If you’re a culture buff, the Berkshires have all the right ingredients to please you.
The beautiful postcard worthy landscapes of Western Massachusetts have welcomed several noteworthy authors, artists, sculptors and affluent East Coasters.
Bringing their expertise, intellect and talent, these residents produced some of their top class works from the idyllic surroundings the place offers.
Many of the best museums in Berkshires are today historic homes or studios of these accomplished individuals.
If you’re looking for a healthy dose of culture, art, literature, history and storytelling, include some of the following museums in your Berkshires itinerary.
Table of Contents
The Best Museums in Berkshires
Plan your trip to Berkshires
Where to stay in Berkshires
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The Best Museums in Berkshires Massachusetts
A must-visit attraction in the Berkshires, The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) is a contemporary art museum where photography, audio, video, film, dance, mixed media, and paintings intermingle to provide a sensory experience.
The museum, with its industrial era vibe, opened its doors in 1999 in a campus that used to house electronic factories in the past.
With its innovative collaborations, support for artists, and unconventional displays, MASS MoCA has redefined the cultural landscape in the town of North Adams where it is located.
The museum is spread over three floors and multiple buildings.
Many of the works on display are produced by artists in their artist-in-residence program.
Aside from visual arts, and immersive installations, MASS MoCA also encourages performing arts, and educational programs for all ages.
In fact, it hosts over 75 performances each year and supports various adult, teen and kids related talks, tours and camps.
Kidspace, and ArtBar – an art gallery and hands on studio is a huge attraction for kids of all ages.
MASS MoCA features several permanent and visiting collections that deserve your time and attention.
One of the museum’s permanent displays, the Sol Lewitt collection, which comprises 105 large-scale wall drawings by the artist spans three floors, and is a must-see for every visitor.
Another popular exhibition by James Turrel, Into the Light uses light as a sculptural medium.
Aside from exhibits, performances and programs, the museum features a store, a cafe, a full-service restaurant, a microbrewery and free parking.
Mass MoCA requires at least half a day of exploration, if not more. Reservations are recommended.
1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247
Google Maps Location
Clark Art Institute
Located in the beautiful town of Williamstown that is surrounded by mountains all around, the Clark Art Institute is another well known museum in the Berkshires region.
Williamstown is only a fifteen minute drive away from North Adams, and many visitors choose to visit both towns during their visit.
With its collection of classical, impressionist paintings, the Clark is quite the contrast to MASS MoCA but no less exciting in terms of the experience.
Established by Sterline and Francine Clark to house their extensive art collection, the museum formally opened its doors to the public in 1955.
Today, the Clark Institute is one of the leading centers for research and discussion focusing on art and art history.
In addition, among the museums, it has one of the best and well maintained outdoor spaces.
This includes hiking trails, with outdoor works of art, cow pastures and fields with picnic tables.
Inside the museum, you will primarily find art collections from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century, along with ongoing visiting exhibits.
Some of the noteworthy collections in the museum include French Impressionist paintings, including works by Renoir and Gauguin, British oil sketches, drawings, and silver, and the work of American artists Winslow Homer, George Inness, and John Singer Sargent.
The Clark Institute also houses an extensive collection of American decorative art and British drawings, paintings and prints.
The museum has an on-site cafe too.
Clark Institute Address
225 South Street Williamstown, MA 01267
Google Maps Location
Admission to the museum is $20 for adults, free for students and under 21 year olds.
See admission hours and buy tickets here.
Interested in exploring Williamstown further? Here are some fun things to do in the town!
Located in Pittsfield, MA, The Berkshire Museum focused on art, science, natural history and ancient civilizations.
This small museum is a must-visit if you have a little one in tow.
Spanning three floors, and a collection of 40,000+ objects, the museum offers an enriching space to spark the curiosity of young minds.
The museum’s wide collection includes fossils, a 143 pound meteorite, an Egyptian mummy, shards of Babylonian cuneiform tablets, early Mediterranean jewelry and much more.
One of the biggest attractions in the Berkshire Museum is their aquarium and reptile room on the ground floor.
The aquarium includes tropical fish, snakes, turtles, geckos, amphibians and more.
On the first floor, The Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation has a large interactive exhibit featuring innovators from the Berkshires who have transformed the world.
The entire experience is elevated with the inclusion of historic artifacts, videos and more!
The Animals of the World in Miniature, a series of 14 miniature ecosystems, created by sculptor Louis Paul Jonas is another visitor favorite.
Another interesting attraction in the museum, The Berkshire Backyard includes preserved specimens of creatures from the region.
