While most people come for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the quiet and quaint village of Cooperstown has much, much more going for it. Tucked away amidst the rolling Catskills Mountains, it lies at the southern end of Otsego Lake which offers up a wealth of exciting recreation opportunities.
As it was established back in 1786, the small and scenic settlement has a rich history and heritage to delve into with attractive architecture and impressive old buildings dotted here and there. It also has a number of fine museums to stop by with exquisite art galleries and the Glimmerglass Opera only adding to its appeal.
After learning all there is to know about baseball and catching a game at the atmospheric old Abner Doubleday Field, you can always hike and bike about besides the large lake. Some great swimming, fishing and boating can also be had out on its sparkling surface.
12. Hyde Hall
Set along the northeastern shore of Otsego Lake you can find the huge estate of the architecturally significant Hyde Hall. Now preserved as a museum, its decadently decorated rooms are a delight to explore with its grand grounds outside being just as gorgeous.
Once the largest private residence in the entire United States, it was built between 1817 and 1834 by wealthy landowner George Clarke. As it was designed by esteemed architect Philip Hooker, many people come to take in its amazing mix of Palladian, neo-Classical and Federal-style features.
Impressively enough, the massive English manor has more than fifty rooms for guests to tour about, all kitted with authentic artifacts and period pieces. Besides dining and drawing rooms, it includes servants’ quarters, entertainment areas and quiet, cozy bedrooms. After seeing the National Historic Landmark, you can amble around the Glimmerglass State Park in which it lies and cross the historic Hyde Hall Covered Bridge.
11. Cooperstown Farmers’ Market
A colorful and chaotic affair, the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market takes place every Saturday right in the town center. Lots of fun to peruse, its countless stands and stalls are laden with all kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables, baked goods, meats and cheeses.
Since 1991, over thirty local farmers, vendors and artisans have flocked to the lively market to sell their wares and artworks. As such, visitors can pick up everything from delicious jams and breads to handmade jewellery, pottery and beeswax candles. Several coffee stands and snack stalls are dotted about, should you want to stop for a quick bite to eat or drink at any point.
During the sunny summer month, some fantastic live music takes place at the market which is also held on Tuesdays from July through to September.
10. Abner Doubleday Field
Located just a stone’s throw away from it is the revered Abner Doubleday Field which is reputed to be the ‘birthplace of baseball’. As it is such a hallowed venue and has such an intimate look and feel, it makes for a great place to watch a game played either by amateurs or retired legends.
As you approach its small brick entrance, you can already get a sense of the bucolic ballpark’s huge history which remarkably dates all the way back to 1920. While sitting in its attractive grandstands, you can enjoy excellent views of the pitch and players before you.
Known all around the nation by baseball fans, it is a must-visit alongside the nearby Hall of Fame if you are at all interested in the popular spectator sport.
9. Baseball Wax Museum
Particularly fervent fans may even want to tour around the Baseball Wax Museum which showcases over thirty famous wax figures in their historic settings. The family-friendly attraction can be found along the village’s Main Street, not far from the Hall of Fame.
The only museum of its kind in the world, it displays life-size models of not just hard-hitting heroes like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig but iconic Hollywood A-listers too. These include Marilyn Monroe and Abbott and Costello with striking cinematic scenes from both Field of Dreams and A League of Their Own often playing in the background.
After watching a funny ‘bloopers’ reel from throughout baseball history, you can try and hit a home run yourself in its virtual reality batting cage.
8. Smithy Gallery
Head just a block back from Main Street and you’ll come across the splendid Smithy Gallery and its large sculpture garden. One of the most important cultural institutes in town, its three floors are full of phenomenal paintings, photos and pottery with classes and concerts regularly taking place.
Established in 1957 to cultivate an appreciation for the arts in Cooperstown, it actually occupies the oldest building in the area. Built in 1786 by the village founder Judge William Cooper, its old walls still hum with life as locals and tourists alike take classes, enjoy concerts and explore the collection.
Aside from seeing enthralling installations by local artists, you can stroll about its lovely garden and attend workshops with friendly and experienced instructors.
7. Glimmerglass Opera
Besides the National Baseball Hall of Fame, one of the main reasons people vacation in the village is for the outstanding Glimmerglass Opera. Each year, its packed summer season captivates crowds with rare, lesser-known and new works often performed on its sizeable stage.
The second-largest festival of its kind in the States, it has put on four world-class productions every summer since 1975. Tucked away along the northwestern shores of Otsego Lake, the intimate Alice Busch Opera Theater makes for a brilliant venue to catch a scintillating show.
