May 23, 2024

Cooperstown, New York, Travel Guide

Cooperstown, New York, Travel Guide

Upstate New York is home to a small town that is known as “America’s most perfect village” — Cooperstown. Nestled in the foothills of the Catskill mountains, this charming village offers a spectacular lakefront, leafy parks, walkable downtown streets, and a vibrant culinary scene. 

In addition to baseball havens like the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and historic Doubleday Field, Cooperstown is home to other stunning museums and one of the largest opera festivals in the world. But beyond its events that draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each summer is an idyllic village (population: 1,800) with unparalleled natural beauty and charm.

Surrounded by rolling hills and unobstructed views of beautiful Otsego Lake, outdoor enthusiasts flock to Cooperstown to hike, swim, and play golf at The Otesaga Resort Hotel’s renowned Leatherstocking Golf Course or pedal railbikes on panoramic tours along railroad tracks. Fans of craft beverages and cuisine seek out the region’s many breweries, wineries, and historic cider mills. 

And it’s impossible not to fall in love with Cooperstown’s picture-perfect Main Street. With a well-preserved downtown filled with specialty shops and cafes, travelers should build in additional travel days to also enjoy the sparkling adjacent lakefront, Bill Michaels, a sixth-generation Cooperstown resident and owner of Fly Creek Cider Mill, told Travel + Leisure.

This is Cooperstown

Michaels told T+L that Cooperstown stands out from other upstate New York destinations because of its unique, still-remote location between the Adirondacks and the Catskills; it’s so exquisite that travelers just may realize they’ve found paradise. “Once you visit, you may not ever want to leave,” he said.

Former Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz, whose family moved to town in 2003, agreed. “Cooperstown is one of those places that people immediately fall in love with,” he said. “It’s a small village with a strong sense of community and place, and yet there’s also a wonderful energy that comes with having so many world-class institutions and events.” 

Named one of T+L’s best places to visit in Upstate New York and one of T+L’s best road trips from NYC, it’s not hard to see why Cooperstown should be at the top of your bucket list. Whether you are seeking small-town charm or superior attractions, this waterfront village has everything you need for a perfect getaway. 

Best Hotels and Resorts

Courtesy of Otesaga Resort Hotel

The Otesaga Resort Hotel

Voted one of the best resorts in New York State by T+L readers, The Otesaga Resort Hotel offers unmatched luxury and elegance on the shores of Otsego Lake. This 1909 resort offers multiple restaurants, a spa, a golf course, and recreation options that include tennis and boating. The resort’s veranda view is breathtaking. “The Otesaga is truly the ‘Grande Dame’ of resorts,” Michaels said.

The Landmark Inn

Housed in a restored 1856 mansion in the heart of Cooperstown, The Landmark Inn is the perfect spot for a romantic getaway. Beloved by discerning travelers for its central location, beautiful gardens, and porches, this boutique hotel is known for its outstanding gourmet breakfast made with seasonal ingredients.

Inn at Cooperstown

The Inn at Cooperstown is a fan favorite for its homemade breakfast buffet and proximity to Main Street’s attractions and restaurants. This quaint 18-room inn designed by architect Henry J. Hardenbergh (known for the Dakota Apartments and The Plaza Hotel in New York City) offers a host of eco-friendly green lodging amenities, including an onsite Tesla charging station. 

The Railroad Inn

A chic inn built in an 1890 granary, this railroad-themed boutique hotel proffers a sophisticated getaway with preserved historic elements such as wooden beams, pipe clothing racks made with railroad ties, and Edison bulb-caged-style lamps. Unique rooms at The Railroad Inn include oversized loft suites with spiral staircases.

The White House Inn

Just a short walk off Main Street is The White House Inn, housed in a 19th-century Classic Greek Revival home built by salvage expert George Bowne. With a secluded private garden and a Jacuzzi pool, this inn boasts a renowned breakfast and cozy common areas, perfect for curling up with a good book.