One of the museum’s latest displays, titled ‘Objects and Their Stories’, includes a rotating mix of objects that reveal how people, ideas and innovations have influenced the world.
If you’re planning to take little ones, a visit to the Berkshire Museum can be a half day affair.
39 South St, Pittsfield, MA 01201
Google Maps Location
Entry is $15/adults and $8/kids aged four and above.
Hancock Shaker Village
The Shaker community originated in Manchester, England.
They arrived in America towards the end of the 17th century and were considered one of the most intriguing religious movements in the United States.
The Berkshires happens to be home to one of the oldest and comprehensively interpreted Shaker sites.
Located in Pittsfield MA, on a 750-acre site, the Hancock Shaker Village is a working farm, museum and architectural marvel striving to preserve the history of the Shaker community.
It was built in 1910 and its current campus of twenty buildings preserves its rich heritage of craft, workmanship, agriculture, architecture and more.
Farming is at the core of the Shaker community.
The working farm in Hancock Shaker Village continues to practice the same farming techniques that were introduced by this community.
The village provides several opportunities for visitors to be involved with their farming programs.
From offering programs for children, to practicing regenerative agriculture, seed planting sessions, guided tours – farm lovers have a lot to learn at Hancock Shaker Village.
There’s a lot for children to explore inside the village too.
Starting with a children’s Discovery Barn, gardens, animals in the farm to craft demonstrations, there are several immersive experiences for kids of all ages.
The extensive museum collection includes over 22,000 objects of Shaker artifacts in categories such as furniture, textiles, art, household objects, tools and commercial graphics.
Summers are a great time to visit Hancock Shaker Village.
Starting in July, the museum hosts Friday night concerts under the stars
1843 West Housatonic St.
Pittsfield MA, 01201
Google Maps Location
The Village is open from April through December. Entry fee: $20/adult, $8/youth.
Arrowhead – Herman Melville’s home
New York Born American Renaissance author and poet Herman Melville also had a connection to the Berkshires.
Melville lived in Pittsfield, MA for a period of thirteen years.
The beauty of the region, coupled with the inspiring company of fellow Berkshire residents and authors, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Nathaniel Hawthorne, had a deep impact on him.
Melville named his home Arrowhead.
It is here that he wrote four novels, a collection of short stories and magazine pieces.
Some of his most noteworthy novels, Moby Dick and Pierre, were written during his time in the Berkshires.
Today, Melville’s home is owned by the Berkshire County Historical Society, an organization that has been dedicated towards preserving the legacy of Arrowhead.
The Society also hosts literary events, including an annual Moby-Dick Read-A-Thon.
Arrowhead is open from Memorial to Columbus Day for visits.
Melville named the home Arrowhead after the native artifacts he found in the fields while farming.
While you are here, be sure to join a 45 minute house tour to explore the historic rooms, starting at the historic barn, then into the house, ending in Melville’s study.
If you enjoy the outdoors, step outside and spend time on the grounds. Here, you can also walk through Arrowhead’s nature trail.
780 Holmes Road in Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Google Maps Location
Parking and admission to Arrowhead are free all year round. Tours cost $16/adults and $10/students.
Williams College Museum of Art
Located alongside some of the best museums in the region, the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) is a hidden gem worth including in your Berkshires bucket list.
This college affiliated museum is situated on the campus of Williams College in downtown Williamstown.
Here in the museum, you can find a collection of over 15,000 paintings, photographs, and ancient objects.
Like Mass MoCA, the museum leans towards creating dynamic experiences through art.
Some of the highlights of the museum include works by African-American artists, women artists and ancient international art.
These include Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Nigerian, and Mayan artifacts.
One of the most attractive elements of the museum are the sculptures and installations that can be found across the college campus and at Field Farm.
In addition, WCMA has the largest collection of works by avant garde artists, Maurice and Charles Prendergasts, who grew up in Boston. .
Another highlight of the museum is the WALLS (Williams Art Loan for Living Spaces) collection.
Designed by students, these128 works of art are placed in student dorm rooms each year.
Due to its location in an educational institution, the Williams College Museum of Art also houses various collaborative spaces for students, teachers and art researchers to convene.
Williams College Museum of Art is open to the public Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
15 Lawrence Hall Drive
Williamstown, MA 01267
Google Maps Location
Admission is free.
Enjoying this post? Here are ideas on 20+ superb things to do in the Berkshires.
BERKSHIRE ART MUSEUM
With the presence of Mass MoCA and the Clark Art Institute in nearby Williamstown, North Adams has turned into a mini art haven in the Berkshires.
The Berkshire Art Museum is another unique addition to the town’s art and cultural landscape.
