Located on the southern shore of Otsego Lake in New York, Cooperstown is authentic, small-town America. With only one stoplight and about three blocks of downtown, walking the streets of the picturesque village is a bit like strolling through a Norman Rockwell painting. And although it is most widely known for its connection to baseball as the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown is not just about balls and bats. Here are three reasons to visit Cooperstown that have nothing to do with baseball.
Museums of History and Art
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. Thrall’s Pharmacy, or watch a blacksmith demonstrating this 19th century craft. And there are plenty of farm animals roaming around looking for someone 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.
Across the street from the Farmer’s Museum you’ll find iconic collections of American history, culture and art at The Fennimore Art Museum. The museum is home to some of the nation’s finest examples of American landscape, history and genre paintings. On display in the main gallery is American Memory: Recalling the Past in Folk Art. Other permanent exhibits include the Eugene and Claire Thaw Collection of almost 850 pieces of American Indian art and artifacts.
The Glimmerglass Opera House
Located on the shores of Otsego Lake, the Glimmerglass Opera House is an internationally acclaimed summer opera theater. Built on donated farmland, the theater features an intimate design with a single wrap-around balcony and box seats, and unique sliding side walls that can be opened prior to performances and during intermissions. The design mimics the region’s rural agrarian culture with its barn-like architecture. The ceiling of the theater features a traditional Double Wedding Ring quilt pattern. All of the theater’s 914 seats are less than 70 feet from the stage, so you can experience the world’s great operas and musicals the way they were originally performed – with clear, unamplified natural sound. The Glimmerglass Festival held each summer attracts opera fans from all over the world.
Hiking, biking and more around Otsego Lake
Nine miles long, Otsego Lake is the headwaters of the Susquehanna River that 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, and there is plenty of swimming, fishing, biking and hiking to keep everyone 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.
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