Butterfly Large

Fly Like a Butterfly in Housatonic

I’ve driven past Project-Native Gardens in Housatonic countless times – always making a mental note to stop by the next time I go by. I’d recently read about Project Native’s Butterfly House & when we had NYC house guests over this past weekend, we decided to visit Project Native with the kids.

Project Native & its Butterfly House is a great destination for adults & kids alike. There’s no admission fee –  though as a not-for-profit, they accept donations. The Butterfly House is a screened-in 35-by-55-foot structure with lots of native plants &, you guessed it, native Berkshire butterflies! Project Native’s mission is to promote, restore & sustain native habitats in the Berkshires. It’s located at 342 North Plain Rd. (Rte 41), just 4 miles north of Great Barrington.

Butterfly House

The Butterfly House

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by cheery Dylan, a recent Oklahoma State University graduate who’s working at Project Native this summer as an Environmental Education Intern. The kids immediately took a shine to Dylan & she took us right to the Butterfly House. As the butterflies flitted around us, Dylan not only identified each one, but also enthralled the kids (& us) with colorful explanations about their life cycle, what they like to eat, the different breeds that are native to the Berkshires, etc. The kids peppered Dylan with questions & she patiently answered each one. The kids couldn’t get enough of the butterflies & it was so awesome hearing their giddy laughter each time a colorful butterfly landed on them. My daughter & her friend were lucky enough to have several butterflies land right into their waiting open hands.

butterfly group

In the Palms of Our Hands –  Just Where we Want Em’!

After a half-hour or so in the Butterfly House, Dylan asked the kids if they wanted to go outside for a butterfly safari around Project Native’s grounds. Surprise, surprise – all of the kids responded in unison with a resounding YES!  Project Native’s grounds have glorious mountain views & 22 acres of meadow for butterflies, insects, ground nesting birds & hummingbirds. Dylan outfitted each of the kids with their “safari gear” –  butterfly nets & bug boxes – explaining that all of the butterflies the kids caught would be brought into the Butterfly House & then released by them for other visitors to enjoy. The kids ended up catching a bunch of butterflies & were so excited as they released each one into the Butterfly House. To say the kids (& we) had a blast would be a gross understatement. In fact, when lunch time arrived & our adult stomachs started grumbling, the kids begged to stay longer – in spite of our promises of ice cream for dessert at SoCo Creamery.

Butterfly Safari Girls

Shhh! Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet. I’m Hunting Butterfwies!

Needless to say, we’ll be back to Project Native very soon – especially since they’re expecting even more monarch butterflies in the coming weeks. So, next time your driving on Rte 41, stop by & visit Project Native. Have a blast with the butterflies!

 

 

 

 

 

Pillow

You’ve Got to Go To Jacob’s Pillow

During our vacations in the Berkshires, I’d often hear people rave about Jacob’s Pillow – the renowned dance festival that takes place every summer in Beckett. The Pillow is approximately a 35 minute drive from Great Barrington & this year, the festival runs through August 24th.

What’s always intrigued me about the Pillow is just how passionate people are about the place. Many people will tell you that their first exposure to a live dance performance was at Jacob’s Pillow & that ever since, they can’t get enough & now visit the Pillow many times each summer.

Last summer, my wife & I attended our first full length, live dance performance, at the Pillow, & like so many others, we too were smitten by the place. And, just last week, we took the kids to the Pillow for their first time – &, no surprise – they’re also hooked.

Pillow Kids

Strolling the Pillow Grounds

In the last week alone, we’ve seen 2 separate performances at the Pillow. The first performance was by the Trey McIntire Project – simply amazing. The second half of that performance was titled “Mecury Half-Life” & was set entirely to the music of classic rock band Queen – one of my son’s favorites. The second performance we took in was “Unreal Hip Hop” - super creative, high energy & lots of fun for both us & the kids.

An afternoon or evening at the Pillow isn’t just about the dance performance, but also about having lunch or dinner there, strolling the grounds & soaking up the spectacular setting & energy of the dancers & dance students from around the globe. If you arrive an hour or so before your scheduled performance, you’ll have plenty of time to picnic or dine at one of the Pillow’s 3 dining establishments – The Café at Jacob’s Pillow, The Barre at the Café & the Pillow Pub. We really like the Pillow Pub. It has nice sandwiches & a great selection of local, craft beers on tap.

Pillow Pub

The Pillow Pub

The Pillow also has many free outdoor performances throughout the summer – known as “Inside/Out Performances”  – set in an outdoor amphitheater with breathtaking mountain views. Not to be missed.

Have a blast at the Pillow!

 

Ashuwillitcook both

Berkshires Biking- The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail

One of our favorite outdoor family activities in the Berkshires is biking. This will be the first of several posts on some of our favorite bike rides here.

We love biking here not only because it’s a great workout but also because you get to take in all of the natural beauty of the Berkshires – the rolling hills, glorious mountains, pastoral farmland, crystal clear lakes & lots of wildlife (In fact, I just observed a porcupine scurrying across the road on my last ride!). The bike rides here range from relatively flat & easy to very hilly & challenging.

One of our favorite rides with the kids is the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail (say that 10 times fast), in Lanesborough. The reason why this makes for such a great family ride is that it’s mostly flat & not too strenuous. Yet, you get to ride alongside beautiful lakes (including the 418 acre Cheshire Reservoir), mountains, streams & babbling brooks – without car traffic (with the exception of a couple of crossings that are clearly marked & difficult for the kids to get through on their own, because of strategically placed barriers).

Ahuwillitcook Ava

Cheshire Reservoir. Awesome!

The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail is a former railroad corridor converted into a 10-foot wide paved trail. It’s also a great place for jogging & rollerblading. The Rail Trail runs parallel to Route 8 through the towns of Cheshire, Lanesborough & Adams. The southern end of the rail trail (which is where you’ll probably want to start) begins at the entrance to the Berkshire Mall off MA Rte. 8 in Lanesborough & travels 11.2 miles north to the center of Adams. So, the total ride is 22 miles and takes several hours. It’s just under a 40 minute drive from downtown Great Barrington to the start of the Rail Trail – well worth the trip.

There’s a cute little ice cream shop along the ride – in Cheshire – that also sells cold beverages. And, when you get to the end of the trail in Adams, there’s a really nice visitor’s center with very clean restrooms & snack machines. Once inside the visitors center be sure to check out the Thunderbolt Ski Museum which features a fun exhibit (with a movie) on the 10th Mountain Division & the now legendary Thunderbolt Ski Race.

Thunderbolt Ski Museum in Adams

Thunderbolt Ski Museum in Adams

The Thunderbolt Ski Race started in the 1930s & still takes place every year on nearby Mount Greylock - the highest point in Massachussets.  Once in Adams, you can also walk around the streets near the Visitors Center & check out the beautiful classic brick mill buildings – some of which have been converted into loft residences.

Have a blast on the Rail Trail!