Our followers must know by now that our summer is not complete without a visit to the Berkshires – a mountainous region in Western Massachusetts (about 2.5-hour drive from our suburb south of Boston) with plenty of beautiful nature to see in any season. Our favorite time to visit is summer because it is the time for some amazing cultural programming (in music, dance and theater) in the beautiful Berkshires outdoors. Many cultural establishments in the Berkshires encourage picnicking on their grounds before and during the performance.
In summer of 2020, our favorite summer festivals – at Tanglewood and Jacob’s Pillow – are not running and Shakespeare and Company is not having its summer theater season. But many cultural institutions are open and we have decided to come (with masks on our faces and sanitizer bottles in hand) to support them and to honor our summer tradition.
This year we are adding Chesterwood– sculptor Daniel Chester French’s estate and studio to the list of our culture visits- with picnics.
On weekends, with prior online reservation, you could tour the studio with the guide, walk beautiful grounds and follow the modern sculpture quest, and then have a picnic on the property.
Here are three more cultural picnics we have enjoyed during our summer-19 visit with family and friends.
Note that the Mount is still open for picnics and visits in summer 2020.
Here is the 8-min video we made of our 2019 Berkshires weekend. If you like it, subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more!
THE LAWN AT THE MOUNT
THE MOUNT is open in summer of 2020. Prior reservation is not required for grounds visit (and picnicking), but is necessary for house tours this year.
We started our Berkshires picnicking in the summer of 2019 on a Saturday morning in July at the breathtaking grounds of the Mount Estate and Gardens in Lenox. Mount was Shakespeare and Company’s original location when they founded the company in 1978 but now it is where their “family” style performance happens in the summer. (You can follow us on the backstage tour of the theater’s Lenox campus in this post).
Summer 2019 “lawn” production was Taming of the Shrew – a comedy that asks “big” questions about love, marriage, family and friendship. Director Kelly Galvin created this 90-minute production for the regional tour earlier in the spring but expanded it for the larger setting at the Mount.
2020 Update: While there is no theater season this summer at Shakespeare and Company, they have Movies on the Lawn- a curated selection of acclaimed films and documentaries-running through September 9, 2020. See schedule here.
The costumes and decorations incorporate contemporary flourishes and create bold world that as Galvin says, is “different from, but related to, our own.”
There is no cover from the hot July sun but it all adds to the “athletic physical vocabulary” of the staging. (And you can move your chair around to follow natural shade – this is what we did -finally settling under the big tree).
Audiences are made up of families with children, sophisticated theater lovers and “everyone in between”. We stayed for the talkback with the actors immediately following the show. Our wine and cheese picnic afterwards was complemented by the lively discussion of the man and woman’s roles in the family with kids actively participating and adults resorting to read the play. Our little girls did not agree that “The husband is a lord”, but had to think over “he does it in the name of perfect love”.
With acclaimed theater productions, actor training courses and educational initiatives such as the Annual Shakespeare Fall Festival offered at their beautiful multi-stage campus, Shakespeare & Company is one of the largest Shakespearean festivals in the country – and our Berkshires’ summer weekend staple.
Postscriptum. After the picnic we followed the SculptureNow walk to the beautiful Mount gardens and enjoyed sangria at the garden-side café. On the next visit we will tour the writer’s Edith Wharton house. Check out their website for the calendar of musical concerts and other events (with picnics of course).
INSIDE/OUT DANCING (2020: not running)
We traditionally spend our Berkshires Saturday afternoons picnicking at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Beckett where we enjoy free family-friendly Inside/Out performance at the outdoor stage. On Saturday afternoons the students of Contemporary Program showcase what they have learned in the prior week. We saw an impressive collaborative number staged by school’s choreographer Darrell Grand Moutrie (led by the 33-year program director Milton Myers of the Philadanco).
Jacob’s Pillow dance center is home of America’s longest-running international dance festival which brings together world’s leading dance companies to the Berkshires every summer. There are ticketed performances, community dance classes, free lectures, summer school observations and guided tours of this historic center dedicated to everything dance.
Public picnicking on the Jacob’s grounds is encouraged!
CLASSIC TANGLEWOOD (2020: Festival is not running but Tanglewood grounds visit is possible with prior reservations!)
On Sunday, we typically head to Tanglewood for the biggest concert of the week! It starts at 2:30pm but the grounds open at 12 to allow concert-goers to settle under the trees, enjoy the picnic as well as take advantage of the pre-concert activities.
Tanglewood, (in its 79th season in summer 2019), is the summer home of Boston Symphony Orchestra – as well as world’s leading center for advanced musical studies.
On the day of our visit, Andris Nelsons led Boston Symphony Orchestra’s in performance of Beethoven (4th), HK Gruber and Strauss (featuring Håkan Hardenberger).
There was a pre-lecture on the creation of the 4th Symphony and a children’s program “Watch and Play”.
There are concerts almost every day during Tanglewood summer season – and grand classics are complemented with the beloved Boston POPS and other popular artists’ performances in a variety of musical styles (there is Jazz, Pop Rock, Contemporary and postmodern programs and film music events).
Watch our recent youtube video as we share the tips and the atmosphere of Tanglewood famous picnics with you.
Quick Tip: Kids’ (17 and under) tickets are always FREE for the lawn seating. You can drink wine and eat on the lawn and you can get up and leave at times, as long as you do not excessively bother other patrons. For more tips, read our Tanglewood with Family article.
For more places that are open for your summer 2020 Berkshires weekend, visit Berkshires’ official tourism page.