On an early morning in late April, I got into my car bound for the Berkshires, a collection of towns in western Massachusetts at the base of the mountain range that shares its name. The Berkshires border both New York and Connecticut. Populated with farm stands, restaurants, wool shops, museums, idyllic walking trails, and Colonial-style Main Streets, it’s a world away from Long Island—and only a four-hour drive.
My first stop was in Sheffield, Massachusetts, at Berkshire Mountain Distillers, where I sat down with distiller Michael Sharry for a brief tour of the property and a tasting among the stills. The distillery opened in 2007 and creates a line of compelling spirits, the most recent of which is a collaborative project between them and local breweries. From the Craft Brewers Whiskey Project—each product is a distillation of a craft beer—one standout is the recently released UFO White, a citrus-forward, light, aromatic whiskey that proved an excellent coda to a morning on the move.
Just down the road, on the Great Barrington border, I spied a line snaked around a casual-looking restaurant. I had to stop at The Bistro Box, a seasonal burger spot with a loyal following, which had recently opened for the season. I ordered a burger (sustainable meat, smashed a little and served on a brioche bun), but also a plate of half dollar-sized fried pickles, an amethyst-hued blueberry lemonade, and the so-called vegetable spring rolls, two six inch-long tubes stuffed with chewy shiitake mushrooms and cabbage. I’d return for those alone.
It wasn’t my intention to roll in, burger-heavy, to Miraval Berkshires, the all-inclusive spa in Lenox, Massachusetts where I’d be spending two nights. Miraval opened in July of 2020, the most recent in a trio of spa resorts under the brand’s label (Miraval is also owned by Hyatt). Each day, a schedule instructs guests as to which activities might be of interest. The property’s immersive spa features treatment rooms, but also bespoke spaces that are open to guests without booked treatments. The women’s relaxation room features a massive floating fireplace in its center, while an indoor-outdoor pool, kept at around 90 degrees, welcomes reflection-minded guests until nine each evening.
Unlike entrenched spa culture, in which included foods are designed not for pleasure but for necessity, Miraval approaches dining with passion. Some of the courses offered at the resort include Bloody Mary-making (with cocktails included), cake decorating (take home your tiny cake at the end), and the history of coffee. But I scored the most desirable culinary class of all, one called East Coast Oysters & Bubbles. There, instructor Nick Grimaldi offered a brief intro to the world of oysters, followed by a lesson in shucking and a pairing of three sparklers: Prosecco, rosé Prosecco, and a shimmering glass of Veuve Clicquot. The most agrarian of guests can partake, too, in chicken keeping, beekeeping, mycology, and even low-key foraging.
For dinner, I sat in the resort’s Life Balance Kitchen—a learning kitchen where chef Adrian Bennett holds classes and dinners—with nine other diners for a program called Just Cook for Me. A pear-parsnip soup, amplified by coriander oil, preceded a dish of “spaghetti and meatballs”: spiralized yellow squash and quinoa-hemp heart meatballs, served under a fresh pomodoro sauce. But this was not a feast fit only for vegan diners; a stunning culotte of steak arrived next, bathed in a ruby red cherry demi-glace and atop a celeriac puree. For dessert? Tiny chocolate-chai cakes, with homemade vanilla ice cream.
Miraval is, in a sense, a self-contained version of the Berkshires. You don’t have to leave—but you definitely should. I woke up early the next morning and said goodbye to the resort to head into Stockbridge, a tiny town not 10 minutes down Route 7. Stockbridge is home to the Norman Rockwell Museum, proprietor of the largest private collection of the artist’s work. It’s also home to a collection of quaint stores and restaurants, and one superlative bakery, The Lost Lamb, where I procured a buttercream frosting-dressed slice of carrot cake for breakfast. (Ten minutes before the bakery opened, a line formed outside in anticipatory glee.)
I made a necessary pilgrimage, too, to Guido’s Marketplace, a store with outposts in both Pittsfield and Great Barrington. Like the Fairways of my youth, Guido’s offers an abundance of anything you could possibly want, including locally sourced products, organic and sustainable foods, and hot slices of homemade pizza. I took home a tub of Ronnybrook garlic butter, made just across the border in Ancramdale, New York, as well as the store’s own tapenade. Back in Lenox, a treasure trove of finds unspooled before me at the Route 7 Trading Post, a destination for collectors. There, I passed up a cerulean Wedgewood plate from the 1970s ($12), and went, instead, for the wood and ceramic cheese board with glass cloche ($24).