Located across the street from the North Adam’s Public library, the museum was established by the Barbara and Eric Rudd Art Foundation and it opened its doors to the public in 2014.
The small museum is spread over two buildings, one of which is a former church.
The museum primarily features contemporary, eclectic artwork by Eric Rudd, which makes up its permanent collection.
In addition, the Berkshire Art Museum also showcases artwork and sculptures by other artists from the region, who incorporate material such as wood, plastic, clay, metal etc.
The museum is open from June-August from Wednesdays to Sundays and on weekends during September and October.
159 East Main Street,
North Adams, Massachusetts 01247,
Google Maps Location
Admission to the Berkshire Art Museum is $5 for adults and $3 for 6-12 year old children
Free for Berkshire county residents
Norman Rockwell Museum
Celebrated American painter Norman Rockwell was among the artists that made New England their home.
Born in New York, Rockwell moved first to Vermont and later to Stockbridge Massachusetts in the 1950’s.
He lived in Stockbridge for 25 years, and his studio was converted to the Norman Rockwell Museum in 1969.
The 36-acre museum is dedicated towards preserving and studying Rockwell’s works.
Rockwell, who was most known for illustrating the Saturday Evening Post covers for 47 years, produced countless pieces of artwork that brought humor and positivity to the country during the challenging times of the World Wars and The Great Depression.
Inside the museum, you can see 574 original paintings and drawings by the artist.
Also available for viewing are over 100,000 items related to Rockwell including his library, personal items, art materials, fan mail and photographs.
The museum also preserves Rockwell’s last studio, which was actually cut into two and transported to the museum grounds!
Aside from Rockwell’s works, you can also view rotating exhibits of works by other illustrators and artists that are on display.
Outdoor enthusiasts will be delighted to see sculptures, nature trails, fields, and gardens on the property as well.
9 Glendale Rd / Rte 183
Stockbridge , MA 01262
Google Map Location
Ventfort Hall & Gilded Age Museum
The beauty and culture of the Berkshires attracted not just literary authors and artists, but several affluent families on the East Coast as well.
The Ventfort Hall & Gilded Age Museum, built in the 19th century, was the home of one such affluent family!
Often referred to as “one of the most beautiful places in Lenox”, the house belonged to Sarah Morgan who was the sister of J.P. Morgan, among the most well known investment bankers in the country!
Designed by Boston based architectural firm, Rotch & Tilden, this Jacobean style house had 28 rooms and 28,000 square feet of living space!
Ventfort Hall’s exquisite woodworking is still on display in the house, which is carefully being restored in the present.
The museum hosts several events, lectures and interesting tours to educate travelers about the fascinating Gilded Age.
Join one of the museum’s guided tours to make the most out of your visit.
104 Walker St
Lenox, MA 01240
Google Maps Location
Tours cost $18/per adult.
MORE on the Berkshires: Check out these fabulous things to do in the Lenox.
Daniel Chester French is another New England resident and renowned sculptor who was captivated by the beauty of the Berkshires.
French was born in New Hampshire, lived in New York, but spent six months each year in his summer home on a farmstead in Stockbridge, MA.
Known for creating the Minute Man statue at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts and the Abraham Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.,French produced more than 100 pieces of public sculptures.
French named his summer home Chesterwood, which provided striking views of the nearby Monument Mountains..
Over the years, he added a studio, formal gardens and additional workspaces and structures to the property.
After his passing, the property was maintained by his daughter who was responsible for converting the home to a public site.
The museum provides a rich insight into the life and works of Daniel French.
Inside, you will be able to see how French created his sculptures. You can also see the casting of the Lincoln statue and several of his original works.
Chesterwood’s formal outdoor gardens are exceptionally maintained, and that is why a visit in any weather can be quite delightful.
The history, the museum, and outdoor space make Chesterwood a must visit place in the Berkshires.
For an enriching experience, join one of the museum’s themed guided tours.
4 Williamsville Rd,
Stockbridge, MA 01262,
Google Maps Location
Adults – $20
Children under 13 – Free
Plan your visit and book tickets.
Crane Museum of Papermaking
At the time of writing this article, Crane Museum is temporarily closed. Check their website for the most recent announcements about opening dates.
Ever wondered how the paper of the dollar bills that you often use are made?
Located in Dalton, MA, the Crane Museum of Papermaking is actually one of the oldest museums in the country.
The original museum dates back to 1884 inside a saw mill.
This interesting museum is an educational and interactive family friendly activity for all ages.
Here you will learn all about currency and stationary paper making, its composition, the security features embedded in them and so much more.
