Cooperstown: Authentic Small Town Americana
By Terri Marshall
When my son was young I spent a good portion of my spring and summer watching him play baseball. I can still hear the crack of the bat, the cheers of the crowd and the occasional shouts at the umpire…that might have been me. As baseball season arrives, it is the perfect time to spotlight the village that is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame – Cooperstown, New York. Located on the southern shore of Otsego Lake, Cooperstown is authentic, small-town Americana. With only one stop-light and about three blocks of downtown, walking the streets of the picturesque village is a bit like strolling through a Norman Rockwell painting. There are plenty of reasons to visit this American treasure, here are some highlights.
America’s Favorite Past-time
No visit to Cooperstown would be complete without seeing the cathedral of baseball. Tucked away on the village’s main street, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has more the 38,000 artifacts honoring baseball’s history. The crowning jewel is the Plaque Gallery, where visitors will discover all 306 Hall of Fame members’ bronze plaques honoring their achievements. Visit the 20th Century Baseball Time Line to discover more about women in baseball and the African-American league. Kids will love the interactive exhibits and activities in the Sandlot Kids’ Clubhouse. And collectors will drool over the museum’s collection of over 135,000 baseball cards.
Baseball spills out into the street where quaint shops are filled with baseball themed souvenirs and memorabilia. At the center of the village is the place widely recognized as the birthplace of America’s pastime, Abner Doubleday Field.
During the spring and summer expect to see little sluggers throughout the village and at baseball camps and batting cages just outside of town.
Arts and Culture
While baseball may be Cooperstown’s most famous pastime, its culture extends far beyond the balls and bats. Cooperstown is home to iconic collections of American history, culture and art. The Fenimore Art Museum is home to some of the nation’s finest examples of American landscape, history and genre paintings. There is a huge folk art collection and a wonderful American Indian art collection.
Located on the shores of OtsegoLake (dubbed “Glimmerglass” by Cooperstown founder, James Fenimore Cooper) the Glimmerglass Opera House is an internationally acclaimed summer opera theater. Built on donated farmland, the theater features an intimate design with a single wrap-around balcony and box seats, and unique sliding side walls that can be opened prior to performances and during intermissions. The design mimics the region’s rural agrarian culture with its barn-like architecture. The ceiling of the theater features a traditional Double Wedding Ring quilt pattern. All of the theater’s 914 seats are less than 70 feet from the stage, so you can experience the world’s great operas and musicals the way they were originally performed – with clear, unamplified natural sound.
As one of the oldest rural life museums in the country, the Farmer’s Museum is a true treasure. This open-air living history museum depicts rural life in America in the mid-1800’s. There are more than 40 authentic buildings where interpreters in period costumes demonstrate life from days gone by. Learn how to bake bread over an open hearth or see how herbs were used to make medicine at Dr. Thralls Pharmacy. The Farmer’s Museum is also home to the gorgeous Empire State Carousel. Often referred to as “the museum you can ride,” the carousel has 25 hand-carved animals representing the agricultural and natural resources found in New York State. Eight foot curved murals depict moments in New York history. Designer and master woodcarver, Gerry Holtzman has cleverly carved his face here and there throughout the carousel. Join a docent led tour to discover these secrets and more.
The Spirits of Cooperstown
Once the hops-growing capital of North America, Cooperstown is back on the map when it comes to serving up the spirits. For beer, wine and cider, travel along the Cooperstown Beverage Trail – New York’s first cuisine trail. The trail includes a stop at Brewery Ommegang – nationally recognized for its Belgian-style ales. Other stops include Cooperstown Brewing Company, Bear Pond Winery, Butternuts Beer and Ale, Rustic Ridge Winery and Fly Creek Cider Mill.
Man (or woman) cannot live by beverage alone, so be sure to check out Fly Creek Cider Mill while traveling the beverage trail. A fixture in the community since 1856, Fly Creek Cider Mill has been producing delicious sweet apple cider for 150 years, but that is just the beginning. The Mill Store Marketplace is filled with culinary delights like apple salsa, New York cheddar cheese, homemade fudge, pickled garlic and even apple wines and hard ciders. There is a bakery and deli on site with daily specials…you won’t leave hungry. And it’s not just about the goodies, there are seasonal apple press demonstrations and ducks on the mill pond. Fly Creek Cider Mill is a place of good eats and good treats!
The Cooperstown Distillery extends the spirit of baseball into the distillation of spirits. This farm distillery utilizes over 90 percent of New York State based agricultural products in their small-batch, hand-crafted spirits. Open only two years, the distillery is already a national gold medal winner for its vodka and one of its gins. A wonderful tribute to the inventor of baseball, the Abner Doubleday Double Play is a baseball shaped glass decanter perched atop a ball field shaped pedestal. It is a perfect replica of a baseball right down to the 108 stitches, Doubleday’s actual signature is etched onto every hand blown bottle. And of course, the bottle is filled with the distillery’s award winning vodka.
Where to Stay:
There are plenty of lodging options in Cooperstown ranging from well-known chains to resort hotels to intimate Bed & Breakfasts.
For couples, check out the Barnwell Inn for romantic accommodations in a lovely restored Victorian home. Innkeepers, Mark and Tara Barnwell will cook you the best breakfast you have ever tasted!
Families will enjoy the Otesaga Resort Hotel occupying 700 feet of lakefront on OtsegoLake and loads of amenities including golf.
For more lodging options visit www.thisiscooperstown.com/lodging
Whether or not “Take Me Out to the Ballpark” is on your greatest hits list, Cooperstown should be in your travel plans! www.thisiscooperstown.com
Terri is a New York City based writer who is happiest when she’s globetrotting. She is the Special Projects Editor for TravelSquire.com, the National Chocolate Examiner, the Globetrotting Grandmom for TravelingMom.com and a contributor to several other publications. Tough life, right? You can find more of Terri’s work along with tales of her adventures on the NYC subway on her website: www.trippingwithterri.com Follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TrippingwithTerri and on Twitter @terrimarshall60