Massachusetts’ smallest city is going through a revival. A milltown for generations at the foot of the state’s highest peak has grown gradually into the home of the country’s largest contemporary art museum.

Mass MoCA opened in the old Sprague Electric mill complex 20 years ago, and the museum has kept on expanding in art and performance, until it brings tens of thousands of people to Wilco’s Solid Sound festival every other year in June, and the FreshGrass folk festival in September and contemporary music with Bang on a Can in July.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts holds its own concerts and art exhibits throughout the downtown and partnerships with creative nonprofits up and down the county. And the community is joining in.

Entrepreneurs and artists are re-inventing the mills. The Norad Mill has become a marketplace of local shops and studios. The Eclipse Mill houses sunlit artists lofts, with a gallery and bookstore, and along Route 2 GreylockWorks holds artisan markets and community dance parties.

Outside of downtown, the mountains draw people in. Hikers climb the Appalachian Trail and up Mount Greylock to the WPA lodge and the lighthouse at the summit. And train enthusiasts come to admire the Hoosac Tunnel and ride the historic railway, and look north to Adams and the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.

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Up at Brewhaha, Barry Garton smiles when he hears about the farm-to-table movement as a new phenomenon, because he has been cooking that way since the 1970s — local and homestyle, with fair trade coffee, soups and omelettes and his signature muffins — pumpkin chip, chocolate banana and more.



The Hoosic River Watershed association is a group of local people who want to restore and conserve the river and bring people to enjoy it — paddling, biking and wandering along the bank or soaking your feet as you watch a migrating solitary sandpiper at the water’s edge.



National and international figures come to visit the students at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, ranked in the top 10 public colleges in U.S. News and World Report and appears in U.S. News’ list of Top National Liberal Arts colleges.


Public Eat + Drink

Public Eat + Drink is the kind of place that has purple potato chips on the menu, and homemade ice cream sandwiches — and local hamburgers so thick they can last for two meals. It’s the kind of place that will be crowded to spilling over at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday in a soaking rain. The word has gotten out.


Tunnel City Coffee

A college hangout and an anchor on Spring Street for decades, Tunnel City roasts its own coffee and has a loyal following for its house blend — its roastery has recently moved to the renovated Norad Mill in North Adams. It is more bakery than cafe, known for treats like chocolate cheesecake, fruit tarts and linzer hearts.