The late afternoon light in Lenox pulsed through April’s chartreuse growth. I met up with a small group from Miraval for a hike in the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, a 1,142-acre preserve that is home to a network of walking trails. The property is owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society and many human activities—swimming, biking, running, walking dogs—are prohibited, giving nature an opportunity to flex her muscles. It was no wonder, then, that on the 1.5-mile trek I saw everything from garter snakes to wild ramps to coyote scat to a towering beaver lodge.
To visit the sanctuary, you don’t have to be part of a hotel group (though there’s an added benefit to having a tour guide like Leon, who was mine, and who was able to point out moments I may have missed). The seven miles of hiking trails are accessible to Massachusetts residents for free, and to visitors for a $5 fee.
On the way home the next day, I meandered into Great Barrington one last time. Rubiner’s, a cheese shop and specialty foods store that opened in 2004, holds court on Main Street. Inside, a magic world of cheese, charcuterie, jams, jellies, pickles, pastas, and candies awaits. I discovered a glass jar filled with individually wrapped La Maison Guimauve marshmallows, ropes of confection in lemon, raspberry, and blueberry that I tucked away for the ride home.
It turns out I wouldn’t even need them to get me through. A late lunch at STEAM Noodle Café, a hidden gem within the Barrington Town Atrium—light-as-air steamed buns, bottom-crisped gyoza, pork tonkotsu ramen with chewy fresh noodles—took the edge off of the winding drive home.
If You Go:
This all-inclusive property offers a wish list for the wellness-minded, including ropes courses, equestrian experiences, culinary classes, meditation spaces, and world-class food. Rates vary depending on time of year and are per person, per night, inclusive of food and drink.
To Eat and Drink
This casual dining destination in Great Barrington serves everything from fried chicken to pig head rillettes to rib-eyes with lobster sauce. Owner Mark Firth and his wife, Bettina, are also the visionaries behind Brooklyn’s Marlow & Sons. The schedule changes depending on the season.
Taste through a line of superlative craft spirits at this Sheffield destination, which is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A slim menu of dumplings, buns, soups, and noodle dishes is available from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thursdays through Mondays. Menus and ordering information available at www.steam.restaurant.
This seasonal burger joint draws a crowd. Enjoy burgers, locally sourced hot dogs, sandwiches, hand-cut fries, and Maple Valley Creamery ice creams from the picnic benches that surround the restaurant.
Cupcakes, cakes, macarons, baguettes, and homemade sandwiches are the name of the game at this petite Stockbridge bakery.
Home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood is the premier performance venue in Western Massachusetts. Tickets to upcoming performances are available online, at bso.org.
Buy timed tickets online to visit this comprehensive museum, which dives into the world of American illustration.
Day packages at Miraval Berkshires’ spa include a 60-minute relaxation massage or facial, along with access to the relaxation rooms and indoor/outdoor pool, a tote bag and water bottle, lunch at the property’s main restaurant, and complimentary smoothies and coffee drinks. Rates begin at $349 for a summer mid-week day visit.
Author Edith Wharton’s 1902 home offers a magical visit for those passing through Lenox, regardless of the season. Tickets are available online.
With seven miles of hiking trails, this sanctuary has a little something for everyone—including an unparalleled view of a massive beaver lodge.
Route 7 Trading Post
There’s something for everyone at this delightful antique shop in Lenox, including furniture, books, and even the occasional cheese board. 55 Pittsfield Road, Lenox, Massachusetts.
Visit an outpost in either Pittsfield or Great Barrington for a fully stocked shopping experience. The store offers a full range of local products. They also sell wine.
Cheese is the name of the game at this hallowed Great Barrington space. The store also sells a comprehensive selection of natural wines.
You’ll find old-fashioned candy, of-the-place gifts, and endless enjoyment in this decidedly antique Stockbridge spot.