A perfect day trip or weekend getaway begins in Cooperstown, founded by novelist James Fenimore Cooper’s father, Judge William Cooper. Start the day on Otsego Lake, dubbed Glimmerglass by Cooper for its tranquil and reflective waters. The Glimmerglass Queen ((607) 547-9511, Ext. 247; www.lakefrontmotelandrestaurant.com) offers daily boat tours, giving visitors an opportunity to learn about the history of the area while cruising the beautiful lake.
Glimmerglass State Park (1527 County Route 31; (607) 547-8663; www.nyparks.state.ny), located eight miles north of the village, boasts nature trails, a covered bridge, picnicking, a public boat launch and beach. Hyde Hall State Historic Site, 267 Glimmerglass State Park ((607) 547-5098; www.hydehall.org), is considered one of the finest examples of a neoclassical country house. Walk the grounds or take a guided tour of this 19th-century agricultural estate and witness the ongoing restoration of this home built by George Clarke. For a spine-tingling event, try this season’s new Wednesday evening ghost tours of the historic estate.
Return to the village of Cooperstown and spend a day engrossed in history and culture. Art lovers will delight in the Fenimore Art Museum, 5798 Route 80 ((607) 547-1400; www.fenimoreartmuseum.org). Located on the shores of Otsego Lake, the museum offers outstanding collections of American art, including the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art. This year’s special exhibits include Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Muray; Shadow Catcher: Edward Curtis Among the Kwakiutl; A Window into Edward Hopper; and Prendergast to Pollock: American Modernism. After browsing the collections, visitors can enjoy a light lunch or a glass of wine on the museum’s beautiful outdoor terrace overlooking the lake.
Across the street, the Farmers’ Museum, 5775 Route 80 ((607) 547-1400; www.farmersmuseum.org), offers visitors the chance to experience 19th-century life. More than two dozen authentic buildings, farm animals and costumed interpreters recreate daily life in the 1800s. The museum also houses the Empire State Carousel, the “museum you can ride.” The hand-crafted carousel represents the state’s natural and agricultural resources, depicts the state’s history and highlights the state’s disparate regions. And don’t miss this season’s exhibit: New York Good Eats! Our Fabulous Foods.
The historic and beautiful Otesaga Resort Hotel, 60 Lake St. ((800) 348-6222; www.otesaga.com), celebrates its 102nd anniversary this season. The hotel overlooks Lake Otsego and the famed Leatherstocking Golf Course. Enjoy afternoon tea on the veranda, a casual meal at the Hawkeye Bar and Grill, Golf Shop Grill or Lakeside Patio, or dine in the elegant Main Dining Room.
Glimmerglass Opera, 7300 Route 80 ((607) 547-2255; www.glimmerglass.org), is a summer opera festival that performs at the Alice Busch Opera Theater. The 2011 season runs July 2 to Aug. 23, and features Carmen, Medea, Annie Get Your Gun and a double bill of A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck and Later the Same Evening.
Walking tours offer another approach to the area’s history. Guided tours of Cooperstown’s landmarks and tales of history are offered by Paul Kuhn ((607) 547-6181; firstname.lastname@example.org). Cooperstown Candlelight Ghost Tours ((607) 547-8070; www.cooperstownghost.com) give insight into the village’s eerie history with tales of haunted houses and ghostly sightings. Tours are offered daily at 8 p.m., April through August. Reservations are required.
Of course, no trip to Cooperstown would be complete without a stop at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 25 Main St.; ((888) HALL-OF-FAME, www.baseballhalloffame.org). The Hall showcases baseball artifacts and celebrates the game with unique exhibits that pay tribute to America’s favorite pastime.
Memorable food and drink can be found on the Cooperstown Beverage Trail. Once the hop-growing capital of North America, the area now boasts two breweries, a local winery and cider mill. The Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard, 288 Goose St., Fly Creek; ((800) 505-6455; www.flycreekcidermill.com), is located three miles from Cooperstown. The historic, water-powered mill offers daily samplings of more than 40 specialty foods from cave-aged cheddar cheese to apple wines and hard cider, as well as a beautiful outdoor deck and snack bar filled with freshly baked items.
Beer lovers won’t be disappointed when visiting Cooperstown. Brewery Ommegang, 656 County Highway 33 ((800) 544-1809; www.ommegang.com), offers tours and tastings of award-winning Belgian ales. Located on a 140-acre former hops farm, the grounds offer a new cafe, picnicking and a number of festivals and concerts throughout the summer.
Travel a few miles farther for a visit to Cooperstown Brewing Company, River Street, Milford ((607) 286-9330; www.cooperstownbrewing.com). They make brews like Old Slugger, Nine Man and Benchwarmer, and offer daily tours and tastings. Nearby Bear Pond Winery, 2515 Route 28, Oneonta ((607) 643-0294; www.bearpondiwnes.com), offers samples of their New York state wines made exclusively from grapes and fruit grown in the state.
While in Oneonta visit the tropics. The Joseph L. Popp Jr. Butterfly Conservatory, 5802 Route 7 ((607) 435-1147; www.poppbutterflyconservatory.com), is a 3,000-square-foot indoor conservatory herbarium that houses more than 20 species of butterflies and hundreds of exotic plants, free-ranging tortoises, chameleons, frogs and lizards. The conservatory is open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Yager Museum of Art and Culture, Yager Hall, 1 Hartwick Drive, Oneonta ((607) 431-4480; www.hartwick.edu/museum.xml), located on the campus of Hartwick College, offers collections that explore the stories of human activity and creativity and includes exhibits about fine art, anthropology, history and archeology.
