The Berkshires are a popular tourist attraction and vacation getaway, serving the same function in relation to Connecticut and Massachusetts that the Catskills do in New York and the Poconos for Pennsylvania. With numerous trails, including part of the Appalachian Trail, large tracts of wilderness, parks like Kent Falls, Berkshire Botanical Garden and Hebert Arboretum the Berkshires are very popular with nature lovers. The range includes Bash Bish Falls, the tallest waterfall in Massachusetts. The Berkshires are also home to dozens of summer camps, some of which date back to the turn of the 20th century.
Northwestern Connecticut features the covered bridges of Kent and West Cornwall, fly fishing, canoeing and spectacular fall foliage along the Housatonic River valley and the quiet woods and hills of the Appalachian Trail.
The Berkshire region is noted as a center for the visual and performing arts; its art museums include the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Clark Art Institute, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMoCA), and the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA). At Williams College, the Chapin Library displays a wide selection of rare books and documents. Performing-arts institutions in the Berkshires include Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Shakespeare & Company in Lenox; summer stock theatre festivals such as the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown and the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge; and America's first and longest-running dance festival, Jacob's Pillow.
The Litchfield Hills and Northwestern Connecticut
Northwestern Connecticut is known for its distinct rural scenery, which can stand in contrast to the rest of Connecticut, which is largely urbanized or suburbanized. It is a key part of the Housatonic River watershed, and encompasses a number of Connecticut's highest peaks, such as Bear Mountain. Most of the region comprises forested hills and rocky peaks, with farmland and small towns interspersed in the valleys and plains. This region also plays host to a large portion of the state's small vineyard and wine industry. Historically, the region was well-known for the limestone, iron, and dairy industries. Unlike the rest of Connecticut, the portion of Northwestern Connecticut around the upper Housatonic River contains more alkaline soils due to the underlying limestone.
Due to the rural feel of the area, the region is an extremely popular location for second homes, primarily with New York City residents. The hills are rural enough to offer an escape from city life, yet close enough (less than 90 miles) to visit on weekends. Many visitors also arrive in the autumn to witness the fall foliage, and to visit the region's many covered bridges or waterfalls.
Because of both its rural beauty and its relative proximity to New York City, the area has been and continues to be home to many famous or wealthy residents, including Mia Farrow, Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Denis Leary, Kevin Bacon, and is also known as the Hamptons of Connecticut.
Northwestern Connecticut is known for its upscale cultural activities, such as chamber performances at Music Mountain in Cornwall and a wide array of art galleries. The region is also home to preparatory schools, such as the Hotchkiss School, Kent School, the Taft School, and the Gunnery.