Life House, Berkshires is a funky New England newbie set just north of Lenox, surrounded by mountain peaks, lush green valleys and hiking trails galore.
It’s an hour’s drive from Albany International Airport. Taxis are available at a cost of around $150–200 one way.
Pittsfield station is five miles from the hotel and serves local routes as well as a few major cities, including Boston and New York.
Bringing your own set of wheels is by far the best way to experience the Berkshires winding mountain roads and vast national parks. Cars are available to rent at the airport and there’s free private parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Literary buffs will be in clover here in the heart of New England, with Herman Melville’s modest mustard-coloured clapboard house and Edith Wharton’s somewhat grander turn-of-the-century mansion just two local highlights. Step inside Arrowhead to see where, in a tiny, book-crammed study overlooking Mount Greylock, Melville’s man-versus-whale epic was conceived. Or take the ghost tour at The Mount, the 42-room country house (in 50 acres of formal gardens) where Wharton penned some of her best-loved works, including Ethan Frome and The House of Mirth. You never know, you might even encounter some of the ‘spectral shapes crouched in corners’ that Wharton described so vividly in her ghost stories.
Head for the Norman Rockwell Museum in nearby Stockbridge for the planet’s biggest collection of Rockwell originals, catch a play by the legendary Shakespeare & Company, whose alumni include Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray, or experience the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a summer performance on Tanglewood's immaculately manicured lawns.
The changing colours of New England’s landscape – the lush greens of spring and summer, autumn’s dazzling display of fiery reds and oranges, deep purples and mellow yellows, and winter’s thick white blanket of snow – mean you might quite reasonably expect rather different experiences depending when you visit. Leaf-peepers naturally favour the autumn months, when elevated forest views can look for all the world like Rockwell’s palette. Take the relatively gentle trail to Olivia’s Overlook in the Yokun Ridge South reserve for sweeping views of the Berkshires mountains, keeping your eyes peeled for bears and foxes skulking in the less densely wooded sections. Or stroll through 500-acre Kennedy Park to see the fabulous fall foliage up close and breathe the crisp, woody autumn air. More seasoned hikers can take on the rather more strenuous vertical ascent up Lenox Mountain, or make like Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne and hike Monument Mountain, where the pair are said to have met during a storm in 1850.
A short hop from the hotel, downtown Lenox runs the full gamut of eateries, from fast food to fine dining. Alta is fine dining without the formality, pairing an epic 12-page international wine list with fresh Mediterranean fare like burrata with roasted peaches and cherry tomato salad, mussel linguine with spinach and mascarpone, and seared duck breast in salty caramel sauce. Expect crisp white linen tablecloths inside, a relaxed, friendly vibe on the front porch terrace outside, and an expanding waistline wherever you choose to sit.
For something even more special, The Portico at the Wheatley is a tiny French fine-dining restaurant with just eight tables that seem to float above this luxury hotel’s perfectly manicured gardens. Here’s where to try smoked venison chop, espresso poached pear and, if your pockets are deep enough, Australian black truffle and Pointy Snout Ossetra Caviar. Add a half bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée to the latter for ultimate decadence followed by a panicked call from your bank manager.
Just because you already had breakfast at the hotel, doesn’t mean you can’t justify seconds at the Haven Cafe & Bakery, where the still-warm sourdough loaves and challah buns are baked on site. Stop by for a coffee and pastry to go; just don’t blame us if that tempting weekend brunch menu – buttermilk pancakes with blueberries and maple syrup, breakfast burritos and huevos rancheros – lures you in for the long-haul.
Sweet Dreams is made of… cinnamon buns and ice cream. And who are we to disagree? This unique (Annie?) Lenox café serves up freshly baked muffins, pastries cakes and more throughout autumn and winter, then transforms itself into an ice cream parlour during the warmer months. All ingredients are sourced locally and from employee-owned businesses where possible. And, for those who like to go even sweeter than baked goods or ice cream, there’s even a retro candy store on site.
For a classic bar that just screams hot wings, clam chowder, burgers and cold beer, look no further than The Olde Heritage Tavern, the kind of easy-going all-American pub where everybody knows your name, or will do before the night’s out. This Lenox stalwart has been around since 1969, so it must be doing something right, right?
Cocktails are king at the nearby Ostrich Room, a colonial-style throwback at the Apple Tree Inn, where timeworn mahogany, comfy leather chesterfields and a roaring open fire set the scene for a refreshing gin-based Cilantro Paso or jalapeño-spiced margarita, often accompanied by live music.