If you know anything about Cooperstown, it's likely because you or someone you know is a devoted baseball fan. There, 195 miles north of New York City, sits the sport's hallowed hall: the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. But while it's surely a privilege to be home to the American pastime's most prized artifacts, it's also the sort of real estate that can pigeonhole a town.
What if we told you there's more to Cooperstown than a pair of Shoeless Joe Jackson's shoes? (Yeah, he actually did wear shoes—and we were disappointed, too.) How about opera, Post-Impressionist art, and artisanal spirits? In honor of it being Major League Baseball's opening day, we've decided to show you the genuinely surprising amount of fun on offer in baseball's beloved hamlet of Cooperstown, NY (pop. 1,834!).
Take in an Opera with a Supreme Court Justice
While opera houses in nearby New York City house close to 4,000 audience members, Cooperstown's Alice Busch Opera Theater seats just 900. Each summer, The Glimmerglass Festival offers visitors the rare chance to see high-quality opera in an intimate setting: This season's offerings include La Bohème, The Crucible, and Sweeney Todd. Not only that, but celebrated Sweeney Todd composer Stephen Sondheim will be on hand to discuss his life in theater, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will talk about her love of opera. Not bad for a town of less than 2,000 residents.
7300 NY-80, glimmerglass.org
Drink Game of Thrones Beer
Cooperstown is also home to Ommegang Brewery, the only Belgian-style brewery in the U.S. Even more importantly: Ommegang produces Game of Thrones-inspired beers like "The Three-Eyed Raven," a dark saison which it describes as "a delectable blend that both deceives and thrills the senses." Looks like we may have found our new Sunday night beverage of choice.
656 County Highway 33, ommegang.com
Step Onto the Field Where the Legends of Baseball Used to Play
Named after Abner Doubleday, the man famously (and erroneously) credited with inventing the sport of baseball, this field has hosted games since 1920—most notably serving as the site of Hall of Fame games since 1940. If you're looking for a real life Field of Dreams, you can't do much better than this.
1 Doubleday Court, doubledayfield.com
See a Surprising Amount of Great Art
The Fenimore Art Museum's spring calendar kicks off with an exhibit of early works by legendary American photographer Ansel Adams, and the summer sees the museum taking a look at Paris nightlife through the eye of French Post-Impressionist Henri de Toulouse-Latrec.
5798 NY-80, fenimoreartmuseum.org
Discover the Baseball That Requires Neither Bat Nor Glove
What's that? You've always wanted to drink artisanal American liquor out of baseball-shaped decanters? Well, allow us to present your dreams realized, thanks to Cooperstown Distillery.
Visit the Museum You Can Ride
With 25 hand-carved animals and contributions from over 1,000 volunteer artisans, the Empire State Carousel—housed inside the Farmers' Museum (yes, farmers get a museum here)—is a ride typical of the area's traditional county fairs. Decorated with animals you'll find in the area (goats, horses, and even a scallop shell), alongside portraits of New York luminaries like President Teddy Roosevelt and Jackie Robinson, the ride is fondly referred to by locals as "the museum you can ride on."
5775 NY-80, farmersmuseum.org
Go for a Swim in Otsego Lake
This 10-mile long lake, one of the most beautiful in the state, was first made famous when author and local hero James Fenimore Cooper took to referring to it as "Glimmerglass"—but you may also know it from the Nancy Drew mystery, The Secret of Mirror Bay. A 10-minute drive to the far side of the lake takes visitors to the mouth of Otsego Lake State Park, home to a half-mile stretch of beach and 62 acres of land, primed for exploring.
Take a Deep Breath and Check Out the Hall of Fame, Already
Yes, you do need to visit the Hall of Fame before you leave Cooperstown. Would you go to Orlando without seeing Disney World? Go check out the bat Babe Ruth used to hit "The Shot," the most famous home run of all time, or the homemade baseball found in 1935 believed to belong to one of the first kids ever taught the game by Abner Doubleday.
25 Main Street, baseballhall.org