Friday, June 7, 2013


        I told my Facebook friends that in response to my post on America the Beautiful someone  asked me what's my favorite place to visit. I said that there are many, but if I had to name one it would be Cooperstown, NY. I think there are more things to do and see in that beautiful little town than any other small town in America.
National Baseball Hall of Fame
        Let me justify that statement by describing some of the highlights, starting with the most obvious one, the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The Museum is simply amazing, with constantly changing exhibitions that are a marvelous history not only of baseball but of America. Equally impressive and of even more interest to baseball historians and researchers is the Hall of Fame Library, which is a matchless source of information.
        But the Baseball Hall of Fame is not the only attraction that Cooperstown has to offer. There is also the Farmers' Museum and Village, where a visitor could easily spend a half a day experiencing a rural America village on land that has been a working farm since 1813, originally owned by James Fenimore Cooper.
Glimmerglass Opera complex
        Diagonally across the road from the Farmer's Village is the impressive Fenimore Art Museum,  where one can view the works of Howard Pyle and the entire Wyeth family, and many other art treasures.
        Journey a few miles further on the same road and you come to the spacious grounds of the hugely popular Glimmerglass Festival (formerly the Glimmerglass Opera), with performances of operas and musicals featuring renowned vocalists like Nathan Gunn, who is starring in Camelot this summer. In the nearby Glimmerglass State Park you can visit the Hyde Hall State Historic Site, the handsome estate built by George Clarke (1768-1835). It is said to be the largest privately owned mansion built in the United States between the Revolutionary and the Civil Wars.  
       On the opposite edge of town from Glimmerglass are two quite different sites well worth visiting. One is the Ommegang Brewery, which you don't have to be a beer lover to enjoy. You can have a great lunch there, and then take a guided tour of the property. During the season thousands of contemporary music lovers gather on the spacious property to attend outdoor concerts featuring top bands and vocalists from New York and elsewhere. 
        Returning to town you can, for a complete contrast, stop by the lovely Carefree Gardens Nursery, where you can get a healthy meal of home grown organic foods at the Origins Cafe and hear about the wonderful work the two enterprising young female owners are doing to educate the broader community about healthier eating and living.   
Fly Creek Cider Mill
       Just north of town is the village of Fly Creek, which you must visit before leaving Cooperstown, to see the Fly Creek Cider Mill, whose products are shipped all over North America, It is a great place to shop for gifts and to have a snack. Their homemade caramel apple pie a la mode is out of this world! We've made a lot of people happy with the things we've given them from Fly Creek!
Dreams Park
        Here is something that will stagger your imagination: from the time school is out until it begins again in the fall, every week a new horde of eleven hundred twelve-year-old-and-under baseball players with their coaches and parents descend upon Cooperstown's Dreams Park to compete in a week-long tournament. Believe or not, there are twenty-two fenced in baseball fields on the huge property, with ample parking for cars and buses, lodging and restaurants for the participants and their accompanying adults. It is a mammoth operation, and of course they all want to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. That helps to explain the Hall's 350,000 visitors every year! 
High rope course at the Clark Center
       Another impressive complex is the Clark Center, a very large sports, fitness, and recreational center, with a swim meet size indoor pool, a fine gymnasium with an indoor running track, bowling alleys, squash courts, a table tennis room, a sizeable and well-equipped fitness room, expansive athletic fields, and many other facilities.
        Just to drive in and around Cooperstown is a delight. The tree-lined streets, the lovely houses, the stately churches, the restful parks and picnic areas, and the surrounding wooded hills and meadows, would be enough of an attraction in themselves. To top it all off, the town is situated at the southeastern end of beautiful Lake Otsego, and during the summer season any visit there should include a boat ride on the lake. It takes only about an hour, during which the passengers are given a very informative and most interesting narration over the P.A.system. It's just a short walk from the boat dock to a picturesque little park, where you can view the source of the Susquehanna River.  
Doubleday Field, Cooperstown, NY
        There are plenty of motels, elegant inns, charming bed and breakfast homes, and attractive restaurants. It's fun to stroll up and down Main Street and window shop or patronize the many souvenir shops and other quaint stores. Just off Main Street is Doubleday Field, where the Hall of Fame Classic is played. It's also the home field of the Cooperstown Hawkeyes of the 10-team PGCB League. There's a farmers' market near the center of town, where two days a week you can purchase the fresh produce of local farmers.
        Another treasure up the hill from Main Street is The Smithy. Built in 1786 by Judge William Cooper, the founder of Cooperstown, it is the town's oldest building, having survived the great fire of 1860. It is now a multi-arts center, with a gallery displaying the works of contemporary and traditional artists, and a courtyard for concerts, theatrical productions, and other events.  
The back porch of the Otesaga Hotel
        Not far from the center of town and overlooking Lake Otsego is the majestic Otesaga Hotel, a luxurious resort hotel, where my wife Margie and I have sat in rocking chairs on the huge back porch on summer evenings to listen to band and orchestra concerts by very talented local musicians, and where we love to eat in the delightful Hawkeye Grill. The food is delicious and surprisingly reasonable, especially in the off-season. Golfers love the Hotel's beautifully manicured eighteen-hole course. 

        Cooperstown is a very cosmopolitan community with year-round programs of various cultural interests. Most of its citizens are well educated and are socially and environmentally conscious. There are active service clubs, a fine public library, an excellent public school system, a large fire department, and the 180-bed Bassett Medical Center, a regional hospital, which is one of the top forty health care centers in the United States.
        All this in a town of fewer than 2000 permanent residents! There are, of course, many people from surrounding communities who are employed in Cooperstown, and with the constant flow of tourists, especially from Memorial Day to Labor Day, one gets the feeling of being in a much larger community.
        I should mention that Margie and I love the scenic drive through part of the Catskills and the Adirondacks to Cooperstown.  It's not a place you drive through en route to somewhere else. It's a destination! There are any number of ways to go, via so many country roads through the mountains; or you can go most of the way on Interstate Highways, with only the last 20 miles or so on a two-lane road.                                                                                                                                           
First Presbyterian Church
        Do you wonder why I think it is the most unique small town in America and my favorite place to visit? There are other interesting places to visit in the area, but I hope I have listed enough of them to justify my choice. And I haven't even mentioned the fact that my daughter, the Rev. Elsie Armstrong Rhodes, is pastor the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown. It was she who introduced us to many of the places I've mentioned in this post as well as others I haven't mentioned, although we had visited Cooperstown more than once before she was called there.
         If you haven't been there, why don't you plan a visit? If you do, by all means visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, but be sure to stay long enough to take in as many of the other attractions as you can.


  1. I hope you've shared this with the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce!

  2. Thank you so much for you wonderful thoughts and comments on Cooperstown!! It is an incredible treasure for all to see and experience! It is America's best village!
    Patricia Szarpa
    Executive Director
    Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce

    1. Thank you, Patricia!
      I'm so glad you liked my article about Cooperstown! I'm waiting for someone to
      challenge my choice, but I don't think any one can. There are many interesting small towns to visit, but I don't know of one that has more to offer than Cooperstown. My wife and I love visiting your beautiful community.
      Dick Armstrong