WHEN TO GO: Summer and fall are busy seasons in the Berkshires, so reservations -- especially on weekends -- are highly recommended. Many inns remain open through the winter, welcoming downhill and cross-country skiers and ice skaters. Spring is the quietest time. A number of the museums and homes -- Arrowhead, The Mount, Hancock Shaker Village -- are open only from late spring or Memorial Day weekend into the fall.
GETTING THERE: U.S. Air has frequent flights to the Albany, N.Y., airport, about a 45-mile drive via I-87 south and I-90 east to the Berkshires. The lowest current round-trip fare offered from Washington is $163, based on a seven-day advance purchase, travel on weekends and staying over one Saturday night.
WHERE TO STAY: Lenox and Stockbridge are charming New England villages, and to properly savor the flavor of the Berkshires you should consider staying in one of the inns nearby.
* In the heart of Stockbridge, the huge old Red Lion Inn on Main Street has been welcoming guests since 1773. Rocking chairs wait on the veranda. Summer rates: From $40 single with a shared bath (weekdays) to $175 for a suite for two (private bath, weekends), (413) 298-5545.
* Just outside Lenox, the Apple Tree Inn on West Street is ideally located for Tanglewood ticket holders. It sits high on a hill, across the road from Tanglewood, with good views of Stockbridge Bowl. The new owners have been busy planting 300 varieties of roses on the 22 acres of grounds. Tennis court and new swimming pool. Summer rates: From $65 daily double with shared bath (weekdays); from $125 to $185 double with private bath (Friday and Saturday), (413) 637-1477.
* In the heart of Lenox, the 200-year-old Village Inn comes highly recommended. Summer rates: From $65 to $105 double, (413) 637-0020.
* At least two of the Berkshire "cottages" have become inns: Wheatleigh is a re-created Florentine palazzo, about a 10-minute walk from Tanglewood. Summer rates: $145 to $275 a night double (all private baths), (413) 637-0610. Blantyre, just outside Lenox, is an Elizabethan castle. Summer rates: $150 to $300 a night double (all private baths), (413) 637-3556.
* Inns, hotels, motels, resorts, bed and breakfast lodgings and campgrounds are available throughout the Berkshires. For information: Berkshires Visitors Bureau, Berkshire Common, Pittsfield, Mass. 01201, (800) BERKSHR or (413) 443-9186.
WHERE TO EAT: The choices are wide. For an informal lunch, try Nejaime's lunch counter in Stockbridge; for lunch in the garden, Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge. For informal dining, the Church Street Cafe in Lenox offers innovative American menus. For an elegant setting, and excellent food, try the Proctor "cottage," now Gateways Inn in Lenox. The views are superb at Apple Tree Inn, across from Tanglewood.
PERFORMANCES: Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood, Lenox: 1985 season, June 27 through Sept. 1. The Boston Symphony plays Friday and Saturday evenings and most Sunday afternoons, but many other musical programs are scheduled during the week. The box office at Tanglewood (on West Street just outside Lenox) is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets: From $6.50 per person for lawn to $50 for box seats. For more information: Tanglewood Ticket Office, Tanglewood, Lenox, Mass. 01240, (413) 637-1940.
Jacob's Pillow, Becket: 1985 season, June 23 through Aug. 31. A wide range of dance, jazz and experimental performing arts programs. Single tickets range from $11 (weekdays) to $18.50 (Saturday evenings), plus there are frequent free open-air programs. Box office open Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Jacob's Pillow, Box 287 SB, Lee, Mass. 01238, (413) 243-0745.
Shakespeare & Company, The Mount, Lenox: 1985 season, July 4 through Sept. 1. Tickets range from $12 (weekdays) for lawn seating to $15 for reserved chairs (Saturdays). Picnickers welcome. Shakespeare & Company, The Mount, Lenox, Mass. 01240, (413) 637-3353 (after June 17).
* Arrowhead, Herman Melville's home, Pittsfield: Open Memorial Day weekend through Oct. 31, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Admission: Adults, $2; students, $1. For information: 780 Holmes Rd., Pittsfield, Mass. 01201, (413) 442-1793.
* Bartholomew's Cobble, Ashley Falls: Open daily, April 15 to Oct. 15, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Natural history museum open Wednesday through Sunday. Admission: Adults, $2; children, $1. For information: P.O. Box 128, Ashley Falls, Mass. 01222, (413) 229-8600.
* Chesterwood, home of sculptor Daniel Chester French, Stockbridge: Open daily, May 1 through Oct. 31, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: $3.50. Follow signs, two miles west of Stockbridge via Routes 102 west and 183 south. For information: P.O. Box 248, Stockbridge, Mass. 01262, (413) 298-3579.
* "Cottage" tours by van: From July 4 through August, at 10 a.m., Thursday and Friday, and 10 a.m., and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Includes interior and garden tours of The Mount, Chesterwood and Naumkeag -- the 1885 Stockbridge mansion of Joseph Choate, once ambassador to Britain -- and looks at a number of additional mansions. Fee: $12, and reservations advised. Departures from The Mount, Plunkett Street at the junction of Routes 7 and 7A in Lenox. For information: (413) 637-1899.
* Hancock Shaker Village, southwest of Pittsfield on Rte. 20: Open daily, May 25 through Oct. 31, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: Adults, $6; children, 6 to 12, $2; under 6, free. For information: P.O. Box 898, Pittsfield, Mass. 01202, (413) 443-0188.
* Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge: Open daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Tuesday and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission: Adults, $3; children under 12, $1. Guided tours of exhibit rooms. For information: Old Corner House, Main Street, Stockbridge, Mass. 01262, (413) 298-3822.
* The Mount, Edith Wharton's home, Lenox: Open June through October. Summers, noon to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Fall, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sunday and holidays. Admission, $3. For information: P.O. Box 974, Lenox, Mass. 01240, (413) 637-1899.
GENERAL INFORMATION: The Berkshires Visitors Bureau, Berkshire Common, Pittsfield, Mass. 01201, (800) BERKSHR or (413) 443-9186; or Spirit of Massachusetts, Division of Tourism, 100 Cambridge St., 13th Floor, Boston, Mass. 02202.