Whether you're heading to Cooperstown to see former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas and former Cubs hurler Greg Maddux inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 27 or planning a visit for later in the summer, there's a lot more to this charming village than just being the mythical birthplace of baseball.
Baseball fans will want to visit the Hall, which is at 25 Main St. (607-547-7200, baseballhall.org), and maybe see some of the 56 Hall of Fame legends (Yogi Berra and Willie Mays among them) expected in for the weekend, but there are other options after that. Besides a boatload of activities on 10-mile-long Otsego Lake, consider this list of things to do:
Folk/rock singer Paul Simon headlines the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum 75th Anniversary Celebration Concert. The something-for-everyone bill includes Dominican salsa superstar Juan Luis Guerra and former New York Yankees center fielder and classical guitarist Bernie Williams, as well as Grammy-winning gospel singer Yolanda Adams and the Boston Pops on the grassy meadow at the Clark Sports Center on Aug. 2. VIP seats are available from $100 to $400, but free lawn seating is available behind the reserved area.
When I visit Cooperstown, I always budget one night to ride on the Cooperstown Blues Express, a three-hour party with plenty of libations and a live rock or blues band performing on an open-air rail car. The car goes 15 miles, departing from nearby Milford at 7 p.m. every summer Saturday through Sept. 27. 607-432-2824, cooperstownbluesexpress.com
The intimate and architecturally inspiring Alice Busch Opera Theater provides the romantic setting for Glimmerglass Opera Festival, running through Aug. 24. This year's season includes performances of "Madame Butterfly," "Carousel," "Ariadne in Naxos" and "An American Tragedy." 607-547-2255,
The Fenimore Art Museum has one of the nation's premier collections of American Indian art, and its affiliate, The Farmers Museum, across the street on state Highway 80 by the banks of Otsego Lake, has an authentic example of early 1800s rural upstate New York's agricultural heritage. fenimoreartmuseum.org and farmersmuseum.org
Eating and drinking
Nestled along a rolling woodsy hillside, Brewery Ommegang has evolved over 17 years into one of the country's most widely distributed lines of beer and ale, as well as a major outdoor concert venue and host to a series of widely attended seasonal festivals. A pair of concerts highlight the month of August, featuring Conor Oberst and Dawes with special guest The Baseball Project at 7 p.m. Aug. 1, and the Old Crow Medicine Show at 4 p.m. Aug. 3. Also, the 15th annual Belgium Comes to Cooperstown festival features Belgian and Belgian-style beer from more than 50 breweries around the world along with food and music. This year's festival starts at 3 p.m. Aug. 9, with a VIP dinner the previous night. Tickets were still available at press time. 607-544-1800, ommegang.com
A relatively new and welcome addition to Cooperstown's culinary scene is Council Rock Brewery, 4 miles from the Hall of Fame on state Highway 28. It serves its own handcrafted beers and an affordable menu of light fare, including salads, sandwiches and burgers. 607-643-3016, councilrockbrewery.com
The recently remodeled Lake Front Restaurant & Bar is a hangout for locals and visitors. Overlooking Otsego Lake, it has a spacious dockside deck and swanky wave-wall bar with live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. 607-547-8188, lakefrontcooperstown.com
Or hang with the other locals and talk about baseball at Cooley's Stone House Tavern on Pioneer Street just around the corner from the Hall of Fame. 607-544-1311
Where to stay
Hall of Fame weekend obviously will be crazy busy for hotels, and many in and near Cooperstown will be booked. Consider some alternative places to stay. Albany, Binghamton and Utica are all within a 90-minute drive of Cooperstown. A couple of suggestions for hotels that had rooms available for induction weekend as of press time: The Desmond Hotel in Albany is the state capital's premier hotel and conference center. Its rates on induction weekend start at $149. 518-869-8100, desmondhotelsalbany.com. The Holiday Inn Binghamton's rates start at $95.49. 607-722-1212, holidayinnbinghamton.com
One to consider after induction weekend is Bayside Inn and Marina. Since I began visiting Cooperstown regularly, I've been staying on this primo piece of real estate with its own private beach and lush woody surroundings on state Highway 80, about a mile shy of the Glimmerglass Opera House on the west side of the lake. Though booked for induction weekend, it's worth a stay later. Summer rates start at $139. 607-547-2371, baysidecooperstown.com/index.php
Here are two more to try after induction weekend: The Bryn Brooke Manor (607-287-0162, brynbrookemanor.com) is a regally restored Victorian mansion converted into a bed-and-breakfast with four guest rooms. Rates start at $175. It's across the street from Cooperstown's legendary Otesaga Hotel (607-547-9931, otesaga.com), the town's only AAA four-diamond resort, with room rates starting at $239. The Fire Bar out back is great for happy hour sunsets over the lake.