You’ll find plenty of things to do in Williamstown MA including visiting world-class museums, wandering through Williams College campus, and hiking in the majestic Berkshire Hills.
Located in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts, Williamstown is a delightful community to visit on a trip to the Berkshires or as a destination unto itself.
Scenic beauty is the first draw to this area. The rolling Berkshire mountains are higher and more majestic in this northern part of the county and create an idyllic background to downtown Williamstown. They also provide excellent hiking opportunities with scenic vistas that go on for miles in the distance.
Art is another huge draw in Williamstown with three world-class museums in the area – each of which could rival big-city institutions. Creativity also extends into a Tony-award-winning theater company that puts on a theater festival that’s been running for almost 70 years with big names on the ticket.
And let’s not forget the overwhelming presence of Williams College, located in the center of the community. This prestigious liberal arts college provides both an intellectual and youthful vibe to Williamstown and adds to its cultural offerings.
The Best 15 Things to Do in Williamstown MA
So without further ado, here are the best things to put on your itinerary when visiting Williamstown MA.
Visit the Clark Art Institute
One of the most significant cultural attractions and among the best things to do in Williamstown MA is to visit The Clark Art Institute.
This museum is large enough that it shows an extensive array of artwork but small enough to tour in a few hours. It showcases an impressive collection of well-known artists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Sandro Botticelli, Claude Monet, and Edgar Degas to name a few.
The Clark, as it’s commonly referred to, began from the collection of Sterling and Francine Clark. At first, the couple collected Italian, Dutch, and Flemish Old Master paintings. But over time they acquired a number of 19th-century French works from the Impressionist and Barbizon School.
Their collection also includes works from Americans John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer and includes a number of porcelain and silver pieces. Since 1955, the Clark’s original collection has expanded and also includes research and academic programs.
In addition to wandering through The Clark galleries, visitors can also take advantage of numerous walking trails on the property which is 140 acres in total.
The Clark Art Institute is open Tuesday – Sunday 10 AM – 5 PM from September – June and daily in July and August from 10 AM – 5 PM. Admission is $20. Check the website to verify times and prices, including holiday closures. (225 South Street)
Explore Williams College campus
Another big draw to Williamstown is Williams College, a prestigious private liberal arts college located in the heart of the community.
While numerous prospective students visit Williams each year, anyone not college-bound will also enjoy wandering through this quintessential New England campus.
The college’s buildings represent a diversity of architectural styles, set against the beautiful rolling hills of the Berkshires in the background. The campus makes for an especially beautiful spot during the peak of the fall foliage season.
Other reasons to visit the campus include extensive hiking trails and various events, lectures, and exhibits – including an art museum (see below) – open to the public.
Since Williams College is centrally located in Williamstown, it’s difficult to visit the community and not catch a glimpse of the college. A map of the campus can be accessed here.
Tour Mass MoCA
Although not located in Williamstown, another top thing to do while visiting is to drive to North Adams to tour Mass MoCA.
Formally known as the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Mass MoCA is one of the largest centers for contemporary and performing arts in the country, if not the world.
It’s truly a unique space and experience and is unlike any other museum you’ve previously visited. Even if you’re “not into contemporary art” you may very well change your mind after visiting this museum.
Mass MoCA is situated in an interconnected array of former fabric mills. The vast interior space of these buildings allows artists to build works of art that are unbounded by more traditional and restrictive museum interiors.
Popular exhibitions at Mass MoCA include Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing Retrospective and James Turrell’s Into the Light collection (be sure to check out his incredible Perfectly Clear – it’s truly a remarkable experience!)
Mass MoCA is open Wednesday – Monday (closed Tuesdays). Check the website for times as they change during the warm weather months. Admission is $20 with discounts for select groups. (1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams)
Visit the Williams College Museum of Art
Another cultural thing to do in Williamstown MA is to visit the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA).
Located on the Williams College campus, this museum offers a diverse collection of artwork spanning various periods and cultures. The museum 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.
WCMA is open to the public from 10 AM – 5 PM every day except Monday. Admission is free. (15 Lawrence Hall Drive)
Hike Mount Greylock
Among the best things to do in Williamstown MA for outdoor enthusiasts is to hike Mount Greylock.
As the highest peak in Massachusetts (3,489 feet), Mount Greylock offers breathtaking views in both the summer and the fall foliage seasons. On a clear day, it’s possible to see as far as 90 miles away.
There are several hiking trails of varying difficulty up Mount Greylock, catering to both novice and experienced hikers. While a few trails begin within Williamstown, many start at other points along the mountain base.
The most popular route, the Appalachian Trail, leads to the summit and offers the chance to explore diverse landscapes, including lush forests, rocky ridges, and scenic overlooks. Check the Mount Greylock map here to see which route makes the most sense for you.
Auto roads are available during the summer months. Camping, snowmobiling, and hunting are also permitted.
