If your family loves baseball, chances are a visit to Cooperstown, New York is on your bucket list. Home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown also boasts the Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum, shops packed with memorabilia dedicated to America’s national pastime and Doubleday Field, site of the annual Hall of Fame Classic and home to the famed “Sandlot Kid” statue.
But the quaint upstate New York village has much more to offer beyond baseball. Situated on the southern tip of picturesque Otsego Lake, Cooperstown is teeming with natural beauty, great restaurants and one-of-a-kind museums. Just a three-hour drive from northern New Jersey, it’s also a quick and easy weekend road trip. Here’s what you should know before you go:
You Can Stay at a Waterfront Resort
A weekend at this sprawling historic hotel dating back to 1909 is a vacation all its own. The Otesaga takes its name from the original Native American Iroquois word meaning “a place for meeting.” More than a hundred years since its opening, it remains a popular spot for weddings thanks to its pristine lakefront setting. It’s also an ideal place to capture gorgeous family photos. Spacious rooms and bathrooms have a Victorian-era feel and are supplied with bath products from Beekman 1802, of The Fabulous Beekman Boys fame. Their farm and mercantile are about a half-hour away in Sharon Springs, NY.
During our first night at the resort, a live band performed on the lawn while a bunch of kids played in the distance. It was an idyllic setting for dinner at the Hawkeye Bar and Grill, one of several restaurants at the resort. The menu includes locally-sourced seasonal entrees like the Chicory Creek Farms crispy fried chicken with local mashed potatoes and braised greens. If you’re looking for kid-friendly options, try the Baja fish tacos (pictured below), butcher’s burgers or stone-fired thin crust pizza. There’s a lot of New York craft beer on the menu, too. We loved the Cooperstown Brewery Induction, a light, smooth rye wheat ale.
The hotel is known for its decadent breakfast buffet served in the Glimmerglass, a big, bright room on the lake. Start your day with a fresh omelet, an indulgent mix of desserts and a smoothie. Glimmerglass also offers lunch and dinner with wines chosen by the resort’s sommelier. The Templeton Lounge and Fire Bar serves small plates, cocktails, local craft beer and wine. Be sure to have a drink around the giant fire pit table on the lake.
The resort offers lake activities like free fishing off the dock (rods and bait are supplied to hotel guests). You can rent canoes, rowboats and paddleboards, swim in the lake or in the hotel’s heated outdoor pool. The resort is also home to the Leatherstocking Golf Course, a spa and fitness center. Hotel guests also have access to the Clark Sports Center, where the kids can try a ropes course or rock climbing.
It’s Home to the Most Iconic Sports Museum in the Country
Whether you’re a diehard baseball fan or never watched a game, the Baseball Hall of Fame is a piece Americana that anyone who appreciates history will revel in. Perhaps the most famous shrine to sports greats in the world, the museum showcases not only the history of America’s favorite pastime, but our own history, too. An exhibit about the African-American baseball experience tells the story of Jackie Robinson and other players who blazed a trail before him. Another exhibit pays homage to women in baseball, from members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (the inspiration behind the classic movie A League of Their Own) to female owners, executives and commentators. Another traces the history of baseball in Latin America, and others chronicle the life of greats like Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.
The museum houses more than 40,000 artifacts. From iconic bats, baseballs and uniforms to player’s equipment, ballpark artifacts, newspaper clippings and other memorabilia, you can easily spend the day taking it all in. As a lifelong Yankee fan, I’ve always wanted to see the Hall of Fame Gallery, where plaques of Yankee greats like Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield and others hang.
Yankee fans visiting this year will get to see the newly-inducted Mariano Rivera’s plaque grace the gallery walls. The legendary relief pitcher is the only player to ever be inducted to the Hall of Fame unanimously and a video tribute to him brings back memories of Rivera’s iconic World Series wins as part of the Yankees’ Core Four. If you’re a big fan, you might shed a tear while watching it.
You can’t help but feel a sense of awe walking through the gallery, where 323 intricately carved plaques line the oak walls. Just one percent of players who have played in the majors have a plaque. Another huge highlight: exhibits showcasing every MLB team. Each boasts the player gear behind the teams’ biggest milestones. My kids aren’t baseball fans, but they loved exhibits like the one that matches the music to the baseball city and stadium (where you’ll hear Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”), and another that curates paintings, photography and sculpture inspired by the game.
