Tucked into Massachusetts’ northwest corner, Williamstown is one of America’s first college towns; the town and the college both date to 1791. Williams College, consistently ranking at or near the top of America’s liberal arts institutions, is the town’s largest employer. You don’t have to have a connection to Williams, though, to enjoy what the town — and the College — have to offer.
You could begin on Spring Street, the commercial center, where you’ll find galleries, stylish clothing stores, coffee shops with fast Internet connections, and restaurants that cater to the tastes of college students, locals, and visitors alike. Nature’s Closet has Patagonia and a wide selection of outdoor footwear, and is also home of the popular Smoothie Spot. Both Nature’s Closet and Smoothie Spot are currently open Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., plus they offer virtual shopping by appointment. Check out the Greylock Gallery (open Thursday through Sunday and by appointment on other days) next door, which specializes in contemporary American landscapes by emerging and established artists.
You could pick up a book at the light-filled Williams Bookstore (open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except Sunday noon to 5 p.m.), and dive into Spoon next door (open noon to 9 p.m.) for a refreshing frozen yogurt. Or treat yourself to great coffee and baked goods at Tunnel City Coffee across the street and open daily to 7 p.m. And, if you’re on your way to MASS MoCA in North Adams, Tunnel City Coffee has a place there, now also serving ice cream from Stockbridge’s High Lawn Farm and open daily until 7 p.m. The MASS MoCA by Design shop is open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. A new arrival near the top of the street is Unlimited Nutrition, specializing in protein shakes and flavored teas (open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), and at the foot of the street is the well-appointed Williams Inn, now open for dining and overnight stays.
And if you have medical or recreational cannabis needs, Silver Therapeutics is ready to serve you seven days a week from a little mellow shop a mile east of downtown. Currently, Silver Therapeutics is open for curbside pickup and online preorder only; ordering begins every morning at 7 a.m.
Williamstown is also home to the long-established but still adventurous Williamstown Theater Festival, closed for 2020 but offering a full season in audio available through Audible. Images Cinema, on Spring Street, is one of the few remaining independent movie theaters still going. It’s a non-profit community theater that presents a wide range of independent, foreign and classic films. This summer, enjoy Images Online, a full schedule of new and interesting films.
Unfortunately, the galleries of the Williams College Museum of Art are closed this season. But The Clark Art Institute is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with advanced timed-visit tickets required. Come and enjoy its extraordinary permanent collection, groundbreaking special exhibitions, and striking architecture by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando. The Clark campus boasts 140 acres of lawns, meadows and walking trails. Exhibitions this year include Lin May Saeed: Arrival of the Animals to October 25, Lines from Life: French Drawings from the Diamond Collection to December 13, and Pia Camil: Velo Revelo to January 3, 2021.
There’s a lot of wild country around Williamstown, with well-maintained trails to get you out on it. The Williams Outing Club publishes an excellent guide to North Berkshire recreation, and the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation trail kiosk at Sheep Hill on Cold Spring Road south of town offers complete information on all local trails, including those in the Hopkins Forest, the Mount Greylock Reservation, and Field Farm. For rural family fun, especially with younger children, Ioka Valley Farm, on route 43 south of town in Hancock, has approachable farm animals and farm-related activities to engage in.
Williamstown eats well. Fine restaurants like Mezze, south of town on Route 7, source local foods. Mezze’s “Picnic under the Pines” and takeout are available Thursday through Sunday, 4 to 8 p.m., while dining indoors and on the porch, by reservation only, is available for three sittings at 5, 6:30 and 8:15 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Coyote Flaco, also on Route 7, serves a Mexican menu and is open for pickup only Thursday through Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m. There’s Indian cuisine at Spice Root on Spring Street (open normal hours for curbside pickup and contactless delivery), and Thai and Japanese at Blue Mango (open every day 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. for dine-in and takeout) next door. If you’re just looking for lunch, the Spring Street Market & Café is a standby (open Saturday through Tuesday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for dining and takeout. The Neapolitan-style pizza at Hot Tomatoes on Water Street is exceptional, and you can enjoy it under the trees beside the Green River at picnic tables behind the restaurant. (Open Tuesday through Sunday. Check web site for hours.)
Looking for a watering hole? The Water Street Grill (open at 11 a.m. every day for indoor and outdoor dining and takeout, and closing 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday) serves many craft beers on tap, good food, and a warm ambiance. For Chinese fare, Chopsticks, (open for lunch and dinner every day but Tuesday. Check web site for hours), just east of town on Route 2, is the best choice in the region. Berkshire Palate (open Wednesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 or 9:30 p.m.), also on Route 2 east, is a good choice if you’re looking for lunch between museums or dinner. If you’re cooking for yourself, stock up at Wild Oats on the same stretch of road; last year they carried products from 130 local organic producers. This year they are open every day 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pickups are weekdays only, with orders using a new online form processed at 6 a.m. Monday through Friday.
If you’re not an Eph (that would be a Williams graduate — an “eef,” as in College founder Ephraim Williams) you may wonder why everyone is wearing purple. Hint: the college mascot is a purple cow; you may prefer to see than be one.