What to Do in Cooperstown – There’s More than Baseball & Beer!
August 1, 2020
When you hear somebody mention Cooperstown, New York, what comes to your mind? If you’re like most people, it’s probably baseball and beer. Two really great things! But did you know that there is so much more to see and do in this charming upstate town? Decadent food, local artisan shops, history, scenic views, and craft spirits are just some of the things you can enjoy in this village that’s ‘as American as apple pie.’ So grab your favorite travel buddy and find out what to do in Cooperstown.
Special thanks to the folks at This is Cooperstown for hosting me on my weekend there!
The History of Cooperstown
Let’s bring it way back, to the start of Cooperstown’s history. The village, located about 4 hours north of New York City, was originally founded in 1786 by (unsurprisingly) William Cooper. Technically the name was originally “Village of Otsego” and then changed to honor him in 1812. Otsego remains the name of the county where Cooperstown is, and the lake it sits on.
Cooperstown has had several nicknames over the years, including “Hop City” and “Nova Belgium” due to its fertile land for growing hops. This played a crucial role in the establishment of Brewery Ommegang.
Located where the Susquehanna River meets Otsego Lake, the natural setting of Cooperstown is breathtaking. Add to that the charm of Main Street and its local businesses, Cooperstown is a beautiful place to visit.
What to Do in Cooperstown
Go to the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market
The farmers’ market is located right at the center of Main Street in Cooperstown and is open Saturdays year-round. Since it’s indoors, you’ll still stay warm there in the winter months. In the summer, its open on Tuesdays as well, plus there is music on the weekends. Wondering what you’ll find at the market? DELICIOUSNESS! Fresh fruits and veggies, baked goods, farm-fresh cheese, jerky, homemade soaps… Everything you’d expect. And it is all so tasty!
Visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame
If you’re a baseball fan, Cooperstown is your sports mecca! And a visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame is a must. Unsurprisingly, the hall of fame is filled with memorabilia from over a century of America’s greatest game.
Why Cooperstown? While technically not proven, it is said that Abner Doubleday invented the game in Cooperstown in 1839. A century later, the hall of fame opened, right next to historic Doubleday Field.
The artifacts include the baseball thrown at the very first game that charged admission. The baseball hat worn by Jim Abbott when he pitched his no-hitter in 1993. Lou Gehrig’s locker. The 1996 World Series Championship trophy from when the NY Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves. Several World Series championship rings. Autographed Hank Aaron bats. Uniforms galore.
I always recommend starting your tour of the museum with the video on the history of baseball. They just updated it, and it’s worth the watch.
Lastly, the most famous part of the hall of fame is the plaque gallery. Every player who has been inducted has a plaque honoring him. Feel free to find your favorites, take photos with them, and even rub them for good luck!
How do baseball players get inducted into the hall of fame?
Athletes need to be active in the MLB for 10 years, and then wait an additional 5 years before being put on the ballot for induction. The ballots go out in November, and winners are announced in January. Players need to get at least 75% of the votes to get inducted. If they are not inducted, but receive at least 5% of the vote, they will remain on the ballot for a maximum of ten years. If you’re extra curious, you can read more detailed information about the baseball induction process.
The induction ceremony takes place in July later that year and is FREE for the public to attend. The highest attendance on record was 82,000 people in 2007, the year that Cal Ripken Jr. was inducted.
(Sadly, the induction ceremony for summer 2020 has been cancelled due to the pandemic. I’m extra bummed because I wanted to go see Jeter!)
Fun facts about some of the players who have been inducted to the hall of fame:
Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson made up the first class of players inducted in 1936.
Mariano Rivera was the first – and only – player to ever receive 100% of the votes in favor of being inducted.
Derek Jeter came close a year later, but missed one vote.
Lou Gehrig was inducted in a special election in 1939.
Ted Williams is the only player in the hall of fame who served in two wars.
‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson and Pete Rose remain the only two players ineligible to be considered for induction.
John Smoltz started a tradition in 2015 where players who are getting inducted now sign the back of their plaques.
