When a friend of mine who lives in Pennsylvania suggested we meet in Cooperstown, New York, to catch up for a couple of days, I was dubious.
I’m not all that interested in baseball, which was really all I knew about the town. But, I was game, anyway. It’s an easy four-hour trip from Boston, and for her, about 4.5 hours.
We stayed at the Otesaga Resort, situated right on Otesaga Lake. The gorgeous property, founded in 1909, is throwback to another time. It’s enormous, elegant and inviting. I wanted to sit on the hotel’s expansive back veranda overlooking the lawn and the lake in one of its many rocking chairs with a lemonade.
Cooperstown’s tiny “downtown,” if you want to call it that, is a 10-minute walk away. Park your car and leave it, as we mostly did.
The town looks like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. I picked up a tourist brochure titled “Ladies Guide to Cooperstown.” While its anachronistic wording didn’t surprise me, I overlooked my initial knee-jerk reaction of being offended and decided to be charmed.
After all, I had come to Cooperstown thinking its only draw was baseball, and I was happy to be proven wrong.
Museum Highlights of Our 48 Hours
The Fenimore Art Museum is located a short distance from downtown, on land once owned by author James Fenimore Cooper (author of “The Last of the Mohicans”). The museum is home to one of the country’s largest permanent collections of American Indian art (about 850 pieces) and American folk art.
Who knew? Not me.
Across the street from the Fenimore, the Farmers’ Museum, a living history museum that is a cross between Sturbridge Village and Plimoth Plantation. It recreates what life was like in a 19th-century small town and farm, through hands-on activities in historic rebuilt and restored buildings.
Visitors can learn about herbs in the pharmacy, or watch a blacksmith at work in the smithy. All this from knowledgeable costumed docents.
The exhibit “Brew: New York’s Craft Beer Revival” traces New York State’s long beer-making history and runs through October 31.
One of my favorite things at the Farmers’ Museum was the charming Empire State Carousel, with unique hand-carved animals like Benny the Brook Trout (the official fish of New York State) and Daphne the Long Island Duck.
Of course, we visited the world-famous National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. It seemed like it would be sacrilege not to.
The multimedia museum fascinated me — so much so that we spent a couple of hours exploring.
The interactive exhibits on Babe Ruth and African-American baseball players were excellent. It was fun to see the Red Sox World Series 2018 display, with items from the players.
The museum’s latest permanent exhibit, “Shoebox Treasures,” displays a charming look at baseball cards. It describes how what once was a childhood hobby turned into big business.
The Plaque Gallery, which honors the Hall of Famers, was also surprisingly moving.
Another misconception smashed.
Quench Your Thirst
All that museum-going does make a lady thirsty, so a stop at Cooperstown Beverage Exchange Tap Room on Main Street was a no-brainer.
Owned and operated by the Cooperstown Distillery, the Tap Room offers its own products, as well as other locally crafted spirits, beer, wine and ciders.
When you visit you can try all sorts of seasonal drinks or its its award-winning bourbon and whiskey. Plus, there are several beers on tap.
If you have some souvenir shopping to do, this is a great place to pick up baseball-shaped bottles of booze.
Want to further enjoy local beers? Head to Brewery Ommegang, which focuses on Belgian brewing traditions. Don’t miss its specialty “Game of Thrones” beer selections, with labels like “Mother of Dragons” and “King in the North.”
Cider fans should check out Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard, located a five-minute drive from town. It has been making cider since the mid-1800s.
We Love to Eat
In just two days, we managed to pack in a lot of eating.
The utterly magical Origins Café, located at Carefree Gardens, has a weekly community harvest dinner on Wednesdays in its greenhouse café. We were lucky enough to catch it.
The pre-fixe menu changes constantly. That evening, we dined on chilled tomato basil soup, vegetable tagliatelle with local chevre, and Greek yogurt thyme cake with local honey. It was so delicious I was tempted to lick my plate.
Live music was a nice backdrop to the meal.
Another night, we dined outside at the hotel. The Hawkeye Bar & Grill sports amazing lake views and serves American fare like NY strip steaks and seared salmon, with much of the menu sourced locally.
A fitting end to any night at the hotel is at the Fire Bar. The enormous area with a fire pit can accommodate at least 20 people. As the sun sets over the lake, it’s the perfect place for a nightcap.