home (well, mansion) of writer Edith Wharton was in the exact same town. How had I missed it? As a writer and avid reader, I’ve been on a bad-ass lady writer kick, and Edith Wharton surely made the cut—not only was she was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, and nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature 3 times, but her first published work, called The Decoration of Houses, is largely credited to have spawned the interior design industry in the United States. Much of the insights she used to build and style The Mount are included in the book.

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To summarize: it’s gorgeous. You can take a guided tour of the home, but it’s not really necessary—the house is open for browsing, and each room is lined with informational posters and signs to explain the history, context, and design elements of the house as well as her life. There’s a lovely restaurant where you can eat overlooking the grounds, which are immaculately well-kept and truly stunning. Plus: only five percent of National Historic Landmarks are dedicated to women, and this is one of them!

There’s so much to see and do in Western Massachusetts, and this doesn’t even begin to cover it. I’ll be back soon!

Lisa is writer who has recently returned to Boston, and is getting to know the city again from her base in the South End. Her work includes both fiction and non-fiction — be sure to check out her portfolio here, and catch up with her on Instagram. See all posts from Lisa here.

Image Credit: Lisa Gordon

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