From all its seats and balconies, operagoers can enjoy perfect views of the performers who grace its stage. Before and after the opera or at intermission, guests can amble about the lush grounds outside and bask in beautiful panoramas over the reflective lake.
6. Otsego Lake
As Cooperstown is set along its southern shoreline, it is almost impossible to visit without spending at least some time out on or around Otsego Lake. While swimming, fishing and boating are popular pastimes, you can also hike and bike about the scenic parks and nature points that line the lake.
Formed millennia ago by slow-moving glaciers, it stretches almost eight miles in length with plenty of bays, inlets and beaches lining its shores. As it is the largest lake in the country, it has long played an important role in the local economy with residents and out-of-towners now enjoying its stunning scenery and exciting outdoor activities.
In addition to relaxing along its waterfront or renting a boat at the marina, visitors can explore Hyde Hall, the Glimmerglass Opera and Fairy Springs Park; all of which border the idyllic Otsego Lake.
5. Fenimore Art Museum
If you want to see yet more interesting artifacts, exhibitions and artworks, then make sure to stop by the fabulous Fenimore Art Museum. Overlooking Otsego Lake, its super collection includes not just fine folk art and photographs but landscape paintings, rare books and personal possessions of James Cooper too.
Impressively established in 1899, it now occupies the former neo-Georgian farmhouse of the famed author. In its light and airy galleries, you can peruse hundreds of old Native American objects and art pieces with fetching paintings, photos and portraits from more modern times also featuring.
Once you’ve explored the massive mansion’s art-filled interior, you can wander about the museum’s gardens and grounds and gaze out over the shimmering surface of the lake.
4. Brewery Ommegang
After all the sightseeing, shows and sporting events, there’s no better way to relax than with one of Brewery Ommegang’s strong Belgian-style beers in your hand. At its traditional farmstead some ten minutes’ drive south of town, you can take tours and tastings where you sit and sample all its award-winning ales.
Since production started in 1997, it has drawn great acclaim for its excellent abbey beers, IPAs and limited-edition brews. At its secluded site, you can see its state-of-the-art production line and learn about the intricate Belgian brewing process before trying some tasty beers yourself.
On top of sipping on incredible craft brews and enjoying the lively yet laidback ambience, guests at the brewery can listen to live music acts and try some of their delicious meals and snacks.
3. Explore Main Street
The heart and soul of life in town, Main Street is lined by countless shops and restaurants with most of Cooperstown’s main attractions lying either along or just off it. Consequently, it is the main place to shop, dine and go out in the village with both locals and tourists alike frequenting its innumerable eateries and establishments.
Running pretty much parallel to the lakeshore, it lies just a couple of blocks inland from the Otsego Lake with the route also crossing the Susquehanna River at its eastern end. Up and down the length of the long street, you can find casual diners and upmarket restaurants with fine jewellery stores and unique boutiques also dotted about.
As well as both the Hall of Fame and Baseball Wax Museum, the Smithy Gallery, Abner Doubleday Field and lovely lake itself all lie within easy walking distance.
2. Farmers’ Museum
Right next to the Fenimore Art Museum along the west shore of Otsego Lake is another of the area’s top attractions: the magnificent Farmers’ Museum. It highlights what rural life was like in the region during the nineteenth century with its costumed interpreters and craftsmen both transporting visitors back in time.
First opened in 1944, the large living history museum also occupies land that was owned by James Cooper with about forty charming old buildings now being scattered across its sprawling site. These include a blacksmith’s, doctor’s practice and general store with over 23,000 artifacts being crammed into its big barns and buildings.
Besides watching live demonstrations of numerous trades and their age-old techniques, you can see lots of farmyard animals and take a ride on the intricately carved 1947 Empire State Carousel.
1. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
The main reason that almost everyone visits the village however is of course the absolutely brilliant National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Located along Main Street, its huge building contains a whopping array of artifacts and exhibits relating to past players, mangers, umpires and executives.
Built back in 1936 to entice tourists to the town after the Great Depression hit hard, it preserves the sport’s past and honors those who excelled and served it well. Across its three vast floors are loads of engaging exhibits on the major and minor leagues with thousands of bats, uniforms, helmets and trophies on display.
In its humongous hall of fame, you can search for your favorite players and learn all about larger-than-life legends like Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Minnie Minoso. After trying out some of its fun games and hands-on activities, head to the gift store to pick up some baseball-themed merch as a memory of your time in Cooperstown.