Six Cool U.S. Cities: 4. Great Barrington

The Guardian - Rachel Dixon - Vibrant Great Barrington is half-way between New York and Boston, making it a good small town break between big cities. It has a strong community feel, its own regional currency, BerkShares (berkshares.org), and local food champions such as Berkshire Grown (berkshiregrown.org). Allium restaurant (alliumberkshires.com) in the centre serves locally sourced food, and has a late-night cocktail bar. Smithsonian magazine recently named Great Barrington the best small town in America, for its museums, historic sites, gardens, orchestras and art galleries. The recently restored Mahaiwe performing arts centre (mahaiwe.org) is a cultural focus for the whole south Berkshires, while the Guthrie Centre (guthriecenter.org) hosts quirkier events, such as the Troubadour folk music series. Hermann Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne picnicked on Monument mountain in 1850, and thousands now follow in their footsteps every year. There's a ski resort a couple of miles away (skibutternut.com). Stay at a B&B such as The Inn at Sweet Water Farm (innsweetwater.com, doubles from $225), a gorgeous 19th-century building in the hills west of town.