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.

North Adams

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Mass MoCA / Photo by Kaelan Burkett / Mass MoCA

Mass MoCA

Mass MoCA is now the largest contemporary art museum in the country, and one of the largest on the planet. Artists from across the U.S. and the world have come to show their work in a former mill North Adams along the Hoosic River.

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Photo by Kate Abbott

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 — it roasts its own blends locally in the renovated Norad Mill in North Adams.

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Photo by Kate Abbott

Norad Mill

Moresi & Associates has drawn more than 40 local businesses to the renovated Norad Mill — artists and artisans, coffee and local wines, vintage records, yarn shops and even rocks and minerals.

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Courtesy of the Berkshire Scenic Railway

Hoosac Valley Line

On weekends, Berkshire Scenic Railway runs hour-long, round-trip historic train rides between Adams and North Adams, and local volunteers tell the story of trains in the mountains.

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Photo by Kate Abbott

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.

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Brewhaha

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.

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Nikki Giovanni / MCLA

MCLA

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.

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Photo by by Stephen D. Strowes

HiLo North Adams

HiLo is a live music venue along the Hoosic River, just east of downtown. A couple of North Adams entrepreneurs have quietly turned the former Quinn’s paint store into an informal stage for comedy, folk and acousitc music, rock and R&B and more.

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Photo by Kate Abbott

HooRWA

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.

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Courtesy photo by Sam Whited

North Berkshire dance

Contra and square dancing is a living New England tradition, as casual as dancing barefoot in the kitchen on a summer night. The North Berkshire Community Dance holds a monthly dance on second Saturdays at the Williamstown Community Preschool, with live music.

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