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There was an older man sitting with his wife on a
bench at Lakefront
Park. The sun was going down, and Otsego Lake couldn't have looked any
more beautiful with its pristine color of the day --limestone -- and
the gentle rolling green hills framing the body of water. The man from
Georgia, who appeared to be worldly, opened his tired eyes and said,
"You know, this is nice."
He said it as if this was the best placed he ever visited. My wife and
I nodded, in agreement, telling him that we visit Cooperstown, N.Y.,
every year. We said that it was indeed the greatest place we have ever
visited, and that, in no way, was based on being a tourist. Without
living there, we thought, it is our second home.
Cooperstown may be a tourist destination, but ultimately it is
small-town America at its most beautiful. Seventy miles southwest of
Albany, NY, and 45 miles southeast of Utica, N.Y., Cooperstown is a
where people proudly live in well-maintained homes, and close-knit
family-oriented neighborhoods --close to Otsego Lake and the toy
village-like charm of Main St.
Aerial View of The Village of Cooperstown. Photo credit: Destination Marketing Company of Otsego Country.
From the big but not ostentatious homes
on Nelson Ave. and Pine Blvd. to the peaceful tree-lined residential
streets like Beaver, Eagle, Delaware and Elm, Cooperstown never
overwhelms you. It is not about a honky-tonk, traffic laden, and
let's-see-how-much-we-can-buy mentality. Rather, Cooperstown is an
authentic village void of corporate America leanings, fast food chains,
and most importantly, stress.
Couple on a bench in Cooperstown.
You can see the pride of the people, be
it a long-time Cooperstown native viewing the pleasing sunrise above
the scenic Susquehanna River, morning fog complementing the quiet
stillness of the summer air on Main St., or the new residents trading
Apple rat race for a walk with the family and an eternal small-town
smile to the world.
Morning fog on Main St. in Cooperstown.
The Village appears to be Norman Rockwell fully realized, in living
color. Three elderly brothers walk the streets in baseball clothing, as
close as can be. Little children stare, for extended amounts of time,
at the range of baseball memorabilia at stores. Mothers walk their
babies down "Main Street USA" and fathers see their boyhood baseball
heroes through the windows of their souls--first their eyes, then
beyond the glass displays in The National Baseball Hall of Fame and
Romance indeed lives, not in a Shakespearian sense, but in "It's a
Wonderful Life" way--small town America coming together. The Saturday
Farmers Market and seasonal events like the Ice Cream Social not only
bring people downtown, but bring them together.
Ice cream social at Cooperstown Presbyterian Church.
Fenimore Cooper said it best in 1837, about his beloved surroundings:
"Lying, as it does, off the great routes, the village of Cooperstown is
less known than it deserves to be. Few persons visit it, without
acknowledging the beauties of its natural scenery, and the general
neatness and decency of the place itself. ... Everything
shows a direction towards ... an improving civilization."
View of Otsego Lake from Council Rock Park in the Village of
A Sunday morning in church on peaceful Elm St., a seat in the
Adirondack chair overlooking Otsego Lake at the Blue Mingo Grill, or a
walk--just a walk-- is enough to inspire sunshine in one's soul that is
brighter than the sun. There may be only one traffic light in town, but
no matter where you spend your time in this quaint village, the green
light is always on to have a great time.
Colorful Main St. in Cooperstown.
The Village takes care of its residents quite
well. Sometimes towns
with tourists lose vision of the people who live in town, all in the
name of the mighty buck. This is not the case in Cooperstown, as can be
well evidenced by community pride and services often seen in larger
communities -- for example, the highly developed, state-of-the-art
Bassett Healthcare (a network of three hospitals and 21 health care
facilities located across Central New York, with the main facility in
Cooperstown) and the modern Clark Sports Center, which offers residents
and visitors comprehensive recreational opportunities ranging from a
swimming pool to a well laid-out workout area.
Tourism does boom in this quaint, friendly small town, as baseball
souvenir shops have grown considerably over the past 15 years to align
with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's stately and
historical presence on Main St. Thousands of families visit the
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum every summer crowding the
streets in a sea of happiness, ice cream, and wide-eyed, kid-like
wonderment on how a small town can bring such big joy. The city and
suburbs just can't do this.
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo credit: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (25 Main St.), is indeed
the centerpiece of Main St., and truly one of the great cultural sports
treasures in our country. Proudly residing in a stately large, brick
building with a new, inviting outside entrance, the Hall of Fame gives
us goosebumps even from looking at the exterior. It has this amazing
aura and commanding but welcoming presence. The National Baseball Hall
of Fame Hall and Museum's mission is to "relive the history of the
National Pastime, through artifacts from historic records, to the
plaques of the game's greatest players in the Hall of Fame Gallery,"
according to its literature. Once inside, that mission comes to life
whether it be the incredible New York Yankees displays, an Abbott and
Costello "Who's on First," movie clip, a wonderful baseball card
display, or, of course, the memorable and historical Baseball Hall of
Fame where one can read plaques all day on all the great players
inducted into this illustrious museum.The National Baseball Hall of
Fame and Museum has a wonderful library and an appealing park area,
perfect for a short stroll or yet another perspective on Otsego Lake.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a must-see for the
baseball fan or anyone with an interest in history. It is, simply, one
of life's great joys.