Shop at the Local Stores
Main Street is lined with cute shops for you to purchase gifts for friends and family back home… or treat yourself! Tin Bin Alley is an adorable little shop full of goodies – cute home decor, sassy gifts, and even homemade fudge. Yum! Toys of Fame is also a neat toy shop worth checking out.
As you’d expect of any quaint village, Cooperstown is full of bed & breakfasts. Honestly, your hardest decision you’ll make when planning what to do in Cooperstown is deciding where to stay! The Inn at Cooperstown is a personal favorite, because that’s where I got to stay. And they do special bed & brew weekends in collaboration with Ommegang!
Where to Eat in Cooperstown
Alex’s World Bistro
Thai duck red curry. Irish bangers and mash. Saigon street-style calamari. Japanese pork belly ramen. Serious mac and cheese. Jamaican slow roast goat curry. Hungry yet? Because you should be! Alex’s World Bistro has incredible dishes with flavors inspired from cuisines all over the world. Plus, it’s a cute little place with super eclectic decor.
This cozy little dinner has been featured in numerous lists of the best tiny restaurants. Because despite its tiny size, the flavors at Cooperstown Diner are bursting!
Cooperstown Beverage Exchange
The Beverage Exchange is a popular option in town for happy hour drinks. There’s also karaoke and live music to keep you entertained!
No matter the time of day, Doubleday Cafe is filled with a mixture of freshly made burgers, salads, steaks waiting for your dining pleasure. Finish off your meal with a homemade dessert.
Nicoletta’s Italian Cafe
You can never go wrong with some authentic Italian cuisine. So Nicoletta’s is a popular option for their delicious dinners and cozy setting.
If you’re on a limited schedule and want a quick bite to eat, Sal’s Pizzeria is the spot for you! It’s classic New York style pizza – and super delicious. Budget-friendly too!
No town is complete without their local coffee and espresso bar. In Cooperstown, Stagecoach Coffee is your spot! Get yourself your morning coffee or afternoon caffeine kick. Just don’t forget a pastry to go with it.
Get Your Drink On
Easily one of the most popular places in Cooperstown, Brewery Ommegang is a must-see. It’s definitely not overrated! Ommegang has it all too. Great Belgian style beer. Decadent food. A gorgeous building. Scenic views over their land. And even killer concerts in the summer – plus, you can camp there! Do a tasting, have dinner, play bingo, or enjoy lunch. Whatever you do at Ommegang, you won’t be disappointed.
Don’t let the fantastic beer in Cooperstown overshadow the liquors! A recent addition to the village, the Cooperstown Distillery has already proven its worth. Using mostly New York ingredients, the farm distillery produces incredible whiskeys, rums, and vodka. If you’re looking for the perfect gift to bring home from Cooperstown, get some whiskey in a commemorative baseball-shaped bottle.
You can also experience the distillery firsthand, by booking a distillery tour with the owner. They are offered every Saturday at 1 and 3pm.
Red Shed Brewery
Disclaimer – I have yet to visit Red Shed, but I have heard nothing but great things about the brewery from friends and family. Since it’s located very close to Ommegang, together they make the perfect afternoon/evening. Red Shed is also a New York farm-based brewery, and they have a wide variety of beers available. Visitors can also choose from an extensive burger and salad menu to eat while they enjoy their drinks.
Fly Creek Cider Mill
Not far from Cooperstown is the even smaller town of Fly Creek, famous in New York for its cider mill. It’s quite the attraction! The mill has been family-owned since its start, and really emulates that family-centered feeling.
When you first get to the mill, visit the pond out back to say hello to the ducks and the geese in residence. If you’re keen, purchase some pellets to feed them!
Inside, you’ll follow a maze through the shop, salivating all the way through. There’s a huge selection of spices, rubs, jams, jellies, spreads, baked goods, baking mixes, kitchen supplies, and more. I highly recommend purchasing an apple pie to take home. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had! (Second to my grandfather’s secret recipe, of course. The cider mill also produces its own hard cider, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to sample it. Then get yourself a bottle to go with your pie.
The second floor of the building showcases the history of the mill and details the cider making process. There’s also a section of the shop selling home goods and decorations up there.
All in all, Fly Creek Cider Mill is the perfect stop whether you’re spending a weekend in Cooperstown or simply driving across New York state.