Besides that, your time there will be all the more engaging because of the opportunity to make paper and do crafts.
The museum offers guided tours which guests seem to thoroughly enjoy!
32 Pioneer Street
Google Maps Location
Admission is free. Donations are accepted.
Plan your trip to the Berkshires
The Berkshires are located strategically between New York and Massachusetts, along the highlands of Western Massachusetts.
Driving is the best way to get to the Berkshires. Click here to find the best deals on car rentals near you.
To explore the Berkshires region, you will need a car.
The drive within the entire Berkshires region takes about 1.5 hours.
How to reach Berkshires MA from New Jersey, New York City, or Long Island areas:
- Drive north to I-87 North to I-90 East to Exit 2 (Lee, MA)
From Taconic State Parkway
- to reach Northern Berkshires (North Adams, Williamstown area) take Route 295 East to 41 North to 20 East to 7 North
- to reach Central Berkshires (around Pittsfield, Dalton, Lanesborough) take Route 295 East to 41 North to 20 East
- to reach Southern Berkshires (Lenox, Great Barrington, Stockbridge) take Route 23 East
How to reach Berkshires, MA from the Albany, NY area
- to reach northern and central Berkshires (North Adams, Williamstown, Pittsfield) follow I-90 East (MASS Pike) then take Exit 11 (Nassau, NY) to Route 20 East
- to reach southern Berkshires (Lenox, Stockbridge, Great Barrington) take Exit 2 (Lee, MA)
How to reach Berkshires, MA from from the Hartford, CT area
- follow I-91 North to I-90 West to Exit 2 (Lee, MA)
How to reach Berkshires, MA from Western CT areas
- follow either Route 7 or 8 North
How to reach Berkshires, MA from Eastern MA area
- to northern and central Berkshires (North Adams, Williamstown, Pittsfield) follow I-90 West (MASS Pike) to Exit 2 (Lee, MA)
- to southern Berkshires (Lenox, Stockbridge, Great Barrington) follow I-90 West (MASS Pike) toExit 1 (West Stockbridge, MA)
Unfortunately, there are no commercial airlines that fly directly into Western MA. The nearest airports to the region are up north in Albany, NY and in Hartford, CT.
If you’re looking to travel by train, Amtrak offers services between Boston and Pittsfield and often introduces summer specials from New York to Pittsfield as well.
Where to stay in Berkshires
The countryside setting, stunning vistas and cultural attractions make Berkshires an irresistible vacation destination.
Whether you’re planning a family friendly itinerary or are traveling solo, there are plenty of accommodation options in the region to choose from.
Here are some top notch stay suggestions in northern, central and southern Berkshires.
Located across the street from Mass MoCA, the vibrant Porches Inn is a good stay option for a visit to the museums in the North Adams and Williamstown area.
The bright colored rooms are decorated in retro style furnishings and the inn offers on-site exhibitions.
It also includes an outdoor pool and a heated pool deck.
Guests in particular have enjoyed the breakfast.
You can choose from a suite, a king room or a queen room.
Looking for a cozy accommodation option in a comfortable peaceful setting?
Don’t look beyond Maple Terrace Motel, which comes highly reviewed by guests for its well maintained 3-acre property, and courteous hospitality.
Guests have loved the beautiful gardens in this property.
Rooms include all standard amenities, and the room rate includes a continental breakfast.
Room categories include queen and double queen beds.
With well decorated industrial chic rooms and supreme attention to detail, Hotel on North has been winning the hearts of guests who have stayed here.
Located in Pittsfield, MA in a great location, guests have loved its comfortable beds the most.
The hotel offers family rooms, breakfast and daily housekeeping.
Located in the vicinity of Hancock Shaker Village, Berkshire Museum and Arrowhead, the Best Western Plus Berkshire Hills Inn & Suites in Pittsfield is a great option for budget conscious travelers.
Guests have appreciated the comfortable, spacious rooms with free parking, breakfast and hydro massage tubs.
The hotel includes multiple room categories.
A historic hotel, and an institution in itself, the Red Lion Inn is a fabulous place to stay in if you’re looking to visit the Norman Rockwell Museum, Ventfort Hall and Chesterwood Museum.
Guests thoroughly love the old world charm, artwork and antique furniture that has been tastefully included in the interiors.
The Red Lion Inn has multiple dining and room options, beautiful gardens, a year round outdoor pool. Reserve your room well in advance!
Located a short distance away from downtown Lenox, the Hampton Inn has been well rated for its cleanliness, comfortable rooms and breakfast.
Guests have appreciated the Inn’s location and accessibility and exceptional service.
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