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