One of you likes baseball. The other thinks the idea of staying in a small, pretty, easy-going town on a lake surrounded by rolling hills sounds like a good idea. You needn't compromise: Cooperstown, NY fits the bill on both accounts. Best of all, it's an inexpensive place to visit.
Located in New York's Central Leatherstocking district at the southern end of Otsego Lake, Cooperstown is approximately four hours northwest of New York City. Drivers who avoid major highways will find the passing scenery, where cows outnumber people in some stretches, lovely.
Once the home of novelist James Fenimore Cooper, Cooperstown earned its reputation as a baseball-lover's hub thanks to the presence of the Leatherstocking Base Ball Club (where teams recreate the game as it was played in 1858), baseball camps, batting-practice sites, baseball diamonds where kids and amateurs compete, shops loaded with baseball memorabilia, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO LOVE BASEBALL...
Other Cooperstown diversions include golf, sailing, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, biking, hiking, and antiquing. What you won't encounter, though, is much in the way of great shopping or fine dining -- which is just as well for visitors on a budget.
Culturally minded visitors will find Cooperstown the home of several unique venues. Every summer, on a beautiful lakefront setting, the Glimmerglass Opera mounts innovative musical theater productions. On the grounds of the Alice Busch Opera Theater visitors can picnic, take a leisurely walk beside the lake, or sip champagne under the summer night sky.
The Farmers' Museum consists of a working farm, a collection of mid-19th-century buildings, historical exhibits, and special events and daily programs that recreate life in the 1840s. Throughout this self-contained village, staffers in authentic period garb act as tavern keepers, wallpaper artists, farmers, and other community members. The Museum also displays the Cardiff Giant, a 10-foot-tall petrified "giant," which was actually a hoax from that time.
Alive and growing, heritage animals and plants add to the appeal of the Farmers' Museum. You may happen upon everything from a Gloucester Old Spot pig to Devon cattle to Dominique chickens and black Cayuga ducks. In addition to these rare breeds, the farm also has a Percheron draft horse, a flock of crossbred sheep, and two Milking Shorthorn (Durham) oxen. Yoked together, the compatibly lumbering stock make for a walking, breathing, hard-working, eight-legged metaphor for marriage.
Cooperstown is also home to The Fenimore Art Museum, which displays fine and folk art relevant to New York history and American culture. The collections are housed in a restored 1930s mansion, built on the grounds of James Fenimore Cooper's home overlooking Otsego Lake. Well-known Hudson River School painters are represented in the fine-art collection. Folk-art objects include quilts, weather vanes, cigar-store figures, trade signs, and other handiwork from Colonial days to the Victorian era.
WHERE TO STAY & HOW TO GET AROUND
Cooperstown accommodations tend to be modest and affordable, ranging from camp sites to B&Bs to inns to The Otesaga (check rates now), an historic hotel that overlooks the lake. The 18-hole championship Leatherstocking Golf Course is adjacent to its grounds.
Once you arrive and get settled, you needn't get back in the car to see the town and nearby attractions. A trolley runs from the last week in June to Labor Day, and an all-day adult pass is $2.00. But the town is so small and scenic, you may find strolling it on your own a relaxing foray through a place where time seems to have stood still.