National Baseball Hall of Fame
25 Main St.
9 am-9 pm, summer hours
9 am-5 pm, Labor Day through Memorial Day
$23/adults, $15/seniors, $12/ages 7-12 and veterans
Children 6 and under and active/career retired military members are free
You Can Wander Through an Estate Turned Art Museum
Located just down the street from the Otesaga Resort Hotel in the former family home of American author James Fenimore Cooper, the Fenimore Art Museum houses impressive collections of folk art; North American Indian art and artifacts, and the American landscape, history and genre paintings. The museum is known for having one of the largest collections of American Indian art and folk art in the country.
We visited when the museum showcased the rock portraits of the late iconic photographer Herb Ritts. The exhibit features famous images of David Bowie, U2, Cher, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Paul McCartney, Madonna and more. Labor Day weekend is your last chance to see it, though. Visitors of the museum will appreciate the outside grounds as much as the art. The museum sits on a gorgeous lakefront property and includes a bark house and log house in its outdoor exhibits. A gazebo on the lake makes for a perfect photo op.
Fenimore Art Museum
5798 Hwy. 80
$12/adults, $10.50/seniors, free/kids 12 and under
Check the website for hours and seasonal closings.
You Can Learn About Agriculture at a Recreated Farming Village
Located right across the street from the Fenimore, The Farmer’s Museum is a sprawling indoor and outdoor experience that’ll take you back to farming’s earliest origins. The recreated farming village recreates 19th-century rural life and even features craftspeople demonstrating their skills in the restored buildings of the 1845 village. We watched a demo by an 1800s blacksmith, then walked the grounds to see farm animals (we saw the sweetest baby calves). Exhibits about agricultural tools and machinery will give the kids a glimpse of what farming was like before the expansion of technology.
One of the museum’s new exhibits showcases New York’s craft beer revival. Between 1840 and 1900, New York grew more hops and brewed more beer than any other state in the country. The exhibit chronicles the history of brewing over 200+ years. Another museum highlight is the stunning Empire State Carousel, which has intricate carvings and iconic symbols of NY. It’s sure to be one of the prettiest carousel rides you and the kids will ever take.
The Farmer’s Museum
5775 Hwy. 80
$12/adults and juniors, $10.50/seniors, $6/kids 7-12, free/kids under 6
Check the website for hours and seasonal closings.
You’ll Get to Sample Apple-Flavored Everything
Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard is a water-powered cider mill with its own apple press, restaurant and store. The best part of your visit will be the 40-ish samples offered daily, ranging from house cider and wine to cheeses, salsas and dips. It’s also a great spot for shopping and lunch. The café has outdoor seating and serves up soup, sandwiches and apple baked goodies. My kids loved feeding the ducks and geese on the grounds (bring some change to get corn from machines for your feeding). If you collect holiday ornaments, you’ll love the collection upstairs along with crafts, quilts and lots more goodies.
Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard
288 Goose St., Fly Creek, NY
9 am-6 pm daily
You Can Hit Up a Brewery
If you love craft beer, you’ll want to visit Brewery Ommegang right in Cooperstown. The brewery is known for its Belgian style ales. There’s a 20-tap bar and 10-tap tasting room, plus a café and outdoor seating that overlooks the lush grounds. Twenty- to 30-minute tours are just $5 a person, and kids ages 5 and up are welcome.
656 Hwy. 33
There’s Plenty of Outdoor Exploring to Be Done
Besides water activities on Lake Otsego, there are lots of gorgeous walking and biking trails to explore in the fall. Go to OtsegoOutdoors.org to find search trails by difficulty level. The trail hike at Glimmerglass State Park is about an hour long and boasts gorgeous views of the lake. You may want to check out the historic Hyde Hall house museum along the way.
And don’t forget: The quintessential outdoor Cooperstown experience is all about strolling Main Street, visiting the quaint baseball-inspired shops, hitting up local restaurants and savoring some downtime along the lake.