Cooperstown, NY: Beyond Baseball

In addition to the Baseball Hall of Fame, art and culinary attractions add appeal for groups meeting in this upstate New York destination

Cooperstown, NY, located on the banks of Otsego Lake, is known primarily as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. This quaint village, however, also offers a variety of excellent art and culinary attractions—along with historic hotels, varied meeting spaces, and top-notch service—for planners to create programs that can appeal to a broad range of attendees.

Big on Baseball
The Hall of Fame opened in 1939 and has been drawing fans of America’s favorite pastime ever since. 

The Hall is readily accessible for private tours, meetings, dinners, and special events, including custom VIP experiences, with rental spaces available from the museum’s auditorium to the Hall of Plaques on the main floor. Induction weekend is huge each July and brings baseball greats and other sports legends to town. Groups holding meetings around this time can often arrange to have players as guest speakers.

This year’s event takes place July 22-24, and it celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Hall of Fame’s first induction class, which featured Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. 

Nearby Doubleday Field, home of the Hall of Fame Classic, is available for corporate events and teambuilding, and can be booked for up to three events per day. 

Art and Historic Appeal
Long before baseball came to Coopers-town, the village was famous for its affiliation with writer James Fenimore Cooper, whose father founded the town. It has a long history of supporting the arts and museums, and is home to the highly regarded Fenimore Art Museum, the Glimmerglass Festival, and the Farmers’ Museum. 

The Fenimore Art Museum, housed in a 1930s Neo-Georgian home, has special exhibits each summer, along with its permanent collection of American Indian, folk, and fine art. This season features shows on Frida Kahlo, Edward Hopper, and Jackson Pollock. 

Groups can arrange for private access and tours, and event spaces include a 120-seat auditorium, select interior galleries, and terraces and lawns for tented events of up to 1,000 guests overlooking the gardens, gazebo, and Lake Otsego.

The renowned Glimmerglass Opera produces shows each July and August in the Alice Busch Opera Theater on the shores of Otsego Lake, the famed Glimmerglass from Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales. Groups can arrange for backstage tours and picnics on the lawn. 

Culinary Cravings
The current exhibit at the Farmers’ Museum through October is “New York’s Good Eats! Our Fabulous Foods,” featuring culinary sensations that got their starts in the Empire State, such as ketchup, Jell-O, Life Savers, and, of course, buffalo wings.

Cooperstown has also become famous for buffalo wings’ greatest accompaniment: beer. Brewery Ommegang, known for its namesake and Three Philosophers labels, was one of the first to brew Belgian-style beer in the United States when it opened in 1997. 

Located a short drive from downtown, the brewery is a great spot for a group tour followed by a tasting and dinner, either on the lawn or in its new tasting room and cafe, which seats up to 75 guests, or 125 including the patio.

Ommegang is part of the Coopers-town Beverage Trail, which also includes the Cooperstown Brewing Company, Bear Pond Winery, and the Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard. Fly Creek is a foodie paradise, with a market stocked full of so many local treats visitors will want to bring an extra suitcase. Planners should check it out for attendee gifts and room amenity options. Owner Brenda Michaels also happens to be Chef Charlie Palmer’s daughter.

For Meetings
For groups meeting in Cooperstown, Air Canada, Delta, Southwest, United, and US Airways offer service to Albany International Airport, which is 90 
minutes away. 

The grand dame of Cooperstown is the Otesaga Resort Hotel, which opened recently for its 102nd season. Its name was even derived from the Iroquois word for “a place of meetings.” The hotel has 135 guest rooms—150 including its sister property, the Cooper Inn.

“The Otesaga is part of a historic group of classic hotels that includes the Breakers, the Sagamore, and Mohonk Mountain House, and is one of the last to offer American Plan pricing, which includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” says General Manager John Irvin. 

The Otesaga’s dining room is formal, with jackets required, which adds a touch of elegance and nostalgia to any visit. The service is excellent, with impeccable attention to detail—napkin colors are even matched to guests’ attire, with black for those wearing dark clothes, and cream for lighter colors. 

The property can host groups of up to 350 attendees in 12 meeting rooms and remains open to groups during the winter, when it is closed to leisure business. “The hotel averages 65 percent group business, but can reach as high as 80 or 85 percent in April and May,” says Bill Faller, director of sales.

Golfers should hit the Leatherstocking course, rated the number two public course in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey by Zagat, and one of the top 50 by Conde Nast, says Faller.

Faller is an indispensable resource for planners, as he has contacts at just about every venue in and around Cooperstown, from the Hall of Fame and Doubleday Field to Ommegang and the Fenimore Museum. He’s also your best bet for getting a ballplayer as a special guest. 

With service that spot-on, any planner is sure to hit a home run in Cooperstown.