Historic Cooperstown is the spiritual home of baseball, but there’s more to the town than Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. With fewer crowds and leaf-peeping at its peak, shoulder season is the best time to round out the bases with the following four:
1. BASEBALL HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM
I’m not a baseball fan, but there’s a reason the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is first on my list. There’s no denying that the sport is America’s most beloved national pastime.
My stepdad took me here many moons ago. With notebook in hand, we spent hours walking the hallowed grounds. He rifled off random statistics listed on the bronze plaques of his favorite enshrined members as I took copious notes. An inevitable pop quiz would come soon after the tour. 15 years later, the Rotunda was the only room I recognized.
To my delight (and surprise) the second floor held all new collections including an expanded Women in Baseball & AAGPBL exhibit, a Latin American Players exhibit and a groundbreaking exhibit that examined the cultural impact of the game.
“The museum is constantly changing and that’s the beauty of this place,” said Director of Communications, Craig Mudder. “Today, it’s more like a history museum that talks about baseball. After all, the nation and sport grew up together.”
Nearly 300,000 people a year make the pilgrimage to pay homage to their heroes. You can easily see license plates from all over the country lining Main Street.
Plan your visit now when the buzz of post-season is at its glory. Go Dodgers!
2. HYDE HALL
“You simply have to look at the view to know why George Clarke built here,” said Larry Smith, tour manager of the nineteenth century architectural gem.
Indeed, Hyde Hall, about 8 miles north of Cooperstown, overlooks one of the most picturesque spots of Lake Otsego. I happened to stumble upon the neoclassical country house while hiking the leafy trails of Glimmerglass State Park.
Completed in 1834, the N.Y. State Lieutenant and wealthy land owner suffered a fatal stroke a year later.
“Given how little time he was able to use this house we think that his ghost returns nightly to wander the rooms that were denied him in life.”
Several people have reported seeing fleeting images of an older man dressed in red and green sashes. Not surprising, I didn’t sense any weirdness on the tour. However, the TV show Ghost Hunters admitted they caught plenty on camera in 2013, so much so they debuted the episode on Halloween.
During the month of October share the scariness on a “Hyde and Shriek” tour. Hear curators explain the dramatic tales of unexplained phenomena.
3. FENIMORE ART MUSEUM
For over 70 years, the Fenimore Art Museum has played a major role in 19th-century American art. From permanent exhibits by Homer, Hopper, and Eakins to folk art of quilts, weathervanes and cigar-store figures to a great wing of 850 ancient indigenous objects, this is a vast collection.
Not to be forgotten, annual rotating galleries of diverse photographs and private collections like The Art of Figure Skating through the Ages: The Dick Button Collection and Hamilton’s Final Act. Both are on view until December 31, 2017.
Mr. Button actually made a surprise appearance at the Otesaga Hotel while I was checking-in at the lobby. Aging as gracefully as he skated, I admired his collection of prints, posters, paintings and costumes.
Bring your reading glasses for Hamilton’s Final Act. It will take some effort to decipher Hamilton’s letters written to Aaron Burr that lead to that fateful confrontation in 1804. Still, it’s mind-blowing that the museum was able to secure 34 original documents relating to the political rivalry.
4. THE FARMERS MUSEUM
Celebrate the bounty of fall at The Farmers Museum and experience autumnal traditions like wagon rides, apple cider pressing and spins aboard the Empire State Carousel.
A young gal dressed up as a housewife was in the middle of readying her Colonial century kitchen to churn butter. Her cousin tended the hearth of the Lippitt Farm House, a Saltbox style home that included a surrounding barn, corn crib, smokehouse and hop house.
“We get the milk from our cows out back. Then, we set the milk in pans in the buttry (pantry) overnight. In the morning, we skim off the cream. The skim milk goes to the pigs. When we have enough cream collected we churn it into butter,” she explained.
Creeping crawlers circled food items not covered in cloth, a real-life reminder that the past wasn’t as idealistic as some like to think.
An eerie lantern-lit tour of the museum takes place on October 20, 21, 27 and 28. This wonderful museum goes on winter break October 30.
To learn more about museums throughout Otsego counties and surrounding regions, VISIT CENTRAL NEW YORK.