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Cooperstown’s rich history, stunning scenery and booming culinary scene make it the perfect getaway

By Rebecca ChristophersonMarch 29, 2024No Comments

Cooperstown’s rich history, stunning scenery and booming culinary scene make it the perfect getaway

By Linnea Bailey
Photo courtesy of Milo Stewart Jr., National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Something magical happens when spring hits each year in Cooperstown, New York.

Beginning in March, the storied streets of this picturesque village start to hum with increased activity; families on spring break arrive to visit beloved baseball haunts like the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and Doubleday Field. The village’s popular seasonal restaurants open annually on Easter weekend, and May brings a vibrant splash of color as maple trees and lilacs bloom. By summer, the buzz swells to a crescendo, thrumming with activity and excitement.

Known as “America’s Most Perfect Village,” this upstate hideaway might just be one of the world’s best-kept secrets. Nestled in a remote valley between the Adirondack and Catskill mountains, the tiny village of 1,800 has it all: a fabulously walkable Main Street, glamorous historic resort, dreamy boutique hotels, sparkling lakefront, lauded restaurants and vibrant arts scene.

“There are so many elements that make Cooperstown special,” said Keith Gulla, Cooperstown resident, Texas native and co-owner of the village’s Landmark Inn. “The people here are welcoming and friendly, the scenery is gorgeous, and there’s an incredible caliber of attractions and outdoor activities.”

North Texans’ interest in Cooperstown might be heightened this year, with the induction of the Texas Rangers’ longtime third baseman Adrian Beltre into the Hall of Fame July 21. While there are plenty of reasons to visit Cooperstown year-round, the warmer months bring sunshine, balmy weather and exciting festivals and events. Just keep in mind that high season runs from June through August, so make reservations early or travel during the shoulder season to avoid crowds.

Here’s our guide to the best offerings in Cooperstown for every type of traveler:

For the History Buff

Originally home to Indigenous groups, Cooperstown was established in 1786 by William Cooper, the father of famed novelist James Fenimore Cooper (known for his series “The Leatherstocking Tales”). It was Fenimore Cooper who nicknamed Otsego Lake “Glimmerglass.”

Photo courtesy of The Farmers’ Museum

At The Farmers’ Museum, visitors can experience pre-industrial life in New York State during the 19th century through an immersive living history recreation.

And it’s impossible not to mention the biggest draw in town: the Baseball Hall of Fame, a dynamic destination for anyone who loves history and the game. Fans can tour the historic Doubleday Field or watch baseball bats being carved at Cooperstown Bat Co.’s factory.

“Many famous ballplayers have played at Doubleday Field, and it’s a wonderful place to play ball or visit,” said Connie Haney, co-owner of the bat company, which has a shop on Main Street.

For the Romantic

For an exquisite escape, The Otesaga Resort Hotel offers unparalleled luxury on the southern shores of glacially formed Otsego Lake. Built in 1909, the 132-room historic resort boasts a spa, pool, restaurants, boating, tennis, pickleball, and lakefront and village bicycling. The resort’s Leatherstocking Golf Course draws golf enthusiasts from across the world, and a sun-soaked veranda with rocking chairs provides the perfect spot to curl up with a book or enjoy views of the pristine lake and hills.

“One of the best places to socialize is The Otesaga’s Fire Bar overlooking the lake,” Haney said. “Spring evenings can get chilly in Cooperstown, yet everyone stays warm by the fire.”

In addition to The Otesaga, upscale boutique hotel options near Main Street include The Inn at Cooperstown and The Landmark Inn, known for its chef-prepared breakfast, sumptuous linens and parlor lounge complete with a chandelier.

For the Arts and Culture Fan

One of Cooperstown’s most distinctive merits is its abundance of world-class arts attractions. Each summer, the acclaimed Glimmerglass Festival brings thousands of opera and musical theater enthusiasts to the region for performances at the stately 918-seat lakeside Alice Busch Opera Theatre.

Photo courtesy of Fenimore Art Museum

At the Fenimore Art Museum, guests will find an exceptional collection of American folk and fine art, rare books and manuscripts and a robust schedule of seasonal exhibitions. “The modern and contemporary exhibitions are terrific, featuring artists such as M.C. Escher, Herb Ritts and Keith Haring,” Gulla said.

Art galleries abound, including The Art Garage, Cooperstown Arts Association and Smithy Gallery and Clay Studio. The mansion Hyde Hall (inside Glimmerglass State Park) is a marvel for those who love architecture. And don’t underestimate Cooperstown’s music scene; in the summer months, some of the best open-air concerts in New York take place at Brewery Ommegang.

For the Foodie

Cooperstown has a spirited culinary scene, with a caliber of restaurants more frequently found in large cities. The fanciest fare in town can be found at 1909 at The Otesaga, an intimate seasonal restaurant featuring farm-fresh ingredients, spectacular views of Otsego Lake and specialties like mint and garlic-crusted rack of lamb.

On Main Street, the restaurant NORBU has earned fame for its authentic Nepalese and Indian cuisine, helmed by Michelin-starred chef Peter Beck. Meanwhile, the one-of-a-kind eatery Origins Café offers patrons the chance to dine inside a leafy arboretum, complete with a weekly changing menu, organic ingredients from regional farmers and live music.

Just outside of town, The Horned Dorset Inn’s restaurant in Leonardsville serves superb modern French cuisine, and craft beverage fans will enjoy world-class breweries, wineries and a historic cider mill on the 37-mile Cooperstown Beverage Trail.

For the Adventurer

With the region’s breathtaking natural beauty, there are countless ways to explore the outdoors.

Bring a picnic and enjoy hiking at Glimmerglass State Park, or hop on a fishing charter, canoe, kayak or standup paddleboard for a day on the water. One of the world’s oldest existing rivers, the Susquehanna River originates at Otsego Lake and draws athletes paddling the 444-mile Susquehanna River Water Trail.

Photo by Joe Damone Photography

“One of the best ways to see Cooperstown is by water,” said Brent Baysinger, who owns Cooperstown’s Canoe and Kayak Rentals and Sales. “Otsego Lake is dazzling, especially with its wild eastern shore and mountains. I’ve had people tell me it reminds them of being in Hawaii.”

For an extraordinary experience on wheels, try a scenic tour on railroad tracks through farmlands and forests with the electric-assist recumbent bike tour company Rail Explorers.

“Cooperstown has the best of everything, especially amazing outdoor recreation options,” Baysinger said. “Summers are paradise here.”