STOCKBRIDGE, MASS. — It seems like years since we had a December worth celebrating. But the Red Lion Inn and Norman Rockwell Museum are going to make up for the times we’ve missed, creating a month-long slate of activities and special events centered on being with family and friends, celebrating traditions and creating new memories with the people we love.

The Red Lion Inn and Rockwell Museum, both in Stockbridge, Mass., are naming this year’s partnership as Joyful Family Holidays. “We’ve taken a fresh spin on some of the traditions that have been in place for many years and packaging them up in a way that’s fun, festive, and safe,” said Sarah Eustis, CEO of Main Street Hospitality Group, the owner of the Red Lion Inn.

One of the treasured annual events, Main Street at Christmas Weekend, a Norman Rockwell Holiday, hosted by the Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce, is on hiatus again this year because of continued Covid precautions. As an alternate way to share in the joy of Stockbridge this season, The Red Lion Inn and Norman Rockwell Museum are offering some favorite traditions and new magic for their guests.

And because there are many different holidays happening in December that honor various customs and heritages, the Red Lion Inn and Rockwell Museum partnership aims to celebrate the spirit of gathering for meals, stories, culture, and the company of loved ones. Joyful Family Holidays is focused less on a specific holiday and more on Stockbridge’s being a welcoming place where visitors of all ages can enjoy traditions new and old, and create new memories.

“Norman Rockwell is cherished for his iconic images of holidays and family,” said Laurie Norton Moffatt, director/ CEO of Norman Rockwell Museum. “The Museum’s holiday traditions have evolved to recognize many cultural practices that are meaningful for our guests. The special exhibitions together with Rockwell’s art, stir memories, offer inspiration, and get people talking about what they are seeing and feeling.”

One tradition Eustis and her staff are especially proud of is their front porch. During COVID-19 last year, Red Lion Inn needed to make more space to allow for social distancing, so managers wrapped the porch in a beautiful red canvas to create an enclosure. Then they heated the front porch so people could sit out there and have a meal and a cocktail or some cocoa and enjoy the space outside for the winter.

“We’re really known for being this place to come back to with your family. We have generations and generations of people return. We greet them by name and appreciate that people spend important family moments with us,” Eustis said.

“It’s a promise that we’re keeping The Red Lion Inn thriving and ready for our guests and their families.”

And everything they’re doing will be done in a careful and safe way with their guests’ health and safety at the forefront of their minds, she said.

There’s a lot to do in Stockbridge

The Red Lion has a lot more going on than just a place to stay or to get dinner. The Inn has four restaurants, including the Main Dining Room and Widow Bingham’s Tavern. (The Courtyard is closed for the season, and The Lion’s Den is closed for renovations.)

There also are several art galleries, museums, shops, historic homes and sites, theaters, as well as hiking and skiing around Stockbridge.

“You can have a great afternoon seeing the new Jan Brett exhibit at the Rockwell, and then come to the Red Lion, listen to some caroling, and sit outside with a cup of cocoa,” Norton Moffatt said. “Or you can organize your trip around some of the different things that are going on in the area. You can make the Red Lion your home base and enjoy the Norman Rockwell Museum, among the many cultural activities.”

Of course, you won’t want to miss dinner at the Red Lion, especially during Christmas.

A new chef, John Sterrett, came to the Red Lion in June and brought his wife, who is the new food-and-beverage director. Chef Sterrett was working hard on the Thanksgiving dinner at the Red Lion and will soon be getting ready for Christmas Eve dinner, Eustis said.

In November, the hotel was decorated in a fall theme, as Thanksgiving at the Red Lion is always a classic. People get dressed up, sit in a beautiful dining room and enjoy a sumptuous prix fixe meal.

“It was incredibly gracious, especially this year,” Eustis said. “We have so, so, so, so much to be grateful for, and we love the idea of being together and gathering and all the things that we took for granted before.”

So what’s the plan for Christmas Dinner at the Red Lion Inn?

“Chef Sterrett was so busy with Thanksgiving, he hasn’t even had time to think about what the Christmas menu is going to involve, but it’s going to be wonderful,” Eustis said. “It will be a prix fixe menu.”

You can get more information on the Red Lion Inn website at RedLionInn.com.

Rockwell is busy

Similarly, the Rockwell Museum is hosting several events, with special holiday and winter- themed exhibitions on view. Jan Brett, author of several children’s stories is featured in Jan Brett Stories Near & Far, which opened on Nov. 20. Family-friendly scavenger hunts help visitors notice the beautiful and often hidden details in Brett’s intricate watercolor paintings. The Museum Store has stocked up on favorite Jan Brett books, and they are signed by the artist.

Also on view, Norman Rockwell Home for the Holidays, with iconic and beloved paintings, including the original Main Street at Christmas and other original works. The museum’s app invites visitors to explore videos, preliminary drawings, background stories and behind-the scenes information about many of the pieces on view. The lobby brings Rockwell’s Main Street to life, at child-sized scale with the miniature Stockbridge village display and train set, which captures the heart of young and young at heart.


The events the Red Lion Inn has planned include:

Wednesday Night Holiday Jazz in the lobby, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Christmas Piano Covers on Nov. 30, Dec. 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 26, 27 and 28.

Hot Beverage Pop-Ups every Saturday and Sunday, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

There are also several special events including:

Seasonal stories in the Side Parlor.

Christmas caroling.

Main Street photo opportunities.

Gingerbread house decorating.

Santa brunch.

Norman Rockwell discussions.

Christmas Eve dinner.

Christmas Day dinner.

New Years Eve dinner.

Special upcoming events at the Norman Rockwell Museum include

Joyful Family Holiday Weekend on Dec. 4, with readings of Jan Brett’s stories, drawing in the galleries, and a meet/greet photo op with Hedgie, one of the cherished characters in many of the artist’s books.

On Dec. 5 Winter Wonderland Scavenger Hunts, and recorded storytelling by Jan Brett will add to the fun of a museum visit. A launch of her new book, Jan Brett’s The Nutcracker, will be held at 11 a.m.-4 pm. on Dec. 11. Brett will be at the museum for several activities throughout the day, each requiring advance registration.

For the December school vacation week, the museum will host an indoor adventure with the beloved stories and animals featured in Brett’s books, with appearances of Hedgie, the Winter Wonderland Scavenger Hunts and readings from her books scheduled throughout the week. Take-home activities are available.

Included with admission; free for kids & teens, and Members. Advance admission tickets at NRM.org

You can find more about these events at the Rockwell Museum’s website at nrm.org.