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Art Pilgrimage to Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts

Pioneer Valley

This 1,100-square-mile patchwork of farms, orchards, and rolling hills has lured free- spirited artists and literati for decades. But for the past several years, the valley towns of Amherst and Northampton have played second fiddle to the Berkshires' boisterous cultural scene. Now, however, a bevy of art spaces and exhibitions is springing up all over the region, bringing an indoor landscape that rivals the great outdoors.

What to Do

Art aficionados won't want to skip the new Museums10 (museums10.org)— a collective of 10 of the area's top art institutions. Among the best is the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum (Lower Lake Rd., South Hadley; 413/538-2245) with 10 galleries dedicated to Asian, Renaissance, and contemporary art. The Smith College Museum of Art (Elm St. at Bedford Terrace, Northampton; 413/585-2760) has a permanent collection of 19th- and 20th-century paintings—Degas, Monet, Cézanne, and Picasso—and is housed in a new four-story space.

Where to Eat

Order the apple-cinnamon pancakes in the sunlit dining room at Sylvester's (111 Pleasant St., Northampton; 413/586-5343; breakfast for two $15). For Gallic classics like wine-braised rabbit with parsnips, go to Chez Albert (27 South Pleasant St., Amherst; 413/253-3811; dinner for two $80).

Where to Stay

At the colonial Lord Jeffery Inn (30 Boltwood Ave., Amherst; 800/742-0358; lordjefferyinn.com; doubles from $119), you'll find a stone fireplace surrounded by blazer-clad Amherst alums sipping single-malt scotch. The patio overlooks the village green and serves mulled cider from nearby organic farms. Rooms in the Wing section have private balconies.

Insider Tip

"Every fall, I drive to the top of Mount Sugarloaf [entrance off Rte. 116, South Deerfield]. There's an incredible vista of the Connecticut River snaking through the valley, which I love to paint," local artist Linda Post says. To see her work, visit the R. Michelson Gallery (132 Main St., Northampton; 413/586-3964; rmichelson.com).

—Jessica Merrill

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