Towards the end of the summer, Jess and I decided to take a quick two night trip without the kids. We try to travel at least for a couple days and are lucky to have good babysitters (read: grandparents). Where to go this time: Europe? Asia? Bora Bora? Nope! We settled on a 3 hour drive to North Adams, MA. Most of our friends responded with, “Where?” But we fulfilled Jess’ dream of visiting MASS MoCA and Porches. And to be fair to her, they were both pretty great.
If you enjoy quaint boutique hotels and art museums, MASS MoCA and Porches definitely warrant a visit!
Porches and MASS MoCA – a quick history
Seriously, why North Adams? I knew nothing about MASS MoCA and Porches (or North Adams) until I got there, but found the backstory fascinating once I learned it. North Adams used to a typical mill town, with its economy basically revolving around a factory in the center of town. Like most mill towns, the factory went through a few iterations before eventually shutting down.
Enter MASS MoCA. In the late 1980s a plan was put in place to use the large factory space for a modern art museum. After various twists and turns, MASS MoCA opened in 1999, and according to the internet, it has helped not only to begin to revitalize North Adams but also the region altogether. So a lot of the economy still revolves around that factory, but now its due to the cultural and artistic capital housed within!
Porches, a boutique hotel across the street, came about a few years later. Some genius bought the old mill houses near the factory and turned them into a lovely hotel for guests wanting to visit North Adams and MASS MoCA.
Porches – booking with Ultimate Rewards points
I’ve moved to the point in my life where I either take FQF’s advice and spend cash last, or I stay at a severe discount (or both). The latter is a function of cost of points vs. cost of redemption.
Porches exists on Chase’s Ultimate Rewards booking portal, so I booked the hotel using Ultimate Rewards points. I no longer track how I earn all my points, but I know that the most I spent for them would have been about 1 cpp, and I redeemed at 1.5 cpp. At worst, I paid for my hotel at a 33% discount. Since Porches is a boutique hotel, I didn’t have to forego any points earnings (I don’t bother with Orbitz and the like anyway).
One thing to note, sometimes the Chase portal costs more than other booking sites (including the hotel’s own site). That didn’t happen to me in this instance but make sure to do your homework.
Our suite room (I decided to splurge a bit)
Porches Quick Review
MASS MoCA and Porches are across the street from one another. The one word that comes to mind when I think of Porches is “cute”. Not normally what I look for in a hotel, but when you’re trying to get away from the kids it works very well. The rooms are clean, quaint, and well decorated with art and local flavor.
Porches reminds me of a typical bed and breakfast, both in feel of the rooms and feel of the overall property. Unlike a bed and breakfast, Porches houses a ton of rooms, some complete with…a porch. There is a nice pool and a nice sitting area with board games, books, etc. Note that breakfast is continental; you can also order a cool (cute!) lunchbox breakfast.
Continental breakfast is a nice touch
What I loved most about Porches escapes description. It just has a pleasant, comfortable feel to it. It feels personal and welcoming, just like home. It’s the kind of place where you borrow a free DVD and watch at night, or just sit out on the porch watching the cars go by. There’s a nice view of MASS MoCA across the street – they keep some of the large exhibits lit up so you can see them from a distance.
All in all, a lovely hotel I’d highly recommend – just don’t expect the bells and whistles of a Grand Hyatt or JW Marriott. To me, MASS MoCA and Porches go hand in hand – stay here if you’re visiting and have the points or cash to!
MASS MoCA – modern art at its finest
I am by no means an art connoisseur, but I know what I like. And I loved MASS MoCA. Forgive my (too) geeky (or not enough) analysis here, but I’ve never been a huge fan of cubism and abstract stuff like Picasso. I finally started “getting” it in my 30s, but I don’t need the artist to trust me as an audience – just paint something pretty!
I call this installation “Upside Down Tree”
What I appreciate about more recent art is its use of space, technology, architecture, and the like. Modern art consists of building pretty things, making cool things, and using cool color palates. It appeals to my artistic sensibilities but also my nerdy science/engineering sensibility.
I think this one was called “travel paraphenelia” or something like that. Maybe I should do one!
MASS MoCA contains all of that and a bag of chips. Exhibits change, but there are exhibits that utilize all your senses (except maybe taste?). There were even a couple of VR demos.
The space itself is also very well used. You’re walking through an old factory and they really take advantage of old bridges, rooms, stairwells, etc. It’s just a fun place to walk around. Anyway, it’s tough for me to describe art, so I’ll let the pictures do the most of the talking. It’s a great museum!
MASS MoCA and Porches may not be on your radar, but if you appreciate art and quaint little towns, you should definitely put it on your list. I didn’t even talk about our visit to nearby Williamstown which was a great adventure in and of itself. Overall, I think MASS MoCA and Porches are well worth a visit and a nice getaway, especially if you live in a city in the Northeast.
Have you ever visited? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!