Looking for live music on Friday night? Maybe you want to tap into the energy and community downtown. Maybe you want to hang out with a friend and share Chingon tacos out in the courtyard Mass MoCA.

Our towns have a new energy growing, even in the changing ground since the pandemic — sometimes more because of it. On a Friday night I can wander into the Bookstore or the Bear and Bee Bookshop, Wild Soul River of the Berkshire Co-op … and wind up talking with the owners about pinhole cameras and world travel and rewilding the Hoosic River.

We share a sense of knowing who lives around us, like a neural network or an ecosystem. Walking home I see the folks who run the tea shop around the corner. They’re sitting on the steps on a summer night and talking with a friend in a well-loved local blues band, and I’ve heard her singing in the courtyard at WCMA, riffing on Don’t thing twice — it’s all right with an ironic mischief that turns that understatement into confidence.

What if ‘small town’ can mean ‘close enough to know each other’? We live here because we want to live in the country, we want earth under our feet — and we want to think. Stretch out and lean back, sit on the steps and talk.

New Orleans jazz and blues vocalist Samirah Evans, visiting artist at Williams College, performs with the late saxophonist Charles Neville — both nationally reknowned musicians who live and lived in the Berkshires. Photo courtesy of Pittsfield CityJazz. And children run on the shore of Onota Lake – Photo by Susan Geller.
Photo by Kate Abbott


Williamstown is a college town. Up in the Northwest corner of Massachusetts, where New York meets Vermont, Williams College is consistantly ranked as the best liberal arts college in the country. The town around it is a quiet country place, and it touches many parts of the world.

Courtesy of Mass MoCA

North Adams

Massachusetts’ smallest city is going through a revival. It hits home when I walk into Tunnel City Coffee or the Bear and Bee Bookshop and wind up talking about speculative fiction and how to revive the Hoosic River …

Photo by Kate Abbott

Local Shops

When I am searching for gifts, I want to be out in bookstores and greenhouses and barns full of chocolate molds … Local shops are adapting in the pandemic, and I’ll let you know what I’m seeing.

Photo by Susan Geller


The Berkshires’ central city has transformed in the last 10 years, with theater and music, film and historic museums, and food from many traditions. Downtown festivals fill the main streets, and new plays open here and move on to New York.

Photo by Kate Abbott


Stockbridge began its life as a Mohican township and has become home to creative and courageous people for centuries, from Elizabeth Freeman — the woman who won her freedom and proved slavery illegal in the new state of Massachusetts — to Norman Rockwell.

Great Barrington / Photo by Kate Abbott

Great Barrington

This former milltown along the Housatonic River has a long connection to New York City and one of the strongest concentrations of restaurants and small local shops in the Berkshires. Bard College at Simon’s Rock adds to the cultural weave of the community, and W.E.B. DuBois was born and raised here.

Photo by Christopher Duggan


Up in the hills in the southeast corner of the Berkshires, Becket has a town center you can drive through in a blink — but there are cultural centers up here that reach around the world.

BTW Berkshires