Best Things to Do

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

A must-see for any baseball fan, this 60,000-square-foot museum pays homage to the past, present, and future of the game with interactive exhibitions, artifacts, memorabilia, and Hall of Fame plaques. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum offers “powerful storytelling, exhilarating historical context, and integrated artifacts,” said Katz. 

Fenimore Art Museum

Housed in a 1930s neo-Georgian mansion overlooking Otsego Lake, the Fenimore Art Museum boasts a comprehensive collection of American folk art and fine art, frequent changing seasonal exhibitions, and the phenomenal Thaw Collection of American Indian Art. “Both the exhibitions and grounds are sensational,” said Michaels.

Courtesy of Fenimore Art Museum

The Farmers’ Museum

A living history museum, The Farmers’ Museum offers a dynamic glimpse at pre-industrial rural life during the mid-19th century. Perfect for families, this picturesque museum offers interactive exhibitions that include learning traditional farming and cooking techniques. Don’t miss the iconic carousel, featuring 25 hand-carved wooden animals and large-scale murals. 

Glimmerglass Festival

Over 30,000 fans of opera and musical theater descend on Cooperstown each summer for Glimmerglass Festival, an internationally acclaimed opera festival with performances at the lakeside Alice Busch Opera Theater. This beloved festival features celebrated operas, new and rare works, concerts, and Broadway hits. Picnics and brunches abound for this showstopping annual affair. 

Rail Explorers

One of countless outdoor adventures in Cooperstown, Rail Explorers offers an unforgettable way to see the region by rail. Created on railroad tracks, this scenic electric-assist recumbent bike tour guides travelers on journeys north or south through the farmlands and forests along the Susquehanna River. 

Best Restaurants

Bocca Osteria

Founded in 2011, the small family-owned Italian restaurant Bocca Osteria has some of the best Neapolitan-style pizza in the region. With handmade gnocchi and fettuccine prepared daily, the rigatoni dish known as Bocca Chicken Riggies is “exceptionally good,” Katz said. “It’s one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever tasted.”

Doubleday Café

With a name that pays tribute to Cooperstown’s historic Doubleday Field, local haunt Doubleday Café is the perfect spot to grab a meal before or after visiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. All fare is prepared from scratch, with satisfying burgers, sandwiches, and salads on the menu.

Origins Café

This exceptional seasonal café is situated inside a greenhouse. Surrounded by lush greenery, diners at Origins Café are treated to a menu that changes weekly and fresh, local ingredients sourced from local farms. “It’s an unforgettable experience to dine among the plants, and the food is all sustainable, farm-to-table cuisine. The Sunday brunch is sensational,” Katz said.

This is Cooperstown

Brewery Ommegang

With a café featuring specialties like Poutine, charcuterie boards, and crispy Brussels sprouts, the Belgian-style craft ale is the main attraction at this stately farmstead brewery. Brewery Ommegang hosts frequent concerts and outdoor festivals each summer and is one of the many enticing craft beverage makers in the region.

Hawkeye Bar and Grill

This mainstay located inside The Otesaga Resort Hotel has long been known for its seasonal dishes and distinctive cocktails. But the main attraction at Hawkeye Bar and Grill is the incredible view of Otsego Lake. Grab a seat on the patio and contemplate “Glimmerglass,” the nickname given to the lake by famed author James Fenimore Cooper, whose father founded Cooperstown.

Best Shopping

Cooperstown Bat Company

The third oldest bat company in the U.S., Cooperstown Bat Company specializes in custom baseball bats. Bats can be personalized with custom laser engraving, and the company’s pro-model bats are made from hand split maple, ash and yellow birch. With a retail store on Main Street, visitors can also see bats being made at the company’s nearby factory in Hartwick.

Cooperstown Farmers’ Market

A favorite among locals, the year-round Cooperstown Farmers’ Market boasts goods from vendors all based within 50 miles of Cooperstown. With food items such as maple syrup, bread, wine and fresh produce, this Main Street market also offers a full selection of artisan goods such as jewelry, knitwear, pottery and candles. 