Head toward the Catskills and discover the Hanford Mills Museum, County Routes 10 and 20, East Meredith ((800) 295-4992; www.hanfordmills.org). Historic demonstrations and hands-on activities delight visitors to the mill, which generated the power for East Meredith’s first electric lights in 1898. Try your hand at corn grinding or ice cutting. Sample 1920s-style home cooking and enjoy special events throughout the season.
The Mohawk Valley offers another historically and culturally diverse section of the Leatherstocking region. Art lovers will not want to miss The Arkell Museum, 2 Erie Blvd., Canajoharie ((518) 673-2314; www.arkellmusuem.org), which showcases 21 works by Winslow Homer and significant paintings by George Inness, William M. Chase, Childe Hassam, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe and Robert Henri. The collection is housed in a stunning new building and offers programs for all ages.
Spend a day in Revolutionary-era America at Fort Klock, 7214 Route 5, St. Johnsville ((518) 568-7779; www.fortklock.com). The 30-acre complex contains many reconstructed colonial farm structures and the fortified stone farmstead built by Palatine immigrant Johannes Klock in 1750. Tours are offered Tuesdays through Sundays.
Get a little fresh air and enjoy the beauty of the area with a visit to Wintergreen Park and Gorge, Wintergreen Park Road, Canajoharie ((518) 673-5508). Well-tended nature trails lead through the woods along a dramatic gorge to an overlook of the spot’s beautiful waterfall. Explore the trails and creek or relax at one of the picnic areas.
Delightful Sharon Springs, south of Canajoharie along Route 10, greets visitors with the pungent smell of sulfur running from its springs. Native Americans were the first to visit the area for the healing qualities of the mineral springs and by the late 1800s the village had become a hot spot for social elites like the Vanderbilts, Roosevelts and Rockefellers. During the 1950s, it had become a healing retreat for wealthy Jewish families before falling into gradual decline. Today, the village is again on the rise. For details, call (518) 284-2625 or visit www.sharonsprings.com.
Stop by the elegantly restored American Hotel, 192 Main St., Sharon Springs ((518) 284-2105; www.americanhotelny.com), for the night or for dinner in its fabulous restaurant. The hotel was built in 1847 and lovingly brought back to life by its current owners, who purchased it in 1996. All of the village’s artisan galleries, shops and cafes are easily accessible on foot from the hotel.
Go underground at Howe Caverns, 255 Discovery Drive, Howes Cave ((518) 296-8900; www.howecavern.com). An elevator takes visitors 156 feet below the earth’s surface and opens to a cavern 6 million years in the making. Eighty-minute guided tours highlight the magnificent limestone formations in the main cavern, including an underground boat ride. Above ground, visit the Cave House Museum of Mining and Geology, picnic or hike on the grounds.
The nearby Iroquois Indian Museum, 324 Caverns Road, Howes Cave ((518) 296-8949; www.iroquoismuseum.org), celebrates Iroquois culture through art, striving to maintain the best collection of Iroquois art, both from the past and present.
A family-fun place to spend the day, Herkimer Diamond Mines, Route 28, Herkimer (891-7355; www.herkimerdiamond.com), gives you the chance to dig for “diamonds,” actually quartz crystals. If you can’t find any, you can always purchase some in the gift shop. The prospecting area is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for ages 13 and older; $8 for ages 5 to 12; and free for tykes younger than 4.
The Landis Arboretum, Lape Road, Esperence (875-6935, www.landisarboretum.org), is a 54-acre public garden filled with miles of hiking trails, bird watching and plants from around the world. It is open from dawn to dusk each day.
The Blenheim-Gilboa Visitors Center, 1378 Route 30, North Blenheim ((800) 724-0309; www.nypa.gov), newly renovated to celebrate its 25th anniversary, offers hands-on exhibits and demonstrations about how electricity is generated. Visit the likewise newly renovated country estate, Lansing Manor, located next door and then walk the 2.5-mile Bluebird Trail to Mine Kill State Park, which features three swimming pools and softball and baseball facilities surrounded by natural beauty.
Head toward the Southern Tier of the region and drive in to the Northeast Classic Car Museum, 24 Rexford St., Norwich ((607) 334-AUTO; www.classiccarmuseum.org). The museum collects and displays vehicles related to the evolution of transportation with emphasis on automobiles and their impact on American culture. More than 100 vehicles are on display in three connected buildings, with plans for a 30,000-square-foot expansion under way.
The Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, 60 Morgan Road, Binghamton ((607) 724-5461, www.rossparkzoo.com), is the fifth oldest zoological institution in the country. It is home to hundreds of animals and also contains several botanical gardens.
Next door, the Discovery Center of the Southern Tier, 60 Morgan Road, Binghamton ((607) 773-8661; www.thediscoverycenter.org), is a hands-on interactive museum for children. Dress up as a firefighter and explore the life-size fire truck, shop in the Giant Market, make news at a television studio or step inside a giant bubble at this fun family destination.
The Kopernik Observatory and Science Education Center, 6988 Underwood Road, Vestal ((607) 748-3685; www.kopernik.org), was founded in 1973 to celebrate the 500th birthday of Mikolaj Kopernik, known to the world as Copernicus. It has been the best-equipped public observatory in the Northeast for more than 25 years. Its telescopes, space science labs, weather station and more allow for hands-on learning for visitors of all ages. b