New England summer travel in Massachusetts
Whether you want to kayak in the ocean, zip down a mountain, or just cozy up in a rocking chair on a country porch, your vacation is waiting at one of these destinations.
WHY GO Few folks in Becket will celebrate the mentioning of their community in a travel issue. They don’t mind you coming over the town line for a performance at the renowned Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, as long as you scurry back to your B & B in Lenox and spend the remainder of your nights at Tanglewood. They know too well that if you get to know this quiet hideaway nestled in the Berkshire Hills, swimming and sailing the lakes, checking out the innovative mixed-media exhibits featuring regional artists at the Becket Arts Center, and listening to the folksy-bluesy sounds of the band Milton and other live music in the cozy Dream Away Lodge, you’ll want to extend your stay, and they like having their quiet town to themselves.
THE BASICS Contact realtor Ann Spadafora (413-623-5000) and rent a house, preferably on the shores of one of the larger bodies of water, like Center Pond, where you can find a two-bedroom home from $1,000 for a midsummer week. The mix of world food at The Dream Away Lodge (413-623-8725, http://www.thedreamawaylodge.com) includes exotic fare but also the good ol’ American burger. Another good choice for a meal is the Kushi Institute (800-975-8744, http://www.kushiinstitute.org), a salubrious retreat that serves a macrobiotic dinner nightly.
DON’T MISS Grab some picnic food at the Becket General Store and head over to Jacob’s Pillow (413-243-0745, http://www.jacobspillow.org) for one of its free Inside/Out stage performances, Wednesday through Saturday at 6:15 p.m. for a 45-minute show. And what a stage it is – nothing more than a rectangular dance floor backed by maples and glorious views of the surrounding mountains. Then stay for the main event, which this summer includes a 30th anniversary fete of the Mark Morris Dance Group (August 24-28) and the American debut of 3e Etage: Soloists and Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet (August 3-7).
WHY GO Don’t make the mistake of driving past Eastham in a rush to get to Wellfleet and Provincetown. If you just exit off Route 6, you’ll find everything you need in a Cape Cod retreat. This historic settlement is home to a sublime stretch of the Cape Cod National Seashore, including Coast Guard and Nauset Light beaches, where the rolling dunes serve as a soft welcome mat for the steady surf. If you prefer fresh water to saltwater, cool off in Great Pond after biking on the nearby Cape Cod Rail Trail. Or tour a lighthouse or two, then dine at one of the Cape’s beloved lobster shacks.
THE BASICS Near the Cape Cod Rail Trail on a quiet country road is the 16-room Whalewalk Inn & Spa (800-440-1281, http://www.whalewalkinn.com; from $220). Captain Ahab might frown upon the deep-tissue and hot-stone massages being offered at this former home of a whaler. Located on Route 6, Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar (508-255-2575,http://www.arnoldsrestaurant.com) is hard to miss. Stand in the long line – most days it’s out the door – and order from its vast selection of freshly caught seafood, including lobster, clams, and scallops. Follow your meal with a game of miniature golf, also on the premises.
DON’T MISS The Fort Hill Trail, in the Cape Cod National Seashore, begins when you walk under the arched jawbone of a whale on the path leading toward the onetime home of Captain Edward Penniman. Climbing the ranks of the whaling profession in the mid-19th century, Penniman earned a fortune in whale oil. Walk around the house and up a hill to find sweeping views of Nauset Marsh. Then head inland on the Red Maple Swamp Trail, where a boardwalk crosses the murky swamp under the shade of tall red maples. This tranquil locale feels a world away from the crowded beaches.
Mount Greylock State Reservation
WHY GO Get above it all to the highest spot in Massachusetts for a few days of hiking in the mountain air. When Henry David Thoreau climbed Mount Greylock in 1844, it was covered with woodlots and farms, and he claimed to have “slept comfortably” protected by a pile of lumber at the summit. Today, forest has reclaimed the mountain, and hikers can find more civilized summit bed and board. More than 70 miles of hiking trails crisscross the slopes, and rangers can advise about the best hikes for panoramic views, waterfalls, wildflowers, and even finding wild blueberries. Rangers also lead hikes and offer a number of naturalist programs, which have included identifying medicinal plants or studying butterfly behavior.
THE BASICS Stay at Bascom Lodge (413-743-1591, http://www.bascomlodge.net; bunks $35, private rooms from $125), a way station on the Appalachian Trail constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The rugged outpost, which began an ongoing restoration in 2009, was constructed of red spruce and oak logged on the mountain and Greylock schist. Equipped with two coed bunk rooms as well as private accommodations, the lodge can sleep up to 34. Continental breakfast is included in the rates, and the lodge also offers soups, salads, and sandwiches at lunch, as well as sit-down dinners by reservation in the evening. Hearty three-course fixed price menus ($28 or so) are meant for hikers who have worked up an appetite, and a vegetarian option is always offered. Wednesday dinners are often preceded by talks on nature and culture.
DON’T MISS Climb the 92-foot Veterans War Memorial Tower at the mountain’s summit for views that can reach 90 miles on a clear day. At sunset, the dying light seems to bubble up from behind the looming ridgeline of the Catskill Mountains.
– P.H. and D.L.
WHY GO An almost shadowless seaside sunlight has lured painters to this spit of land ever since Charles Webster Hawthorne founded the then Cape Cod School of Art here in 1899. Whether it’s the curl of hollyhocks against weathered shingles, the simple line of an endless beach, the colored patchwork of fishing boats at anchor, or the effusive leafiness of a village lane, a painting presents itself wherever the eye can frame. Channel the spirit of a century of artists by studying plein-air painting through the Provincetown Art Association and Museum School (508-487-1750, http://www.paam.org; classes $100 to $450). After a several-year absence, famed teacher Lois Griffel returns this summer to teach her Impressionist style.
THE BASICS Stay at the Somerset House Inn Bed and Breakfast (800-575-1850, http://www.somersethouseinn.com; from $119 in June, from $159 July and August), where the gallery district meets the center of town, or on the West End at Chateau Provincetown (508-487-1286, http://www.chateauptown.com; from $150 in June, from $250 July and August), a motel on mature landscaped grounds removed from the town hubbub. Once the light falls, go in for a pint and conversation at the Squealing Pig Pub & Oyster Bar (508-487-5804, http://www.squealingpigptown.com) or dive into Cape Cod seafood with an Italian accent at Dalla Cucina (508-487-5404, http://www.dallacucinaptown.com).
DON’T MISS The Friday evening gallery crawl comes complete with wine, cheese, and pickup lines. Hopping from one opening to another is the best way to see what (and who) is happening in the local scene – art and otherwise. The Schoolhouse Gallery (508-487-4800, http://www.schoolhouseprovincetown.com) occupies the last of three schools built in 1844 to consolidate P-town’s earlier one-room schoolhouses. History is on the walls at both locations of the Julie Heller Gallery (508-487-2169, http://www.juliehellergallery.com), which feature rising stars of P-town painting, as well as such historic Cape luminaries as Charles Hawthorne and Milton Avery.
– P.H. and D.L.