Massachusetts

Things to Do in North Adams, Massachusetts | A Weekend of Art

Looking for things to do in North Adams, MA? The Berkshires town offers a plentiful assortment of museums, galleries, shops, and restaurants.

By Amy Traverso

Apr 20 2018

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Naturally, kids love the Kidspace Art Bar.

Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
Early spring is a tricky time for traveling in New England. You can do some spring skiing or take in the maple harvest, both of which I love to do. But there’s a third option, which is to focus on indoor attractions, like museums, films, galleries, shops, and restaurants—a weather-proof weekend getaway. For this reason, we recently headed out to North Adams, Massachusetts to visit the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) and see what else was happening in town.
A woodcut poster by Emily Cohane-Mann, displayed at PRESS Gallery
A woodcut poster by Emily Cohane-Mann, displayed at PRESS Gallery.
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
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Mass MoCA’s exterior, with banners from the exhibitions on display during my visit.
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
Mass MOCA is the town’s primary draw and if you haven’t visited before, it really is a must-see destination. Opened in 1999, it resides in a 13-acre complex of former factory buildings and has some of the largest exhibition spaces in the country. Works that would never fit in conventional museums can be seen here and the effect can be breathtaking.
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Izhar Patkin’s 14-foot-tall Murano glass sculpture of the goddess Shiva, called, “Where Each is Both.”
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
The museum also boasts the world’s largest collection of wall drawings by Sol LeWitt—100 in all.
Mass MoCA is home to the world’s largest collection of wall drawings by Sol LeWitt.
Mass MoCA is home to the world’s largest collection of wall drawings by Sol LeWitt.
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
Don't miss the wall drawings by Sol LeWitt
Don’t miss the wall drawings by Sol LeWitt.
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
Mass MoCA also does a great job of inviting children into art appreciation with rotating exhibits and activities in its Kidspace Art Bar.
Naturally, kids love the Kidspace Art Bar.
Naturally, kids love the Kidspace Art Bar.
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
North Adams has put the arts at the heart of its revitalization efforts and outside the museum walls, there’s more art to be found all around you.
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“That’s Gneiss” by Melissa Matsuki Lillie. The text next the painting reads, “This mural is inspired by microscopic and macroscopic views of geological formations found in the metamorphic rocks that make of many of the buildings of downtown North Adams.”
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso

When I stopped to take a photo of Lillie’s mural, a local man walked over to tell me where all the other good public art sites can be found. It was clear he took a lot of pride in these murals.

Stenciled messages on the sidewalk help you find other public art installations.
Stenciled messages on the sidewalk help you find other public art installations.
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
Art is everywhere in North Adams.
Art is everywhere in North Adams.
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts is located in town, and the school maintains two adjoining gallery spaces: MCLA Gallery 51 and PRESS. The former features work from a range of contemporary artists from around the world; the latter is a gallery/studio that celebrates letterpress as an art medium.
The window display at PRESS Gallery
The window display at PRESS Gallery.
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
To see the work of exclusively local artists, head over to the North Adams Artists’ Co-Op (NAACO) Gallery, which includes works in all media. Other shuttered factory buildings around town have also been turned into gallery space.  The Eclipse Mill, a four-story former textile mill on Route 2, houses live-work condominiums visual artists, musicians, writers, potters, and the like. There’s also a used/antiquarian bookshop, G.J. Askins, which is a lovely place to browse, especially if you’re the sort of person who likes to get lost in the stacks. Owner G. J. Askins seems to have his entire inventory memorized and can help you navigate.
Things to Do in North Adams, Massachusetts | A Weekend of Art
The used/antiquarian bookshop G.J. Askins is a lovely place to browse.
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
Stop for some sweets and a coffee at Brewhaha, a cozy cafe with seriously tasty food. I like to start my day with one of their breakfast sandwiches or a muffin. The lattes are great, too.
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The counter at Brewhaha cafe.
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
If you’re looking for more substantial fare, head over to PUBLIC Eat + Drink, where the sophisticated menu runs from small bites to flatbreads to mussels with tomato butter and kale. For lunch, it’s well worth braving the lines to have a chili dog at Jack’s, an old-school lunch counter.
Prices at Jack's haven't changed much over the decades.
Prices at Jack’s haven’t changed much over the decades.
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
For all these gems, the story of North Adams’s evolution from abandoned mill town to art hotspot hasn’t been a linear one. It’s difficult to rebuild a small city with tourism dollars and cultural grants alone. But meanwhile, the culture keeps coming, with new exhibits and live events at Mass MoCA, plus the return of the farmer’s market and outdoor concerts at  Windsor Lake. And as the weather warms, there’s nothing quite like a hike up Mount Greylock, the highest peak in the state. For its attractions and its aspirations, this brave, innovative town is worth supporting. What are some your favorite things to do in North Adams, Massachusetts? Let us know in the comments below! This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated.

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