The 10 Best Museums to Visit in the Berkshires

Museums abound in the Berkshires, with everything from art, history, science, and architecture on display.

With so many museums, you may wonder which are the best to visit during your journey to this cultural region.

Below are ten of the most popular Berkshires museums, listed by popularity. You’ll want to add some outstanding institutions to your itinerary, depending on your interests.

The Clark Art Institute

  • Location: Williamstown
  • Open year-round with seasonal hours
The outside of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown MA - one of the best museums in the Berkshires
Photo credit: Kerry Flatley

It’s incredible that a museum like The Clark Art Institute, commonly called “The Clark”, is located in this somewhat remote corner of Massachusetts.

This museum, which originated from married couple Sterling and Francine Clark’s art collection, is known for its impressive exhibition of European and American art, including works by Rembrandt, Winslow Homer, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, to name a few.

This is truly a world-class museum, and a visit here feels a bit like touring a smaller-scale Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, or the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Clark can be toured at a moderate pace in a few hours. But be sure to save some time for special exhibits, relaxing in a chair by the reflecting pool, or wandering through the property’s walking trails. (225 South Street Williamstown)

Mass MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art)

  • Location: North Adams
  • Open year-round with seasonal hours
An art exhibit at Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA
Conversations With the Hearing, by Joseph Gigely, Photo credit: Kerry Flatley

Certainly, the most unique museum in the Berkshires (if not the nation!) is the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, commonly known as Mass MoCA.

This museum is considered the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the country, if not the world, featuring many modern artworks and installations.

What makes this museum so unique is its location. Housed in an array of old brick mill buildings, Mass MoCA’s vast interior space allows artists to create pieces unbounded by the constraints of traditional museums.

Many installations at MassMoCA are better described as experiences than objects of art since viewers are invited and encouraged to step inside and participate. (1040 Mass MoCA Way,
North Adams
)

The Norman Rockwell Museum

  • Location: Stockbridge
  • Open year-round; Studio open May – November
The outside of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge MA - among the best museums in the Berkshires
Photo credit: Kerry Flatley

Dedicated to the iconic American artist Norman Rockwell, this museum houses the world’s largest collection of his original works, showcasing his nostalgic and often humorous depictions of American life.

On the museum’s lower level, you’ll find a 20-minute video about Rockwell’s life and career. Hundreds of his whimsical Saturday Evening Post covers in the same room captured American life from 1916 to 1963.

Upstairs, on the main floor, you can view Rockwell’s most famous works, including the Four Freedoms collection, pieces capturing the American Civil Rights Movement, and portraits of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

During warm weather months, visitors who make an appointment can tour Rockwell’s studio, a short distance from the main building. Walking trails are also available on the 36-acre campus for the public to enjoy. (9 Glendale Road, Stockbridge)

The Berkshire Museum

  • Location: Pittsfield
  • Open year-round

While most museums have a single focus, such as art, science, or history, The Berkshire Museum combines all these interests into multidisciplinary exhibits – making it the perfect family museum with something for everyone.

Children will have fun exploring exhibits such as Berkshire Backyard, looking at local animal species; Animals of the World in Miniature, with 14 miniature glimpses into diverse ecosystems; and The Berkshire Museum Aquarium, showcasing 35 tanks of water-dwelling creatures.

Art enthusiasts will enjoy viewing the museum’s rotating art exhibitions, such as art from the Hudson Valley School, for example. And natural history enthusiasts will want to explore the museum’s Rocks and Minerals Gallery. Also of note is the museum’s Little Cinema, which presents independent and foreign films. (39 South Street, Pittsfield)

Hancock Shaker Village

  • Location: Pittsfield
  • Open in the spring, summer, and fall
Buildings at the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield MA

This outdoor living history museum focuses on the Shaker way of life, featuring preserved historic buildings, workshops, and demonstrations.

Shakers were a religious Christian sect known for their communal lifestyle, pacifism, ecstatic worship, and distinctive contributions to furniture design and craftsmanship.

Over fifty years ago, a Shaker community lived, worked, and worshiped on the Hancock Shaker Village property. When the community dwindled in the 1960s, a non-profit was formed to preserve the village for future generations.