Kate’s Upstate

The go-to boutique for fashion finds in the village, Kate’s Upstate is the place to pick cozy sweaters, dresses, sparkly baubles and attire for the whole family. Make sure to check out the wall of clothing and jewelry made by local artists; “It’s from Kate’s,” has become a trill heard ‘round Cooperstown.

Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard

Just minutes by car from Main Street, the family-owned Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard offers a destination like no other. Visitors can watch fresh cider being pressed from New York State-grown apples on an 1856 water-powered press, then explore more than 150 Mill-made food items such as salsa, hot sauce, hard cider, apple wine, preserves, fudge and cheese.

Cooperstown Distillery Beverage Exchange

The shopping outpost for the Cooperstown Distillery, the Cooperstown Distillery Beverage Exchange offers an eclectic mix of craft spirits, beverage accessories and elegant glassware. “They make these beautiful glass baseball-shaped decanters, including many collectible editions each etched with a Hall of Fame signature,” Katz said. “Their glassware is high-quality and unique.”

Best Time To Visit

Courtesy of The Otesaga Resort Hotel

Fall is arguably one of the best seasons to visit Cooperstown. The summer crowds have thinned, the air is crisp and cool, and the leaves turn brilliant shades of orange, red and yellow. While some shops and restaurants close after Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day (October), prime accommodations are easier to find than in the summer. Spring, too, is a lovely time to experience the historic charm of the village. 

Visiting during the high season (June, July or August) is doable, but requires planning ahead due to high occupancy rates. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s annual Induction Weekend takes place in late July, the Glimmerglass Festival in July and August and numerous youth sporting events at Cooperstown Dreams Park and Cooperstown All Star Village take place during June, July and August.

“Fall and spring are beautiful in Cooperstown because there are less crowds, but the Glimmerglass Festival and all of events and concerts in the summer are also pretty terrific,” Katz said. “Just plan ahead to find a hotel in the village. Winter isn’t a bad time to visit, either; while some of the seasonal attractions may be closed, you’ll get to experience the true small-town feel of Cooperstown.”

How to Get There

By car: Due to its remote location, the easiest way to get to Cooperstown is by car. The village is less than four hours from New York City or Boston. 

By bus: A convenient bus transportation option is offered through Trailways, a company that offers service from numerous cities (including New York City) to Cooperstown or to nearby Oneonta, where a public bus takes travelers into Cooperstown.

By rail: The closest Amtrak train stations are in Albany (1 hour and 30 minutes by car) or Utica (one hour by car). A car rental agency is conveniently located at the Albany Amtrak station. 

By air: The nearest airport is Albany International Airport (ALB), about an hour and 20 minutes by car from Cooperstown, though other nearby airports are Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) or Greater Binghamton Airport (BGM), each about an hour and 30 minutes from the village. Car rental agencies are available at each airport.

Courtesy of The Otesaga Resort Hotel

How to Get Around

While you’ll need a car (or bus) to get to Cooperstown, walking is the best way to get to most destinations in this compact, highly walkable village. Since Cooperstown was settled long before cars, this village was designed for people first and has maintained its historic form.  

“Booking a hotel in the village is great, because you can park your car and then not need to use it at all,” Katz said. “You can walk to the museums, the lakefront and all the restaurants and shops on Main Street. Cooperstown is extremely walkable.”

From Memorial Day weekend (May) through Labor Day weekend (September), an affordable, efficient trolley service shuttles travelers between 16 destinations throughout the village. Daily trolley passes are $2.50 per person, and children under five are free. 

To get to destinations just outside the village proper (such as Glimmerglass festivities, Fly Creek Cider Mill, Origins Café and Brewery Ommegang), you’ll need a car. There are no taxis in Cooperstown and ride-sharing availability is spotty, at best.

“Everything in Cooperstown can be reached on foot, with a few attractions that are a very short car ride away,” Katz added. “It’s part of what makes Cooperstown so special, and why people return year after year. It’s a treasured place.”