day trips from Cooperstown, NY
Article and photos (Oneonta, Old Forge, Stockbridge) by Eric H.
Cooperstown, N.Y., is one of America's great vacation destinations, but for those who want to go beyond this fun and appealing Village while on vacation, there exists plenty of day trip opportunities.
One half hour south of Cooperstown on Route 28 is Oneonta, N.Y. Home of Hartwick College and the State University of New York at Oneonta, this small city has a relaxed small-town college feel with interesting downtown shops, plenty of cafes and full service restaurants, a Double A minor league baseball team (the Oneonta Tigers), and enough students and professors to make this region a legitimate people watching area. It also serves as a commercial shopping center to Cooperstown residents, as everything from Walmart to Home Depot is located in this appealing city.
Brooks' House of Bar-B-Q at 5560 State Highway 7 in Oneonta (Phone: 607-432-1782) is a dining highlight in Oneonta, offering a fun and filling family-style dining experience. The barbecue chicken and St. Louis pork ribs are standouts. With very friendly service, a seating capacity of 300 (hard to believe this was a concession stand in the 1950s) and perhaps the indoor longest barbecue pit in the country at 38 ft. in length, Brooks' House of Bar-B-Q creates a welcoming, fun atmosphere for the family. Oh yes, we almost forgot, the delicious blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream is not to be missed!
Even though Oneonta has the two colleges, there is a traditional, old-time aura to this town, situated beautifully in the Catskill Mountains foothills. Oneonta seems like the perfect place to settle, get to know people, live in one of the grand but affordable Victorians stately residing on pretty tree-lined streets, and grow old together. The fresh air, friendly surroundings and a safe feeling make Oneonta one of the great small cities of the northeast.
Visit the City of Oneonta Web Site for more information.
Old Forge, N.Y., brings back some great memories of childhood. Perhaps that's why so many adults go there.
What initially brings us there will forever bring us back. Try, for starters, the cool, crisp pine-scented air and the sun's chosen destination to shine most brightly. There are the locally-owned stores, bursting with pride. The ice cream stands shine their yellow awning lights at night, and a glorious beach at Fourth Lake glistens, sparkles and shines, inviting the whole world to swim. To a child, the fresh water scent competes with the beach's by-products,--sun tan lotion, and hot dogs and hamburgers, which we initially thought were inherent, built-in scents at any beach. Here, at Fourth lake, they are.
The blacktops perspire profusively lending a tar smell, which confirms Summer. The perspiration ends later , however, as the mountain air almost always saves the day with some cooler weather. If not convinced, some soft serve ice cream can always tip the scales in the right direction.
A walk down the main street will probably always be a walk back in time. The centerpiece, Old Forge Hardware, has everything under one roof without the backing of a Home Depot corporate mentality. Furniture, home improvement items, lighting, hardware, books and more suggest a leisurely afternoon of shopping. Having visited there a few years ago, I recognized an employee from 30 years ago. He didn't look much different, suggesting that small-town living and mountain air preserve the soul. A small market, bank, clothing stores and real estate offices are ultimately bigger than they look upon inspection for they are the catalyst which allows those lucky individuals to remain in Old Forge.
A game of miniature golf, some broasted chicken at any given restaurant, or just sitting on a dock bench at Fourth Lake makes one realize that the true America still does exist in some places. And everywhere you look, families visiting or living here prescribe, in an almost spiritual way, to this simpler way of life. The recipe is indeed simple: stay outdoors as long as you can, breathe in fresh air and sample bits of wholesome Americana. It is the life that Native Americans have enjoyed many years here, and the melting pot of residents and visitors who have come to realize this "comfortable-as-an-old-shoe" town.
Nights are forever in Old Forge as the sky opens wide to showcase the myriad stars. Crickets chirp as do children, knowing that staying up late is a privilege and might not happen again, soon. Then it's back to a nice, clean motel room (the Water's Edge, in particular), waiting eagerly for the next day to begin. And who knows what that next day will bring? It could be a visit to the Enchanted Forest theme park with water and amusement rides and circus performances. Maybe it will be a gentle hike up Bald Mountain, or the more challenging McCauley Mountain. Perhaps some canoeing or taking a 28-mile lake cruise will make the day. Or, just having no plans and soaking up the family-oriented atmopshere will be all it takes to revitalize the soul.
In fact, one great thing to do may not seem so big, but ultimately it is: take a one mile walk from the downtown area to the brick school building on the outskirts of town, going towards neighboring Thendara. Stop for a few minutes and study the school. It may seem like any other school, and that is the point. You went to school and then moved on, and so did many of the students who had the fortune to attend a school in such a magical area. What they have is that Old Forge became, forever, part of their lives. How powerful that is. It's enough to bring back those strong childhood memories, and perhaps that is why adults --whether from the region or having spent their summers here-- do indeed keep coming back.
Visit the Old Forge Web Site for more information
Old Forge, N.Y., is located on Route 28, two hours north of Cooperstown.
It's hard to remember staying in a community for only an hour, and leaving with a lifetime of memories.
That's the feeling last summer when I visited my father and uncles in Stockbridge, Mass., a popular summertime vacation community in western Massachusetts' gentle Berkshire Mountains.
At 42-years-old and a lifelong New Englander, I had never been to Stockbridge. I thought it might be a good town gone bad-- perhaps, Norman Rockwell's popular renditions of the lifestyle here had developers transforming the community in one big souvenir shop.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and proof that preconceived notions sometimes stink. Stockbridge represents New England at its best. From the alternatingly sunny and shady tree-lined streets to the locally-owned, small-town center , Stockbridge is indeed Norman Rockwell come to life, but with very little of the overly commercial by-products.
Having lunch at a luncheonette -- complete with stools and counter -- in an old time market harkened back to a previous generation. This is not an unusual feeling in Stockbridge where the pace seems slower and the air smells sweeter. After lunch, a chance to sit on one of the rocking chairs at the famed Red Lion Inn porch was everything as advertised. From the slight elevation, you can seem true America at its best --the charming little shops, the wide sidewalks and street, kids riding their bikes, the lovely churches, and the splendid diverse New England architecture of the town, to name a few. Touring the Red Lion Inn inside created a mental note to definitely come back to stay -- this is the blueprint for what people perceive as a classic New England inn -- lots of wood, dim lighting, antiques, china, a reserved but friendly staff and a restaurant with lots of New England fare.
Because of scheduling constraints -- a nighttime minor league baseball game in nearby urban Pittsfield and seeing my uncle's nearby lakefront summer home -- I made the most of short walk back to the car. It was like one of those awkward moments where you find it hard to say goodbye to someone you're not going to see for awhile -- you stall and stall and stall, as you want more meaningful time together. Despite walking at a normal pace, it seemed like the longest 300 yard walk in history. Who wants to leave a slice of Americana that is so absent from America today?
On the ride back home, I though about what makes Stockbridge so special. I didn't spend time shopping or visiting myriad tourist attractions. And that is just the point. Much of the appeal of Stockbridge can be attributed to just being there. All it takes to become a fan of the town is to open your eyes and look around. You can feel the spirit and serenity in just one blink. I plan on blinking many more times in Stockbridge.
Stockbridge is about two-plus hours northeast of Cooperstown, off Route 90 (Exit 1, Massachusetts).
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Unless otherwise stated, all VisitingCooperstown.com articles written and photos taken by Eric H.