Cheap dates: Affordable adventures in the Berkshires
Whether it's with your significant other, spouse, a group of couples, or someone new, going out for a special time can be a great adventure, especially within the backdrop of the beautiful Berkshires in the summertime. It also doesn't have to break the bank.
I generated the following list of ideas after doing some very informal research -- I polled Facebook friends and got 54 responses -- and checked out a few other websites and venues.
From a one-on-one night on the town, to a guys' or girls' night (or day) out, here are some events, venues, menus and other ideas you can enjoy for $25 or less:
With live music against an outdoor backdrop there's a whole lot to love about outdoor music in the Berkshires. In July and August, you can find an outdoor concert nearly every evening during the week. The series listed below are free unless noted otherwise. Remember to bring cash though for food vendors. Better yet, pack a picnic and some bug spray, and you've got the makings for a great date.
Sounds of Summer at the Great Barrington V.F.W. just kicked off the week, and continues each Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. Music at the Hebert Arboretum series in Springside Park in Pittsfield, begins each week at 7 p.m. The lawn concert series at The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute takes place at 6 p.m.
Catch Concerts at Windsor Lake beginning at 6:30 p.m. in North Adams. Live on the Lake at Onota Lake in Pittsfield is from 6 to 8 p.m. Free Concerts in Lilac Park in Lenox begin at 6:30 p.m.
The Party in the Park series at Noel Field in North Adams starts next Thursday and runs 6 to 8 p.m.
Chesterwood in Stockbridge just announced a new outdoor "Chesterfest Americana Music Series" on its West Porch, from 5 to 7 p.m. Admission is $10 per adult, $20 per carload. From 6:30 to 8 p.m. each week, enjoy Music at the Mansion, a series held on the lawn of North Adams Public Library. With the exception of July 6 and 13, The Mount in Lenox also hosts a free, public Music After Hours event on its terrace each Friday from 5 to 8 p.m.
Of course, one of the most lovely places to see an outdoor concert is at Tanglewood in Lenox, where lawn tickets range from $11 to $20, depending on the performance.
On the heels of concerts, there are several summer festivals in the Berkshires that offer more than music, such as art, demonstrations, other vendors and information to peruse with the object of your affection. Most of these events are free unless otherwise noted.
First Fridays Artswalk and Third Thursdays take place each month in downtown Pittsfield.
DownStreet Art Thursdays include artists receptions and downtown performances on July 25, Aug. 29, Sept. 26 and Oct. 31.
The Lift Ev'ry Voice Festival continues through early summer. This month, enjoy "Struttin' with Some Barbecue," an evening of food by MadJacks and music by Craig Harris and the Tailgaters on July 11, from 5 to 8 p.m. at The Mount in Lenox.
Summer Sundays in Williamstown take place each week from 4 to 8 p.m. in July. Each festival concludes with a free outdoor movie on Williams College's Morgan Lawn at the top of Spring Street.
Nouveau Revue 4, a midsummer mini-music festival will take place July 11 through 14 at the Dream Away Lodge in Becket.
Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival happens throughout the summer, featuring free outdoor pre-show performances and $19 "Under 35 Fridays." Its historic grounds are also open to the public for picnics and there's an onsite pub.
WordXWord Festival in downtown Pittsfield is an ongoing project that features the WXW Tuesday Project, a free evening of words -- from story slams to open mics -- which takes place on Tuesdays at yBar at 8 p.m. Its annual festival is scheduled this year from Aug. 11 to 17, with most events open to patrons free of charge.
The annual Bang on a Can Festival at Mass MoCA in North Adams takes place this year from July 15 through Aug. 4. Museum admission is $15 for adults, $10 for students with college ID.
Berkshire Arts Festival takes place over two weekends, July 4 through 6, and July 12 through 14. Admission is $12 for adults and includes art, music and more at Ski Butternut in Great Barrington.
Berkshire Fringe runs July 15 through Aug. 5 at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington, and includes ticket discounts and free concert series.
With $5 tickets, you can afford to take me (or anyone else) out to a ballgame. The Berkshires hosts two summer baseball teams, the North Adams SteepleCats at Joe Wolfe Field in North Adams, and the Pittsfield Suns at Wahconah Park in Pittsfield. Each park has its own charm, special events and amenities. On July 15, for example, you can enjoy baseball and a chicken parmesan dinner from Bounti-Fare with the SteepleCats for $10. The Suns have a number of promos throughout its season, from fireworks nights to movies at the park.
There are way too many restaurants and dining deals in the county, so I'm not going to list them all. Among the Facebook poll I conducted, places with grill fare, like burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, etc., were pretty popular. Coffee shops and pizza parlors also tend to be wallet-friendly. There are a few places that also offer lakeside, patio and other dining options with incredible summer views. My friends Laura and Mariclare reminded me you can enjoy the classy atmospheres of many restaurants without running up a huge tab by just going out for dessert or drinks. Or, like one of my friends, Brian, suggested, go to a favorite market (in his suggestion, Guido's), buy some food and impress with your cooking skills at home. Bon apetít!
Nature: It's beautiful. It's everywhere. It doesn't charge a cover fee, and it never closes for visitors.
Among my friends' suggestions: "A drive or hike up Mount Greylock" or "Grab some grinders and go up to Mt. Greylock," suggested my friends Ann and Katie, respectively. My cousin Amber said, "A picnic at the lake." Another friend, Jeremy said, "Bike ride in the Pittsfield State Forest. Berkshire Mountain Bike trails specifically." "Hit the bike trail at twilight," said my friend Cheryl.
" [A date] in the woods. It's free," my friend Autumn posted. "Umpachene Falls," my friend Ellen said, referring to the secluded spot in New Marlborough. "Hike to a picnic on the AT," my friend Angelique said.
Again, plenty of options here, both in terms of stage performances and movies, so I'm not going to list them all. There really isn't a movie theater option that doesn't fall into the under $25 category; just remember that several area museums and performing arts centers also host cinematic events. So give them a call or check their websites.
If you're interested in a play, see if they offer discounts like Under 35, military, previews, pay-what-you-can or local residents.
Museums and cultural venues
They're colorful. They're inspiring. They can be enjoyed for hours in silence or laughter. Most Berkshire County museums offer per person admissions of $20 or less. Several offer multi-museum package deals, and some offer local resident discounts. If you're a local library member, you can even check out passes to enjoy museums and other cultural sites and venues for free. Visit www.berkshireeagle.com/culture
for more ideas.
"The farmers market," said my friend Michael. Another friend, a Mike, said, "Whitney's."
You and your date can match wits over a trivia night, my friend Bethany suggested.
I like The Chalet, Mass MoCA's beer garden in Courtyard A, open summer Thursdays, "5 p.m. to 11 p.m.-ish."
My friend Larry suggested "a window shopping stroll on North Street," before or after dinner. My variation: Go to a local thrift shop with the challenge of finding and buying each other the coolest gift for $5. Laughter, looks and stories will ensue.
Larry and another friend, Jessica, surprised me with the suggestion of an evening coffee and a snack at The Donut Man by the Pittsfield-Lanesborough line. The eatery does have a cute gazebo overlooking Pontoosuc Lake. Jessica says you should do this, "preferably during a meteor shower."
Mini-golf and bowling are other inexpensive activities.
To find more local deals on date venues, visit Berkshires.org, home of Berkshire Visitors Bureau, which offers 1/2 Tix and other discounts.
Have a good idea for an inexpensive date? Keep the conversation going at berkshireeagle.com/the413 in the reader comment section of this story.
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