Just a Thought… Exploring Cooperstown

cooperstownBy Maureen Hart

Those of us who are not skiers, ice fishermen, or hunters sometimes get in a rut about winter. We tend to think it is a season to survive rather than enjoy.

However, winter can be one of the nicest times to visit places which are crowded during the warm months. I was reminded of that recently when we took a trip up to Cooperstown, New York, for a long weekend. Our only agenda was to meet up with another couple to relax at a bed-and-breakfast, have a nice dinner someplace in town, and visit the Hall of Fame.

In truth, that was about the only agenda available, since many of the other attractions in Cooperstown are closed during the winter months.

Not everything adhered to this very simple plan. My husband fell ill and did not join us for supper at Nicoletta’s Café on Main Street. That was unfortunate, because my veal marsala was the best I’ve ever had, and my companions enjoyed two different mixed seafood entrees that looked delicious.

The following morning, I met them again over breakfast in the sunny dining room of our lodgings, the Landmark Inn on Chestnut Street in Cooperstown. While enjoying another delicious meal that included a choice of spinach or sausage and cranberry quiche, an apple cinnamon compote, sliced cucumbers, and blueberry quick bread, I had to break the news that we were not going to stay to visit the Hall of Fame with them.

It was disappointing, especially since I have not been to the museum in two decades, and still treasure the memories I have of my previous visit. I cannot recommend it enough as a wonderful weekend, or even day trip (a little over two hours from Scranton). I was especially entranced by the long history of the game, and artifacts from players who are legend—Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle (and that’s just the Yankees), not to mention Christy Mathewson, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, and so many, many more.

Cooperstown Landmark Inn

The Landmark Inn, a stately mansion built in 1846, provides a cozy retreat to visitors to Cooperstown.

For us, however, this weekend in the quaint, hugely historic village of Cooperstown, centered around the Landmark Inn—and a delightful place it is. We had pulled into the parking lot of this large green building to be greeted cheerily by the chef, Vita, who offered to help us with suitcases and assured us that hot cider and homemade orange shortbread chocolate chip cookies awaited us inside.

Soon, we met Robin Schneider, who along with her husband, Fred, serves as innkeeper. Our room was not ready, so she ushered us to comfy chairs in the lobby in front a lit fireplace, and in addition to the aforementioned treats, she pointed out a cheese tray and wine. The owners also invite you to bring your own beverages(there is no bar), although they have a hot pot of coffee readily available at all times. There is also a chess set featuring pewter baseball players for your enjoyment.

When our room was ready, we were welcomed with a tray containing chocolates and a personalized welcome note on the bed. Our accommodations were “petite” but cozy, with a nice-sized bathroom and a small outdoor deck. We had requested this room on the first floor to accommodate my husband’s Jazzy. Other rooms in the inn are larger  (some are suites) and have names such as Campanella and Casey, as a nod to the town’s baseball connection, as well as Wyeth, Twain, Cooper, and Hemingway.

But rooms and roaring fireplaces are only part of the charm at the Landmark Inn—beginning with Vita’s enthusiastic welcome and increased by everybody’s solicitous attention to my ailing husband—including providing his breakfast in bed. We enjoyed as cozy and relaxing weekend as we could have hoped.

FYI, the inn is nine minutes from Abner Doubleday Field and the Hall of Fame, and was built in 1856 on the largest lot drafted by William Cooper, founder of the town, and father of novelist James Fenimore Cooper. It was called The Maples, and indeed, those stately trees still line the driveway and are now 160 years old.

I highly recommend a visit to Cooperstown in the wintry off-season in order to avoid the swarms of families visiting in the summer. There is no waiting for a dinner table or jostling with other customers in the many little shops. But I also plan a trip back in the spring in order to visit the Farmer’s Museum (a living museum featuring an 18440 farm), Fenimore Art Museum (located on Otsego Lake and featuring American Indian and folk art), and maybe even a performance at Glimmerglass Opera. And, of course, another visit with Robin, Fred, and Vita at the inviting Landmark Inn!

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