But the scenic region—seemingly tailor-made for weekend getaways—isn't easy to access for carless New Yorkers, who, after all, make up more than half of the city's residents.
This summer, though, the situation is set to improve. Amtrak will run a seasonal passenger train between New York City and the Berkshires on weekends starting Friday, July 8.
Known as the Berkshire Flyer, the service will leave New York's Penn Station on Friday afternoons and arrive in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, about four hours later, making several station stops along the way. A return trip will depart for New York from Pittsfield on Sunday afternoon.
The project, developed by the U.S. national rail carrier in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the New York State Department of Transportation, is a pilot program that will run this summer and again in summer 2023. Officials will decide whether to continue the service beyond that time based on feasibility, customer demand, and other considerations, according to an Amtrak news release.
The Berkshire Eagle reports that launching a dedicated weekend train to the region for New York tourists has been in the works for years, but legal questions, the need to secure permission to use tracks owned by private companies, and the pandemic delayed the start, originally scheduled for 2020.
In Amtrak's announcement, the rail carrier's president and CEO, Stephen Gardner, says the Berkshire Flyer will "offer a more comfortable and convenient transportation option, that’s also more environmentally friendly, for people traveling between New York City and Berkshire County, along with easy access to musical performances at Tanglewood," referring to the region's famed summer music festival.
Determining whether the new rail service will be an affordable and efficient option for weekenders from New York will depend on several factors, starting with the cost of tickets, which hasn't been announced yet. An Amtrak spokesperson told Frommer's pricing details will become available when tickets go on sale next month.
If you're hoping for a bargain, you might want to temper your expectations. Due to the chronic lack of sufficient public funding for rail travel in the U.S., Amtrak's ticket prices are rarely what you'd call a steal—even, sometimes, when compared with air travel. (Amtrak's occasional limited-time deals could save you some money, though—keep an eye out for those).
And if you travel to the Berkshires without a car, you'll also need to factor in the cost and logistics of securing transportation once you get to western Massachusetts, where taxis and Lyfts are less prevalent than in Manhattan and public transit options are often nil.
Tanglewood, to take the example cited by Amtrak's Gardner, is in Lenox, Massachusetts, which is about 10 miles from Pittsfield. That's a short drive but a very long walk.
So unless you want to stay within walking distance of the Pittsfield train station all weekend, you're still gonna need some sort of ride (a cab, an Uber, a rental) once you get to the Berkshires. Don't forget that when you're making plans and setting a budget.
When tickets for the Berkshire Flyer go on sale in May, you can make a reservation at Amtrak.com or by calling 800/USA-RAIL.