Lenox is filled with music every summer, and the undisputed headliner is the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Concerts are given at the famous Tanglewood estate, usually beginning in July and ending the weekend before Labor Day. The estate is on West Street (actually between Stockbridge and Lenox, although it's always associated with Lenox). From Lenox, take Route 183 1 1/2 miles southwest of town.
While the BSO is Tanglewood's 800-pound cultural gorilla, the program features a menagerie of other performers and musical idioms. These run the gamut from popular artists (James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt) and jazz musicians (Dave Brubeck and Wynton Marsalis) to classical soloists (Emmanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma).
The Koussevitzky Music Shed is an open auditorium that seats 5,000, surrounded by a lawn where an outdoor audience lounges on folding chairs and blankets. Chamber groups and soloists appear in the smaller Seiji Ozawa Hall. Major performances are on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon.
Tentative programs are available after January 1, and tickets usually go on sale in February and can sell out quickly (you can buy them online). To go at the last minute, take a blanket or lawn chair and get tickets for lawn seating, which is almost always available. You can also attend open rehearsals during the week, as well as the rehearsal for the Sunday concert on Saturday morning.
The estate itself, with more than 500 acres of lawns and gardens, much of it overlooking the lake called Stockbridge Bowl, was put together starting in 1849 by William Aspinwall Tappan. Admission to the grounds is free when concerts aren't scheduled.
In 1851, a structure on the property called the Little Red Shanty was rented to Nathaniel Hawthorne, who stayed here long enough to write a children's book, Tanglewood Tales, and meet Herman Melville, who lived in nearby Dalton. The existing Hawthorne Cottage is a replica (closed to the public). On the grounds is the original Tappan mansion, with fine views.