You can sit back over cheese fondue or ham and cornichons on a baguette with butter. This milltown along the Housatonic River has a long connection to New York and one of the strongest concentrations of restaurants and small local shops in any Berkshire community.

You can wander among second-hand books and vintage clothing. On a crisp fall morning, you can share a home-made doughnut with apple filling and a locally roasted cup of coffee, or Thai noodle soup and steamed buns.

Bard College at Simon’s Rock adds to the cultural weave of the community, holding talks and performances and art year-round, along with downtown venues like the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center and St. James Place. The town has fed creative life since long before Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne met on a hike up Monument Mountain.

W.E.B. DuBois was born and raised here, and he found sources of strength on the Housatonic. Today you can walk a path to his homesite and find his thoughts in the DuBois Center, in the rare bookstore near the cemetery where he buried his wife and young son — or join a tribute in a garden along the River Walk and keep the rhythm of a spiritual and a talking drum.

Great Barrington

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Courtesy of Vishten

Guthrie Center

You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant — even an evening of music with the Guthrie family. The church that made folk music history 50 years ago in Arlo Guthrie’s hit song is now a community center and the site of an annual folk music series in the summers.

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Trumpets / Courtesy photo

Mahaiwe

The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center brings music to the Berkshires year-round, and dance, film, comedy and theater as well, in a restored 1905 concert hall and cinema.

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Photo by Kate Abbott

Prairie Whale

Mark Firth was a restauranteur in Brooklyn before he came to the Berkshires. Out here he has raised his own pigs for his own kitchen — he named his new venture for them: A ‘Prairie Whale’ is a hog. He also turns to local farms for fruits and vegetables and meats.

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Pleasant and Main / Photo by Kate Abbott

Pleasant and Main

Pleasant and Main looks like a cafe grown in an antique shop, in its quiet corner of Housatonic, and its menu is bright and unexpected. Plate-sized pancakes with cherries, eggs Florentine, country fare with a European undertone.

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Photo by Kate Abbott

Steam Noodle Cafe

Steam Cafe is a cheerful place, and the menu is pure comfort food — soups and dumplings, steamed buns, spring rolls. A bowl of Thai noodle soup comes in a generous portion, ample for many meals, mild on the spice and rich with chicken and vegetables.

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Photo by Susan Geller

Southern Berkshire

The Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce covers a lot of ground. It is based in Great Barrington, known in the Berkshires for its concentration of shops and restaurants, and it has expanded to serve the towns around it.

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Cello / Cody Molica

Close Encounters

Close to 30 years ago, cellist Yehuda Hanani began presenting chamber concerts with conversation on a theme. The form was new then — it has become common now. And over the years, Hanani has created concerts with musicians and themes around the world as artistic director of Close Encounters with Music.

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