Staying in Cooperstown extends well beyond visiting the Baseball Hall
of Fame, however. Isn't that remarkable, given the greatness of the
Hall of Fame? For starters, one of the best testimonies to a community
is never feeling like you've completely walked the entire community, no
matter how many times you have strolled the area. The splendid and
myriad Victorians gracefully lining Chestnut St. deserve more than one
look. Turning from Chestnut St. onto Main St., or Lake and Main Sts.,
and seeing the colorful
hanging baskets, wide sidewalks, well-maintained interesting and
colorful shops seemingly needs to be retraced at least 10 or 20 times a
Well maintained, beautiful Main St. in
On the corner of Main and Chestnut Sts. is a splendid and inviting
introduction to the town: Schneider's Bakery, at 157 Main St.. A
long-time Cooperstown favorite, Schneider's has the heavenly smell of
donuts (far better than those chain stores offering the slightly fresh
version) and other handmade baked goods piercing through the old
fashioned windows. On the Chestnut St. side, bakers can be seen through
the window making their sugar-themed magic. Inside is a comfortable
little shop that looks the way it did many years ago.
A few doors down
from Schneider's, Hubbell's Real Estate displays inviting
affordable-to-extravagant Cooperstown real estate offerings in its
window, drawing myriad couples considering a move to a simpler life. A
street like Fair St. seems like the perfect place to live in
Tree-lined Fair St. in Cooperstown.
The shops spanning a few blocks on Main
St. represent individual slices
of locally-owned Americana. Willis Monie bookstore, at 139 Main
St., has books virtually piled up to the ceiling. It is a fascinating
trip back in time, including that old book smell we remember from
elementary school. Across the street is Danny's Market, at 92
which celebrates the
glory of community-oriented food shopping in a small, old-fashioned
store, where, somehow, one can find anything. The anti-supermarket
superstore, Danny's has a beautiful green and tan awning out front, and
inside, an impressive deli counter, on the premise hearth-cooked
breads, delicious baked goods, and a few seats to eat while reading the
paper under the ceiling fans while looking out on Main St.
Danny's Main Street Market.
Right next to Danny's is The Riverwood, at 88 Main St..
Ignoring the either overly precious/pretentious or hokey elements of so
many other modern-day gift shops, the Riverwood chooses to display a
fabulous array of unique and hard-to-find gifts in a friendly setting.
You'd have to see it for yourself, but the presentation is simply "the
right mix." It's amazing how much The Riverwood can
fit into a small store. You'll find art and fine craft (and photo
prints) by local artists and artisans, Brighton purses and accessories
created for all ages, commemorative baseball-style "home plates," as
well as jewelry, wind chimes, leather goods, toys, puzzles and games
and locally-made soaps.
Ellworth and Sill, at 79 Main St., is one of those old-time clothing
stores with appealing window displays that you might have thought was
gone forever. The store brings
back a nice selection of women's traditional clothing in a nice, low-key atmosphere. The older women managing the store and the
racks of discounted clothing at the outdoor entrance (in the summer) make for a feel-good retro
Ellsworth and Sill.
Tin Bin Alley, at 114 Main St., has a
nostalgic country store-like feel with the aroma of candles, and a wide
variety of "feel good" gifts like jams, jellies, homemade fudge,
old-fashioned candies, hanging wooden signs, nostalgic tins, toys,
jewelry and greeting cards. It's hard to leave this beautiful little shop without buying something!
Tin Bin Alley.
Out of all the baseball shops, Mickey's Place, at 74 Main St., seems to
have one of the highest batting averages in regards to stores we like.
Named after the late New York Yankee star Mickey Mantle -- who was a
friend of one of the owners -- Mickey's Place features a large
selection of baseball cards, autographed photos and baseballs,
authentic baseball caps that go beyond just "Major League" and Major,
Minor and World Classic apparel. You can also personalize a Louisville
Slugger baseball bat while you wait. I once was able to find a
Rochester Red Wings Minor League Baseball League t-shirt for my Dad who
grew up and played baseball in Rochester, N.Y., in the 1940s. What a
thrill it is for him to wear this shirt! No doubt, Mickey's has a
lot of "hard-to-find" baseball merchandise. While Mickey's is
officially a retail store, the place seems to almost take on a
museum-like quality, as I've found myself almost touring the shop
instead of quickly locating and buying things. I highly recommend
kids of all ages check out this wonderful baseball retail destination.
Additionally, Mickey's Place is a stone's throw (maybe Steve Stone!)
away from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum -- what a great
way to spend a morning or afternoon!
F.R. Woods, at 61 Main St. is another tremendous baseball-theme
souvenir store, and dates back to 1947. I love the old-time sign out
front -- that alone, is worth the visit. The shop is a lot bigger
than what appears on the outside and requires extra time because of the
impressive variety of well-chosen, quality merchandise. F.R. Woods also
offers motel accommodations upstairs -- perfect since it is only a few
doors down from the Baseball Hall of Fame!
