And then there’s the sense of Americana, so pervasive in this part of the country at this time of year. When you go to a place like Bar Harbor, Maine, just outside of Acadia, or Saratoga SpringsNew York or Newport Or Cape Cod, it feels like visiting one of the sacred sites where Americans learned in the late 19th century what it meant to go on a summer vacation in this country. So many natural wonders that rose to prominence at that time, like Niagara Falls and Howe Caverns, are today swaddled in a kitschy blanket that I find more charming than anything else.
There are also man-made wonders, masterpieces of American ingenuity and obsession. Two of my favorite summer weekend destinations, both a few hours from New York City, are oases built on the ruins of abandoned quarries: Manitoba, near the Algonquin Trail in Garrison, New York, is a peaceful modernist home and Japanese-inspired woodland garden curated over many years by industrial designer Russel Wright; Opus 40, about eight kilometers from the house where Big Pink was recorded in Saugerties, New York, is a graceful bluestone environmental sculpture painstakingly assembled over nearly four decades by Harvey Fite, a professor at nearby Bard College, that rivals the great earthworks of the West.
For more “official” art, here are two different paired art pilgrimages that both make great summer weekends away. In New York, a little downstream from Opus 40, on opposite sides of the Hudson River are king of the storma collection of masterful modern sculptures by Alexander Calder and Richard Serra, Louise Nevelson and Maya Lin, nestled among the waves and furrows of a beautiful swathe of the Hudson Valley, and Dia Tag, a converted Nabisco box-printing factory that is home to an extraordinary assortment of postwar minimalists and conceptualists (Andy Warhol, Agnes Martin, Donald Judd, plus Serra). Further north, in western Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (better known as Mass MOCA), also in a converted print shop, features an eclectic array of modern and contemporary art, sculpture, installation and performance art; 15 minutes by car, near Williams College, the Clark Art Institute houses one of the finest collections of 19th century European works (Monet, Degas, Renoir, Rodin) in America in its majestic marble exhibition hall original and an elegant Tadao Ando-designed addition, with a newly created contemporary sculpture garden sharing the space with the cows in the pastures outside. In the neighborhood are more cultural attractions like Tanglewood, the beloved summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; many scenic starting points; great antiquity; and wonderful restaurants like the Prairie Whale in Great Barrington. The new avant-garde roadside hostel Tourists is an ideal base to do everything. It is one of the most heavenly regions of the country to spend a long summer weekend.