Created for McCall’s magazine in 1967, “Home for Christmas” (Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas), is one of Norman Rockwell’s best known paintings. It depicts the western Massachusetts town center — shop windows aglow — all decked out for the holidays. When we think about an old-fashioned Christmas, it’s this image, or one like it, that often comes to mind.
Among the buildings visible in Rockwell’s painting is The Red Lion Inn. First opened in 1773, it’s one of America’s oldest accommodations for travelers. The sprawling Colonial structure has long been the center of Stockbridge village life, providing hearty meals, comfortable beds and cozy corners where locals and travelers alike can unwind and visit with family and friends.
The Red Lion makes for a wonderful getaway any time of year, its expansive front porch and inviting Lion’s Den pub providing four-season hospitality. But for many of the inn’s guests, it’s during the holiday season that the Red Lion is at its best.
According to a Red Lion brochure, the inn uses more than 700 feet of garland, 50 poinsettias and 32 evergreen trees in its holiday decorations. Beginning the first weekend in December, festive events and entertainment abound. Live holiday music, caroling and readings are offered daily by the lobby fire. Children are invited to have brunch with Santa near a candy castle, and hot toddies and warm cider are served outside on the porch. The inn also participates in the town of Stockbridge’s annual “Main Street at Christmas” re-creation, bringing the magic of Rockwell’s painting to life.
Red Lion visitors will find its corridors and public areas festooned with antiques, from imposing oak highboys to a remarkable collection of English transferware platters and teapots, some of which have been in their current locations since the 1800s. Step into Widow Bingham’s Tavern, just off the lobby, and its original, wide pine floors and snug wooden tables will make you feel as if you’ve traveled back 200 years.
Despite the Red Lion’s historic decor, its guest rooms offer recently updated bathrooms and posh four-poster beds. Wireless Internet is available throughout the property.
Renowned for its farm-to-table cuisine, the Red Lion is a popular dining destination. Featuring classic New England dishes such as ale battered haddock and chicken and vegetable pot pie, much of what the inn serves comes from farms in the Berkshires. For Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s dinner, the Red Lion offers a special prix fixe menu that includes locally-raised roast turkey, braised lamb and traditional Indian pudding for dessert.
Holiday shoppers will want to poke their heads into the Red Lion’s gift shop. In keeping with the dining room’s commitment to offer locally produced food, most of what the shop sells is made by Berkshires artists and artisans. From original paintings to one-of-a-kind jewelry, it’s a great place to purchase unique gifts. Other holiday shopping opportunities can be found in the village, where locally-owned art galleries, boutiques and shops line Main Street. And for those who want to bring home something “uniquely Stockbridge,” the Norman Rockwell Museum, just over two miles away, sells a variety of items inspired by the artist’s work, including prints, coffee table books, Christmas ornaments and calendars.
The Red Lion Inn has 125 rooms, including those in its “Guest Houses,” which are separate from the main building. Family accommodations are available for guests traveling with children. Dinner and overnight stay packages, including a New Year’s Eve gala, are available for the holidays, along with several wintertime packages that include things like ski lift passes, wine dinners and massage therapy. The inn also welcomes “well trained and quiet” pets in selected rooms.
The Red Lion Inn
($140 to $420)
30 Main St.
Norman Rockwell Museum
9 Route 183