Today, visitors can take a self-guided tour through 20 buildings, multiple acres of gardens, and walking trails while learning about Shaker architecture, lifestyle, and culture. Children will have fun in the hands-on discovery room with crafts and dress-up clothes. (1843 West Housatonic Street, Pittsfield)

Chesterwood

  • Location: Stockbridge
  • Open from mid-May to mid-October
Chesterwood - a home in Stockbridge Massachusetts

Chesterwood is the former home, studio, and gardens of sculptor Daniel Chester French, known for creating the seated statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C..

A visit to the museum showcases a collection of French’s sculptures, including maquettes, studies, and larger works – illustrating the evolution of his artistic vision.

You’ll also tour French’s 9-bedroom residence, designed in 1901, incorporating several architectural styles (closed for renovation until 2024). And tour his studio, which contains many of French’s sculptures.

Ticket holders also have the opportunity to wander the estate’s gardens and grounds. (4 Williamsville Road)

Williams College Museum of Art

  • Location: Williams
  • Open year-round and admission is free

Another exceptional art museum in the Berkshires is the Williams College Museum of Art.

Located on the Williams College campus, this museum offers diverse artworks from various cultures and time periods. It features 15,000 works, including thought-provoking contemporary pieces, classic European paintings, and diverse works from around the world.

Rotating exhibitions often highlight important social and cultural themes. And the museum also frequently hosts educational programs, lectures, and gallery talks. (15 Lawrence Hall Drive, Williamstown)

Naumkeag

  • Location: Stockbridge
  • Open seasonally
The outside of Naumkeag mansion
Photo credit: Kerry Flatley

Rather than a museum showcasing diverse exhibits, Naumkeag, the former residence of the Choate family, is an exhibit unto itself.

Besides telling the story of the family that lived here, Naumkeag provides a glimpse into the lives of the upper class during the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The house features 44 rooms and showcases a blend of architectural styles. As one of the few Gilded Age mansions that transitioned directly from a lived-in residence to a preservation site, Naumkeag gives the sense of walking into a private residence and being given permission to explore.

Other features on the property include gardens with terraced lawns, elegant flower beds, a Chinese Garden, and a stunning Blue Steps feature. And the view from the back of the residence is worth the visit alone. (5 Prospect Hill Road)

Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum

  • Location: Lenox
  • Open year-round
Ventfort Hall in Lenox MA - one of the best museums in the Berkshires
Photo credit: Kerry Flatley

Another museum in the Berkshires that provides the opportunity to step back in time is the Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum.

This venerable red brick mansion was built in 1893 as the home of financier J.P. Morgan’s sister and her husband, Sarah and George Morgan. After their deaths, the building changed hands several times until ultimately falling into disrepair in the 1990s.

In 1997, the Ventfort Hall Association rescued the mansion, which has slowly restored the structure.

Unlike Naumkeag, which retains most of its original furniture and design, Ventfort, although grander in scale, showcases only select rooms for public browsing. (104 Walker Street, Lenox)

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Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio

  • Location: Lenox
  • Open seasonally in the spring, summer, and fall
The outside of the Frelinghuysen Morris House and Studio
Photo credit: Vlad b / Creative Commons

Like Chesterwood, the Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio is also a Berkshire museum created from the former residence of artists.

George L. K. Morris and Suzy Frelinghuysen were dynamic artists starting in the 1930s. Morris was the first to move to their Lenox property with the building of his studio on his parent’s estate. Once married, the couple built a house integrated into the studio. The studio is among the first modern design structures to be erected in New England.

Visitors to the museum can explore the house and all of its original furnishings and view the works of Morris and Frelinghuysen. Additionally, the couple’s art collection of their contemporaries is on view, including works by Picasso, Braque, Leger, and Gris. (92 Hawthorne Street, Lenox)

Bidwell House Museum

  • Location: Monterey ( just east of Great Barrington)
  • Grounds and gardens open year-round; House tours available from Memorial Day to early October

Lovers of early American history and architecture will enjoy a visit to the Bidwell House Museum, a restored circa 1760s Georgian Salbox home filled with period furnishings that, through museum exhibits, tell the story of the early settlement of the Berkshires.

The Bidwell House sits on 192 acres of grounds, and hiking trails are open to the public throughout the year. Reservations are necessary for guided tours – see the website for more details. (100 Art School Road, Monterey)

(As a GetYourGuide affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.)

A photo of Kerry Flatley leaning against a wall

About Kerry Flatley

Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.

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