While summers in the Berkshires often draw visitors to the prestigious musical estate of Tanglewood, winter offers a chance to consider a weekend getaway to The Red Lion Inn. This classic New England inn is located in Stockbridge, just two hours from Boston. The surrounding area is nearby to a few great winter excursions including the Norman Rockwell Museum, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and Sterling & Francine Clark Art Museum.
The Red Lion Inn, which is now operated by the Fitzpatrick family, is one of the few American inns that have been in continuous operation since the 18th century. Fun fact: the inn has had several different names since first opening but the figure of a red lion has always maintained a prominent presence within its logo. The year-round vacation property has enjoyed a high profile celebrity following, which includes John Wayne, Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett, Steve Martin, Billy Joel, Alec Baldwin, Al Gore and Oprah Winfrey. Presidential guests that have stayed at The Red Lion also include Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Calvin Coolidge, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt.
The first thing you notice after pulling up to the Inn is the beautiful white porch that wraps around the residence. Stepping inside the entryway of The Red Lion Inn is like stepping back in time with the display of vintage photos framed throughout the lobby. The pictures capture the Innís lobby during the early 1900ís as well as images of the bird cage elevator, installed in 1897, and the Lincoln Table, acquired in the 1860ís.
The Lionís Den, a cozy, downstairs pub, features live music every night (no cover charge) and casual fare like chicken pot pie, Lilaís Lamb Shepherd Pie, and bread pudding. In addition to the pub, the Inn also features two other dining options. Widow Binghamís Tavern, which was named for one of the Innís original owners, offers a homey atmosphere with dark paneled walls, red-checked tablecloths, and a collection of wicker baskets hanging from the ceiling. Diners can enjoy casual dining with a menu that provides hearty sandwiches, homemade stews, and fresh salads, best accompanied by a glass or wine or locally brewed beer.
The more upscale Main Dining Room is popular for both its traditional culinary offerings as well as its modern take on New England cuisine. While the traditional dress code of suit jacket and tie is no longer required, nice attire is encouraged. The kitchenís talented Executive Chef Brian J. Alberg, who works to procure the majority of his ingredients from the community of Berkshire, provides dishes that may be most enjoyed with one of the 400 offerings from the Innís wine list. Because of its fine selection, The Red Lion Inn has been awarded the Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence for the past nine years.
The Red Lion Inn shared its township of Stockbridge with the renowned American painter, Norman Rockwell who moved to the city in 1953. The Inn has been forever immortalized in the paintings of the prolific artist who included the New England inn in his work Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas. Rockwell also married Molly Punderson, a retired school teacher and the daughter of Inn assistant James H. Punderson. The Main Dining Room proudly recognizes the Innís relationship with the painter, displaying an original Norman Rockwell in a warm corner of the restaurant, depicting a Thanksgiving scene in Rockwellís family dining room.
The interior of the Red Lion Inn reveals a beautifully decorated, two-story Greek Revival residence that offers classic fixtures like fabric headboards, antique bureaus and vintage TV lamps with modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs, high speed Internet and mini refrigerators. During our visit we stayed in a pet-friendly Superior Room, a spacious accommodation with a gas fireplace and enormous bathroom. If you are coming without a pet be sure to book a room in the newly renovated Maple Glen. The 17-room building is separate from the Inn, appointed with modern amenities that blend with classic Victorian dťcor.