It’s baseball season, the time of year when moms and dads spend hours in the bleachers watching their little sluggers play ball. When my son was young, I logged many of those hours. I can still hear the crack of the bat when it connected with the ball, the cheers of the fans and the occasional shouts at the umpire…well, that might have been me. As America welcomes baseball season, 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 walking around in a Norman Rockwell painting.
While baseball may be Cooperstown’s claim to fame, there is much more to experience. Here are some of my favorites.
America’s Favorite Past-Time
Tucked away on the village’s main street, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has more than 38,000 artifacts honoring baseball’s history. The crowning jewel is the Plaque Gallery where Hall of Fame members’ bronze plaques are on display honoring their achievements.
It’s fun to watch people in this section looking for their favorite players – mine was Babe Ruth. As a big fan of the movie A League of Their Own, I also enjoyed the 20th Century Baseball Time Line which highlights women in baseball and the African-American league.
There are plenty of interactive exhibits and activities in the Sandlot Kids’ Clubhouse to keep kids engaged. And the museum’s collection of more than 135,000 baseball cards is sure to leave collectors drooling.
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. Cooperstown Dreams Park hosts tournaments throughout the season bringing kids from all over the country together for a baseball dream experience. During the spring and summer, there are plenty of little sluggers roaming about the village.
Outdoors in Cooperstown
Cooperstown is not just about the balls and bats. The village is located on the southern shore of Otsego Lake.
Nine miles long, Otsego is the headwaters of the Susquehanna River, which flows 444 miles to the Chesapeake Bay. The lake was nicknamed “Glimmerglass” by James Fennimore Cooper, the village’s founder. It is surrounded by small parks and public spaces perfect for picnicking.
You can tour Otsego on the Glimmerglass Queen Tour Boat and learn about the lake’s history while soaking in the bucolic views.
Ten minutes outside of Cooperstown Village at the other end of Lake Otsego is Glimmerglass State Park. The park has camping facilities and a great beach. There is plenty of swimming, fishing, biking and hiking to keep the family busy.
A favorite hiking trail is the Sleeping Lion which climbs Mount Wellington. From the south, Mount Wellington on the eastern shore of Otsego Lake resembles a sleeping lion – hence the trail name.
The 2.5 mile loop trail begins in Glimmerglass State Park and is a moderately steep climb through the forest amid majestic white pines, hemlocks and hardwoods. The descent on the west side of the mountain has gorgeous views of Otsego Lake through the trees.
History and Culture of Cooperstown
One of the oldest rural 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. You can learn how to bake bread over an open hearth, see how herbs were used to make medicine at Dr. Thralls Pharmacy or watch a blacksmith demonstrating this 19th century craft. There are plenty of farm animals roaming around for the kids to nuzzle.
The Farmer’s Museum is also home to the gorgeous Empire State Carousel.
The kids will, of course, love taking a spin or two around the carousel but be sure to spend a little extra time checking out the carvings. 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. Docents are available to help you discover all kinds of secrets within the carousel. As my guide, Gus, said “The cuteness factor is off the charts.”
Good Eats and Good Treats
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 definitely won’t leave hungry. If you’re looking for a slice of that all-American apple pie, this is the place to get it. And it’s not just about the goodies, there are seasonal apple press demonstrations and ducks on the mill pond to keep the kids entertained.
Personally, I think hamburgers are every bit as American as apple pie and baseball and the tiny Cooperstown Diner on Main Street serves them up in a big delicious way. The diner is so small it only has half an address but they will fit you in and serve you all the comfort food you can eat. I could have sworn I heard the cook shout “batter up” when my burger was ready.
Is “Take Me Out to the Ballpark” on your greatest hits list? Have you been to Cooperstown? What’s your favorite spot there?