Tour North Adams: Six 'must-do's' for fans of The National

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Heading into North Adams, Mass., on Saturday, June 11, to see near-legendary indie-rock band The National perform at Mass MoCA? BWSV contributor and North Adams resident Francesca Olsen offers a few ideas of spots not to miss while your in town to make the most of your weekend.

Greetings, fans of The National! This weekend, thousands of you will be visiting the beautiful, quirky city of North Adams. If you've got the time, North Adams is walkable, weird, friendly, fun, and a little bit spooky. Venture off the Mass MoCA campus (after you take in its awesome galleries) and grab a bite to eat or take in some local landmarks, curated topically by these National song titles:

1. I Should Live in Salt: You can't really get a sense of a new place without staying for brunch. Gramercy Bistro on the Mass MoCA campus has a nice brunch, but that's the obvious choice. Grazie on Marshall Street now serves brunch, and Oh Crepe! on Main Street offers sweet and savory options, plus excellent coffee. Brew Ha Ha, also on Marshall, is a good place to grab something to go.

2. Anyone's Ghost: The Houghton Mansion on Church Street (currently a Masonic Temple) is allegedly quite haunted. A. C. Houghton was North Adams' first mayor, and it's rumored he and his daughter Mary still hang out there. The mansion is often open for tours (for a price), and Church Street boasts a picturesque line of beautiful Victorian homes.

3. Wake up Your Saints: You'll be visiting the Steeple City during a significant moment in its history: St. Francis Church, built in 1863, is coming down. It's a sad fate for a local landmark that meant many things to many people. The church is in stages of demolition now; it's worth a quick walk over to Eagle Street. Head back to Mass MoCA via Main Street so you can take in some of the other great church architecture. One great vantage point is right across the street at the Veterans Memorial Wall, which offers some green space.

4. City Middle: Stop at the Hairpin Turn (Route 2 — drive out of North Adams going east) for an epic view of the mountains and the city nestled in the middle. It's the reverse perspective — the whole city is surrounded by lush, green mountains, and it's fun to go see what that looks like from on high. There's (limited) parking; you really should take the curve at 10 miles an hour.

5. Hard to Find: Lucky you: Saturday is the opening day of the North Adams Farmers Market. Local farmers and a few artists/artisans will be at the St. Anthony Municipal Parking Lot on Marshall and St. Anthony Drive. There's lots of local fare that travels well, like honey, jams and maple syrup. For further browsing and buying, head to the Berkshire Emporium on Main Street for room after room of antiques, or to Sanford and Kid on Houghton Street for antiques, estate sale stuff, vintage clothing and a dollar wall. Yes, a dollar wall.

6. Baby We'll Be Fine: North Adams isn't your typical old factory town. This is an active, inclusive, supportive community, with dedicated volunteers and opportunities for the young, the old, the new, the been-here-for-decades. As you explore our little city, be on the lookout for evidence of that: the windows plastered with fliers for free community events, the local products used in almost every café, the mural that now decorates the doors of the old Mohawk Theater. This is a place with pride in itself and confidence in its future.

For more information about The National performance, visit massmoca.org. To learn more about North Adams, visit explorenorthadams.com.

— Francesca Olsen


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