Tourists: a warm welcome in the Berkshire Mountains

Places

Tourists: a warm welcome in the Berkshire Mountains

Sometimes it's good to be a tourist as writer Laura Neilson found out on a Massachusetts escape

Laura Neilson

BY Laura Neilson8 October 2021

As a busy New Yorker who grew up in the countryside, having access to the outdoors and fresh air is an essential component for keeping my current lifestyle sustainable. I need that occasional escape – or at the very least, I need to know it’s available in a hurry. Usually I head straight up the Hudson River to the rural Hudson Valley village I grew up in, but this time I opted to try out Tourists, a 48-room hotel in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains.

It had been a year since Mrs Smith and I’s last trip together – a fraught girls’ weekend in Miami to cope with heartache – and this time around, we were both in much better states. We were looking forward to the three-hour car drive to chat and bring each other up to speed on our fast-paced lives (she’s an on-the-go photographer), as much as we were eager to finally see our destination. Tourists had been generating quite a bit of buzz and I was beginning to feel like the only one who hadn’t been there yet.

We arrived in North Adams shortly after 6pm, with just enough time to take a quick look around the property before sunset. I’d expected the hotel to be set further back from the main road, but the location and architecture of the rooms (single-level rows of connected cabins) lent a motor-lodge-meets-mountain-retreat charm to the whole setup.

Summer’s been slow to arrive in the area, so the smell of wood smoke wafting from the main lodge was the perfect lure from the crisp outdoors air. Once inside, we lost all sense of time and season. Beyond a standing bar for ordering drinks and food (which discreetly doubled as the reception desk) the space opened up to a spacious common area handsomely outfitted with fat, caramel-colored leather sofas, tables cut from tree stumps, an assortment of faded patterned rugs, and plenty of corner nooks for tucking yourself into. Thoughtfully designed, but hardly precious-feeling, this was a place you could settle into for a good long while. A few guests had already gathered for early evening drinks near the fireplace, and we were eager to do the same.

Our Canopy room facing the Hoosic River had that same effortlessly considered feeling. Overall, there was an airy, Scandinavian vibe, appropriately complemented by subtle campground references: hand lanterns for strolls after dark, two folded outdoor chairs hanging on the wall, and vintage travel postcards posted above the desk. There was an outdoor shower on the private deck, and a massive daybed built into a window nook. Our bathroom was kitted out with products from the all-natural skincare brand Ursa Major (full-sized bottles, too).

After checking out the hotel’s newly-opened Airport Rooms, a standalone building right next door serving up classic cocktails and elevated takes on roadhouse favorites (wedge salad, chips and dip, and the like), we decided on a fireside dinner in the lodge: warm olives, chickpea fritters, and a creamy vegetable pasta, along with a round of negronis.

The North Adams/Williamstown area has long been a bastion for arts and culture enthusiasts. There’s MASS MoCA, the Clark Art Institute, Williams College Museum of Art, and for theater buffs, the summer season’s Williamstown Theatre Festival, which often draws an impressive lineup of well-known thespians.

Those seeking more time in the great outdoors have Mount Greylock (Massachusetts’ highest peak) less than a mile away, along with plenty of hiking trails, and fishing spots. On this particular getaway, Mrs Smith and I were seeking none of these things – not this time around, at least. All we wanted – what we needed – was rest and relaxation, and we were determined to honor that.

After breakfast (multiple free cups of coffee, a rye waffle with a billowy dollop of sweet ricotta, and a delicious dried cherry compote that should be sold in jars at the front desk) and showering, we explored Tourists’ own walking trails over the footbridge. (Head to the right for ‘Chime Chapel’, a large and curious sculpture fashioned from wood and wind chimes and beyond that, epic countryside views. Head to the left, and you’ll walk beneath an overpass and eventually emerge behind an abandoned factory down the road.)

By lunchtime we were still feeling pretty full, so we hopped in the car and drove to the organic market just down the road for some light picnic provisions to enjoy on our terrace. The rest of the afternoon comprised reading, napping, sunbathing – lazy and perfect, especially with the soothing white noise of the Hoosic in the background – before heading up to the lodge to settle in at one of the outdoor fire pits with a bottle of wine. After scanning the new seasonal menu, Mrs Smith and I decided to share the summer tomato salad: a zippy combination of thick tomato wedges and arugula, scattered with shavings of grana cheese, and a vinaigrette dressing.

We wanted to try more off the new menu – and the quinoa and freekeh grain bowl looked especially delectable – but the lazy day gave us little opportunity to work up our appetites. So we retired to our room for a movie and an early night’s sleep, especially knowing that we’d have to pack up and depart shortly after breakfast. Even though it was only our second morning there in the lodge, there was a comforting familiarity this time, as if the space were the living room of a best friend we were visiting.

On the drive home, we asked each other if we’d return for another stay. I absolutely would. It’s is the perfect spot to decamp to with friends. Or make some new ones, of course… Like the sign says: Tourists Welcome.

This review was first published in 2019 so some hotel details may have changed


Laura Neilson is a New York-based fashion, culture, and lifestyle writer – for the likes of The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalInterviewPorter and more – who firmly believes that traveling outside the Big Apple only makes her heart grow fonder of it. So, she travels a lot, partly thanks to her large family and her numerous siblings who have spread out across the globe from Amsterdam to Boston to the Caribbean.