Wander through downtown Williamstown
The downtown section of Williamstown is short and sweet but it’s full of a variety of shops and restaurants worth your time to explore.
Spring Street, adjacent to Williams College campus, is where most of the action is in this red bricked section of town.
Be sure to pick up a latte at the always hopping Tunnel City Coffee (100 Spring Street). And if you’re in town for lunch, the Spring Street Market & Cafe (66 Spring Street) has great sandwiches & salads as well as chips, drinks and sumptuous desserts.
You’ll also want to make a stop in the Williams College Bookstore on the corner of Walden and Spring Streets. Or for a good used book selection, head up the street to Chapter Two Books (37 Spring Street), a non-profit bookshop that’s staffed and managed by volunteers.
Have a kid in your life who loves out-of-the-ordinary toys? Or maybe you’re an adult that’s a kid at heart? Then be sure to wander into Where’d You Get That? to find a one-of-a-kind toy, gift or other interesting trinket. (100 Spring Street)
Attend a performance at the Williamstown Theatre Festival
If you’re a fan of theater and visiting during the summer, one of the best things to do in Williamstown MA is to catch a show at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
This renowned festival has been active for nearly 70 years, attracting some of the most talented and well-known actors, directors, and playwrights to its stages. Previous participants include Sigourney Weaver, Gwyneth Paltrow, Christopher Walken, Matthew Broderick, and Uma Thurman to name a few.
Each annual season of the festival is different with typically three plays shown at different times in July and August. Productions range from new works to reimagined classics.
Check the website for more details. Performances occur in the Adams Memorial Theatre on Williams College campus. (1000 Main Street)
Enjoy outdoor activities at the Taconic Golf Club
If you’re a golf enthusiast, you’ll want to make time for a round of golf at Taconic Golf Course, only a short drive from downtown.
Nestled among the rolling Berkshire Hills, this golf course is a par-71 course originally designed in 1927 and renovated in 2009.
While membership packages are available, the course is also open to the public for day rates. (19 Meacham Street)
Spend time outdoors on nature preserves
Every town in the Berkshires feature fantastic hiking opportunities. But it’s the northern towns of the county, and especially Williamstown, that have some of the grandest hills which offer strikingly scenic vistas.
In addition to Mount Greylock (see above) Williamstown also has more than its fair share of other preserved landscapes for hiking, bird-watching and spending time in nature.
Here are a few of the most well-known nature spots:
- Hopkins Memorial Forest: Managed by Williams College, Hopkins Memorial Forest features several well-maintained trails that wind through forests, meadows, and wetlands.
- Pine Cobble Trail: Pine Cobble is a moderate hiking trail located on the outskirts of downtown. The trail leads to a scenic overlook with stunning views of the town and the surrounding Berkshire Mountains.
- The Cascades Trail: Located just over the border in North Adams, this popular and relatively easy hiking trail leads to a beautiful waterfall known as The Cascades.
- Field Farm Trail: Part of the Trustees of Reservations network, Field Farm offers a network of trails with beautiful views of the Taconic Range and the Berkshire Hills.
Take a scenic drive along the Mohawk Trail
If you’re traveling to Williamstown from northern points in Massachusetts, be sure you make the Mohawk Trail a part of your journey!
This gorgeous route is one of Massachusetts’ most scenic drives. You’ll be able to take in breathtaking views of rolling hills, forests, and picturesque New England towns as you traverse this historic route.
The Mohawk Trail essentially follows the westernmost part of Route 2 in Massachusetts with a few detours onto Route 2A. Starting in Williamstown, the route continues through North Adams and immediately leads up to the Mohawk Trail’s famous hairpin turn. Be sure to pull over and take in the views – extending as far as 90 miles!
The end of the trail is in Westminster MA – about a two-hour journey. However, some of the most dramatic scenery starts in North Adams when traveling east up until about Greenfield MA.
The Mohawk Trail is beautiful in every season but is most spectacular when fall colors are at their peak, typically around the end of September and early October.
Visit the Williamstown Historical Museum
History buffs will want to make time in their itinerary for the Williamstown Historical Museum.
This small museum allows visitors to dive into the town’s rich history and learn about the area’s heritage, including its early settlement and the founding of Williams College.
The museum’s exhibits encompass a wide range of topics, including the early settlers’ history, local industries, notable residents, and the influence of Williams College on the community.
You’ll be able to explore various artifacts, photographs, and documents that provide insights into the town’s development over the centuries while visiting the museum. (32 New Ashford Road)
Attend a concert at the Williams College 62′ Center for Theatre and Dance
One of the best cultural things to do in Williamstown MA is to attend an event at the William’s College 62′ Center for Theatre and Dance.
This theater space features performances from Williams College theater and dance departments, Williams student ensembles, as well as lectures and panel discussions. It also hosts intercollegiate festivals and nationally-recognized visiting artists.
Performances occur throughout the school year and are open to the public. Check the website for upcoming performances. (1000 Main Street)
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.