Cooperstown, NY
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Cooperstown, NY

Score a home run with your little leaguers in the town where baseball was born.

Play Ball!

Baseball is the name of the game in this picturesque central New York village where, legend has it, Abner Doubleday and his cronies first played the sport on a cow pasture in 1839.


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National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum.

Today, hundreds of thousands of fans descend on this tiny lakefront village each year, to pay homage to the boys of summer at the National Baseball Hall of Fame -- and watch games at Doubleday Field.

Cooperstown, too, has its own allure. This Norman Rockwell-esque town oozes charm -- and you won't see a Starbucks or McDonald's for miles. Take a walk down Main Street. It's like a stroll back in time... baseball time, that is.

Home of Legends

For some, a visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame is a near-religious experience. Where else can you see Babe Ruth's and Hank Aaron's bats, Joltin' Joe DiMaggio's locker, and real dugout benches from Brooklyn's legendary Ebbets Field?

With its whopping collection of 30,000 artifacts, The Hall of Fame is the oldest and best known sports museum in the world. But there's so much to do, it can be overwhelming.

Best bet: Map out your visit in advance at the Hall of Fame's Web site. Highlights are listed on the Calendar of Events. Once you arrive, recheck the ever-changing schedule of daily summer programs, which includes films, storytelling, and a kids' version of baseball Jeopardy. Skip the so-so baseball art gallery.

Keep in mind, most kids max out after three hours. But devoted fans have been known to come back a second day. Our advice: Get your hand stamped, take the family to lunch, and come back with your baseball fanatics later in the afternoon.

 

Our recommended activities include:

  • Today's Players. The kids can check out exhibits on today's hot young players and understand what it means to be a "baseball great."
  • Grandstand Theatre. View this 13-minute multimedia presentation in a theater modeled after Chicago's Comiskey Park, complete with piped-in crowd noise and other baseball sounds.
  • Scavenger Hunt. Keep the kids busy while you tour the exhibits with this free game, available in the main foyer.
  • Baseball Jeopardy. Wow the young ones with your baseball knowledge, playing the Hall of Fame's interactive version of Jeopardy.
  • Live Games. Watch a live game at historic Doubleday Field from April to October. It's a block and a half from the Hall of Fame, on the former cow pasture where baseball purportedly began.

    Most games are played by high school, college, and amateur adult teams -- and they're free. Every summer, during Hall of Fame Weekend, major league teams meet here. You must buy your tickets for the game by mid-April. And don't delay; the field seats only 10,000 and sells out quickly.

Art and Fossils

Cooperstown doesn't have to be all baseball, all the time. For a change of pace, check out these other family attractions:


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The Farmer's Museum.

  • The Farmers' Museum. At this recreated 1845 historic village, complete with vintage buildings relocated from Central New York towns, you can watch blacksmithing and other 19th-century crafts, and see live animals in their pastures. On the town green, a museum interpreter leads kids in old-fashioned games such as hoops (hitting big hoops with sticks). Stop at the snack bar for the best hot dogs in town.
  • Fenimore Art Museum. Located across from the Farmer's Museum, this art museum includes one of the best collections of American Indian art in the country. In the second floor education room, kids can beat Indian drums and play with a dollhouse-sized tepee. Or, they can walk through a life-sized tepee on the museum's front lawn.
  • The Petrified Museum of Natural History. This a real excavation site, where your kids can dig for fossils to take home (more than 40 different kinds of fossils have been found at this site, once under the ancient Devonian Sea). A nature trail features life-sized dinosaur statues and exhibits about extinct flora and fauna.

Natural Attractions

After several hours at museums, the kids will be ready to run wild at Glimmerglass State Park, eight miles from downtown. The state park has sheltered pavilions for picnicking, a sandy beach for swimming, and hiking paths including the self-guided Beaver Pond Nature Trail.

Dashboard

Type of trip: Sports, cultural, outdoors

Best for ages: 9 and up

Ideal trip length: Long weekend

Distance: Albany (75 miles), Hartford (185 miles), New York City (225 miles)

Best time to go: May to October. You'll miss the crowds in May but run into them in July and August. Some attractions are closed in winter.

Weather: 40/15 degrees in winter, 80/55 in summer

Lodging: Many properties either close in winter, or drop their rates considerably.

Squirm factor: None

If You Go...

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. 25 Main St., Cooperstown, 888-425-5633.

 

Doubleday Field. Main St. Contact the Cooperstown Village Office at 607-547-2411. Tickets to the Hall of Fame Game booked through the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Check the website for details.

Glimmerglass State Park. 1527 County Hwy 31, Cooperstown. 607-547-8662.

 

The Farmers' Museum. Lake Rd. (Route 80), one mile north of the village of Cooperstown, 888-547-1450.

 

Fenimore Art Museum. Lake Rd. (Route 80), one mile north of the village of Cooperstown, 888-547-1450. Open April to December.

 

The Petrified Creatures Museum of Natural History. Route 20, 11 miles north of Cooperstown, near Richfield Springs, 315-858-2868 (in-season), 561-627-6399 (off-season).

 

Contact: Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, 607-547-9983.

 

Cost-saving tip: Save by purchasing multi-attraction tickets.

The Inside Scoop

Favorite local spot: Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard, 288 Goose St. (off Route 26, 3 miles northwest of Cooperstown), Fly Creek, 607-547-9692. At this water-powered mill built in 1856, you can watch cider being pressed, buy a gallon of juice, or pick up a package of cider donuts. There's also a duck pond and a children's play area with mini-tractors, as well as a Snack Shack (for light meals) and country gift shop.

 

Best souvenir: Baseball caps, cards, bats, autographs, and balls, sold at several stores in the downtown area.

Annual Events:

  • Hall of Fame Weekend. National Baseball Hall of Fame. Events include induction of players and a major lead ballgame at Doubleday Field.
  • Harvest Festival at The Farmers' Museum. Farmers' Museum. Two-day celebration of harvest season includes crafts, horse-drawn carriage rides, traditional music, jugglers, puppet shows, and clowns.

Traffic Alert

Parking in Cooperstown is very limited. Spots are available just outside of town on Routes 28 and 80 (look for signs). From there, hop aboard a vintage-style trolley, and get off at the attractions.

Side Trip

National Soccer Hall Of Fame

If your little fans also love soccer, make a side trip to the new National Soccer Hall of Fame, located 22 miles south of Cooperstown. The museum, which opened in 1999, is easy to spot -- it has a giant soccer ball sculpture exploding out of its front wall.

The 61-acre campus includes four state-of-the-art soccer fields that host tournaments and other events throughout the year. At eight game stations throughout the museum, you can kick and head balls, check your kick speed by radar, and play against a virtual goalie.

The artifacts collection includes the world's oldest soccer ball (from the Civil War era). The museum makes a big deal about women's soccer, too (remember, this is a sport where U.S. women have done better in world competition than men). Plan a visit of about 1.5 hours. 18 Stadium Circle, Oneonta (from Cooperstown take Route 28 south to I-88 west to Exit 13), 607-432-3351.

Reviewed April 2004.

 
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