Doubleday Field (Doubleday Court, off Main St., in the heart of the
downtown), one of the best kept baseball fields known, is a great place
to catch amateur baseball games for free, all day during the summer.
The combination of sun, charming village homes, churches and trees
surrounding the park, the picture-perfect green grass on the field, an
old-fashioned scoreboard, and some baseball being played by people
truly interested in the game, makes for a relaxing,
Doubleday Field in
We cover many Village restaurants in our Cooperstown
section, but we'll mention our favorite here -- the Doubleday Cafe
Main St.). No matter how many restaurants we try every time we visit
Cooperstown, we always return to the Doubleday Cafe. With its spirited
bar/restaurant setting with high ceilings, brick walls, and
picture-windows overlooking the lively colorful Main St., the Doubleday
Cafe acts as sort of an unofficial community meeting place for locals
as well as informed visitors who know the greatness of this Cooperstown
dining landmark. Hitting a home run with virtually every breakfast,
lunch and dinner item we've tried, we love the Doubleday for its food,
its quick and friendly service, reasonable pricing and its pride of
ownership. It's a terrific place for an omelet, salad, burger or fish
or steak dinner special as well as some really great gooey,
chocolate-based desserts Not only does the Doubleday Cafe capture the
spirit of Cooperstown within its modest settings, but it does so with
perhaps the most consistently good food in the Village.
Before, during or after the game, there are
well-run Village ice cream
shops to enhance your Cooperstown stay, including Brain Freeze (69 Main
St.) serving addictive flavored ices and homemade
If you need a peace and quiet alernative to Main St. in the busier
summer, Lakefront Park is the solution. Just a few minute's walk from
all the shops and restaurants, this spectacular oasis features a large
expanse of green grass, and stunning water views.
Lakefront Park in Cooperstown.
Lakefront Park does get busy, however, a few times of the year --
like at the 4th of July Fireworks. That's OK, though, as the
nighttime views, cool mountain air, the Cooperstown Community Band
playing and close-knit sense of community exude a memorable feeling.
4th of July at Lakefront Park in Cooperstown.
Fireworks at 4th of July celebration in Cooperstown.
Walking nearly outside the village will bring you to another source of
Cooperstown splendor,The Otesaga Resort Hotel (60
Lake St.) -- a
stunning piece of expansive Federal hotel architecture in operation
since 1909. It's every bit as impressive looking as a Newport, R.I.,
mansion. We recommend checking out the hotel for a possible stay and
definitely having dinner at the Hawkeye Grill, an upscale-type
restaurant that allows informal (but neat) attire. It's family-friendly
and has outdoor summer dining overlooking Otsego Lake. The food --
creative turns on steak, chicken and seafood -- is quite good and
While on the subject of Village of Cooperstown lodging, you'll find
many other quaint, historic places to stay including The Tunnicliff Inn and Landmark Inn, as well as the more modern Lake Front Hotel, overlooking Otsego Lake.
Just beyond the Otesaga is The Farmers' Museum (5775 Route 80) which
portrays rural life in early times. An herbal pharmacy, blacksmithing,
weaving, printing, stick ball games, music, the great Empire State
Carousel, farming, -- with many different animals -- and more make for
a lively afternoon.
Empire State Carousel at The Farmers Museum.
Virtually across the street is the
Fenimore Art Museum (5790 Route 80), "home to one of the country's
premier folk art collections, and now the American Indian Wing with a
dazzling collection and galleries 'any museum in the world would
envy.'" (The New York Times). The Fenimore Museum also has great kids
activities; we particularly enjoyed the gingerbread house-making class.
So did the kids.
Fenimore Art Museum.
The museums attracts visitors year round for special events such as The
Farmers' Museum Candlelight Evening in December. The Candlelight
evening represents the true essence of the holiday season with a
beautiful Christmas tree, musical performances by local schools,
delicious wassail, a wonderful Santa Claus telling great childrens'
stories, horse-drawn carriage rides, warm, comfort food in the tavern,
thousands of lights illuminating the beautiful countryside, and
beautiful voices either singing holiday songs. The weather might be
cold, but the feeling is ultimately warm at this grand Farmer's Museum
Crowd gathers to hear music at Candleight Evening in Cooperstown.
The overall feeling that Cooperstown offers goes beyond the written
word. If the words sound appealing here, your Cooperstown vacation will
bring that special feeling out in multi-dimensional ways. Someday,
whether it's a permanent or summer home, we envision ourselves sitting
hand-in-hand on a Lakefront Park bench staring at the marvelous lake.
and saying or thinking the words, "This is nice." The words already
in our mind every time we think of Cooperstown, one of America's most
Lakefront Park, Cooperstown
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The Otesaga Resort Hotel
Grand, historic hotel in the Village of
Cooperstown. Scenic Otsego Lake Views. Fabulous lakeside resort
amenities. Memorable dining options. Easy walk to to National Baseball
Hall of Fame and Museum and
quaint, charming downtown. Reserve A Room At The Otesaga Resort Hotel
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